DOOM RERUNS: Komagata Maru

Have you heard the story of how a racist country tried to keep out non-whites through hasty legislation, got rebuffed by the courts, but then passed a similar immigration ban that was successfully upheld? 

i came across this the other day, right around the time when news came out of SCROTUS’s 2nd try at an immigration ban. The Komagata Maru incident, 1914, Canada.

baba gurdit singh

After Canada and the United States stopped South Asian immigration, Punjabi and other South Asian activists concentrated on trying to reopen the door to Canada. They believed they had a more powerful argument in dealing with Canada than with the United States because, like India, Canada was a part of the British Empire. From the beginning, they were very persistent in supporting would-be-immigrants from India (including women and children), in fighting individual immigration cases in court, in lobbying officials in Ottawa, London and Delhi, and in publishing propaganda aimed both at white Canadian and South Asian audiences.

A moment of great encouragement came in November 1913 when a Canadian judge overruled an immigration department order for the deportation of 38 Punjabi Sikhs. These immigrants had come to Canada via Japan on a regularly scheduled Japanese passenger liner, the Panama Maru. Immigration officials had ordered them deported because they had not come by continuous journey from India and because they were not carrying the requisite amount of money. The judge found fault with the continuous journey regulation and also the regulation specifying a $200 requirement. He looked closely at the wording of these regulations and ruled them inconsistent with the wording of the Immigration Act and therefore invalid. He then allowed the passengers to land. It was this victory for the passengers in the Panama Maru case that encouraged the sailing of the Komagata Maru in the following April 1914.

Unfortunately, by April the legal situation had changed. The Canadian government had quickly rewritten its regulations to meet the objections it encountered in court. Although briefly invalidated, the continuous journey and $200 requirement regulations were back in force by January 1914, three months before the Komagata Maru left Hong Kong for Vancouver. The leadership of the Komagata Maru passengers might have been deterred from sailing after the reissue of these regulations. Instead, they convinced themselves that a Canadian court would rule in their favour.

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/komagata-maru/

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gurdit singh with passengers

Section from Erika Lee’s The Making Of Asian America.

Other links:

BLIND SPOT by Harold Abramowitz

Tags:
 godard poetry

“One thing I tried to do while writing Blind Spot was translate the text into an imaginary French, since I can’t actually speak French, as if the text were actually the voiceover to a French New Wave film.”
–Harold Abramowitz

blind-spot-cover2-cr

though not quite with the immediately accessible vocabulary of a philip glass composition, harold abramowitz takes similar risk with a modular, repeating structure in his latest book BLIND SPOT. the result is a very very beautiful and meditative work, the experience of which i thought of as like watching the haunting and mesmerizing sway of tree branches in a summer wind… the thing that can be grating or even mockable about philip glass’s music is also what makes it elsewhere revolutionary, i.e. its foundation on modular phasings and accretions, which can verge on boring repetitiveness but which also on special occasion, after toying with dull sugariness, suddenly transcends to find deep emotion.

along with abramowitz’s artful use of repetitions, recursions and phasings, there is also throughout an elusiveness — a blind spot — which the reader seems to have a different vantage of than the protagonist and which houses some violence, trauma, or crime. the book begins with a section called HOTEL that tweaks the bygone europa tropes of hotel life as appearing in such disparate sourcetexts as thomas mann or norman lock or marie redonnet or wes anderson. a guest, perhaps an undercover agent of some kind, consorts with a general, has a bad car accident where he hits some form of beast, is on vacation. similarly the second section, FUNERAL, involves a cemetery, a missed rendezvous or two, an explosion… with a few elements like these, abramowitz builds a space full of both movement and stasis, one that is anguishingly incomplete and with a feeling of entrapment and yet also one that achieves a very sublime and melancholic beauty. BLIND SPOT takes a great risk and by it becomes an innovative and ravishingly elegant triumph.

Harold Abramowitz reading from Blind Spot

more info and an excerpt at CCM

find it at your local independent bookstore.

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PS and utterly beside the point : PG’s Wichita Sutra Vortex

 

PPS just through arpeggio association that glass bit brought me to this. which then led me to this. so, like, um, yeah. the internet.

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