Publication Details

Martinez, J, The End of Indenture? Asian workers in the Australian Pearling Industry, 1901–1972, International Labor and Working-Class History, 67, Spring 2005, 125-147. Copyright Cambridge University Press. Original journal available here.


The historical circumstances which led to the end of the indentured labor trade suggest that its abolition was only partially the result of humanitarian concern for the welfare of workers. It was the development of nationalism, both in sending and receiving countries, that prompted a rethinking of the racialized labor organization of indenture. In Australia, the introduction of the White Australia policy in 1901, with its restrictions on non-white immigration and employment, is usually thought to coincide with the abolition of the indentured labor trade. But the Australian pearl-shelling industry continued to employ indentured Asian workers up until the 1970s. This case study extends the historical analysis of indenture well beyond its supposed international abolition. In doing so, it demonstrates a degree of continuity of colonial thought and practice which persisted in the face of global decolonization.



Link to publisher version (DOI)