Student Work

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-27-2021

Abstract

A 2020-2021 Williams Prize for best essay in East Asian Studies was awarded to Gregory Jany (Jonathan Edwards, '21) for his essay submitted to the Department of History, “Imperial Crossings: Chinese Indentured Migration to Sumatra's Coast, 1865-1911" (Denise Ho, Assistant Professor of History, advisor).

Gregory Jany’s thesis, “Imperial Crossings: Chinese ‘Coolie’ Migration to Sumatra’s East Coast, 1865-1911,” is elegantly written, deeply researched in multiple archives—British materials, Dutch archives, and Qing documents—and uses several languages beyond English: Bahasa Indonesia, Dutch, Chinese, and Classical Chinese. Grounded in the literatures of the late imperial China, the Chinese diaspora, and colonial Southeast Asia, Jany argues that migrations of Chinese laborers should be seen in terms of an inter-colonial corridor. This corridor lay at the intersection of the Qing, British, and Dutch empires, and furthermore the actors within the corridor—from officials to brokers to the workers themselves—all exercised agency within and on the corridor. One of the most creative sections of the thesis is Jany’s third chapter, which studies the ways in which Chinese coolies maintained cultural and economic ties with home. Providing the points of view of multiple agents in the corridor, Jany presents a richly detailed portrayal of its social and cultural lives.

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