Renisa Mawani

Wall Scholar




Department of Sociology





Geographic Location

Renisa Mawani

Renisa Mawani (PhD, University of Toronto) is a Professor of Sociology, Faculty Associate at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, Faculty Associate at the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice, and the inaugural Chair of the Law and Society Program. Dr. Mawani works in the fields of critical theory and colonial legal history and has published widely on law, colonialism, race, and legal geography.

Her first book, Colonial Proximities (2009) details the legal encounters between indigenous peoples, Chinese migrants, “mixed-race” populations, and Europeans in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century British Columbia. Her second book, Across Oceans of Law (in progress), is a global and maritime legal history of the Komagata Maru, a Japanese steamship that transported 376 Punjabi migrants from Hong Kong to Shanghai, Moji to Yokohama and Vancouver to Calcutta. The book draws on oceans as method to trace the ship’s 1914 route across the Pacific and Indian Oceans, to advance the argument that legal forms of colonial violence are deeply entangled (indigenous dispossession, slavery, indenture, and prohibitions on “free” migration), and to consider time as a critical register of empire. With Iza Hussin (University of Cambridge), she is co-editor of The Travels of Law: Indian Ocean Itineraries published in Law and History Review. In 2015, she received the Killam Prize for Graduate Instruction and a Dean of Arts Faculty Research Award.

Primary Recipient Awards

Renisa Mawani – Wall Scholars – 2015

While at the Peter Wall Institute, Dr. Mawani will complete her monograph, Across Oceans of Law and will begin a related project, Translating Across Genres, which centers on forms of writing across history, fiction, and film. One component of this work includes a historical novel for which she will begin research. The Lost Diary, as it is tentatively titled, traces the seaborne sojourns of Gurdit Singh, the railway contractor who executed the Komagata Maru’s transoceanic journey.