Claire Lowrie
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White women and the decline of Chinese ‘houseboys’, 1910s–1930s
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Chapter four plots the decline of Chinese ‘houseboys’ in Darwin and Singapore and across Southeast Asia in general from the 1910s to the 1930s. The chapter contests the theory put forward by a variety of historians that the arrival of increasing numbers of white women in the tropics was the central cause of the feminisation of domestic service in the tropics. It points to the importance of transcolonial political forces in shaping domestic service in both sites, specifically the politicisation of Chinese men in the context of the Chinese Revolution and the introduction of policies of immigration restriction in Singapore and Darwin. These factors ensured that Chinese men were either unwilling, unavailable or considered unsuitable for domestic work. By focusing on Chinese men as household actors in their own right and by exploring impact of transcolonial political developments on the home, this chapter presents a new explanation for the feminisation of domestic service in Southeast Asia.

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