White 'men' and their Chinese 'boys': sexuality, masculinity and colonial power in Singapore and Darwin , 1880s-1930s
This paper explores the tense and intimate encounters between white men and their Chinese ‘houseboys’ in the neighbouring British colonies of Darwin and Singapore from the late nineteenth century to the early 1930s. In spite of the fact that Darwin was part of a white settler colony and Singapore was a British exploitation colony, the tropical colonial culture which developed in these sites shared marked similarities. In Darwin and Singapore, white colonists employed a multiethnic and male dominated entourage of domestic servants. In both sites, Chinese ‘houseboys’ were the favoured servants reflecting transcolonial and racialised conceptions of Chinese servants as efficient, loyal and reliable. By studying the relationships between British and white Australian masters and their Chinese servants in these distinct yet connected tropical colonies, this paper shows how concerns about masculinity, homosexuality and power played out in the colonial home and were manifested in different ways in different colonial contexts.
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