Law and Society, Historical Methods, Social and Cultural Theory, Sociology of Knowledge and Culture, Political Philosophies of Law and Justice
- Faculty Associate, Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies
- Faculty Associate, Institute for Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Social Justice
- Faculty Associate, Green College
Colonial Legal History; Critical Theory, Race and Racism; Affect; Time and Temporality; Oceans and Maritime Worlds; Indigeneity and Migration; Colonial India and the Diaspora; Posthumanism
My research is organized along two trajectories.
The first meets at the interface of critical theory and legal history. To date, my work has aimed to write histories of indigenous dispossession and "Asiatic" migration (from China and India, in particular) as conjoined and entangled colonial legal processes that are central to the politics of settler colonialism, historically and in the contemporary moment. My first book, Colonial Proximities (2009), details legal encounters between aboriginal peoples, Chinese migrants, Europeans, and those enumerated as "mixed race" along Canada's west coast. The book considers how state racisms were produced and mobilized through land, law, and labour in sites of colonial re-settlement and offers a critical engagement with Foucault's conceptualization of biopolitics.
My second book, Across Oceans of Law (2018), traces the currents and counter-currents of British/ colonial law and Indian radicalism through the 1914 journey of the S.S. Komagata Maru, a British-built and Japanese owned steamship. The book draws on archival research conducted in Canada, India, and the U.K. It reorients the ship's passage away from the optics of immigration, nationalism, and landfall that have been so persistent, towards a global and maritime legal history. By following this one ship through time and space, the book consolidates the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans into a single analytic frame, and in so doing, explores the entanglements between transatlantic slavery, indigenous dispossession, Indian indenture, and "free" migration.
My current book project, provisionally entitled "Enemies of Empire," approaches piracy and anticoloniality as intersecting and overlapping histories. Unlike many studies of piracy that focus on the seventeenth to eighteenth centuries, this project centers on the early to mid-twentieth century and examines how British and American jurisdiction over the high seas, as an international legal space, was advanced through concerns over piracy and through the criminalization of non-European seafarers. The book tells a counter-history of international law via the regulation of the seas and through the challenges posed by subaltern figures - Marcus Garvey, Gurdit Singh, and Alibhai Jeevanji - three men who started shipping companies at similar historical moments.
My second set of interests, "legalities of nature," coalesce at the juncture of science, law, and history. To date, I have written a series of articles on law and nature through parks and place. A central concern has been the dispossession of indigenous peoples and the ways in which colonial violence has been imposed and legitimized through racial, legal, civic, and state claims to nature, identity, and wilderness.
To date, I have written a series of essays and articles exploring the legalities of nature the appropriation of holometabolous insects as labouring bodies in contemporary geopolitics. Focused on global food production, climate change, and forms of war, this project draws from anticolonial writings and postcolonial theory and places them into conversation with the philosophy of time, movement, and change in the work Henri Bergson.
You can access an early version here:
2018-2023 SSHRC Insight Grant, "Enemies of Empire: A Socio-legal History of Piracy."
2017 AURA Award. Arts Undergraduate Research Award.
2015-2017 Hampton Research Grant Award, "Insect Jurisprudence."
2015-2016 Wall Scholar, Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.
2015-2016 Dean of Arts Faculty Research Award for Across Oceans of Law. The Faculty of Arts issues four awards per year, two at the Assistant/Associate level and two at the Full professor level, to allow research faculty one semester to concentrate entirely on research without teaching or administrative duties.
2014-2015 Killam Teaching Prize for Graduate Instruction. One Killam Teaching Prize is awarded annually to a faculty member at UBC, in recognition of excellent graduate-level teaching.
2018 Across Oceans of Law: The Komagata Maru and Jurisdiction in the Time of Empire (Durham: Duke University Press). Read the Introduction here
- Winner, Association for Asian American Studies Book Award for Outstanding Achievement in History (2020)
- Finalist, Socio-Legal Association (U.K.) Theory and History Book Prize (2020)
2009 Colonial Proximities: Crossracial Encounters and Juridical Truths in British Columbia, 1871-1921 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press).
2020 Animalia: An Anti-Imperial Bestiary of Our Times, co-edited with Antoinette Burton (under contract with Duke University Press).
2019 Unmooring the Komagata Maru: Charting Colonial Trajectories, co-edited with Rita Dhamoon, Davina Bhandar, and Satwinder Bains (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press).
2019 "Worlds at Home: On Cosmopolitan Futures," Journal of Intercultural Studies, 40(5), co-edited with Sheila Giffen & Christopher Lee.
2014 “Indian Ocean Circuits of Law,” Law and History Review, 32(4), co-edited with Iza Hussin.
Articles and Book Chapters
2019 "From Slave Revolts to Social Death," Theory and Society, 48, 835-849.
2019 "Introduction: Worlds at Home: On Cosmopolitan Futures," Journal of Intercultural Studies, 40(5), 525-533 (with Sheila Giffen & Christopher Lee).
2019 "Worlds at Home: An interview with Sneja Gunew by Christopher Lee and Renisa Mawani," Journal of Intercultural Studies, 40(5), 638-647.
2019 "Postcolonial Legal Studies." In S. Stern, M. Del Mar, and B. Meyler (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Law and Humanities (Oxford University Press).
2019 "The Politics of Empire: Minor History on a Global Scale." In R. Dhamoon, D. Bhandar, R. Mawani, and S. Bains (eds). Charting Imperial Itineraries: Unmooring the Komagata Maru, 1914-2014 (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press).
2018 "Ships at Sea," in Philippe Tortell, Mark Turin, & Margot Young (eds.). Memory (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press).
2018 "Insect Wars: Bees, Bedbugs, and Biopolitics," in Andreas Philippopoulos-Mihalopoulos (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Law and Theory (Routledge).
2018. "Archival Legal History: Towards the Ocean as Archive," in Marcus Dubber and Christopher Tomlins (eds). Oxford Handbook of Historical Legal Research (Oxford University Press).
2016. "Law, Settler Colonialism, and 'the Forgotten Space' of Maritime Worlds." Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 12, 107-131.
2016 "Criminal Accusation as Colonial Rule: The Case of Gurdit Singh." In George Pavlich and Matthew Unger (eds.), Accusation: Making Criminals (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press), 73-99.
2015 “Insects, War, Plastic Life.” In Brenna Bhandar and Jonathan Goldberg-Hiller (eds.). Plastic Materialities: Politics, Legality, and Metamorphosis in the Work of Catherine Malabou (Durham: Duke University Press), 159-188.
2015 "Law and Migration Across the Pacific: Narrating the Komagata Maru Outside and Beyond the Nation," Adele Perry, Karen Dubinsky, and Henry Yu (eds.), Within and Without the Nation: Canadian History as Transnational History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press), 253-275.
2015 "Bee Workers and the Expanding Edges of Capitalism." In Leopold Lambert (ed.), The Funambulist Papers (Punctum Books). Read an online version here.
2015. “Law and Colonialism: Legacies and Lineages.” In Austin Sarat and Patricia Ewick (eds). Law and Society Handbook (Malden: John Wiley and Sons), 417-432.
2015 “The Times of Law.” Law and Social Inquiry, 40(1), 253-263.
2014 “The Travels of Law: Indian Ocean Itineraries,”(co-authored with Iza Hussin). Introduction to Forum Issue, Law and History Review, 32(4), 733-747.
2014 “Patterns of Empire and the Politics of Comparison,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, 34(3), 618-625.
2014 "Law as Temporality: Colonial Politics and Indian Settlers," University of California Irvine Law Review, 4(1), 101-130.
2014 "Sovereignties in Dispute: The Komagata Maru and Spectral Indigeneities, 1914." In Shaunnagh Dorsett and John McLaren (eds.), Legal Histories of the British Empire: Laws, Engagements, and Legacies (London: Routledge), 107-123.
2012 "Racial Violence and the Cosmopolitan City," Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 30(6), 1083-1102.
2012 "Law's Archive," Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 8, 337-365.
2012 "Specters of Indigeneity in British Indian Migration, 1914" Law and Society Review, 46(2), 369-403.
2010 "'Half-Breeds,' Racial Opacity, and Geographies of Crime: Law's Search for the 'Original' Indian," Cultural Geographies, 17(4), 487-506.
2010 "On Postcolonialism and Criminology,"(co-authored with David Sealy). In Kirsten Kramar (ed.), Criminology: Critical Canadian Perspectives (Toronto, Pearson).
2009 "The Sociological Imagination and its Imperial Shadows," (co-authored with Thomas Kemple), Theory, Culture, and Society, 26, 228-249.
2008 “Cross Racial Encounters and Juridical Truths: (Dis)Aggregating Race in British Columbia’s Colonial Contact Zone,” BC Studies (Special Issue on 'Refracting Pacific Canada'), 156/157, 141-171.
- Reprinted in Ashok Mathur, Jonathan Dewar, and Mike DeGagne (eds), Cultivating Canada. (Aboriginal Healing Foundation Research Series, 2011).
2007 “Legalities of Nature: Law, Empire, and Wilderness Landscapes in Canada,” Social Identities, 13(6), 715-734.
2006 “Screening out Diseased Bodies: Immigration, Mandatory HIV Testing and the Making of a Healthy Canada.” In Alison Bashford (ed) Medicine at the Border: Disease, Globalization, and Security, 1850 to the Present (London & New York: Palgrave), 136-158.
2005 “Genealogies of the Land: Aboriginality, Law, and Territory in Vancouver’s Stanley Park," Social and Legal Studies, 14(3), 315-340.
- Reprinted in Eve Darian-Smith (ed), Ethnography and Law (London: Ashgate, 2007).
2004 “From Colonialism to Multiculturalism?: Totem Poles, Tourism, and National Identity in Vancouver’s Stanley Park,” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, (Special Issue on Law, Literature and Postcoloniality) 35(1-2), 2006, 31-57.
2004 “‘Cleansing the Conscience of the People’: Reading Head Tax Redress in Multicultural Canada,” Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 19(2), 127-151.
2003 “Imperial Legacies (Post)Colonial Identities: Law, Space, and the Making of Stanley Park, 1859-2001,” Law/Text/Culture, 7, 98-141.
- Reprinted in Denise Ferreira Da Silva and Mark Harris (eds), Postcolonialism and the Law (Routledge, 2017).
2003 “Island of the Unclean: Race, Colonialism, and ‘Chinese Leprosy’ in British Columbia, 1891-1924,” Journal of Law, Social Justice, and Global Development, 1, 1-21.
2003 “Legal Geographies of Aboriginal Segregation in British Columbia: The Making and Unmaking of the Songhees Reserve.” In Carolyn Strange & Alison Bashford (eds), Isolation: Places and Practices of Exclusion (London & New York: Routledge), 173-190.
2002 “In Between and Out of Place: Mixed-Race Identity, Liquor, and the Law in British Columbia, 1850-1913.” In Sherene H. Razack (ed.), Race, Space, and the Law: Unmapping a White Settler Society (Toronto: Between the Lines), 47-69.
2002 “‘The Iniquitous Practice of Women’: Prostitution and the Making of White Spaces in British Columbia, 1898-1905.” In Cynthia Levine-Rasky (ed.), Working Through Whiteness: International Perspectives (New York: SUNY Press), 43-68.
2002 “Regulating the Respectable Classes?: Venereal Disease, Gender, and Public Health Initiatives in Canada, 1914-1935.” In John McLaren, Robert Menzies, & Dorothy E. Chunn (eds.), Regulating Lives: Historical Essays on the State, Society, and the Individual (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press), 170-195.
- Winner of the Hilda Neatby Prize (best article contribution to Women's History) from the Canadian Historical Association, 2003
- Reprinted in A. Glasbeek (ed) Moral Regulation in Canada, (Canadian Scholars Press, 2006).
2000 “In Between and Out of Place: Racial Hybridity, Liquor, and the Law in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century British Columbia,” Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 15(2), 9-38.