Feb 26, 2014

"Intimate Colonialism? Intra-Asian Families and Domesticities in Colonial Southeast Asia"

Chie Ikeya, Assistant Professor, Depaertment of History, Rutgers University

The last two decades have given rise to a flourishing literature on the manipulation of sex, sentiment, and domestic arrangements in the making of race and empire. Yet, historians of the “tense and tender ties” of empire remain preoccupied with relations between white male colonizers and native women, seldom attending to unions between locals and other Asian foreigners, which were by far the most prevalent form of intermarriage in colonial Southeast Asia. Through an examination of 19th and 20th century civil court cases, this talk offers a comparative analysis of intra-Asian intimacies in British Burma and the Straits Settlements. It illuminates the textured social lives of the women and men in these transcultural relationships as they struggled to manage domestic affairs and communal identities in colonial societies ordered by cultural racism. It raises questions about the coloniality of these Asian settlers and sojourners, reconsidering the degree to which intra-Asian conjugalities served as strategies of extending foreign and masculine control over the affective and economic resources of Burmese and Malay women and communities.

Chie Ikeya is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. Before joining the history department at Rutgers University, she taught in the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore. Ikeya received her Ph.D. in modern Southeast Asian history from Cornell University and maintains an active interest in the related fields of Asian history/studies, women’s and gender history, race, gender and sexuality studies, and colonial and postcolonial studies. Her recent publications include Refiguring Women, Colonialism, and Modernity in Burma (University of Hawai’i Press, 2011), “Colonial Intimacies in Comparative Perspective: Intermarriage, law, and cultural difference in British Burma” (Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History 14.1, Spring 2013) and “The Life and Writings of a Patriotic Feminist: Independent Daw San of Burma” (in Women in Southeast Asian Nationalist Movements, edited by Susan Blackburn and Helen Ting, 23-47, NUS Press, 2013).


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