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Intimate Interactions: Eurasian family histories in colonial Penang*


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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Lionel Caplan , ‘Creole World, Purist Rhetoric: Anglo-Indian Cultural Debates in Colonial and Contemporary Madras’, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 1, 1995, pp. 743–62

Christina E. Firpo , ‘Lost Boys: “Abandoned” Eurasian children and the Management of the Racial Topography in Colonial Indochina, 1938–1945’, French Colonial History, 8, 2007, pp. 203–21

R. Park , ‘Human Migration and the Marginal Man’, American Journal of Sociology, 33, 1928, pp. 881–93

Alison Blunt , ‘“Land of our Mothers”: Home, Identity, and Nationality for Anglo-Indians in British India, 1919–1947’, History Workshop Journal, 54, 2002, pp. 4972

Christine Doran , ‘“Oddly hybrid”: Childbearing and Childrearing practices in Colonial Penang, 1850–1875’, Women's History Review, 6, 1997, p. 31

Ann Stoler , ‘Perceptions of Protest: Defining the Dangerous in Colonial Sumatra’, American Ethnologist, 12, 1985, pp. 644

Christine Choo , ‘Eurasians: Celebrating Survival’, Journal of Intercultural Studies, 28, 2007, p. 133

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Modern Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0026-749X
  • EISSN: 1469-8099
  • URL: /core/journals/modern-asian-studies
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