In a 2020 chapter in the book Being a Slave I traced the interactions between enslaved and free people in the port town Colombo, Sri Lanka. These interactions took numerous forms – from criminal activity to intimate bonds – and with the addition of contemporary maps, I could identify and locate sites of interaction in the landscape.

Some enslaved people attained free status through the process of manumission. In a 2020 article, ‘Precarious Freedom’ I highlighted (self)purchase in particular as a route to free status in Sri Lanka and through a close analysis of legal contests over slave status I traced the ways in which debt threatened freed status even as individuals and slave families asserted their legal identities.

In a book chapter entitled ‘Boundaries of Bondage’ I consider how the Dutch East India Company regulated entries and exits from the legal status of slave. I use the company’s ordinances (plakkaten) to delve into how the VOC tried to establish the heritability of slave status, among other routes into the legal condition (debt, poverty, caste, judicial process). The chapter will be published in a collection on slavery and coerced labour in Asia, which I am editing with colleagues.

View of Colombo from Slave Island by Jan Brandes, 1785. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.