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Raising Eurasia: Race, Class, and Age in French and British Colonies

  • David M. Pomfret (a1)
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Sexual relationships between European men and indigenous women produced racially mixed offspring in all of Europe's empires. Recent interdisciplinary scholarship has shown how these persons of mixed race, seen as transgressing the interior frontiers of supposedly fixed categories of racial and juridical difference upon which colonizers' prestige and authority rested, posed a challenge to the elaborate but fragile sets of subjective criteria by which “whiteness” was defined. Scholars critiquing the traditional historiography of empire for its tendency to present colonial elites as homogeneous communities pursuing common interests have emphasized the repertoire of exclusionary tactics, constructed along lines of race, class, and gender, devised within European colonial communities in response to the presence of “mixed bloods.” This article aims to show that the presence of people of biracial heritage inspired collaborative as well as exclusionary responses in outposts of European empire during the late imperial era. It also illustrates how, with white prestige and authority at stake, age, age-related subcategories, and in particular childhood and adolescence, powerfully underpinned responses to the threat this group posed to the cultural reproduction of racialized identity.

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1 Stoler Ann Laura, Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Race and the Intimate in Colonial Rule (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 60; and “Sexual Affronts and Racial Frontiers: European Identities and the Cultural Politics of Exclusion in Colonial Southeast Asia,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 34, 3 (1992), 514–16, 536.

2 See for example, Clancy-Smith Julia and Gouda Frances, eds., Domesticating the Empire: Race, Gender and Family Life in French and Dutch Colonialism (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998); Procida Mary A., Married to the Empire: Gender Politics and Imperialism in India, 1883–1947 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000).

3 See Goh Daniel P. S., “States of Ethnography: Colonialism, Resistance, and Cultural Transcription in Malaya and the Philippines, 1890s–1930s,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 49, 1 (2007), 136; Go Julian, “The Chains of Empire: State Building and ‘Political Education’ in Puerto Rico and the Philippines,” in, Go Julian and Foster Anne L., eds., The American Colonial State in the Philippines: Global Perspectives (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2003), 182, 205–6; Raffin Ann, Youth Mobilisation in Vichy Indochina and Its Legacies, 1940–1970 (Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books, 2005).

4 As Elizabeth Buettner has noted in relation to children, “No sooner are they invoked than they are summarily dismissed from the colonial arena altogether and from further analysis.” Empire Families: Britons and Late Imperial India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 7.

5 Historical debate has left colonial-era terminology such as “Eurasian,” and the French term métis(se), freighted with exotic and derogatory associations. While acknowledging these associations, this study uses these terms to refer in a non-pejorative sense to people of biracial heritage. On questions of terminology see, Mijares Loretta, “‘You Are an Anglo-Indian?’: Eurasians and Hybridity and Cosmopolitanism in Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children,” Journal of Commonwealth Literature 38, 125 (2003), 126.

6 Ceded to Britain by China in 1842, Hong Kong was proclaimed a Crown Colony on 5 April 1843. Britain received a perpetual lease on the Kowloon peninsula from 1860, and took the “New Territories” on a ninety-nine-year lease from 1898. Through a series of wars and treaties between 1858 and 1898 the French acquired what came to be referred to as “Indochina.” Official statistics recorded Hong Kong's population as having grown from 301,967 in 1906, to 456,739 in 1911, to 1,028,619 by 1938. Saigon reached 250,000 inhabitants in 1931. Hanoi's population grew from 86,000 in 1913, to just over 100,000 by 1924, and 127,880 by 1931.

7 Douchet P., Métis et congaies d'Indochine (Hanoi: n.p., 1928), 1718.

8 Symonds Richard, “Eurasians under British Rule,” in, Allen N. J. et al. eds., Oxford University Papers on India, vol. 1, pt. 2 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987), 2829.

9 “Un fonctionnaire hors cadre,” “Une œuvre humanitaire,” Le Courrier de Saigon (2 June 1894), 2.

10 Ibid.

11 Quoted in Endacott G. B., A History of Hong Kong, rev. ed. (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1973), 122.

12 Dalziel James, Chronicles of a Crown Colony (Hong Kong: South China Morning Post, 1907), 3435, 38.

13 Quoted in Endacott G. B., A History of Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1964), 95, 122.

14 “The Retort Courteous,” The China Punch (8 Nov. 1867), 96.

15 CO129/194, minute, Sir John Smale, 20 Oct. 1879.

16 Ibid.

17 “Un Conflit dans la société des métis,” Le Courrier de Saigon (19 Dec. 1894), 3.

18 Centre des Archives d'Outre-mer (hereafter CAOM), GG S.62 7701, report, Société de Protection et d'education des Jeunes Métis français de la Cochinchine et du Cambodge, 20 Feb. 1898.

19 CAOM, GG S.62 7701, report, Grevosty, 24 Sept. 1898; CAOM, GG S.62 7701, letter, Firmin Jacques Montagne, 10 Nov. 1903; CO129/194, minute, Eitel, 1 Nov. 1879.

20 Nord Deborah Epstein, “The Social Explorer as Anthropologist: Victorian Travellers among the Urban Poor,” in, Sharpe William and Wallock Leonard, eds., Visions of the Modern City: Essays in History, Art and Literature (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), 123–24.

21 CO129/194, minute, Eitel, 1 Nov. 1879.

23 Wellcome Library, London, MS. 1499, James Cantlie, “Enquiry into the Life History of Eurasians,” n.d. [c. 1889], 20. On such “perils,” see also, Krausse A. S., The Far East: Its History and Its Questions (London: G. Richards, 1900), 184.

24 Knollys Major Henry, English Life in China (London: Smith, Elder and Co, 1885), 49.

25 Dalziel, Chronicles, 34–35; 38;

26 On the European home in the Tropics, see Trewartha Glenn T., “Recent Thought on the Problem of White Acclimatization in the Wet Tropics,” Geographical Review 16, 3 (1926), 467.

27 On the Crewe Circular, see Hyam Ronald, “Concubinage and the Colonial Service: The Crewe Circular (1909),” The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 14, 3 (May 1986), 179.

28 Sir Des Voeux George W., My Colonial Service in British Guiana, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Fiji, Australia, New Foundland, and Hong Kong, with Interludes, vol. 2 (London: John Murray, 1903), 252.

29 Hongkong Government Gazette 165 (1888), 376.

30 CO129/327, Daily Press article, 29 Mar. 1904, 43.

31 CO129/443, minutes of meeting of Legislative Council, 19 Apr. 1924, 19; CO129/443, Hongkong Government Gazette (19 Apr. 1904), 20.

32 Ibid., 18; Hongkong Government Gazette (29 Apr. 1904), 752.

33 CO129/322, letter, Francis Henry May to C. P. Lucas, 7 May 1904, 780–81.

34 Rhodes House, Oxford, MS Nathan 340, letter, Helena May, 28 Jan. 1906.

35 CO129/443, letter, F. H. May, 5 Sept. 1917, 4.

36 May acknowledged the lack of “outspoken support” for the amendment among Chinese members of Legislative Council. CO129/447, letter, F. H. May, 24 Jan. 1918, 1.

37 CO129/443 Letter, F. H. May, 5 Sept. 1917, 6.

38 Ibid. May warned, “It is probable that Mr. Ho Kom-tong's intention, in acquiring a house at the Peak, is to place his wives, concubines, and children there.” Ibid., 385.

39 For May, “It would be little short of a calamity if an alien and, by European standards, a semi-civilised race were allowed to drive the white man from the one area in Hongkong, in which he can live with his wife and children in a white man's healthy surroundings.” Ibid., 387–88, 390.

40 At times, May contended, “There is in the Colony a not inconsiderable number of Eurasians who are to all intents and purposes Chinese in their habits and customs.” CO129/443, letter, F. H. May, 5 Sept. 1917. At others, this group was referred to as “Europeanised Chinese.” See CO129/409, pp. 10–11, minute 1914. On similar anxieties in British India see Buettner, Empire Families, 87–88.

41 The home government feared that the amendment would infringe the Treaty of Commerce and Navigation signed with the Japanese government on 3 April 1911, which permitted Japanese to “own or occupy houses in the same manner as native subjects.” CO129/447, minute, G. Grindle, 26 Apr. 1918.

42 Hongkong Government Gazette, 31 May 1918, 240.

43 On prestige, see “The Empire of Law: Dignity, Prestige and Domination in the ‘Colonial Situation,’ ” French Politics, Culture & Society 20, 2 (Summer 2002), 99–100.

44 CAOM, GG S.62 7701, letter, Brou, 9 Nov. 1904.

45 CAOM, GG S.62 7701, report, Grevosty, 24 Sept. 1898.

46 Salaun Louis, L'Indochine (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1903), 385.

47 CAOM, GG S.63 16.771, report, director of finance, 7 May 1912.

48 As one French administrator put it, “In Indochina … the paternity of the métis belongs in almost equal proportions to all ranks.” CAOM, GG S.62 7701, report, Firmin Jacques Montagne, n.d. [c. 1904].

49 National Archives of Vietnam I, Hanoi (hereafter VNNA), RST D.638 30.148, newspaper extract, “Betail humain,” L'Avenir du Tonkin, 26 Oct. 1899.

50 CAOM, GG S.62 7701, report, Grevosty, 24 Sept. 1898; CAOM, GG S.62 7701, letter, Firmin Jacques Montagne, 10 Nov. 1903; CAOM, GG S.62 7701, letter, Bérenguier, 29 Jan. 1904.

51 Grevosty remarked in 1897, “We are, among all the people of the world, the nation reputed for its high moral mindedness … we must colonise by … moral influence … by moral influence I mean acts of an irreproachable rectitude.” CAOM, GG S.62 7701, report, Grevosty, 24 Sept. 1898.

52 CAOM, GG S.63 16.771, “Notre devoir envers les enfants métis,” Les Annales Coloniales (11 Jan. 1913).

53 White Owen, Children of the French Empire: Miscegenation and Colonial Society in French West Africa, 1895–1960 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1999), 131.

54 CAOM, GG S.63 16.771, note, Chef du Service Administratif, 24 July 1912.

55 Alabaster G., “Some Observations on Race Mixture in Hong Kong,” Eugenics Review 11 (1920), 248.

56 CO129/410, letter, Lewis Harcourt, 22 Apr. 1914.

57 On the Eurasian “community,” see CO129/447, letter, F. H. May, 24 Jan. 1918; CO129/447, minute, AB “Peak Reservation Bill” 5 May 1918. In 1919, a group describing themselves as “British subjects of pure European descent” protested to the Colonial Office at being outbid by “certain wealthy Chinese Eurasians” in a land auction CO129/460, letter, Reginald E. Stubbs, 19 Mar. 1920; CO129/460, letter, Neilage S. Brown, 12 Nov. 1919.

58 CO129/478, letter, Reginald E. Stubbs, 16 Sept. 1922. Stubbs worried about this group's “excessive” influence. CO129/460, letter, R. E. Stubbs, 19 Mar. 1920; CO129/462, letter, R. E. Stubbs, 29 July 1920.

59 Mangan J. A., “Muscular, Militaristic and Manly,” International Journal of the History of Sport 13, 1 (1996), 2847.

60 “Young China means hot-headedness and irresponsibility,” claimed Hume Edward H. in Young China (New York, 1927), 446; The Secretary for Chinese Affairs in Hong Kong warned in 1925 that the “wilder elements” of student circles were, “clearly determined on trouble.” Tratman D. W., “Report of the Secretary for Chinese Affairs for the Year 1925,” Hong Kong Administrative Report (1925), 16.

61 Chinese and British elites each formed their “own exclusive social world.” Carroll John M., Edge of Empires: Chinese Elites and British Colonials in Hong Kong (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2005), 18, 31, 97.

62 In 1920 Governor Sir Reginald Stubbs voiced concern that respectable Chinese, “habitually refer to this class of person as ‘the bastards.’” CO129/462, letter, R. E. Stubbs, 29 July 1920.

63 CO129/489 Robert Kotewall, Report, 24 Oct. 1925, 455–56.

64 Kotewall recruited Pun Wai-chau, “the oldest and ablest” of Chinese editors, to write propaganda articles. CO129/489, report, Robert Kotewall, 24 Oct. 1925, 432, 446, 458.

65 Sayer Geoffrey Robley, Hong Kong, 1841–1862: Birth, Adolescence and Coming of Age (London: Oxford University Press, 1937).

66 Rhodes House, Oxford, MS, Nathan, 352 (f. 79), “A Visit to Hongkong & Canton: British Colony Not So Badly Hit,” The China Express and Telegraph, 17 June 1926.

67 Kotewall was appointed President of the Hong Kong Boy Scouts Association and awarded an honorary degree by the University of Hong Kong, in 1926. He was also appointed to the Order of St. Michael and St. George (1927), became a member of the Executive Council (1936), and was awarded the title of Knight Bachelor (1938).

68 The Indian-born Armenian businessman Sir Catchick Paul Chater (1846–1926) was the first to have been referred to in this way. Cheng Irene, Clara Ho Tung: A Hong Kong Lady, Her Family and Her Times (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1976), 1; Carroll John M., “Colonial Hong Kong as a Cultural-Historical Place,” Modern Asian Studies 40, 2 (2006), 534.

69 Alabaster, “Some Observations,” 248.

70 In 1920 the administrative official C. G. Alabaster had complained, “It will not be easy to … classify Major Long of Eton, Corpus and the Rifle Brigade, and his father Mr. Leung, the chairman of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce.” Ibid.

71 The League championed the retrieval of the term “Eurasian” from pejorative connotations. Ho Peter, The Welfare League: The Sixty Years, 1930–1990 (Hong Kong: The Welfare League, 1990), 14.

72 Anderson, announced, “We feel we are a community … It has been said of us that we can have no unity, and since even the semi-civilised tribes of Africa have it, this, though palpably absurd, is a challenge to be faced and an insult to be wiped out … With the blood of Old China mixed with that of Europe in us, we show the world that this fusion, to put it no higher, is not detrimental to good citizenship.” Cited in Ho, The Welfare League, 8.

73 Hong Kong Hansard, 25 July 1940, 100. Members of elite Eurasian families, notably Jean Gittins, Sir Robert Ho Tung's daughter, spent the war detained in the Japanese internment camp at Stanley. Gittins Jean, Eastern Windows—Western Skies (Hong Kong: South China Morning Post, 1969), 137–56.

74 Bonifacy Lieutenant-Colonel, Les Métis Franco-Tonkinois extrait des Bulletins et Mémoires de la Société d'Anthropologie de Paris, séance du ler décembre 1910 (Paris, 1911), 18.

75 Sister Benjamin, of the Daughters of Saint Paul de Chartres, who ran Hong Kong's Asile de la Sainte-Enfance (est. 1848) created a similar institution in Saigon in June 1859. Vaudon Jean, Les Filles de Saint-Paul en Indochine (Chartres: Procure des Soeurs de Saint-Paul, 1931), 51.

76 VNNA, RST S.73 5557, table, May 1915; CAOM, GG S.62 7701, letter, Brou, 9 Nov. 1904.

77 Saigon and Hanoi were declared French cities, the former as capital of the French colony of Cochinchina, the latter, anomalously, as an island of “Frenchness” within the protectorate of Tonkin. CAOM, GG E.90 3.139, report, Résident Supérieur au Tonkin, 27 Aug. 1909. On milieu, see Rabinow Paul, French Modern: Norms and Forms of the Social Environment (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989), 126–67.

78 CAOM, GG S.62 7701, report, Société de Protection et d'education des Jeunes Métis français de la Cochinchine et du Cambodge, 20 Feb. 1898.

79 Massieu Isabelle, Comment j'ai parcouru l'Indochine (Paris: Plon, 1901), 379.

80 In Hong Kong's French-run Asile de la Sainte-Enfance children could be, “taken away, and may be seen and handled by their parents whenever they feel disposed to call.” Argus, L'Asile de la Sainte Enfance, 1902, 15. Certain institutions claimed to provide for those of “mixed parentage.” Ibid., 8; The Diocesan School and Orphanage, Hongkong, Thirty-Sixth Annual Report, 1904, 6.

81 CAOM, GG S.63 16.771, note, Chef du Service Administratif, 24 July 1912.

82 Naturalisation was expensive to pursue and awarded only exceptionally. Guillaume Pierre, “Les Métis en Indochine,” Annales de démographie historique (1995), 189; Mazet Jacques, La Condition juridique des métis dans les possessions françaises (Paris: Editions Domat-Montchresien, 1932), 68.

83 CAOM, GG S.63 16.771 “Notre devoir envers les enfants métis,” Les Annales Coloniales 11 Jan. 1913; CAOM, GG S.63 16.771, note, Batault, 24 July 1912.

84 Sambuc Albert, “Les métis franco-annamites,” Revue du Pacifique, 4–5 (1931), 270; Jacques Mazet suggested, “mixing with metropolitan children less faithful to prejudices of race than the colonials.” Eurasian children “would be removed from cruel ridicule.” Mazet, La Condition juridique des métis, 14; Bonifacy, Les Métis Franco-Tonkinois, 4.

85 CAOM, GG S.63 16.776, letter, Révérony, 7 Dec. 1923; CAOM, GG S.63 16.773, letter, Révérony, 8 Jan. 1923. Protection Societies sent pupils to France before the age of fourteen, “because beyond this age, the character is fixed.” Sambuc, “Les métis,” 270.

86 VNNA, RST S.72 48.373, letter, Révérony, 13 Nov. 1923; VNNA, GG T.34 S.63 5328, letter, Tissot, 17 July 1925.

87 Saada Emmanuelle, Les Enfants de la colonie: Les Métis de l'empire français entre sujétion et citoyenneté (Paris: La Découverte, 2007), 220.

88 Sambuc, “Les métis franco-annamites,” 261.

89 Ibid., 259.

90 VNNA, RST S.73 71816, report, “Le Problème Eurasien au Tonkin,” 1937, 32.

91 The lack of interest shown in older cohorts of Eurasians through the period, by contrast, is striking. VNNA, RST S.73 71816, report, Résident Supérieur du Tonkin, “Le Problème Eurasien au Tonkin,” 1937, 65.

92 Ibid., 86;

93 Société de Protection des Métis d'Annam, Société de protection des métis d'Annam (Hué: Imprimerie Mirador, 1941), 68; Fondation Brévié Jules, Fondation Brévié: Son origine, ses buts et ses moyens d'action (Saigon: Imprimerie de l'Union, 1942), 208.

94 League of Nations Archive, Geneva, S173bis, “Le Péril vénérien et la prostitution à Hanoi,” Bulletin de la Société Medico-Chirurgicale de l'Indochine (June 1930), 464.

95 “La Condition juridique des métis dans les colonies françaises,” La Quinzaine Coloniale (25 Mar. 1933), 146.

96 Bonniot R., L'Enfant métisse malheureuse. Rapport présenté par M. Bonniot au congrès de l'enfance 1940 (Saigon: Imprimerie de l'Union, 1940), 12; See also Bonvicini Henri, Enfants de la colonie (Saigon: Portail, 1938), 3637, 45.

97 Léo Craste, principal architect of the Batiments Civils de l'Indochine, condemned the “entangled” state of native and European quarters in Hanoi, and mused upon “the hypothesis that Hanoi could be destroyed by the floods of the Red River,” and could be re-planned in its entirety. In the meantime, Craste advised that military installations be relocated closer to the European quarter “in case of trouble.” Craste Léo, “Un Nouvel Hanoi,” 22 Vie Urbaine (1934), 243–44, 253.

98 Fondation Jules Brévié, Fondation Brévié, 52. Godart Justin, Rapport de mission en Indochine: ler janvier-14 mars 1937. Repr. (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1994), 159.

99 Vignon Louis, Un Programme de politique coloniale. Les questions indigènes (Paris: Plon Nourrit, 1919), 369.

100 VNNA, RST S.73 71816, report, Résident Supérieur du Tonkin, “Le Problème Eurasien au Tonkin,” 1937, 91.

101 Female adolescence emerged as a feature of Republican political symbolism at the turn of the century and by the 1920s the “novel of adolescence” had become a recognisable genre. O'Brien Justin, The Novel of Adolescence in France (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1939); Pomfret David M., “‘A Muse for the Masses’: Gender, Age and Nation in France Fin-de-Siècle American Historical Review 109, 5 (2004), 1439–74.

102 As those of French “nationality and race” in Indochina declined in the 1930s in absolute terms, the number of “legitimate” or “recognized” métis grew to around 2,200. VNNA, RST S.73 71816, report, Résident Supérieur du Tonkin, “Le Problème Eurasien au Tonkin,” 1937, 65.

103 Guillaume, “Les Métis en Indochine,” 187.

104 Salaun, L'Indochine, 385; see also, Bonifacy, Les Métis Franco-Tonkinois, 9.

105 Godart, Rapport de mission en Indochine, 157. On the comparative lack of interest on the British side see Little K. L., “The Study of Racial Mixture in the British Commonwealth,” The Eugenics Review 32, 4 (Jan. 1941), 114–15.

106 VNNA, GGI S.73 00505, Société d'assistance aux enfants franco-indochinois, Assemblee générale annuelle ordinaire du 4 avril 1939 (Hanoi, 1939), 7.

107 On Dalat, see Jennings Eric, “From Indochine to Indochic: The Lang Bian/Dalat Palace Hotel and French Colonial Leisure, Power and Culture,” Modern Asian Studies 37, 1 (2003), 159–94.

108 An École des Enfants de Troupe in Dalat was created formally by arrêté on 27 June 1939. CAOM, RSTNF Q49 03461 Arrêté, 5 July 1939; Fondation Jules Brévié, Fondation Brévié, 195, 199.

109 As Lieutenant Colonel Belloc of the Foreign Legion put it, “We must care for these children from their birth and remove them as early as possible from the vulgar annamite milieu in which they generally live. From age two it is absolutely essential that they are taken from the mother; after this age it is too late.” VNNA, S.73 89, letter, Belloc, 12 Nov. 1942.

110 The census indicated there were 1,548 known Eurasians in Tonkin. VNNA, GGI S.73 88, letter, Decoux, 16 Apr. 1943.

111 VNNA, GGI S6 R2 00065, telegram, 11 May 1943.

112 VNNA, GGI S.6 471, letter, Chauvet, 5 Jan. 1945.

113 In Indochina institutions for the protection of métis became conduits for the integration of young males into the military. Saada, Les Enfants de la colonie, 232–34.

114 Fondation Jules Brévié, Fondation Brévié, 199. VNNA, GGI S73 00095, letter, Decoux, Dec. 1944.

Acknowledgments: Research for this article was generously supported by the Hong Kong Government Research Grants Council Competitive Earmarked Research Grant (HKU7455/05H).

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