Hafenstädte: Mobilität, Migration, Globalisierung
European Seamen as a Problem of Colonial Identity and Order in Calcutta of the 1860s
The relationship between the wealthier part of British India’s white society and the infamous seaman ‘Jack Tar’ was ambiguous. In the eyes of the colonial administration the seamen’s alleged lack of discipline and ‘reckless and irrational ways’ brought them close to the ‘uncivilised natives’. This was a fact regarded as highly disturbing in a colonial setting based on the ideology of racial difference and — at least partly — informed by notions of a civilising mission supposedly entrusted to the British by providence. The problems arising from their presence in Indian seaport towns could not be easily solved by the ‘politics of making invisible’, as their labour was vital to the empire. Their position was therefore a highly ambivalent one, vacillating between inclusion and exclusion into the fold of ‘respectable’ white colonial society. In certain contexts and situations they were certainly seen as being part of the imperial establishment — though on the lowest ranks of the order of precedence — whereas in other constellations they were perceived as outright threat to this very establishment and hence subjected to processes of discursive ‘othering’ and practical disciplining.