Dr. Ruma Chopra

Curriculum Vitae

Ruma Chopra is professor of history at San Jose State University. For the last decade, her work has focused on understanding the “migration-driven process of diversification” in the British Atlantic during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  In particular, she has been interested in how people’s loyalties transform as they move away from familiar locales and adapt to circumstances not of their own making. She has published three books related to Atlantic migrations in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Her first two books investigated the migration of indigenous, African-American, and Euro-American loyalists after the War of American Independence. Her most recent book, Almost Home (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2018) contextualizes the dramatic adjustments of a deported ex-slave Jamaican community in Nova Scotia and in Sierra Leone during the era of British anti-slavery agitation. Her newest project on diasporic socio-cultural formations in the post-slavery Caribbean follows naturally from her longstanding interest in studying the dynamic and messy encounters between natives and newcomers.

Research Topic. How did people from widely different racial, cultural and geographical contexts live together in colonial Caribbean cities during the early nineteenth century? This qualitative project explores the complex relationships formed among East Indians, Chinese, African Creoles and Europeans in three British colonies – Jamaica, Trinidad, and Guyana – during the post-slavery period. It focuses on the second phase of forced labor in the Caribbean, introduced to replace African slavery after the middle of the nineteenth century through the use of indentured labor of Indian and South Chinese origin on virgin land previously untouched by the plantation system. Transitional as a system of labor recruitment and control between slavery and freedom, indenture involved temporary contracts – usually five years for men and a shorter period for women – regulated by various penal codes.

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