Traces and Residues of Migrant Boat Journeys: Reading the ‘MV Sun Sea’ and ‘Komagata Maru'

  • Nash Jonathan


Between 2009 and 2010, two Thai ships, the MV Sun Sea and Ocean Lady, brought 568 Tamil asylum seekers to Canada’s West Coast. Border authorities seized the ships and detained their passengers as security threats. For many criticizing this anti-migrant response, the arrivals of these ships echoed that of the Komagata Maru in 1914. This steamship entered the West Coast’s Vancouver harbour, but its 376 predominantly Sikh-Punjabi passengers were denied from disembarking as British subjects entering Canada. Scholarship on these incidents often use either the Komagata Maru as a lens for attending to the MV Sun Sea or vice versa. Part of the reason is that shortly after the government had apologized for its response to the Komagata Maru, it was detaining Tamil asylum seekers and arguing for their deportation. In suggesting their link far exceeds a temporal coincidence, this paper explores what makes it possible to think of the MV Sun Sea and Komagata Maru together. It argues that they are interlinked by an economy of affirmation and forgetting in Canadian public and political discourse. Furthermore, this economy frames how these boats are remembered unequally in service of the Canadian nation-state.


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Author Biography

Nash Jonathan

Jonathan Nash is a PhD candidate of English at the University of Victoria, whose research investigates how refugee spaces like refugee camps, detention centres, and migrant boats are represented and contested in refugee literature and comics.