In this article I argue that ‘community' is a category that is inextricably bound up with the historical development of the British empire. It was in this context that modern social theory took root, including, eventually, publications on community in anthropology and sociology that profoundly influenced nineteenth- and twentieth-century thought and that continue to shape everyday understandings of the category within and beyond academia. I first elaborate what type of work the category ‘community' was intended to do in the British empire. I then introduce two key figures who were responsible for designing, distributing and implementing two contrasting imperial theories of community. Subsequently, I sketch the migratory history of the category following the ancestors of today's so-called ‘Burmese Indians' across the Bay of Bengal from India to Burma. The final part of the article presents the repercussions ‘community' has in contemporary Myanmar, drawing on recent legislation around ‘race and religion’ as well as my own ethnographic data from religious processions of ethno-religious minorities who find themselves in a subaltern position vis-à-vis the Buddhist majority population and an ethnonationalist state.