Kalimpong Kids: The Lives and Labours of Anglo-Indian Adolescents Resettled in New Zealand between 1908 and 1938

by Jane Marie McCabe

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: New Zealand; India; Anglo-Indian; Migration; Presbyterian; Kalimpong
Record ID: 1306988
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/5072


Between 1908 and 1938, 130 young men and women graduates of St Andrew’s Colonial Homes in Kalimpong, in the Darjeeling district of Northeast India, were resettled in New Zealand. They were the mixed-race offspring of British tea planters and South Asian women, raised at “the Homes” and sent to work as farm labourers and domestic servants for settler colonial families. Founded by a Scottish Presbyterian missionary, the Homes was established around a core belief that colonial emigration would provide a permanent solution to the familial dilemma faced by British tea planters and to the wider Anglo-Indian “problem”. Emigration of Anglo-Indian adolescents to New Zealand was carried out as a structured scheme that sent groups of migrants to prearranged situations with Presbyterian families, many of whom had existing connections to India. This thesis examines the scheme as part of the broad imperial impetus to reform marginalised colonial populations through productive labour. The scheme also enables transcolonial comparisons, as it was based upon improvement of a “problematic” population from a conquest colony through “remedial” placement in a settler colony. Moreover, emigration from the Homes provides an opportunity to analyse the application of a global wave of restrictive immigration legislation to a community that existed on the very borders of acceptability. Although New Zealand did enact such legislation, it was the only settler colony to ever accept groups from Kalimpong. The implementation of this scheme over a thirty-year period facilitates a sustained examination of the extent to which New Zealand “opportunity structures” applied to a racially marginalized migrant group. Performance of their gendered labour roles is the primary means through which I explore the emigrants’ social integration, while careful attention is paid to their regional and occupational mobility. With a rich archive to draw upon, I prioritise giving voice to the experience of the emigrants themselves, in addition to outlining the role of the New Zealand state in allowing them to enter the Dominion during a period of heightened racial anxieties and legislative tightening of borders. The Presbyterian community in New Zealand that Graham drew into his empire-wide “web” of associates also receives sustained attention. Along with the Homes emigrants, these associates formed what I refer to as the “Kalimpong community” – the most visible legacy of a scheme otherwise characterised by a high degree of conformity and “disappearance” into the local British population. South Asian perspectives are crucial in this exploration of interracial “empire families”, often excluded from studies of British families in India in the later imperial period. The period over which the scheme occurred saw enormous social and political change in India. This thesis argues that the life stories of the Kalimpong emigrants reveal the impact of those broader changes in New Zealand. Indeed the chapters that follow match the fluctuations in the archival…