Recent Scholarship: Patriarchy and Colonialism

The latest issue of the Journal of Women’s History includes the following article examining gender, race, class, and patriarchy within the British and colonial legal systems:

“Class, White Women, and Elite Asian Men in British Courts during the Late Nineteenth Century” by Nurfadzilah Yahaya

British imperial politics was profoundly affected by class alongside gender and race. This article probes how legal courts situated white women who were involved in interracial relationships with powerful Asian men from the perspective of law and press reports of two cases during the period of high empire in the late nineteenth century. These cases occurred in the metropolitan imperial cities of London and Singapore that highly valued merchants’ and foreign rulers’ contributions to imperial coffers. Class ultimately played a huge factor in the outcome of both cases, which involved two prominent men whose wealth, fame, and high status made their subordinate status within the British Empire ambiguous. Reports of trial proceedings demonstrate that class tended to unsettle notions of “whiteness,” “subjecthood,” and “jurisdiction.” This meant that the colonial elite formed an unstable category that was highly complex, flexible, and, as a result, potentially fragile.

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