Betwixt the oceans: The Chief Immigration Officer in Cape Town, Clarence Wilfred Cousins (1905–1915)
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Drawing on the personal and official papers of an immigration officer, this article highlights his personality, social life, and the quotidian aspects of his work at the port. By placing the officer at the centre, instead of the usual tendency in South African historiography to focus on ethnic immigration histories, one secures broader insights into the administration of policy, such as the writing test (an exclusionary mechanism) and repatriation, which are often associated with state policies against Indians. While the article draws on examples of arrivals at the port from both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, arguing against a focus on only Indian Ocean traffic, it emphasises how arrivals from India played a role in shaping the immigration bureaucracy. While scholars have recently begun to see Cape Town as an important Indian Ocean port, this article points to settler society’s unease with what sea traffic from Bombay and Durban might bring and how Cape Town sought to establish a disconnect with the East.