Hybrid Encounters: The Gendered Dynamics of Racial Mixing in Imperial and Post-Imperial Asia

AHA Session 246
Coordinating Council for Women in History 16
Sunday, January 8, 2012: 11:00 AM-1:00 PM
Missouri Room (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Durba Ghosh, Cornell University
Lost Mothers, Temperate Climes, and Anglo-Indian "Homes"
Jayeeta Sharma, University of Toronto
Some Intimate Histories of Afro-Asian "Solidarity"
Antoinette Burton, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Durba Ghosh, Cornell University

Session Abstract

Interracial Encounters: The Gendered Dynamics of Racial Mixing in Imperial and Post-Imperial Asia

As an effect of Western imperialism in Asia, "race mixing" has generated a considerable volume of discourse, from the nineteenth century colonial furor over the "Eurasian problem," to postcolonial theorizations of hybridity and its discontents. Yet certain aspects of this phenomenon and its legacy in the post-imperial era still remain inadequately understood.  This panel adopts a comparative and interdisciplinary approach to re-examining issues and voices that have been marginalized and/or silenced in the historical record, including: the question of interracial intimacy in histories of Afro-Asian solidarities and conflicts; the interactions between 'Indian' mothers and 'Anglo-Indian' children in discourses of British & Indian racial identities; and the discourses generated by "mixed-race" ("Anglo-Indian," "Eurasian," "Afro-Asian") subjects themselves.  Instead of simply focusing on the colonizer/colonized relationship, Antoinette Burton, Jayeeta Sharma and Emma Teng problematise an array of relations between Asians and Africans, between Anglo-Indians, different groups of Indians, and the British, among Eurasians across different parts of Asia.  Combining literary and historical analyses, these papers from two historians of South Asia and the British Empire and a theorist of East Asian languages and literatures work in dialogue with one another to elucidate the gendered dynamics of inter-racialism. Their papers span a range of global geographic locations from India, to China, Singapore, and Africa, and across time periods spanning the era of empire and post-empire. The panel chair and commentator Durba Ghosh is a historian of the British Empire known for her path-breaking work on race, gender, and cultural hybridity. The projected audience for this panel would be historians of gender, race, culture, and empire who are interested in examining these questions in a global perspective.

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