Claire Lowrie
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Masters and colonisers
The politics of Chinese domestic mastery, 1920s–1930s
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Chapter 6 considers the politics of intimacy within Chinese colonial homes, drawing on the accounts of Chinese employers of servants and analysing representations of these employers in government reports, colonial fiction and newspaper articles. It explores how the transcolonial child rescue movement of the interwar years resulted in governmental intervention in Chinese homes in Darwin and Singapore. In Singapore, the reluctantly government intervened in the practice of keeping mui tsai (girl slaves), publically emphasising that the vast majority of Chinese employers were good and moral masters. In Darwin by contrast, the government pursued intervention with enthusiasm, banning the Chinese community from employing Aboriginal people in their homes and businesses and resolutely condemning them as corrupt masters. The chapter concludes that the different attitudes towards Chinese domestic mastery were related to the symbolic significance of domestic mastery and the differing emphasis on distinctions of class and race within exploitation and settler colonialism.

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Masters and servants

Cultures of empire in the tropics


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