Intimate interactions across ethnic and cultural lines were integral to the archive of memory within Eurasian families in colonial Penang. Through histories of their European and Asian ancestors, Eurasian families inherited a sense of travel and geographical mobility, and complex forms of cultural exchange often shaped their everyday lives. Eurasian family histories provide access to the messy, lived interactions which formed their social and domestic worlds, but they also hint at their limits. The idea of ‘Eurasian’ in colonial Malaya was a contentious one, a site for debate, as it was experienced by different people in different ways. During the interwar period, members of Penang's Eurasian elite attempted to define and discipline the divided Eurasian communities of Malaya, by purifying Eurasian family histories of their unruly diversity. In exploring the Eurasian social world of colonial Penang, this paper aims to delineate the fragility of such processes of interaction and exchange.
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