Trans-Status Subjects: Gender in the Globalization of South and Southeast Asia 9780822384236

Essays consider the relationship of gender, time, and space to globalization, describing conditions under which South an

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Trans-Status Subjects: Gender in the Globalization of South and Southeast Asia

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TRANS-STATUS SUBJECTS Gender in the Globalization of South and Southeast Asia Edited by Sonita Sarker and Esha Niyogi De



Durham and London 2002

∫2002 Duke University Press All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper $ Typeset in Scala by Keystone Typesetting, Inc. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data appear on the last printed page of this book.




Acknowledgments ⭈ xi Introduction: Marking Times and Territories Sonita Sarker and Esha Niyogi De ⭈ 1 I FIGURING GENDERS IN THE COLONY AND NATION: NATIVE AND FOREIGN

Designing Woman, Designing North Borneo Susan Morgan ⭈ 31 The Cordon Sanitaire: Mobility and Space in the Regulation of Colonial Prostitution Philippa Levine ⭈ 51 Feminizing the City: Gender and Space in Colonial Colombo Nihal Perera ⭈ 67 Failure of the Imaginary: Gendered Excess of the Indonesian Nation Sylvia Tiwon ⭈ 88

Gender, Paradoxical Space, and Critical Spectatorship in Vietnamese Film: The Works of Dang Nhat Minh Kathryn McMahon ⭈ 108 II TRANSPORTING GENDERS BETWEEN THE VILLAGE AND CITY: REPRESENTATIONS AND RESISTANCES

Traveling High and Low: Verticality, Social Position, and the Making of Pahari Genders Karen K. Gaul ⭈ 129 Nurturing, Gender Ideologies, and Bangkok’s Foodscape Gisèle Yasmeen ⭈ 147 Place and Displacement: Figuring the Thai Village in an Age of Rural Development Andrew McRae ⭈ 167 The City between the Global State: Architecture and the People in Singapore’s Gendered Imaginations Esha Niyogi De ⭈ 189 III GENDERING LOCAL-GLOBAL CIRCUITS: LABOR, CAPITAL, AND SUBJECTS OF SOCIAL CHANGE

South Asian Women in the Gulf: Families and Futures Reconfigured Karen Leonard ⭈ 213 Diasporic Alienness and Belonging: Selected Indian-American Cultural Expressions Ketu H. Katrak ⭈ 232 Jewish Diaspora through Colonial Spaces: Negotiating Identity and Forging Community Jael Silliman ⭈ 249

viii ⭈ Contents

Unruly Subjects: Cornelia Sorabji and Ravinder Randhawa Sonita Sarker ⭈ 267 Immigrant Dreams and Nightmares: South Asian Domestic Workers in North America in a Time of Global Mobility Anannya Bhattacharjee ⭈ 289 Bibliography ⭈ 309 Contributors ⭈ 333 Index ⭈ 335

Contents ⭈ ix



The intellectual and emotional debts for this collection are many. Our heartfelt gratitude goes out to the numerous colleagues, friends, and well-wishers who have been engaged in this project with us at di√erent moments of its evolution. They are the people who have inspired, challenged, encouraged, and helped us find our way through this intellectual adventure. We are especially and deeply thankful to Emily Rosenberg, Karen Warren, Karin Aguilar San Juan, Anna Meigs, Anne Runyan, Antoinette Burton, Lisa Disch, Amy Kaminsky, Peter Rachle√, Anna Agathangelou, Jan Jindy Pettman, Valentine Moghadam, Amrita Basu, Patricia Fernandez-Kelly, Susan Stanford Friedman, Ketu Katrak, and Chandra Talpade Mohanty. Asif Agha and Russell Leong gave their energy and care to commenting on early versions of the project, Sandra Harding put in a timely word of support, and Shu-mei Shih staked her confidence in the intellectual vision of this collection. At Duke University Press, we would like to thank Valerie Millholland for her enthusiastic support and guidance. Also at Duke, we would like to thank Rebecca Johns-Danes, Katie Courtland, Miriam Angress, and all the people involved in the production. Nancy Zibman’s thorough indexing work is invaluable. The two anonymous reviewers gave us rigorous readings and stimulating critiques of the collection as a whole and of individual contributions. We have appreciated and gained from their suggestions. We extend special thanks to all our contributors for their faith in this

project, their patience, their cooperation in rewriting to our exacting standards and, most of all, for their rich and insightful works. Their feminist visions have sharpened our sense of this book. In addition to the people already acknowledged, Sonita would like to thank her wonderful companion, Behrooz Abshar, and Babuji, her father. Then there are, of course, her students. And her friends Ana LoisBorzi, Damon Brinson, and Jael Silliman. Esha thanks Suranjan for nurturing her intellectual endeavors and for his quiet but unfailing optimism. And she o√ers this collection to all those wonderful students who have, over the years, come to her classes on South and Southeast Asian women and energetically discussed globalization and gender. In the process of imagining, compiling, and editing this book, we have learned from each other’s feminisms and grown intellectually through thinking together. Sonita is grateful to Esha for being an indispensable catalyst. Esha thanks Sonita for creating the term ‘‘trans-status subject’’ and for the unflagging intellectual energy and hard labor she has brought to every stage of the publication process.

xii ⭈ Acknowledgments




A Thai food seller on the streets of Bangkok, a Bangladeshi domestic helper in a New York apartment, a Pahari migrant laborer in the Himalayas, a Parsi-Christian professional social worker shuttling between London and Calcutta. We study how these and other South and Southeast Asians, working within and against its systems of economic and cultural production, a√ect and are a√ected by globalization. From colonial times to those of nation-states into the present-day transnational accumulation of capital, racist, heterosexist, and classist systems have been imposed on South and Southeast Asians, and perpetrated by them. This volume analyzes how these individuals use material technologies (such as urban planning) and discursive ones (like literary rhetoric) to negotiate the imperatives to ‘‘mark time’’—that is, to synchronize with universalized, masculinist versions of history. South and Southeast Asians negotiate their territories within overlapping centers and peripheries of privilege and dispossession created by the rapid shifts globalization brings. Their strategies are made complex by the fact that these women and men experience changes in their gendered, ethnicized, racialized, socioeconomic, and political status. Over space and time, the values and definitions of categories such as race, gender, and class change in the ways they intersect to situate individuals. This contingent and multiply defined status is crucial to any analysis of globalization because it determines the unequal ways in which women

and men become mobile, whether or not they physically relocate in the changing landscapes and histories of ‘‘progress.’’ This definition of mobility extends beyond the contrast between those who move or are moved about and those who do not; we emphasize that the latter may not travel but are nevertheless not ‘‘static,’’ given their active adaptations to new circumstances. Our essays investigate both the consequences and ethics of globalization. They show that the negotiations enacted through the mobilities in globalization produce unconcluded dialectics of power and resistance, bringing old and new oppressions yet also opportunities to challenge them through informal as well as formalized claims to citizenship. These dialectics produce women and men who reclaim and redefine (re-mark) the territories assigned to regional, national, and individual identities, thereby producing new histories with diverse agendas. Their mobility, in modern and postmodern South and Southeast Asia, is crucially linked to memory. They amalgamate familiar and new practices to survive the attempted erasure of their known places and histories by foreign as well as native heterosexist, patriarchal, and classist powers. Some flexibly position themselves (Ong 1998, 137) within dominant models of citizenship (consumer, taxpayer, property owner in capitalist states) to normalize their status. Others challenge these models by forging strategic transborder alliances across imposed spatial and temporal divides (‘‘advanced’’ and ‘‘backward,’’ rich and poor, progressive and traditional) so as to enact new citizenships in both physical and symbolic spaces. These South and Southeast Asian actions toward self- and community-formation, and our narratives of them, contest the dichotomy of oppressors and resisters. They demonstrate instead that overlapping centers and peripheries produce diverse agents of power (in gender, race/ethnicity, class).∞ They also reveal that resistance and social change arise only from an entanglement with regimes of dominant knowledge/power, not outside them. In our accounts of the range and specificity of South and Southeast Asian individuals’ and communities’ participation in globalization, our various disciplinary lenses, positioned in interdisciplinary frames, have both thematic and functional relevance. The basis of ideologies and images in the space-time nexus makes it necessary that the social historians consider how contemporary discursive practices rework old templates of race, gender, and sexuality to legislate urban colonial and national territory (for example, Levine, Perera, and Leonard). Similarly, the cultural

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anthropologists and geographers study how developing economies use gendered temporal and spatial symbols (progress, tradition, urban, rural) to control lived space and material resources (Tiwon and Gaul, for instance); and the scholars of literary and visual cultures explore how translocal migrations are represented in aesthetic productions that rea≈rm and reexamine dominant constructions of past and present (for example, MacMahon, McRae, and Sarker). This multidisciplinary volume emerges from the authors’ own alliances across the imposed divides of race, gender, and culture, and through our many debates about our subjects and ourselves. As teachers, researchers, and activists who have forged emotional and intellectual links to South and Southeast Asia, we write about times and territories we inhabit and visit. We live in di√erent parts of those regions, North America, and Western Europe; we participate in globalizing South and Southeast Asian countries by transporting their images within and beyond their borders. Since we work in and across institutions like the academy and (neo)liberal state, our sense of being and belonging is a√ected by local understandings of gendered and racialized categories of spaces and times. These determinations of our status enable or constrain the mobilities of those among us who are South and Southeast Asian in ‘‘origin’’ as much as those of us who are not. We are unequally mobile on the routes of knowledge and capital—between ‘‘backward’’ Asian peripheries and centers in the ‘‘West’’—but we all appear to mark time (synchronize) with masculinist notions of socioeconomic progress. To South Asian bourgeois nationalists, diasporic enclaves, and other cultures in the United States, we (the coeditors) symbolize female Oriental natives and middleclass professionals, alternately or simultaneously. Our cocontributors are seen as experts, though also often as aliens to their subjects. We negotiate and contest these homogeneous spaces that dominant political agendas supplant for the multiple material-symbolic places that we inhabit; the discussion below clarifies this distinction. This volume presents our responses to popular and academic discourses about dominant as well as revisionist formulations of South and Southeast Asia. What is at stake today in the processes and discourses of globalization is the (re)constitution of old and new beliefs about South and Southeast Asian nation-states, subjects, and their practices. Our essays demonstrate that hierarchical concepts of space and time form the

Introduction ⭈ 3

very ground for racist, sexist, and classist ideologies of modernity and modernization. These discourses and their bases have not been eradicated in postmodern practices; in recent eras of globalization, stereotypes imbricate with ‘‘new’’ understandings to create neoliberal orthodoxies of prejudice and oppression that are practiced by both native and foreign powers. The essays show how and why these foundations in vocabularies of space and time are crucial to understanding the still-functioning and metamorphosing stereotypes about South and Southeast Asia. More important, an awareness of these foundations enables us to grasp how they have been and can be engaged to generate opportunities for liberatory citizenship. Our focus ‘‘on the ground,’’ at South and Southeast Asian individuals’ lives, intervenes in discourses in and about globalization in two ways. First, in contrast to many area and diaspora studies that often do not address the roots of persistent stereotypical ‘‘images of Asia’’ in spacetime concepts, we approach South and Southeast Asia not as self-evident categories of identity but relational and contextual entities. Second, in focusing on the links inside and across these geopolitical spaces, we show that these regions unify on perceived common philosophical concepts, cultural practices, and political ideologies against the West, but depart in the di√erent ways their policies enact national histories. We analyze how, in the contexts of these convergences and divergences, subjects enact, modify, and resist ‘‘ideas’’ of their nations. Our emphasis on the interrelations of people and systems also leads us to question both political systems and critical theories that maintain spatiotemporal dichotomies—progress versus backwardness, center versus periphery. These binarisms persist in some late-twentieth-century scholarship on South and Southeast Asia—for instance, in systemic analyses of globalization (Wallerstein 1974; Harvey 1989; Giddens 1990). Some postcolonial, feminist, and cultural studies problematize such binaries and seek to foreground people as the actors in globalization. For example, feminist theorists observe that the (neo)colonial racial-sexual politics of erasing or suppressing women’s places has persisted and yet also been resisted through time, from colony to nation-state to transnational consolidations of capital. Others still essentialize spatialized metaphors of marginality, resistance, or hybridity as innate properties of women and the oppressed.≤ There is much debate on whether globalization is ‘‘good’’ or ‘‘bad’’; we investigate the ways that these ascribed qualities intertwine. 4 ⭈ Sarker and Niyogi De

Before presenting the three sections of this volume, we would like to explore how the intersections of spaces and times define South and Southeast Asian nations and their peoples, and then how this understanding informs the strategies women and men adopt in order to participate in globalization. The U.S. mainstream media dubbed the 1998 economic collapse the ‘‘Asian flu,’’ expressing apprehension about the global circulation of capital in which remote viruses from so-called global cities such as Hong Kong and Singapore could a∆ict stable London and New York markets. Across and outside of South and Southeast Asia, this fear of contagion was compounded by doubt about the e≈cacy of hauling out the despotic and corrupt oligarchies of Southeast Asian nation-states already in deep debt to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. At the same time, these transnational agencies advertised how successfully they had aided ‘‘development’’ by investing through the Grameen Bank in Bangladeshi women entrepreneurs who were considered good borrowers. In 1999, the U.S. media (for example, Time and Newsweek) chose to focus on the resolute Burmese woman-dissident Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest, and on the subaltern hero Xanana Gusmao in the East Timorese struggle for independence from neocolonialist, predominantly Muslim, Indonesia. In these images, rural and urban women and men in allegedly backward nations are depicted as simultaneously occupying domestic spaces in traditional pasts and becoming mobile, public, economic/political citizens of a global, progressive democracy. These profiles of new mobilities appear to have superseded colonial associations with the Orient, in which the lazy native, the ascetic, the hypersexual savage, the courtesan, and the self-indulgent despot live in jungles, huts, temples, and courts.≥ They seem to have transplanted images of South and Southeast Asian subjects who are portrayed as one-dimensional symbols of remote geographies and static histories, despite their participation in premodern and modern cultural and commercial relations across and outside of Asia. On closer inspection, however, the 1998 and 1999 media images implicitly conflate old Orientalist stratifications, indigenous cultural discourses, and new racialized, gendered, and class hierarchies that technomuscular modernization breeds. The trope of the contagious flu reminds one of weak traditional political bodies and the image of the rural poor of natives learning the lessons of modernity (democratic citizenship, independence, and civil society). Even Gusmao, the resistant subaltern, is shadowed by an image of the native moving from a colonial past and presIntroduction ⭈ 5

ent into an independent future, despite the fact that the East Timorean resistance combatted marginalization by blending ‘‘traditional’’ humanitarian intervention (ironically, from its Christian Portuguese ex-colonizers, among others) with Internet technology ( to broadcast beyond regional, economic, sociopolitical, and cultural borders. As the essays in this volume collectively argue, such images demonstrate how masculinist native and foreign powers, from colonial to transnational eras, (ab)use the various dimensions of material places (natural environments, family habitats, bodies) as spaces through which to universalize flows of knowledge and capital. Men and women, from villager to financier, occupy these changing spaces that transform their status and place into globalized symbols of poverty, decadence, and independence, attached selectively to notions of masculinity and femininity (the native, the poor, the woman). In this volume, we use ‘‘place’’ to signify the dimensions of lived experience and ‘‘space’’ as grounds that are emptied. Social geographers define space as the production of human action and place as the particular site of such production (Lefebvre 1991; Massey 1994). While we agree with Lefebvre that space is a product, we point out that there is a political significance to the gendered and racialized space produced in South and Southeast Asia when there is an attempt to erase the lived experiences of places to facilitate the flows of dominant cultural and economic production. We attempt to maintain a recognition of the density of the ethnic and gendered tensions of places so that they are not reconstituted as idealized opposites of spaces. The essays also remind us of the di√erent ways in which space/ place intersects with time in colonialist, nationalist, and transnational discourses. Such discursive practices mark South and Southeast Asia through conflations of contradictions: women and men are culturally static but economically mobile, and symbols of femininity and masculinity are transhistorical but temporally contingent. The maps in which South and Southeast Asians move are multiply spatial and temporal, such as in our own instances described above. Spaces are given meaning in reference to a masculinist linear history of material progress, disguised as universalized, empty, homogeneous time (Chakrabarty 1997, 36). In these terms, then, a sacred space (say, a temple) is an ‘‘allochronic’’ one—that is, removed from modern times of technological advancement (Fabian 1983) while a political space (such as an emerging nation) is determined by it (Dirlik 1997, 66).

6 ⭈ Sarker and Niyogi De

Given these profiles of South and Southeast Asia, it is especially crucial ‘‘to rethink [history and geography] as co-equal modes of representation, inquiry, and theorization’’ (Soja 1993, 132–33). Yet as the essays all emphasize, it is important to identify who the authors of South and Southeast Asian colonial and (trans)national geo-histories are. They mobilize hierarchies of gendered, racialized, ethnicized, and classed South and Southeast Asian subjects, located in material sites (homes/cities/ states) and symbolic spaces (public/private), into a universal teleology (the present and future of modernity). Racist discourses of white heterosexist colonial bourgeoisie normalize their own identities, and signify Oriental territories as spatiotemporal sites for a decadent and seductive enigma that progress must abandon or master and convert. That coding of history and geography is preserved in Lord Louis Mountbatten’s World War II term ‘‘Southeast Asia,’’ which drew those varied regions into global circuits—namely, the term marked them spatially to include them into modern geopolitical times.∂ This intertwining of history and geography is continued in dominant nationalist agendas. For example, India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, said: ‘‘We in India do not have to go abroad in search of the Past and the Distant. . . . If we go to foreign countries it is in search of the Present. . . . [I]solation from it means backwardness and decay’’ (1946, 578). Discourses of more recent patriarchal (trans)nationalist Asian communities describe South and Southeast Asia as meccas of unchanging religious and cultural tradition (symbolized particularly in the spatial image of the woman at home) assaulted, or nurtured, by urban-industrial modernity. A feminized geography is imprinted by a masculinist history (Massey 1994; Rose 1993; Blunt and Rose 1994); we add that in modern and postmodern South and Southeast Asia, colonial and nationalist patriarchies produce centers and peripheries not only of spaces but also of the times people inhabit. We explore the nature of women’s and men’s strategies within these structures created in globalization. We show that from quotidian places, South and Southeast Asians not only generate potential challenges to dominant histories (Soja 1993) but also re-author them. Investigation into various spatiotemporal locations reveals the heterogeneity of South and Southeast Asians. Merely showing plurality is not our goal, however. In the discussion below of the three sections of this volume, we describe how the essays illustrate that the strategies of the women and men whom

Introduction ⭈ 7

we call ‘‘trans-status subjects’’ are interrelated. The term captures the fact that individuals, moving in the tracks created by global masculinistcapitalist power, are caught in transition from one (economic, social, political) status to another, at the same time as they try to redefine their places-turned-into-spaces. Regardless of the degree of physical mobility, men and women experience these spatiotemporal shifts as (de)legitimation of her/his gender, class, race, ethnicity, and so on. In the resulting struggles to establish oneself in the present, their pasts are perceived at once as decadent and cultural-psychic anchors against flux. Memory, derived from these rapidly forming pasts that are already politicized by encounters with interruption by native and foreign powers, is used for both reactionary and resistant purposes; we thus extend Homi Bhabha’s notion of subversive memory (1991). The essays show how subjects recast their status by assembling familiar and new practices to survive attempted erasures of known geo-histories into spaces, and reassert place. At both centers and peripheries, some subjects meld individual/collective memories with imposed knowledges selectively, to reconsolidate their status within or across boundaries of nation-states and synchronize with dominant history. For example, Nehru expresses a masculinist cultural nationalism that values ‘‘heritage’’ only in that it is removed from the modern. Through this use of memory, dominant powers assert that sociopolitical and economic cultures are defined by selfcontained geographies into which subjects can (or should) be mapped cleanly; the same assumption underlies traditional area studies. Other women and men described in our essays, however, contest both new and old hierarchies by combining present practices with memories not only of past states of being but resistance and adaptation. While some oscillate between subscribing to their privileges and questioning them, others actively protest their status. Their practices, which are asynchronous—that is, not considered to be ‘‘in tune with’’ dominant contemporary cultural and material productions—becomes the bases on which resistant subjects enact strategic alliances, often across gender, class, and cultural borders. Our essays emphasize that of the di√erent gendered and racialized trans-status subjects, women bear disproportionate burdens of political and economic marginalization, but we also note that they do not perform alliances only at the ‘‘borders’’ (Kaplan, Alarcon, and Moallem 1999). This formulation of memory and resistance appears similar to some

8 ⭈ Sarker and Niyogi De

postcolonial and feminist theorizations of the plural-fluid-hybrid (Wilson and Dirlik 1995; Haraway 1991). Our notion of the mobile subject, however, does not simply celebrate the always already marginal and resistant other, nor fault those who are engaged in and by capital production and accumulation.∑ We present resistant hybridity as constricted yet also enabled by entanglements with power, and therefore, unequal powers are not dichotomous but imbricated. The example of East Timor above makes evident that resisters like Gusmao weld new technologies with memories of survival to claim their rights of political and cultural autonomy. Similarly, rural women in India involved in Self Employed Women’s Association (sewa) assert participatory citizenship by lobbying regional leaders about their causes directly on the Internet. Each of our essays also stresses that mobility is born not only of privilege but also dispossession, and brings entrapment as well as liberation. Not all subjects who benefit from capital-driven histories of progress are unthinkingly enslaved to them, and neither are others employed by masculinist machineries of modernity necessarily free to contest them. Our essays demonstrate that mobility, as distinguished from interstitiality or fluidity, has unequal e√ects on subjects who are situated in material and symbolic power hierarchies based on their status (their gender as it intersects with race, ethnicity, class, and so forth). The three sections of this volume present the consecutive though overlapping flows of cultures, capital, and people to, from, and within the regions demarcated as South and Southeast Asia in the eras of globalization (colonization, nation formation, transnational accumulation of capital). The chrono-logical depiction of the processes and e√ects of globalization to which South and Southeast Asians contribute enables us to pinpoint what changes or recurs through its phases in two ways: the political and economic systems governing the flows mentioned above within and across geographic borders, and the people controlling the directions of such flows. The serial arrangement within section I illustrates that the hierarchies of sexuality, race, and class produced under modernist commercial and cultural structures in colonial states are reproduced with native inflections by neocolonial South and Southeast Asian leaderships. The diachronic movement from the first section to the second and third emphasizes the relatively more di√use structures in the postmodern phase of global capitalism, and yet heightens the sense of repetition. The broadly synchronic studies in sections II and III reveal

Introduction ⭈ 9

that neocolonial capitalist patriarchies consolidate the sovereignty of their nation-states by colluding with foreign powers and employing plural constituencies. They, in fact, become plural, and the agents of power grow increasingly more diverse in racial, national, and gender profiles, making it increasingly di≈cult to separate woman or native as symbols of otherness. As such, the ability to transcend borders and become multiple does not remain a feature only of the marginal. Periodization becomes useful in contradictory ways. The arrangements of the sections and the studies within them also allow us to interrogate neat temporal divisions—colony, nation, transnational power bases—that di√erentiate modern (often characterized in terms of fixed political and sociocultural structures) from postmodern (often described as porous, plural structures). In studying large geopolitical shifts from the grounds inhabited or traversed by South and Southeast Asians, we make two discoveries. First, that colonial heterosexist and racist ideologies get new life in postmodern times; despite, and sometimes because of, the accelerated movement of diverse Asian men and women toward centers of ‘‘opportunity,’’ such ideologies attempt to fix many women and a large number of poor men on the inflexible peripheries of legitimacy and privilege. Second, that throughout these eras, women and men challenge (neo)colonial hierarchies by becoming mobile against them. Memories of survival and adaptation flow across spatial divides (rural, urban, national) to influence later South and Southeast Asian subjects to actualize selves and forge alliances across the structures imposed on their spaces and times. The historical span of the volume allows us to trace social movements, and as the last part of this introduction discusses, the very germination of resistant subjectivities that form our genealogy of feminist and minority solidarities against oppressive sociopolitical and economic powers. In combination, the sections depict an unconcluded dialectic of transstatus subjectivity: how centers and peripheries of power are imposed, and how histories of resistance and solidarity arise from them. In portraying this dialectic, we show that women and men enact hybrid modernities (Gaonkar 1999) that reside alongside and are disruptive of hierarchies produced by dominant ideologies. But, we emphasize, the changing status of gendered, classed, sexualized, and racialized individuals inflects such hybrid modernities. On this basis, we respond to the recent transnational feminist studies that read colony and nation-statecentered modernities as monolithic in relation to critical postmodernity 10 ⭈ Sarker and Niyogi De

(Grewal and Kaplan 1994); we posit that it is in relation to hybrid modernities that we must contextualize postmodern critiques.∏

Section I—Figuring Genders in the Colony and Nation: Native and Foreign In colonial South and Southeast Asia (Thailand was never colonized), Western European powers impose history as a teleological narrative of economic and moral/political development in which all territories and their inhabitants evolve toward ‘‘civilization.’’ This blueprint of a modernity that has Euro-local origins (Hall 1997) is globalized through colonialism and, as the essays show, resketched by neocolonial native powers. As the title of this section indicates, dominant patriarchal agents in the colony and nation deploy both native and foreign epistemologies to figure (sketch or mark), disfigure, and refigure symbols of masculinity and femininity. The essays also demonstrate, however, that some of the peripheralized, whose mobility is apparently limited by such figurations, resist old and new demarcated geographies by remaining mobile. Philippa Levine and Nihal Perera reveal how Portuguese, Dutch, and British ideologies of civil order, sexual morality, and racial miscegenation mark history onto colonized spaces that are refigured as feminine, passive, and vulnerable to penetration and control. Colonizers wield sexual and epistemic power, to possess and therefore know—British Burma, Hong Kong, and Singapore (Levine), and Colombo (Perera)—lands and inhabitants that symbolize static time, that is, the ‘‘lack’’ of progress. In the Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonial periods of Sri Lankan history, as Perera discusses, the bodies of native women in particular become the locus for these powers. It is these women who provide the sexual and domestic labor through which colonial powers segregate ‘‘black’’ and ‘‘white’’ cities, colonial monuments to modern time. This implies that women, despite their figuration as literally and symbolically alien, in both space and time, remain critical to upholding materially and defining ideologically masculinist city-states like Colombo. Yet, these trans-status women who occupy colonial peripheries acquire social and material improvement by accessing the benefits of colonial sociopolitics (education, economic stability) through their interaction with European women. They combine these ‘‘privileges’’ with traditional practices to find place in colonial hierarchies; these strategies remain at odds with male colonizers’ intentions of economically and racially spatializing Introduction ⭈ 11

feminine and feminized territory. Perera notes that these peripheral activities result in ‘‘various women’s . . . third spaces produced . . . [as] responses to successive waves of globalization’’ that constitute a genealogy of women’s social empowerment—an important historical trend in modern Sri Lanka. Perera’s study of the urban planning in colonial Colombo, Levine’s sociohistorical analysis of the civil regulations on colonial inhabitants’ movements, and Susan Morgan’s critique of a colonial Englishwoman’s memoir all reveal how crucial controlled organization of physical space is to the enforcement of racist historico-political ideologies. Simultaneously, however, women in di√erent positions in the colonial world fracture the assumed integrity of the established centers. The Portuguese and Dutch women in Sri Lanka subvert the racialized center-periphery division by enabling native women’s access to education, thus contributing (un)wittingly to their hybrid modernity. The seemingly ‘‘apolitical female narrative voice’’ of Morgan’s British woman traveler intervenes ‘‘in one of the central cultural anxieties’’ of British imperialism: losing ‘‘ ‘true’ whiteness.’’ The traveler’s memoir inflects the dominant male colonial imaginary by producing a ‘‘brave new, white, feminine world,’’ even as it perpetuates the racial subordination of North Borneo. While these instances demonstrate that colonial power was heterogeneous, they rea≈rm that these internal subversions could be contained within masculinist epistemes of gender and race domination more than native subversions could. Levine’s essay depicts how in British India, Burma, and Singapore, colonial administrators attempt to refigure the racialized and sexualized geographies of the brothel into its Victorian schema. Their worldview, based on a metropolitan patriarchy’s dichotomies of public and private realms, chaste and profane femininity, legitimate and illicit sexuality, is enacted in the control of physical space. Yet as Levine observes, in this relocation from one system of sexual morality to another, the ‘‘refusal . . . [of ‘native’ women] to be fully molded by Western sensibilities and politics was always troubling for o≈cialdom, even as it marked the commanding narrative of the civilizing mission.’’ The women’s uncontrollable ‘‘spillages’’ in this moral history, hitherto unrecognized, suggest that their place always lies partially outside the colonial commercial-sexual economy that attempts to physically regulate their socioeconomic status as well as their hypervisibility as symbols of native immorality.

12 ⭈ Sarker and Niyogi De

Kathryn McMahon interweaves political history with film analysis to show how cultural production has as far-reaching an e√ect as urban planning or legal policy. As she demonstrates, in Vietnamese filmmaker Dang Nhat Minh’s vision, the woman who renounces urban culture to join rural people is the custodian of an ‘‘authentic’’ timeless Vietnam. But in his radical male nationalist refiguration, the subaltern histories of women and the rural poor, current emblems of an allochronic tradition, also become the basis for a critique of national imperatives. McMahon, like Levine and Perera, alerts one to the significance of these asynchronic disruptions—rather than mere ‘‘suspended moments’’ of resistance (Kaplan, Alarcon, and Moallen 1999) to overarching material epistemes, these are germinations of subjectivities, in the so-called fissures of dominant modernity, with the potential to displace and transform dominant knowledges. This potential struggles to enact resistance within the now-native patriarchies of neocolonial nation-states. McMahon and Sylvia Tiwon show that nation-states emerging from the shadows of the Cold War binaries of East and West refigure colonial legacies into indigenous hierarchies by accentuating the di√erence between the modern-progressive and backward-traditional. Tiwon traces the history of this strategy to the refiguring of native epistemologies by Dutch colonizers in Indonesia. For instance, legal traditions such as the ‘‘mother right’’ (moederrecht ) were erased to establish the adult male bourgeois property owner as the norm of the modern individual invested with power in the capitalist nationstate. Like McMahon, Tiwon combines economic and social analysis to show how new cultural masculinist nativisms employ industrial technology to separate from and control a feminized Nature, and at the same time, exoticize a disappearing rural life. The modern, independent Indonesian nation-state, argues Tiwon, ‘‘buys into a colonial phallogocentric dichotomy in which matter/woman is always the debased and resistant but necessary excess of reason/man.’’ An urban bourgeois male leadership moves into a commercial globalization of culture by shifting from ‘‘being’’ culture (feminized, static, powerless) in the colonial schema to ‘‘having’’ it in the nationalist one (Lowe and Lloyd 1997). The dominant ethnicity and gender establish themselves as norms within new hierarchies; the peripheralized and impoverished ethnicities and genders become the feminine, emasculated, static, or backward. Despite such e√orts by now-dominant trans-status subjects to categor-

Introduction ⭈ 13

ize them, certain other such subjects refuse to eliminate the perceived ‘‘unmodern’’ in claiming a di√erent future, even though this is reified to herald a nation’s arrival into modernity. The trans-status geography of the ‘‘floating masses’’ of laborers who migrate between village and city contains asynchronic, emancipatory histories of community at the quotidian level. Tiwon states that ‘‘a recovery of the matrix as cultural ground-zero [can be used] to contest the empty grid through which space materializes lived experience’’; this asynchronous influence can resolve the ‘‘crisis in memory’’ caused by the simultaneous erasure and reification of tradition. Yet Morgan, Tiwon, Levine, Perera, and McMahon also depict that in these hybrid modernities, subjects are often rendered unable to realize where emancipatory knowledges lie because tradition and mobility are not antipathetic. Their histories are constrained or otherwise inflected by their own interpretations of the economic, political, social, and cultural conscriptions of their status.

Section II—Transporting Genders between the Village and City: Representations and Resistances This section focuses on the increasing intraregional flows generated by relationships within and between industrializing South and Southeast Asian nations—relationships integral to the globalization of these regions. The essays expand on Tiwon’s and McMahon’s to explore how trans-status subjects are made mobile by neocolonial nationalist reformulations of urban/rural divides in economic ‘‘development.’’ Andrew McRae’s literary analysis, Esha Niyogi De’s investigations into film and literature, Karen Gaul’s anthropological study, and Gisèle Yasmeen’s sociogeographic exposition explain how women, the poor, the working classes, and marginalized races/ethnicities are situated in feminized and sexualized spaces controlled by wealthy and powerful Asians. The latter are literally and symbolically ‘‘flexible citizens’’ in systems that can be described as ‘‘variously encoding and constraining in global (re)positionings’’ (Ong 1998, 137). The individuals depicted in the essays function in the context of a growing rural e∆ux, the peripheralization of migrant labor, an overpopulation of urban-industrial centers, and competition for economic and cultural survival. In the age of increasingly di√use (inter)national and rural-urban borders, nation-states continue to use spaces that appear plural and mobile to reconstitute one-dimensional,

14 ⭈ Sarker and Niyogi De

peripheralized symbols. Institutionalized processes such as laws (for example, relating to immigration and citizenship) and policies (regarding language, militarism, and unequal development, to cite some instances) become the means to contain di√erence, and implement selective exclusion and inclusion.π Still other strategies maintain the integrity of national and metropolitan boundaries: militarized prostitution; controlled local and international migrancy of domestic service workers and mail-order brides; formal quotas in education and employment through which Asian multiculturalism often contains the minoritized—for instance, the ethnic Chinese-Malaysians or the scheduled castes and tribes in India. As the title of this section reflects, the essays analyze how those who occupy privileged spaces employ new technologies of economic and cultural mass production to rea≈rm inequalities in temporal and spatial terms (the backward or poor as traditional folk). The essays also show how such cultural productions portray the disenfranchised resisting gendered hierarchies by retooling the concepts of modernization. Gaul’s ‘‘mobile ethnography’’ captures this dialectic in the Pahari’s trans-status within the seemingly more flexible systems of knowledge in (neocolonial) India. The women and men deployed within its apparatuses of ideological control, and gendered and ethnicized labor utilization, become doubly marginalized: as the symbolic peripheral, they are spatialized into timeless icons of India’s natural heritage; as the material peripheral, they are included only as minoritized laborers employed in the national story of progress. Gaul contends that the movement of the Paharis, not to be confused with freedom, is an important factor in ‘‘analyses of social position and inequality,’’ especially as it causes di√erences between women. She also maintains that this traditional nomadic mobility itself ‘‘resists the very nature and intent of state apparatuses’’; the Paharis’ cultural place (not space), rooted in ecological consciousness, is asynchronous with the routes of capital and labor spread over the same hills. Through their strategic recovery of nomadic place and practice, the minority tribal people do a majority of the work to stem the ecological destruction caused by the flows of Himalayan development and tourism (Chakraborty 1999). In Gaul’s view, their movement ‘‘may be seen not so much as a resistance to the forces of globalization but as selected participation in and, in turn, rejection of its enunciations.’’

Introduction ⭈ 15

The Paharis’ itineraries compare and contrast with those of the rural Thai women in Yasmeen’s essay—rural poverty and enforced physical mobility bring peripheralized women into visibility in Bangkok’s urban food sector. The commodification of nurturing and cooking, traditionally women’s activities in rural Thailand, empowers women to become relatively autonomous businesspeople; their occupation cuts across the public-private divide and occasionally garners significant monetary benefits. Yasmeen asserts that ‘‘gendering [becomes] . . . elastic in the face of modernization’’—men’s competition with women in the lucrative commerce of nurturance e√ects a shift in gendered rural and urban capitalist structures. The Thai female food seller’s limited mobility nevertheless generates a hybrid modernity that di√erentiates them from middle-class women whose ability to mediate experience and memory is constrained by their own investments in power and privilege. Niyogi De illustrates this limitation as depicted in Catherine Lim’s popular fiction of modern, educated, professional Singaporean women striving to repossess Chinese feminine traditions of family and community. Such women frequently di√use the spatiotemporal boundaries between traditional and modern, but are also constrained by the contradictory images of homemakers and entrepreneurs presented to them in the modernization of Singapore. Niyogi De juxtaposes this dilemma with Lee Tzu Pheng’s nationalist poetry, an attempt to ‘‘rethink public life and the national community from the viewpoint of a female citizen.’’ Such movements in the gendered landscapes of power appear to stop at the boundaries of masculinist privilege. Niyogi De’s essay, like McMahon’s in section I, emphasizes that radical males’ asynchronous visions are critical of dominant reifications of a modern nation’s ‘‘fragments’’ (Chatterjee 1993). Niyogi De, however, notes that the Singaporean filmmaker Eric Khoo’s class-sensitive portrayal of masculine nationalglobal regimes’ oppression of women still fails to accept women and rural people as pathfinders of social change and, ultimately, historicity. McRae observes in the works of Thai social realist writers a lingering tendency to idealize the trans-status subjects of their literary imagination, village prostitutes, who move between the village and city, as beings inhabiting a romanticized space-time removed from history, beings whose purity is ‘‘defiled’’ by material changes; thus, they also cannot entirely endorse the hybrid practices of survival, borrowed from rural and urban milieu, that the women adopt.

16 ⭈ Sarker and Niyogi De

Section III—Gendering Local-Global Circuits: Capital, Labor, and Subjects of Social Change This section presents a panorama of the movement from modern to postmodern political structures, and tracks the increase in the apparent di√usion of borders as well as the pluralization of communities and creeds in the past century and a half. The historical, social, and literary studies uncover the dialectics of homogenization and heterogenization that persist in mass migrations across post-Fordist (that is, less restrictively structured) economies. They reveal that seemingly greater porosity of geographic and sociopolitical borders often enables increasingly flexible ideologies of nationhood to consolidate power. The context of women’s and men’s unequal mobilities is the accelerating dispersal of transstatus Asians across modern and postmodern times in the routes created by local-global capital. The essays stress that in these contexts, citizenship becomes a crucial subject of social change, especially because of the accelerated crossings of national borders. Citizenship moves beyond technical status (passports and the like) to become the subject of debates over a person’s dignity and rights. Colonial modernity institutes borders that neocolonial Asian nationalisms redefine, as discussed above; in postmodernity, these borders are further contested and redefined by Asians whose flexible capital accumulation allows them to supersede territorial boundaries. These mobile individuals assure their nation’s emergence from colonial spatialization (as supposedly backward or static) into current history. They also extend the life of the nation both spatially and temporally—in taking questions of nationalism and citizenship beyond geographic boundaries, their actions invoke the issue of how ‘‘South and Southeast Asia’’ will be mapped in the future. The geographic distance from ‘‘native’’ cultures that diaspora and labor migrancy create produces two opposite but related reactions: some South and Southeast Asians, mobile in gendered and racialized hierarchies, meld transported traditions with new ones to a≈rm geographic, cultural, sociopolitical, and economic borders; others question those limits imposed by oppressive loyalties to one place and culture in order to fight for their dignity and rights—that is, for their place as citizens. The essays in this section underscore that people’s revivification (enlivening) of traditional life as the means of coping with geopolitical shifts also become revivalist (reified) because of men’s and women’s ‘‘defensive Introduction ⭈ 17

reaction,’’ to use Ketu Katrak’s words; as she points out, ‘‘native’’ and ‘‘diasporic’’ are not dichotomous entities. Her essay and Karen Leonard’s describe how outright violence erupts in immigrant South Asian families, in the United States and Gulf states respectively. Both depict men (fictional and actual) who try to confine their wives and daughters to patriarchal cultural-nationalist homes. These spatiotemporal sites attempt to compensate for the loss of political or symbolic male citizenship in the new hierarchies of diasporic spaces. For South Asian women, this dislocation into the Gulf becomes ‘‘a liberatory yet familiar place’’ of restrictions. Denial of di√erence does not always mean erasure. Nationalist ideologies are unlike colonial ones in that they diversify their power by using containment to include di√erence. Like the Vietnamese revolutionaryturned-entrepreneur (McMahon’s essay in section I), professional Indian men nest a cultural-nationalist patriarchy in a ‘‘free market’’ model (Katrak’s essay). Other essays also indicate how middle-class women, because of their investments in power and privilege, benefit from and maintain these physically mobile, but not therefore ideologically flexible, structures. Sonita Sarker’s socioliterary study focuses on the housewife/professional immigrants (in the United States and England) who form part of these transnational bourgeois patriarchies that support statist policies. Anannya Bhattacharjee’s sociolegal analysis reveals that such women use global capital to harness feminized domestic work in the private spheres of immigrant life alienated from the public spaces of rights and reparation. Paradoxically, this status is often the basis for individual resistance to mobile local and larger patriarchal systems that both adopt and resist the processes of globalization. Jael Silliman documents a Jewish woman’s struggle to maintain her religious and cultural di√erence in the context of Indian Hindu anticolonial nationalism. This essay and others underscore how crucial it becomes, in physical movement across national borders, for trans-status subjects to both maintain their sense of place and resist the insidious forces of cultural and political erasure (spatialization). As Silliman comments, ‘‘Constant loss of place . . . [does] not [always] lead to a loss of history and identity’’; Miriam selectively forges her past and present gendered Jewish histories into a hybrid modernity that is resistant to the telos of a newly formed Hindu Indian nation as well as Israel as a nation-state, both of which marginalize and threaten to elide or homogenize her own understanding of Jewishness. While her minority status prompts her into transnational mobility, her class status 18 ⭈ Sarker and Niyogi De

and British citizenship enable her to pass through the large geopolitical shifts of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century colonization and nation-state creation in India, Australia, England, and Israel; as such, ‘‘multilocationality . . . rather than displacement, captures [Miriam’s] state more accurately,’’ argues Silliman. Porous sociopolitical and geographic borders that allow oppressive aspects of traditions to be mobile also enable resistance to them. This section picks up two possibilities implied in the previous one: men and women as co-participants in minority solidarity, and women in di√erent classes as allies. Sarker and Katrak depict trans-status women who select emancipatory elements from modern and traditional knowledges to achieve supportive communities. In Sarker’s case, she shows how Cornelia Sorabji’s work as a pleader in the British Empire’s law courts for Bengali women in purdah is the basis for a syncretic modernity forged out of late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century national and imperial visions of the future. In Sorabji’s variation, women who are otherwise peripheralized as noncitizens into such spaces as the zenana participate in Indian history. As Sarker also shows in the late-twentieth-century British Indian immigrant Ravinder Randhawa’s fiction, and Katrak in the works of Meena Alexander, Bharati Mukherjee, Indu Krishnan, and Amrit Wilson, bourgeois women of the Indian diaspora in the United States and Canada resist ‘‘the insidious continuities between indigenous and foreign patriarchies.’’ These women appropriate modern ‘‘Western’’ tools (reproductive technology, professions) in order to turn their bodies from symbolic spaces of traditional womanhood into material places of individual choice. McRae, in section II, emphasizes that the oppositional and liberatory practices of the itinerant Thai women rather than ‘‘simply rejecting the modern, [gesture] powerfully toward the value of hybrid cultures’’ that select as well as recombine memory and present experience. Such narratives of some trans-status women and men in this collection rea≈rm, to di√erent degrees, that symbolic and material geographies generate histories of citizenship in more than one sense.

Our Own Places and Times: Rethinking Transborder Feminist Solidarity ‘‘Emergence’’ implies that the marginalized have only recently risen into a self-defined politics. Rather than depict emerging subjects, our Introduction ⭈ 19

essays illuminate how ‘‘multiple Asians, unequally modernized’’ (BlancSzanton 1997, 281), have imagined and enacted citizenship in translocal and transnational movements through many successive eras of globalization. South and Southeast Asian trans-status subjects have used asynchronicities—cultural and historical memories oblique to dominant historical knowledge—to craft their places, some restrictive and others liberatory. We trace how spatiotemporal changes in self and community in any given era have left residues in subsequent ones. Can the tactics of these trans-status subjects help to reconceive one’s own place and time to create new solidarities? What are the implications that such locations and selves, across places and times, raise for di√erent feminisms, or globally oriented theories, today? The essays demonstrate that men and women use geopolitical destabilizations to ‘‘invent’’ syncretic localities (Robertson 1995, 35). This implies that both the global and local contain heterogeneous influences that make both place (in contradistinction to space) and identity relational and contextual (Appadurai 1996; Friedman 1998). Feminist postcolonial studies have focused on the relationality of identity, but we also hone in on place, the very basis from which strategies of survival and resistance arise to create ‘‘nonabsolutist forms of citizenship’’ (Silliman). To describe this basis, variously illustrated in the essays, we use the term ‘‘placetime.’’ It refers to trans-status subjects’ awareness of their own place within the contradictory histories that permeate their shifting geographies. Each locale, for trans-status subjects, is an implicit or explicit encounter of various histories of gender, race, class, sexuality, ethnicity, and nation. Thus, the term placetime breaks the isomorphic relationship of place with race and culture that dominant imaginaries use to fix the physical and symbolic positions of ‘‘mobile’’ South and Southeast Asian men and women. Placetimes allow trans-status subjects to re-member (that is, bring back from memory and reassemble) how individuals and groups survive in and resist imposed definitions of place. These memories are, in turn, selective of local habits and laws that are already politicized by successive sociopolitical changes. For instance, the rural woman selling food in Bangkok (in Yasmeen’s essay) carries the memory of her gendered productive role as caregiver and nurturer, but that is politicized by the way a male-dominant urban economy slots it as a low-profit, informal activity. That memory is further inflected by the urban history of migrant

20 ⭈ Sarker and Niyogi De

labor within which she is classified. Placetime distinguishes the remembering of place and time from those that reify notions of the past, for example cultural nostalgia, which does not account for the already politicized state of those memories as in Nehru’s use of an allochronic past. Placetimes also extend Soja’s observation about the radical potential of geography in that it defines the production of new histories from these geographies. Whereas discourses of postmodernity often evade the question of history in the production of spaces, the notion of placetime accounts for dominant histories of territorialization. It allows one to transport one’s past experience into new makings of the present and future, which is what the subjects of our essays do. The strategies of seizing and reformulating dominant historical formations are critical to subaltern struggles of variously disenfranchised men and women, even and especially in the postmodern scattering of spaces. Some trans-status subjects, such as the one in Yasmeen’s essay, use their placetime to contend with and claim benefits in a patriarchal capitalist system. Others use this critical consciousness to mobilize alliances against structures of domination, in order to enact social change. As Sarker and Katrak show, diasporic/immigrant Indian women, marked as South Asian, Black British, or Women of Color, contend with a particular dialectic based on placetimes. On the one hand, they experience both familiar and new histories of multiple marginalization—for example, being located at once as South Asians who are static and exotic, and as minoritized women who cannot catch up with history. On the other hand, these placetimes allow them to produce visionary praxis out of such di√erent yet overlapping histories. As depicted in Sarker’s and Bhattacharjee’s essays, women’s plural experiences of places and times amalgamate, rather than proliferate endlessly, to potentially produce transclass alliances to challenge dominant notions of the rights of women and workers. Forged on the strength of di√erent histories of survival and adaptation, and oriented toward a mutually beneficial political future, these forms of ‘‘a dissenting public,’’ to use Niyogi De’s phrase, contribute to new political selves. Given embodied subjects with widely di√ering access to civil liberties and rights, as well as to political and technological systems that enable public participation, the notion of placetime implies that alliances for transnational advocacy ought to be premised on a mobile understanding of overlapping, gendered histories and geographies of self and community.

Introduction ⭈ 21

Placetime as a term negotiates between some postcolonial theories of history and some feminist-postmodern theories of hybridity (and its associated terms bricolage, pastiche, and proliferation), while not completely abandoning the potential for resistant acts in either. It qualifies such descriptions as Kwame Anthony Appiah’s of the ‘‘post’’ in ‘‘postmodern’’ as a ‘‘space-clearing gesture’’ (1996, 63); it investigates what this space contains, what is being cleared and how, and emphasizes that not everything needs to be, or should be, cleared. As this volume attests, space (even when produced) is, in the (neo)colonial histories of South and Southeast Asia, often an erasure of the lived experience of places that provide memories of resistances. Some feminist-postmodern approaches reinscribe signs of ‘‘uniqueness’’ and ‘‘di√erence’’ on the successive changes that result in an apparently endless proliferation of identities and itineraries. These signs often create isomorphs of place and time with gender, race, class, and ethnicity as starting points for an inclusive alliance—to cite two, Adrienne Rich’s ‘‘politics of location’’ (1985) or Donna Haraway’s situated knowledges (1991). Caren Kaplan notes that Rich’s theory can lead to a ‘‘pluralist relativism’’ that erases historically specific inequities (1994, 145). Paula Moya’s critique of Haraway (1997) points out that the celebrated ‘‘cyborg’’ image reconstitutes a desire for an other’s absolute and naturalized plurality because it does not consider the material-epistemological histories of Chicana women. As we have described about our own cases at the beginning of this discussion, the implication of placetimes in a globalizing material-cultural economy is that it links feminist theory making and alliance building to a notion of a self who is at least partially conscious of various, stratified histories. Placetimes enable one to achieve an inclusive vision of social change by recognizing that many women and some men continue to be located, and physically or otherwise oppressed, by various discriminations; and that these individuals and groups not only carry what Satya Mohanty calls ‘‘epistemic privilege’’ (1997, 216), and what we term placetimes of oppression, but also knowledges of survival and empowerment that enrich any movement oppositional to oppressive local or global knowledges. The visionary praxes of feminist advocacy often rest on redefinitions of the tools of modern heterosexist, patriarchal ideologies (citizenship, civil society, nation, freedom, democracy). There can be a fundamental revisioning of social justice if such principles of advocacy are infused with these redefinitions o√ered by those who stand

22 ⭈ Sarker and Niyogi De

at di√erent intersections of (gender, race, class, sexuality, disability) oppression. In defining the subjects in our essays in terms of various placetimes, however, have we conferred a retroactive postmodern ethos on all preceding eras? Have we formed a seamless continuum that elides the unevennesses between the historical-theoretical boundaries of the modern and postmodern? Periodization is a form of marking the distinctiveness of serially constructed times; it is useful to a genealogy of emancipatory knowledges by helping to determine the ‘‘pastness’’ of the past and the evidence geographies provide of progress into ‘‘better’’ times. Though we obey this periodization—presenting the potential for challenge (Levine’s essay as one of the first in this volume) to presenting its actualization in Bhattacharjee’s essay (the last)—we seem to see all the subjects as similarly resistant to the totalizing tendencies of modern powers. It appears as if South and Southeast Asian trans-status subjects have always emerged by blending past and present through bricolage and pastiche— postmodern strategies that seem nothing new to late-twentieth-century Western European cultures (as the term mostly implies). Here, we distinguish between a critical modernity and postmodernity. The various placetimes that the subjects of our essays experience are not an apolitical proliferation of so-called postmodern di√erence but help to show how the critical postmodern emerges from the syncretic modernities within an apparently monolithic Modernity (Kaplan, Alarcon, and Moallem 1999). Our spectrum of trans-status subjects reveals that the distinction between the earlier and later eras lies not so much in the strategies themselves but in the degree of opposition they pose to the dominant powers. Some of our subjects in colonial and neocolonial modernities work the ideals of citizenship, nationality, economic mobility, and social status into ‘‘alter/native modernities’’ (Gaonkar 1999). For example, Sorabji (in Sarker’s essay) creates a gendered syncretic vision of citizenship and nationhood by including purdahnashin women. Her transborder vision of women and community is nevertheless limited by her faith in the overarching notions of a modern nation and enlightened leadership from which she draws her own legitimacy; thus, her vision cannot achieve fundamental shifts in concepts of self and structure. What distinguishes critical postmodernities (depicted, for instance, by McMahon, Bhattacharjee, and Sarker) from such a perspective is an ability to look reflexively at one’s investments in the circuits of power and

Introduction ⭈ 23

privilege, to examine the ways in which one’s status limits, or otherwise inflects, one’s ability to participate in reciprocal legitimation and democracy. Our studies show that alternative modernities are based in an awareness of historicity, and are critiques of the present and the notion of the autonomous subject. In contrast, postmodernities expose the constructedness of the present and its centered subject, and reveal historicity and rationality as instruments rather than templates. Postmodern transstatus subjects question the very conviction in the concepts of modernity—state, nation, market, community, government, civil society— because prevalent uses of these notions are no longer tenable. They must think themselves ‘‘out of ’’ hegemonic conscriptions, and formulate ‘‘strategies for dismantling the psychic and social constellations put in place’’ by colonial and neocolonial power structures (Alexander and Mohanty 1997, xxviii). When one is reminded that neocolonial methods fix one into singular entities, this awareness gains further political significance. At the present historical moment, geographic space for ethnocultural supremacy is being reestablished, as much within the seemingly fluid borders of the European Union as in East Timor. Hence, the postmodern debate on ‘‘postnation’’ is premature because it elides the awareness of constraining sociopolitical structures (Tololyan 1999). It is precisely on the grounds of these confining structures that centrifugally oriented (namely, postmodern) subjects form alliances to critically participate in local and universalized history. In such times, this reflexivity is enhanced by the ability to look at power structures from the placetimes of the disenfranchised who o√er insights into the operations of power that subjects with greater socioeconomic and political status lack. Vietnamese filmmaker Dang Nhat Minh (in McMahon’s essay) underscores this lack in the privileged point of view by enframing his narratives with the critical gaze of people marginalized by the modern nationalist patriarchy. Randhawa (in Sarker’s essay) also depicts in her novel, A Wicked Old Woman (1987), the protagonist’s struggle to stand outside of middle-class imprisonment in expatriate South Asian female domesticity and create an alliance of ‘‘urban gypsies’’ in postmodern London. Sarker and Bhattacharjee emphasize that the bourgeois South Asian female and expatriate South Asian domestic worker can participate in a mutual liberation history when they ‘‘revolutionize’’ their own classist and patriarchal immigrant homes sheltered in racist, transnational power structures. 24 ⭈ Sarker and Niyogi De

How do hybrid postmodern subjects create the places in which they belong and thrive, and from where do they produce emancipatory histories of change? In light of the genealogy of resistant subjectivities in this volume, the placetimes of common liberatory futures are produced through a two-pronged action: subjects think themselves out of dominant histories, and simultaneously, remember to amalgamate subaltern histories of individual and group survival. Dang Nhat Minh’s critique of the nation-state draws on the survival histories of trans-status bourgeois women and the rural poor of Vietnam (McMahon’s essay). The geographies of contingent mobility in a globalizing world engender the potential for historical transformation (Kirby 1996; Grewal 1994). We do not entirely abandon the meaning of geography, in contrast to some postmodernists who argue that today it has ceased to be an index of identity. It can remain a factor of resistant identity, but only when geography, both locatable and mobile, is understood in terms of placetime. As is true in the personal and professional lives of our contributors, geography is not a monolithic space synchronized with a dominant version of history but replete with memories of adaptation and resistance from which social change is enacted. Participants who are willing to mutually analyze and negotiate their di√erent placetimes discover the intersections as well as divergences. But there is one more step. Transborder alliances should be extended to bring attention to class divisiveness among women and to gender divisiveness. The essays by McMahon, Niyogi De, and Katrak raise the issue of involving radical men in the systemic critique of gendered and sexualized power, along with the obstacles in doing so. They demonstrate that the value of including critical-analytic male perspectives in feminist social change resides in the ‘‘micropolitical analysis of male power and privilege [that would lead to] a dismantling of the master’s house not only with ‘the master’s tools’ but, more important, by the master himself ’’ (Schor 1992, 270). What adds even greater value to this inclusion in the context of late globalization, in which material-epistemic power works almost invisibly to claim diverse agents, is that it enables us to avoid reductive isomorphisms in which men are oppressors and women are oppressed, and to understand how women and men both benefit from liberatory social change. By depicting subjects caught in geopolitical shifts and carrying placetimes of overlapping geo-histories, this collection stresses that to fight for inclusive social justice, we need a ‘‘differential consciousness’’ that ‘‘country-women and men of the same Introduction ⭈ 25

psychic terrain’’ share. This awareness allows women and men to ‘‘selfconsciously break and reform ties to ideology . . . [to] permit the achievement of coalition across di√erences’’ (Sandoval 1991, 15). As Sarker and her co-participants in the Twin Cities’ South Asian Women’s Collective realize, mutual negotiation in solidarity building for social change has to do with understanding the simultaneous complicity and resistance that trans-status subjects enact within the heterogeneous power systems forming in late-twentieth and early-twenty-first-century globalization. This volume extends Third World feminists’ objection to the universalization of the term ‘‘woman’’ by pointing out that women in various locations are not only di√erent but that there are women working in these sites as agents of hierarchical systems that remain fundamentally gendered and racialized (see the essays by Niyogi De, Sarker, Katrak, and Bhattacharjee). Violence devolves most often on poor and otherwise disempowered women, but also on feminized and sexualized men.∫ Such realizations make it imperative that women and men re-member the liberatory aspects of past and present histories that mark their times and territories. Thus, alliance building can continue through a mutual and multivalent critique between the participants, with a tactical awareness of one’s own and others’ placetimes, so as to dismantle oppressive power as well as inspire action toward new places and times of mutual progress.

Notes 1

Many scholars (Friedman 1998; Sutton 1992) underscore the need to include gender and gendered concepts in ‘‘examining the ways in which they are being both reproduced and contested within today’s globalized hierarchies of power’’ (Sutton 1992, 242). Our collection places men and women in both higher and lower positions. YuvalDavis and Werbner (2000) address di√erent alternative models of citizenship, but they do not place subjects in the context of globalization. 2 Said (1978), Bhabha (1991), Haraway (1991), and Wilson and Dirlik (1995) deconstruct binaries to o√er alternatives that do not surpass a dependence on them. Enloe (1990), Schiller, Basch, and Blanc-Szanton (1992), Chatterjee (1993), Appadurai (1996), and Alexander and Mohanty (1997), among others, critique those persistent dichotomies. As Dirlik (1997) points out, a cultural vocabulary reflecting a spatial orientation toward the West lingers even in discourses of subaltern history. Marfleet comments that movements of Third World peoples ‘‘raise critical questions about dominant world models, [but] hardly enter the globalist picture’’ (1998, 69). Harris (1995) is a notable exception to this.

26 ⭈ Sarker and Niyogi De







See colonial fiction by such writers as Flora Annie Steele and Maud Diver, among others. Sinha (1995) discusses the nineteenth-century colonial binary in which the ‘‘masculine’’ Englishman was posed against the ‘‘e√eminate,’’ middle-class Bengali intelligentsia. Tuan (1974) describes how medieval orbis-terrarum maps were directed by the religious worldview—for example, maps that center Jerusalem. Modern, secular mapmaking replaces the religious with a political orientation; in such maps, South and Southeast Asia are named and placed in relation to the West. Grewal and Kaplan (1994), Spivak (1994), and Sangari (1990), among others, point out that certain postmodern fetishes of otherness as hybrid, heterogeneous, and multiple tend to become another form of universalism, in often failing to take the specifics of historical and social changes into consideration. Friedman notes the ‘‘need to extend the necessity of heterogeneity to histories written by the marginalized (whether postmodern or not)’’ (1998, 226). Friedland and Boden suggest that ‘‘thinking with space and time results . . . in deeper theoretical insight and broader practical application of the contemporary critique of modernity’’ (1994, 1), but do not distinguish the latter from critical postmodernity. Trans-Asian alliances such as the Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere (a Japanese initiative) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (asean), and politico-philosophical principles such as neo-Confucianism (China) and Panch Sheel (India), use traditionalisms to establish national identities—for instance, replacing the colonial legacy of English with Hindi (in India) or Bahasa Malaysia. Singapore has become a model of Asian economic competition—one that synchronizes with modernity by arrogating the virile sexuality of the dominant ethnic Chinese and minoritizing Malays. Itinerant female prostitutes across South and Southeast Asia who become fluent in seven or eight Asian tongues because of their conscription are only some of the women continuing to bear the heaviest marks of sexual exploitations. Bagasao (1999) describes the Orientalizing sexualization of poverty that crosses gender lines to include young boys, tra≈cked from Pakistan and India to Saudi Arabia, and able-bodied men to Northern Europe and Japan.

Introduction ⭈ 27



A major legacy of imperial rule has been what Chandra Mohanty, among many, has called ‘‘the racialization of gender and the genderization of race’’ (1995, 1058). To study the discursive operations of imperialism, the rhetoric that helped invent and sustain it, is also to study the continuing cultural process of gendering race and racializing gender. Mohanty aptly stresses that in approaching the project of empire, the process of decolonizing one’s own thinking needs to include illuminating the ‘‘fundamental interconnectedness’’ of gender roles and racial categories for both imperial and indigenous peoples. And insisting on complexity and interconnectedness, as Ann Stoler (1992) has so eloquently shown in her own work on the Dutch in Indonesia, turns out to be a matter of quite specific locations, of a detailed and partialized sense of place (see also Thomas 1994, 3). But what constitutes place, and how, and in what metamorphoses was it represented in the discourses mapping imperial presences in the nineteenth century? Considering only the empire-building activities of Great Britain, I would say that the nineteenth century was the result of two previous centuries of active imperial enterprise on the part of the British, but also notably di√erent from them. Although various explorations and forms of trading are appropriately to be considered the beginnings of empire, it makes sense to date Britain’s significant entry into the business of empire building from the year 1600. It was then that Queen

Elizabeth was at last persuaded to grant a royal charter, or governmentbacked trading license, to a group of London merchants who would come to be called the Company of Merchants Trading into the East Indies. The formation of the East India Company was the first big step for the British. But it was in the nineteenth century—understood as the long century— that Britain’s continuing imperial aggressions became expansive and extensive enough to mark this time as Britain’s era of globalization. Roughly commencing in the middle of the eighteenth century and continuing until World War II, the empire that was known as England underwent a monumental transformation of itself as well as its relations with the places and peoples with which it had traded, turning fully from an island of traders into one of colonizers, and replacing a commitment to profits and economic gain with one to territory and government power. At the start of the nineteenth century, as a matter of public policy rather than being limited to private enterprise, Britain had already occupied territory in such regions as parts of the Indian subcontinent and the West Indies, and small but crucially located lands in what is now called Southeast Asia. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Britain’s holdings to its east extended from the Middle East all the way to Hong Kong.

What’s in a Name?: Writing Britain’s Era of Globalization The rhetoric of empire that accompanied and participated in this era of globalization had several characteristics. Perhaps the most salient was an ongoing, explicit, and highly visible insistence on the part of the Colonial O≈ce and successive colonial secretaries and prime ministers that England was not in the business of taking other people’s lands. Among many moments, the India Act of 1784 o≈cially declared British territorial expansion in India to be ‘‘repugnant to the wish, the honour, and policy of this nation.’’ In 1824, Lord Robert Castlereagh, referring to disputes with the Dutch over lands known as the East Indies or Malay Archipelago (now Indonesia and some states in Malaysia beyond the Malay Peninsula), repeated this position, modified slightly by reality, in declaring that ‘‘territorial dominion is to be confined to India, an exception to prove the rule.’’ Fifty years later, Lord Henry Herbert Carnarvon (4th Earl) articulated the now-familiar policy when he warned the English in the Malay states that ‘‘neither annexation nor government of

32 ⭈ Susan Morgan

country by British o≈cials . . . can be allowed.’’ By 1914, the British ruled all of peninsular Malaya (Morgan 1996, 137–41). The nineteenth-century era of globalization by Britain, then, is characterized by a distinctive doubleness in which Britain, through its navy as well as its royal and Indian armies, took over great amounts of land throughout the world while simultaneously articulating itself as o≈cially opposed to doing so. Moreover, it is important to be clear that the articulation was never placed on ethical grounds. Not taking over other people’s lands by force, or the threat of it, was hardly a matter of conscience or justice. Instead, it was regarded by British public servants as a matter of economic practicality and sound national policy, in establishing international relations that supported the island’s dependence on trade. This specific feature of the nineteenth-century era of British globalization is linked to another: the development of a range of rhetorical conventions that functioned to represent what the British were doing in various locations as something other than taking them over in some sort of colonial territorial move. If o≈cially Britain’s globalization process was not to be named as territorial expansion, then it had to be provided with another name—or more accurately, other names. Running throughout much of the discourse of the British global expansion of the nineteenth century are arguments about names. What do they/can they/should they call what they are doing? In these imperial discourses, localized places were being reboundaried, gathered up, and metamorphosed through rhetoric into new imperial spaces, with such now-familiar names as ‘‘protectorate,’’ ‘‘company,’’ ‘‘settlement,’’ or ‘‘state’’ (see the introduction to this volume). During the era of aggressive globalization that characterized Britain’s foreign activities in the long nineteenth century, this mapping/naming process participated in significant ways in creating and sustaining the public ideology of an England that was not engaged in expanding its territories. That participation took many forms, depending on the specific histories of the localized places under discussion. Clearly, the rhetoric about Singapore was far di√erent from that about Burma (now Myanmar). One unforeseen feature of the ideological drive to rename British empire-building activities in nineteenth-century discourse is that the impetus to call British imperialism something else opened up the discourse of empire to an array of possible meanings and definitions involving the interplay of notions of gender and race. If British occupa-

Designing Woman ⭈ 33

tion wasn’t to be named as territorial takeover, which carried fairly simple masculinist/racist conventions of white Europeans as aggressive and heroic explorers/soldiers as well as rational and e≈cient rulers, then not only was the naming opened up but so too were the conventions mapping gender and race in the relations between colonizers and colonized. How the racializations of gender and the genderizations of race were actually represented is a matter of particular discourses of imperial mapping and also of specific locales (Morgan 1996; Blunt and Rose 1994; Gikandi 1996). The critical task of examining these imperial discourses is extensive. As one piece of that, the specific rhetorical location that I will turn to in this chapter is the ‘‘North Borneo’’ of a Victorian woman’s travel memoir published in the final decade of the nineteenth century. Ada Locke was a young, middle-class woman from the west of England who married William Pryer in 1883. In 1893, she published A Decade in Borneo, a memoir of the early years of the British presence, and particularly of her husband’s activities, in the territories that had been named North Borneo, and some aspects of their life there.∞ This little book has a unique rhetorical role in mapping the imperial geography of North Borneo. While the competing writings of the pro-mining North Borneo Company and the pro-farming Development Corporation administrators and apologists were politically explicit and directed primarily at a limited business and governmental audience, the one book aimed at locating North Borneo for a general British audience and capturing the political support of that audience without appearing to was Ada Pryer’s A Decade in Borneo. It places itself precisely in the public sphere, concerned with influencing general public opinion in Britain. Neither an o≈cial nor a professional document, it also cannot be located as a domestic memoir with concerns directed to a female audience. There was, of course, no North Borneo in the nineteenth century, as a real—that is to say, communally imagined—place. There were only competing ideologies of proto-imperial power staking their claims to a purportedly objective geography (Edney 1997; Rose 1993). In A Decade in Borneo, the place Pryer belongs, that she names home, is the discursively created imperial space of North Borneo. To do so, she has to rewrite place as well as identity, creating not only North Borneo but also the characters she peoples it with, including her husband and herself. Pryer’s narrative functions to intervene in one of the central cultural anxieties undermining the British imperial argument in the late decades of the nineteenth

34 ⭈ Susan Morgan

century for the takeover of foreign places: that the colonial space can be a location that corrodes racial identity, becoming a locale where the British lose their ‘‘true’’ whiteness. What kind of gendered and racialized transmutation of identities does Pryer’s rhetoric perform in order to present her own colonial relocation as belonging? What imperial mapping is at work in this relocation? And how does the intersection of gender and race operate in this account to rewrite identity so as to assure narrative authority as British? Before approaching these questions, I must turn first to some of the details of the imperial historiography of North Borneo, and second to the particular masculine rhetorics that provided the frame for Pryer’s work and in relation to which her own colonial locations belong.

Where Was North Borneo? To ask ‘‘where’’ North Borneo was in the nineteenth century—not the same place it is now—is inevitably to ask what it meant to the imperial powers that were at work defining the world. The question of where is always a regional or contextual one, the meaning of the place being contingent on its relations to the meanings of the places around it, which in the nineteenth century were also undergoing the process of being mapped into imperial spaces by European powers. From the 1870s on, the British slowly took over the states on the Malay Peninsula, e√ectively inventing Malaya. The takeover process was characterized, among other qualities, by a particular, localized imperial rhetoric that was as conflicted as it was inventive.≤ Britain’s increase in its territorial control was accompanied by that distinctive British imperial doubleness of voice during its era of globalization that at once declared, on the basis of practicality, a reluctance for territory and a commitment to order. The reluctance was continually overcome by the declared desire to provide what was called the stability and order necessary for profitable trade. To many business-minded imperial voices, perhaps the most famous being Frank Swettenham and Isabella Bird, local politics and customs, for all their charms, could in the end be explained as economic indicators of disorder. What was good for business in the Malay states turned out to be what was understood and described as the familiar predictability of British control. British Malaya increasingly did provide riches for England, in tin and

Designing Woman ⭈ 35

then rubber.≥ The rubber plantations with which the British covered so much of the peninsula during the early years of the twentieth century were to produce, in a famous phrase referred to in a speech by a director of the Royal Botanical Gardens, ‘‘wealth beyond the dreams of empire’’ (Morgan 1996, 148). Late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century economic development in British Malaya fulfilled imperial economic hopes and drew rhetorical praises in a way that British investments and enterprise on the adjacent island of Borneo did not. The claim that Borneo lacked economic potential was an early and continuing theme in British government documents and occasional parliamentary speeches referring to the island in the second half of the nineteenth century. Blocking development of the northern part of the island (the south having been occupied by the Dutch) was a frequently announced Colonial O≈ce policy throughout the century that a sustained British presence in Borneo would be a major financial mistake. It would not make money but rather would require it. Yet despite this recurrent, insistent, and economically persuasive discourse on the side of a noninterventionist policy, the British government in 1881 approved a government-monitored commercial charter for North Borneo (now Sabah, a state in Malaysia), and, in 1888, ended up taking over the huge lands and waters bundled together as northern Borneo as a British protectorate. How did this reluctant takeover come about? Or to put the same question another way, what particular meanings did Borneo have in British imperial geography and historiography? What Borneo was for the British had, of course, to do with its imperial location, with where it was labeled as being, which in the nineteenth century turned out to mean where it was relative to other places invented or transformed into spaces carrying imperial significations. Its initial imperial geography was not that of a location in itself at all but as just somewhere en route to somewhere else, as a space whose value depended not on itself but on its being between other spaces of value. The single overriding significance to the British up to the middle of the nineteenth century of the lands that are now known as Southeast Asia was not for their lands but their waters, the shipping routes between India and China. The states between India and China were simply that: states between, crucial because through their waters passed a huge number of commercial vessels trading goods between China and India, and from India on to England and the rest of Europe.

36 ⭈ Susan Morgan

Protecting the enormously lucrative China trade—from the French in the waters south of their colonies in Cochin China, from the Dutch coming north from the Indies islands including southern Borneo, and from the various Malay ‘‘pirates’’ and other regional peoples in that key waterway between the Malay Peninsula and Borneo—drove much of British policy in the region.∂ The goal ‘‘repeatedly laid out by policy makers in London was not the acquisition of large amounts of territory— an idea repugnant to successive colonial secretaries—but the possession of small naval stations and entrepots which could command the sea routes through the Indian Ocean, the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea’’ (Wright 1970, 1). Borneo, as the largest island in the East Indies, that immense series of islands stretching from around the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula on into the Pacific and toward China and Australia, was of interest to the British quite simply because its long west coast bordered on the China Sea and was full of inlets and small islands where raiders, European as well as regional, could hide. While Borneo, like the rest of the lands of Southeast Asia, held the attention of the British in the first half of the nineteenth century merely as part of the route to China, in the second half of that century, its imperial geography, along with the discourse that continuously created and reshaped that geography, changed significantly. Safeguarding the shipping lanes between China and India would remain through the twentieth century as the foundational explanation for the British presence in and around the island of Borneo. But other important reasons that had everything to do with sustaining and refreshing the ideology of imperialism back home in England would be articulated in imperial discourses as well. At about the middle of the nineteenth century, the international political geography of Borneo roughly cut it in half. The southern part was taken over and controlled by the Dutch, and the northern half was more or less, from a European and Brunei perspective, the territory of the sultan of Brunei (though local inhabitants, who had their own claims to the lands around particular rivers, thought di√erently, as did the sultan of Sulu, an island to the east).∑ The British, in an 1847 treaty with the sultan of Brunei, had acquired the tiny island of Labuan, just o√ the northwest coast of Borneo (see Singh 1984; Tarling 1971; Wright 1970). Possessing Labuan completely fulfilled British Colonial O≈ce perceptions of what the British needed from the area around Borneo, given that

Designing Woman ⭈ 37

their only o≈cial regional interest was in protecting their China trade and they were o≈cially opposed to taking territory. The minute island provided the British with a strategically located port in the China Seas from which the Royal Navy could patrol those all-important waterways. The sultan, for his part, may well have imagined he had successfully limited the British takeover of his territories. Gaining Labuan did satisfy o≈cial British government interest in northern Borneo, giving them a port from which to watch over shipping to and from China. But that acquisition would turn out to be the beginning rather than the end of British takeovers in the region. There were two groups of private British interests, one inspired by events in the north on the Malay Peninsula and the other coming from the south, from the personally owned state of Sarawak along the western coast of Borneo, that would vie for the imperial meanings and the actual territories of northern Borneo. The transforming of places into the spaces of empire was not always smooth, in part because of resistances, but also partly because of competitions, as di√erent imperial factions struggled for their own particular definitions of the spaces that made up empire. The contest for discursive and literal control of northern Borneo presumed that it had a meaning in relation to Britain that was not summed up by the island providing an especially choice shoreline along the route to China, though what that meaning would be was precisely what was being contested. The contest was intense enough and had political consequences significant enough that the government would relinquish its limited definition of northern Borneo and, by the end of the century, take over both North Borneo and what was left of Brunei. The rhetorical debates would force territorial and political control. There would be no stopping with Labuan. North Borneo, if one is to understand by that name a varied range of lands and waters that came to be named as such, became uno≈cially British in the late 1870s. In December 1877, the sultan of Brunei (with the threatening presence of a Royal Navy ship to encourage him) granted leases, recently let lapse by some Americans, to Gustavus Baron de Overbeck for commercial development of what the sultan claimed were his possessions: the states forming the northern third of the island of Borneo. Overbeck, a German, then took on a British business partner, Alfred Dent; he secured his claim doubly by also getting a lease from the sultan of Sulu. The two created that commercial invention, the North Borneo

38 ⭈ Susan Morgan

Company. When the two applied for a British government charter, the negative British projections about the economic potential of Sabah were overbalanced by another well-documented British position: the desire to curb German (not to mention U.S. and Dutch) influence and power in the region. The British government initially became o≈cially involved in North Borneo in order to get Germany (through German businessmen) uninvolved. The government granted the company a charter in 1881, with one of its specific conditions being that the North Borneo Company (Dent having already bought out his German partner) remain an entirely British business.∏ In 1878, when first applying for a charter, Overbeck and Dent had traveled to what they named North Borneo, announced to the local peoples in a village or two that their ‘‘ruler,’’ the sultan of Brunei, had sold the two all trade rights in the region, and then sailed o√ leaving a young man named William Pryer to ‘‘establish’’ the company there. Pryer, who had been a bookkeeper for a British firm in Shanghai, was to be the British North Borneo Company’s (bnbc) first resident of the East Coast of Sabah (Tarling 1969, 1). He would fill that role enthusiastically for a decade. Then, with little economic success to point to, criticizing what he saw as the company’s mistaken emphasis on the search for minerals (hoping for tin), and believing that the future of that vast and still imaginary megalith, British North Borneo, lay instead in agricultural development, Pryer resigned from the bnbc, went to London to drum up backers, and formed his own business, the British North Borneo Development Corporation (bnbdc).

Inventing a New Geography of North Borneo: Southern Malaya or Northern Sarawak The discursive debate among many Victorians about the meaning of North Borneo pitted two di√ering mappings of the region’s geography, along with two di√ering rhetorical arguments for imperialism, against each other. In this masculine rhetoric in England that was at work to ‘‘create’’ British North Borneo, one definition linked North Borneo ideologically and therefore geographically with mainland British Malaya to the northwest. It represented the territory as a land of economic potential, a practical businessman’s paradise. The other linked North Borneo ideologically and therefore geographically with Sarawak on the south-

Designing Woman ⭈ 39

west side of the island, just above Dutch-occupied lands. It represented the territory as a land of fulfilled fantasies, a romantic adventurer’s paradise. The international politics of Britain’s relation to the presumed economic possibilities of the island of Borneo were intertwined with these conflicting, and competing, images of North Borneo. Clearly, what was at stake was more than a matter of images. Geography as rhetoric, and place as space, must not disguise the point that people who themselves had no access to the debate about their location and meaning were to have their lives a√ected by its polarities and outcome for generations. What was at stake in this British rhetorical debate about the geographic ‘‘location’’ of North Borneo and the identities of its peoples were material consequences in terms of political and economic controls, attitudes toward the local non-British peoples, and impositions of kinds of development for both the peoples and natural resources of North Borneo territories. The proponents of North Borneo and specifically the bnbc, in their arguments for envisioning North Borneo as an economic possibility in the mold of British Malaya and recognizing the advantages of financing development of its natural resources, had to confront a powerful alternative rhetorical vision of the territories. By the late 1870s, the narrative place of North Borneo in British imperial rhetoric had to be marked out in distinction from what had already been for decades the one highly visible narrative location in Borneo for English audiences: the state of Sarawak. The bnbc and bnbdc may well have looked similar in conception to the East India Company. But this apparently typical imperial combination of private enterprise intertwined with issues of public policy and competitiveness with other European nations had another, geographically unique dimension. The bnbc was supported and chartered through the Foreign O≈ce partly because it was perceived as a possible rival, and therefore much-desired check, to what was already a dominant British presence on the island of Borneo. A private family, the Brookes, known as the ‘‘White Rajahs,’’ ruled the west coast state of Sarawak. Since the British presence in Sarawak was supported by the Colonial O≈ce (a great deal because the Brookes represented it to themselves and the public not as empire or territory but as private enterprise, just a family a√air), the creation and support of the bnbc was partly a matter of departmental competitiveness within the British government itself. James Brooke, an Englishman born in India, had, with the backing of

40 ⭈ Susan Morgan

guns from two ships of the Royal Navy, been granted the state of Sarawak from the sultan of Brunei in 1842 (not to own but to govern as a ‘‘state’’ within the ‘‘nation’’ that was Brunei). Brooke aimed to possess all of Borneo not already controlled by the Dutch, and had begun territorial takeovers, moving north river by river. These aggressions were even more enthusiastically continued after his death in 1868 by his nephew and heir Charles Brooke, the second ‘‘White Rajah.’’π Rajah Brooke was enraged about the granting of the bnbc charter to Dent for lands he saw as appropriately and ultimately, if not at present, his private family domain. The conflict between Brooke and the bnbc businessmen was primarily (though not totally) a paper war, fought partly in documents sent to and between the Colonial and Foreign O≈ces and partly in the public media. The two White Rajahs had an enormous reputation in England, created and sustained by published articles and books that had generated a fabulous narrative about Sarawak as a sort of pre-Barrie never-never land, a place of actual pirates and grand heroic actions, where white men ruled and male fantasies of empire really did come true.∫ The story of the Brookes and Sarawak was consistently narrated as a boys’ adventure tale for grown-ups. Sarawak was a central location on the map drawn by late Victorian imperial ideology, occupying the space that fulfilled the masculine dream of individualistic promise at the heart of the imperialist enterprise. Crucial to the conventions of the imperial rhetoric about Sarawak was that, unlike the British presence on the Malay Peninsula, there was no economic motive. In fact, the Brookes were loudly opposed to commercial development by any European companies in their ‘‘private’’ territories. British imperialism, as it was represented in the narratives of the White Rajahs, precisely was not to be understood in terms of the low materialism of a moneymaking venture. On the contrary, the Sarawak rhetoric glossed the imperial drive that was taking England all over the globe as a higher enterprise, about the possibility in this modern world of great heroes and deeds, and specifically about a real kingdom and a noble king still existing in a far-o√ land. To challenge the Rajahs Brookes’ claims to North Borneo was to argue against the alluring expansionism of the masculine myth of the British adventure/hero that so powerfully underpinned and fed an increasingly problematic British imperialism after the extended disillusionment following the 1857 Indian ‘‘Mutiny.’’ The masculine was not the businessman but the adventurous

Designing Woman ⭈ 41

hero, with the feminine irrelevant and race a happy subset of masculinity as the indigenous peoples ran through the forests with their white leader.

The Right Sort of Imperialist: Becoming Feminine A Decade in Borneo is a piece of political propaganda that intervenes in the masculine debate about how to map North Borneo. It props up the side that locates North Borneo as a southern extension of British Malaya by writing its own unique version of the racialization of the indigenous peoples. Its female narrator functions as an e√ective rhetorical cover for its political agenda. The book subtly constructs an apolitical female narrative voice that then ingenuously and persuasively intervenes in various political discourses about North Borneo—in relation to attitudes toward Germany, toward the expansionist policies of the White Rajahs, toward whether Rajah Brooke or William Pryer is the ‘‘true’’ hero, and thus toward divergent theories of the relations between gender and race in British imperial rhetoric. Ada Pryer’s memoir throughout defends her husband’s side in the mining versus farming debates, in language such as the apparently innocent claim of the preface that the book aims ‘‘to have the e√ect of attracting greater interest and attention to the unrivalled agricultural advantages of this fertile land’’ (1894, 29. All further references are to the Hutchinson edition). More interestingly, the book is also part of the larger debate about the imperial geography of North Borneo, with all of the ideological implications about British colonialism along with the peoples and places its policies overran and reinvented that this debate entailed. Finally, A Decade in Borneo is unique in its employment of feminine-gendered conventions to intervene in the debate and o√er its own space called British North Borneo. K. G. Tregonning writes that ‘‘William Pryer married a woman who adored him and whose diary is one long tender love story’’ (1960, 193). While Tregonning’s own politics and choice of rhetorical traditions may be read from his admiring portrait of Pryer as ‘‘a rugged individualist who had carved Sandakan [the capital city of Sabah] out of the jungle,’’ A Decade in Borneo is based partly on Ada Pryer’s diary.Ω And Tregonning is right that the book, in pervasive ways, is a love song to the actions, beliefs, and colonial policies of Pryer’s husband. One fascinating point may be that to some extent, the book was a love song sung by the husband to

42 ⭈ Susan Morgan

himself. William literally wrote much of the narrative. Long sections of chapters were quoted directly from his diaries. And from the evidence of Ada’s own diary accounts of writing the book, ‘‘the husband seems to have gone all over the wife’s work and on occasions made minor revisions’’ (Tarling 1969, 3). The assertion to be made about this close collaboration should not be the conservative conclusion that William is the ‘‘real’’ author of A Decade in Borneo. Rather, it reveals an impressive accord between the perspectives and aims of husband and wife, a blending of their identifying voices, not into one voice but into similar voices. They were, I might say, in on it together. Indeed, that union turns out to be the central rhetorical point that the narrative itself makes. The ‘‘author’’ of this book is female, but also, and self-consciously—in the many explicit quotations from William—male. As I will argue, both are represented as feminine. The narrator begins her story by creating what she presents as a little ‘‘history’’ of the island. Time in this creation is inseparable from space, or perhaps more accurately, the imperial space of disagreement and debate is here transformed into the time of linear history, thus invoking a narrative of progress that prioritizes competing imperial positions into past and present. Pryer’s alleged history is the major introductory rhetorical device of her narrative, necessary as the opening move in an argument about the future of North Borneo that, by changing space into time, will turn her opponent’s positions into a past from which the Pryers have moved on. The history also turns time into space, as it sets up a linear temporal narrative that functions to produce the preferred rhetorical space that Pryer names as British North Borneo and marks in special ways in terms of gender and race; Sarker and Niyogi De, in the introduction to this volume, discuss space in this sense. Pryer’s storied history o√ers a variation on a pervasive and familiar British imperial attitude after the Napoleonic Wars and throughout the nineteenth century. This history teaches readers that the true enemies in Borneo, and the sources of greatest danger and destruction to almost anyone, have been other Europeans, particularly the French, Dutch, and Spanish. British imperialism is driven by competition with other European nations. Thus Pryer’s entire opening chapter represents a Borneo in two di√erent past eras. First, the North Borneo of older ‘‘Old Days’’ could be pictured as a prosperous and harmonious space when left alone. Next came the advent of the bad Europeans, during which times North

Designing Woman ⭈ 43

Borneo declined into poverty and piracy as the local peoples were driven from their homes. It is pictured initially as a space full of villages and signs of human habitation and industry, and then as having become an empty space of untamed nature, complete with overgrown forests and rough rivers, its inhabitants having become invisible, departed or dead. In a strange version of Mary Louise Pratt’s ‘‘imperial eyes’’ (1992), the narrator sees a landscape without people because ‘‘other’’ imperialists were there first. Far from being anti-interventionist, the argument is not that Borneo and its peoples should be left alone again but precisely that in the third and latest stage, the near past continuing to the present, the British had to intervene. By this account, the peoples, culture, and lands of Borneo had been virtually decimated by England’s enemies in Europe, literally driven from their villages and dispersed, forced to become homeless wanderers in their seas and woods. The general frame of the wickedness of previous European presences in contrast to the obligation and obligingness of British occupation allows the narrator to represent William’s and her own presence in North Borneo as a gesture of friendship rather than any kind of territorial takeover. It allows Ada to represent local resistance to William’s claiming authority over large chunks of land and his imposition of duties and taxes on local goods in the name of the bnbc in some very special ways. Not only is William neither an imperialist nor a pirate (which he might be called by an anti-imperialist reader) but just as important in this narrative, neither are the local resistant Malays ‘‘really’’ pirates (which they were routinely labeled in British newspaper accounts). Piracy, in Pryer’s rhetorical lexicon, is a product of European corruption and thus vanishes when the right European—that is to say, an Englishman such as her husband—appears. Local resistance to William Pryer’s de facto rule and policies becomes represented as simply an early mistake, a learned and even an appropriate response when facing the Spanish or Dutch, but needing to be unlearned when dealing with William. And the local Malays all do, in Ada’s account, unlearn their objections to being colonized as all become settlers, or resettlers, together.∞≠ North Borneo, in Pryer’s memoir, is a kinder, gentler world, better than its own past, better than either of the neighboring British colonial worlds of Malaya or Sarawak whose proponents are competing to claim it, better even than England itself. William is initially constructed as comparable to James Brooke of Sarawak, a white man ‘‘alone’’ in the

44 ⭈ Susan Morgan

jungle, conquering pirates, facing enormous odds, to carve out a harmonious state in a tropical paradise. But William is also constructed as crucially di√erent from Rajah Brooke in ways that are marked in the narrative through gender and clearly function to map the imperial geography of North Borneo as a southern sister of British Malaya rather than a northern brother of Sarawak. In the boy’s adventure tales of the White Rajahs, there was no place for women, any more than there would be a place for Jewel in the Patusan of Conrad’s 1900 novel, Lord Jim. Yet in Pryer’s memoir, William is represented as a di√erent kind of hero from James Brooke (or, seven years later, Conrad’s Tuan Jim). William makes friends rather than conquering enemies and in the process, reverses the cruel diaspora that was the legacy of a bad colonial past. Heroism in A Decade in Borneo, though about great physical courage, is not that all-too-familiar masculinity of adventure tales, shown by dashing around through the jungle with weapons and doing battle. While there are a few references to fighting, the one incident Pryer actually recounts that involved shooting is presented as a farce. William didn’t use a gun, but the police shot 412 cartridges, missed the fleeing Malays, hit the government boats five times, and were fined (Pryer 1894, 105). In chapters 2–4, which focus primarily on the narrative of William restoring peace to ‘‘his’’ areas of North Borneo, again and again the anecdotes Ada narrates construct a portrait of a hero with words, a guy who can talk, and who travels around in a small boat having successful chats. The emphasis is not on William’s prowess but his cleverness, sweetness, and charm. The repeated results are, in Pryer’s language, that although there were ‘‘moments of peril’’ (43) almost daily, they could be surmounted without violence. With ‘‘a little tact and judgment, and a firm stand, matters were arranged amicably’’ (27).

A Call to Immigration: New Subjects, New Spaces The representation of masculinity and the Sarawak style of colonizing territory, and therefore of the claims of the Brookes to place their imperial mark on that territory, as part of the past, shifts those claims from space to time, making the previous era part of a time line and thus no longer viable. Moreover, in the new or modern time marked by the title A Decade in Borneo, all characters take on new identities (the few excep-

Designing Woman ⭈ 45

tions, all Malay, have simply failed to get with the program). If William is constructed as an amicable arranger, a man with a preference as well as a talent for persuasive talking rather than aggressive fighting, more feminine than masculine, the Malays are also constructed as feminine, as full of sense and charm. Since their resistance to William’s takeover, strong at first and appearing in occasional outbursts for several years, can be laid at the door of those other Europeans, it follows that their aggressive masculinity should be read as an old identity. The Malays themselves are rather di√erent now, have changed their identities in pleased response to the advent of William’s and the bnbc’s rule, and are now their better selves. Implicitly, Ada has also been transmuted, has moved from an indeterminate and unmentioned status (actually the daughter of Edward Locke, an engineer in a nail factory in Monmouth) to the wife of the chief British administrator (himself having been a mere bookkeeper for a Shanghai trading firm), living a life of public duties and pleasures (Pryer 2001). The representation of both the Pryers and Malays as having new identities insofar as they are participants in a new, feminized modern era makes gender a powerful rhetorical tool of linear time, used to define the present as distinct from the past. The narrative’s argument is that through gender, both imperialists and Malays live in a present in which are all now happy because, I would contend, all have changed their status as subjects; Sarker and Niyogi De’s discussion of the ‘‘trans-status subject’’ in the introduction to this volume illuminates this notion. That change of status, while framed by gender, includes race and class. Colonized and colonizers are to be read as culturally the same, with the one variable between them being neither race nor gender but class. And even in terms of class, the range of di√erence is narrow, occurring along a continuum from middle to upper class. The narrative is full of ‘‘descriptions’’ of local peoples as gentle, charming, courteous, devoted, patient, and having the ‘‘polished manners . . . of civilization’’ (Pryer 1894, 18), with tidy houses, pretty gardens, and villages o√ering a ‘‘scene of contentment and plenty’’ (84).∞∞ In the ideology of this narrative, to be feminine is to be civilized and, finally, white. A Decade in Borneo o√ers a rhetorical geography in which North Borneo belongs with British Malaya rather than Brooke Sarawak. But that is not all. More specifically, in the rhetorical act of sketching a landscape of imperialism that chooses business as opposed to adventure,

46 ⭈ Susan Morgan

Pryer also radically modifies the masculinized iconography familiar to her imperial readers in both of those choices. The narrator’s claim is that North Borneo, and Southeast Asia more generally as represented by its great metropolitan center of Singapore, is a superb place to do business because it is a superb place to live. Choosing business turns out to mean choosing not a profession but a way of life, choosing not grueling work but bountiful leisure. The subject of the narrative presents herself as having found the best of what is now called ‘‘lifestyle,’’ full of nice things to do, with nice views and gardens, along with nice people to meet, nothing so ‘‘enjoyable [as] a moonlight pic-nic on a large and comfortable steam launch’’ (Pryer 1894, 165), and as she emphasizes, ‘‘snakes are quite scarce’’ (167). Pryer’s narrative is a picture of the good life, one that images the product of doing business in North Borneo—graceful living in domestic companionship—rather than the process—those portraits of the heroic struggles of a lone individual, always male, always carrying a big knife, to carve something or other out of the wilderness. Her chapter on the steps involved in creating a co√ee plantation, which a reader might expect would be about the arduous process of establishing a business, instead functions as an implicit argument for the lack of di≈culty involved in that process. The chapter reads like a recipe for success, the ten easy steps to making a co√ee plantation. Pryer repeatedly praises the landscape of North Borneo, explicitly claiming that ‘‘nowhere in England is there such lovely scenery’’ (48). In a longer comparison, this time between England and Singapore, the narrator finds the better metropolitan location to be Singapore, ‘‘a perfect paradise,’’ with ‘‘superb’’ roads as good as anything in England, without England’s ‘‘squalid and grimy poverty,’’ with people of more buoyant spirits who are ‘‘un-English’’ in ways that include their friendliness and ‘‘hospitality’’ (136–43). Thus civilization, and the ‘‘white’’ world of the future, are located in Southeast Asia and no longer in the grimy world of England. England is now the old world of past glory, replete with the present degradations of a fallen or polluted race. The striking comparisons with England function in A Decade in Borneo to stress that the narrative is a call for immigration and settlement, an assertion that North Borneo is the future of England, of civilization, and a wonderful place to live and call home. Specifically, it is a place where British women (those pretty views, that lack of snakes) would want to be.

Designing Woman ⭈ 47

Colonization, in Pryer’s narrative, is represented as about neither the hardships and enormous riches of tin mining and rubber planting nor the thrills of fighting pirates, about neither economics nor heroism. Nor is it about taking over someone else’s territory. Certainly North Borneo o√ers profits, but imaged in a particularly feminine way. Those women who choose to come to North Borneo—and for North Borneo’s potential to be realized, there must be women—will find their lives transformed as they take on the identity of ladies of leisure. In the ideology this narrative constructs, colonization is to be understood as a form of restoration and improvement of the charms of old North Borneo, enacted through the feminine. It’s about graceful living; about fine, large, airy bungalows and creative cooks and beautiful scenery. It’s about lovely moonlight parties and good roads. It’s about the indigenous Malays as friends and neighbors, enjoying along with the Pryers the bounty and productivity British rule has brought, wishing along with the Pryers for more British families to settle and be part of the development of North Borneo—an event that can only increase the bounty and productivity of this beautiful world. Through Pryer’s creative history, which conveniently dispersed virtually all the Malays before William Pryer came, there was no existing settled place for the British to interrupt in the space she names as British North Borneo. On the contrary, it is the British who have made Malay settlement possible. In this successful present, the space is peopled with willing though sparse settlers, both Malay and European, everybody busy making farms and businesses and villages and towns together. Though one more simply and the other more elaborately, both groups enjoy the same continuum of the good life. All they need are more people to join with them in enjoying it too. The narrative’s argument for immigration rejects portraits of North Borneo as a masculinized backdrop for a man’s adventure tale—too much wilderness and danger required—and a masculinized source of entrepreneurial business opportunities—too much individualism, and an unappetizing image of isolated mines and plantations. Yet Pryer’s feminized North Borneo, while emphatically communal, is not a private or interior domestic sphere. There are no children or family scenes here. Instead, A Decade in Borneo o√ers the feminized public sphere of the successful bourgeois community: a heterosexual couple, concerned to have a nice house in a good neighborhood, with solid business opportunities, multiple servants and pleasures, and a fulfilling social world.

48 ⭈ Susan Morgan

The rhetoric of A Decade in Borneo erases the violence, aggressions, and actual force behind colonization. It does so in part through a revisionary history that would dissolve the racist line between colonizer and colonized, with Europeans on one side and indigenous peoples on the other. It replaces that separation with its own portrait of the working of placetime (as explained in the introduction to this volume) in British North Borneo, a gendered line between masculine and feminine, with all Europeans except the British on one side and the British and indigenous Malays (except for a few recalcitrant rebels who insist on playing war games) on the other. This remapping imaginatively creates a modern North Borneo in which everyone is feminine and everyone—in Pryer’s rhetorical logic that replaces both colonizer and colonized with the single category of ‘‘settler’’ (with variations a matter of class)—is racialized as white because everyone is a settler. The promise is clear. Immigration to North Borneo will not result in the degradation of racial status. On the contrary, immigration will guarantee the civilized whiteness that England itself is in the process of losing at home, even as it will result in an upward mobility to a higher class status for those middle-class subjects, such as Ada and William, who take up residence there. North Borneo is the brave new, white, feminine world. Frequently in Pryer’s book, the imperialist enterprise is represented as most appealingly—that is to say, most e√ectively—served by a rhetoric that metamorphoses the normally endless allure of racist separateness in imperial narratives into the envisioned financial and social security of what is portrayed as a mutually harmonious colonial settlement. In Pryer’s feminized space, economic development clearly takes ideological precedence over the competing claims of the value of racism to the British colonial enterprise. Yet even in the moments of the narrative when the indigenous peoples are represented as participating culturally in femininity and whiteness, Pryer is hardly o√ering an argument against racism; in fact, there are many other explicit descriptions of Malays as racially inferior and childlike in the narrative. As a recruiting manual for immigration, A Decade in Borneo defends the value of qualities traditionally labeled as feminine, not because they, unlike the masculine principles of enforced domination, will disrupt the racism of imperialism but precisely because, in Pryer’s rhetorical map of North Borneo, they are what will ensure the development that sustains British imperialism, in all its racism.

Designing Woman ⭈ 49

Notes 1

A Decade in Borneo was published in 1893 by Kelly and Walsh in Shanghai, Yokohama, and Singapore, and in 1894 by Hutchinson and Company in London. 2 For a fuller discussion of this process, see Morgan 1996, 135–218; Khoo 1974; Mills 1966; and Tarling 1969. 3 For a detailed look at the transformative economic e√ects of tin production in three Malay states, see Burns 1982, 159–79. 4 For a detailed discussion of ‘‘pirate,’’ see Pringle 1970. 5 Sulu claims to the eastern side of North Borneo were to become Spanish claims, since Sulu was taken over and became part of the Spanish Philippines; see Noble 1977. 6 For a history, see Tregonning 1965. 7 For a history, see Wagner 1972. 8 For a discussion of some of the publications that created and contributed to the Brooke myth, see Morgan 1996, 186–96. 9 A particularly laudatory portrait of William Pryer is Tregonning 1954. 10 An alternative history of the British takeover of North Borneo, one that attends to the concerns and positionings of the local peoples, is Warren 1971. 11 Alatas (1977) o√ers a compelling study of the correspondences between specific colonial needs and the attributes that colonial rhetoric gave to Malays in various places in Southeast Asia.

50 ⭈ Susan Morgan



There are of prostitute women two distinct classes—the bona fide order, who live in a recognized quarter, and sit at their doors with painted faces, lanterns, and looking-glasses inviting all comers; and the secret set . . . who do not publicly confess prostitution, but are available when called upon.—Medical o≈cer, 1873

The fascinating divide that this medical o≈cer in British Burma, part of Britain’s vast Indian empire, posits between the real, visible prostitute and the secret, illegitimate one centers on a discussion of the visible markers by which prostitution could be known and understood, an ordering of the world dependent on the characteristics of visibility.∞ Memoirists, o≈cials, and travelers to Britain’s colonies who took in the redlight districts as part of their duties or pleasures almost always signified these areas by how they visually and visibly di√ered from other places they visited. Common, of course, were comments about the great chaos of humanity spilling out onto the streets and indeed out of their clothing, of the raucous sales pitch of wanton women and the rowdy revels of their customers. But at work in the quotation above, and in the mass of material that touches on the perennially alluring topic of illicit contact, is a constant anxiety about just how order and visibility might best mesh, and it is on this that I want to focus most closely. When one considers the organization of the sex trade in island Britain, on the streets of London and Glasgow and the other great and small cities

of the kingdom, it was the definitionally public streetwalker who was both most prominent and degraded in the eyes of commentators and legislators. She epitomized prostitution and was, indubitably, the target of almost all the formal domestic legislation around sex work in the Victorian period. The infamous Contagious Diseases Acts of the 1860s o√ered the brothel trade a de facto protection from prosecution as long as its workers agreed to regular medical examination and its keepers honored the commitment not to allow venereally infected women to work. The Acts looked to the streets, to the control of the visible street trade. Under their provisions, women suspected of prostituting themselves could be required to undergo examination and certification, becoming registered prostitutes; resistance invited a sti√ jail sentence. Street commerce, with its rude intrusion into public spaces, its refusal to hide its business decorously, was the prime target of the law. It was, in short, visibility, public prominence, that was punished most vigorously while the brothel, that segment of the trade operating behind closed doors, was allowed to function in comparative freedom. This was the social map of the public and private at work in the lives of women, governing their territory and mobility. In Britain’s vast array of colonies, however, the map required di√erent contours, for the public/private dichotomy of the metropole broke apart easily in the unstable and dangerous colonial environment, where metropolitan definition and propriety were so much harder to maintain. Though streetwalking came under attack in the colonies as a blot on the public landscape, it was the secret women, who were not visible and nameable as prostitutes, who did not look as if they were selling but yet might still be available, who were routinely excoriated as the greatest scourge. While in Britain the public sex represented by streetwalking was a symbol of lawlessness, in the colonies it was secrecy and invisibility that most discomfited. While the British streetwalker’s o√ense was that she was too public, the ‘‘clandestine’’ in the colonies used the public sphere as a backdrop to conceal, to keep private her activities. In short, the colonial setting showed up the fictive and changeable qualities of the apparently fixed map of the social world, of the critical Victorian distinction between private and public. Colonial rule required a constant scripting and rescripting of women’s bodies and mobility, through the prescriptive modes of justification and order. Women engaged in the sex trade, whose very presence posed challenges to the stable map of femi-

52 ⭈ Philippa Levine

nine behavior, were at the forefront of colonial e√orts to govern the territory of gender (Mohanty 1991, 20). My focus here is on Britain’s Asian colonies, most notably on British India (which, however bizarrely, included the growing territories of British Burma for administrative purposes) and the Southeast Asian colonies of the Straits Settlements and Hong Kong. In all these settings, the brothel was a well-established tradition long before colonial rule, but the sex trade was nonetheless deeply imprinted by the requirements and sensibilities that accompanied imperial possession. Hong Kong and the Straits were immigrant societies, new city-states shaped by colonial economics and a predominantly Chinese population, fleeing the poverty and harsh conditions of China’s southern provinces. India, by contrast, was a huge and disparate conglomerate of peoples of di√erent languages, religions, and cultures, and with long historical traditions that the British persistently misread. Direct rule in India, catalyzed by the 1857 mutiny in northern India, was accompanied by a strong troop presence. As a result, there was always a large number of bored and single young British men on lengthy tours of duty in India. Both the Straits (especially Singapore) and Hong Kong also had a barracks culture, but in these smaller colonies, the European presence was often more mercantile and businessbased than it was military. What all three colonies shared, especially before the last years of the nineteenth century, was a European population skewed heavily in favor of men. In raising this demographic characteristic, I have no wish to naturalize male sexual need. Yet eroticized Orientalist understandings of the East coupled with contemporary notions of male sexuality did nothing to hinder the mythicization of the East as a vast brothel. One of the hallmarks of colonial conquest was a sexual ascendancy that highlighted European masculine prowess and held indigenous men up to ridicule for their sexual inadequacies or depravities while sensualizing the ‘‘Eastern’’ woman. And alongside this sexualization ran the powerful myth that since prostitution was of little moral account in these ‘‘degraded’’ societies, the public acknowledgment by a woman of her involvement in sex work was of equally little consequence. Thus could the unrecognized prostitute, slyly hiding her trade, metamorphose from one who respected the public-private divide, albeit from a degraded position, into the very epitome of sexual danger. The brothel dominated the colonial sex trade, and while preferable to the public thoroughfares where the streetwalker sought her clientele, it

The Cordon Sanitaire ⭈ 53

did not and could never belong fully in the public eye, for its business was of a private nature. Asian disregard for such proprieties was a common topic of dismay among European commentators. Early in the twentieth century, Police Superintendent Shuttleworth praised Calcutta’s European brothels for their ‘‘well hid’’ location in the suburbs, while showing a marked distaste for the ‘‘rampant’’ indigenous practice of ‘‘advertisement by sitting at doors and windows and balconies and . . . both by voice and gestures.’’≤ Gender and geography meld almost imperceptibly in his assessment. The too-public locale of the native woman was mirrored by her unwomanly loudness and shameless touting of her wares; she appreciated neither the feminine space of domesticity nor the ladylike virtues of modesty and soft-spokenness. And yet, invisibility carried its own dangers, those of loss of control and regulation. The brothel, well hidden and European or shamelessly public and thus ‘‘Oriental,’’ was in some respects malleable because, discreet or otherwise, it was always and definitionally public in intent even while it traded in the definitionally private commodity of sex. It was treacherous territory, acceptable when it kept within the proper boundaries of public and private, but worrisome when the spheres could no longer be carefully and sharply mapped. It should be remembered that the brothel was seldom a purposefully built institution; what the word describes is not so much a space as the activities conducted within it. Arguments about location and suitability are a posteriori positions arising from how prostitution is moralized, and not from any inherent spatial ‘‘fact.’’ Most brothels were—and remain— domestic spaces turned to business purposes, their only substantial requirement being that there should be su≈cient accommodation for the business of the bedroom to run smoothly. This discomfiting proximity of the brothel to the home sparked much debate over siting. Though such contentions were never a colonial monopoly, they took on added and contested dimensions in settings where the key and oppositional Western sites of home and workplace, of private and public, had no historical meaning. The constant redrawing of those boundaries literally and metaphorically lent a piquancy to their assertion as a necessary part of the imperial uniform (George 1994, 101).≥ The brothel—looking like a home, acting like a business—was at the heart of the debate over home and work, public and private, visible and invisible. The work done in the brothel itself raised the very same anxieties, for prostitution—neither Western nor modern—thus belonged in the native

54 ⭈ Philippa Levine

space. And as a woman’s space that defiled femininity, the brothel had also to be relegated to the physical world of commerce. Its segregation from residential districts was required not only to sharpen the distinction of respectable and unrespectable but to separate the business of sex from the place of feminine domesticity, and to render it less visible while still su≈ciently so to be properly controlled. This was a tricky proposition, as o≈cials throughout the colonies knew only too well. A ‘‘very serious scandal,’’ for instance, was occasioned in Rangoon in the 1890s by brothels brazenly opening ‘‘in respectable parts of the Town.’’∂ Respectability and domesticity went hand in hand; the archetype of their unruly opposite as neighbor was unthinkable. The refusal of indigenous populations to be fully molded by Western sensibilities and politics was always troubling for o≈cialdom, even as it marked the commanding narrative of the civilizing mission. That the physical space of the brothel was not visibly and culturally made distinctive from properly private or domestic spaces in the Asian world, was an obstacle to the proper mapping of the spheres. The Madras health o≈cer spelled out the odd legal conundrum that this lack of visible distinction meant for British rule: ‘‘Even residence in a brothel is not considered a test of prostitution. . . . [A] brothel is not a brothel as in Europe, where girls live as one family, but in this country prostitution is considered of so little importance that chaste women and prostitutes reside in separate rooms adjoining each other in the same house and are even on intimate terms.’’∑ This spillage of commercial sex and not-quite-business into the domestic arena, into a space where families and legitimate occupations ‘‘belonged,’’ was a constant battleground, and not only vis-à-vis the commerce of sex. Brenda Yeoh’s work (1996, 245–46) on the urban politics of Singapore has traced the struggle between local lifestyles and municipal and sanitary policy with regard to the use of the veranda. While Singaporeans used the verandas fronting their houses as both places of business and socializing, the colonial state strove to divide these spaces more visibly, to map the limits of where business transactions could and should occur—a geography alien to the largely Chinese population of the city, for whom so sharp a separation of public and private was meaningless. The veranda was a contested and liminal space within brothel culture, too. Travelers to the colonies often commented on the critical soliciting function of the veranda and its architectural cousins. Far more e√ective than the red

The Cordon Sanitaire ⭈ 55

light, the veranda was a place where women could assess potential clients, entice and encourage them into the brothel, and into spending money. It was a vital element in a well-conducted and successful brothel, and a constant source of o√ense to colonial police o≈cials, missionaries, and the entire panoply of European moralists. There was worse mischief to be made by visibility, however, than this semipublic soliciting within the red-light districts. Prostitution was widely regarded as most out of hand when evidence of its workings became visible outside those de facto zones in which it was legalized or tolerated. When brothels came too close to the colonial lifestyle, the complaint quotient invariably rose. In Hong Kong, a brothel on Wellington Street attracted attention in the late 1870s for its location, ‘‘necessarily passed through by European ladies . . . [and that] contains moreover the chief place of worship of a large Roman Catholic community, the residence of the Roman Catholic bishop and a College for the education of youth.’’∏ The inspector-general of police in Colombo (in British Ceylon, now Sri Lanka) told the dramatic tale of ‘‘the notorious case’’ concerning ‘‘the Ladies’ College, close to a brothel in Union Place, where a party of sailors refused to believe that the Ladies’ College was not a brothel till fortunately a resident who lived between the two houses hearing the noise appeared on the scene.’’π Stories such as that relayed by the police chief in Ceylon have something of a folk quality to them. Grounded in reality or not, they represented the e√ects of a spillage with all its soiling associations. The police chief ended his story with the arrival of a male neighbor, the rescuer of the Ladies’ College damsels, and he notes that ‘‘but for his prompt arrival anything might have happened.’’∫ This comment e√ectively relinquishes the more usual assertion of police control one might expect from a prominent o≈cer. I see his intent here as that of a≈rming, inside the narrative structure of the moral fable, the dangers implicit in the violating of the cordon sanitaire and the intrusion of the brothel into an inappropriate site. Controlling brothels, their placement, and their inmates was a necessary corollary to ensuring European safety and peace of mind. The rights of Europeans to live beyond the visible spectacle of sex was paramount, and as a result, it was ‘‘common’’ women whose rights and movements had to be restricted. At work here was the fear that because the brothel did not look like a brothel, mistakes with damaging consequences were inevitable. It was always an unstable and complex

56 ⭈ Philippa Levine

problem for, after all, the brothel was always simultaneously a site of work and leisure. While men came to the brothels to relax and enjoy themselves, their pursuit of pleasure relied on the work of women, another inversion of Western proprieties where it was men’s labor that provided for women’s leisure and their absence from the workforce. In its liminality, the brothel also acted as a kind of cordon sanitaire. In colonial settings, and as a quasi-public institution catering especially to a European clientele, it was routinely regulated and sanitized—a strange beacon of modernity in an otherwise unmodern environment, a place that constantly reminded o≈cialdom that neither space nor time were fully or always controllable and malleable. Throughout Asia, colonial medical and military authorities busied themselves with cleaning and ordering the brothel, even while deploring its existence. The surgeongeneral of Madras endorsed the idea that government institute a program of purposefully building houses over which supervision could be better exercised.Ω In this scenario, not only could the brothel be literally distinguished by its intentionally constructed design but its locale could be decided entirely in keeping with European practice and propriety. The Hong Kong colonial surgeon followed at least some of that path, closing what he thought were the most noxious of the colony’s brothels early in the 1870s as likely breeding grounds in a serious typhoid outbreak. The consequences were, he thought, a basis for future optimism, for in his 1874 inspection of the regulated establishments, he found ‘‘a wonderful change . . . the houses look clean, light and airy.’’∞≠ The brothels were, in his description, beginning to conform to modern colonial needs. In India, the 1864 Cantonment Act regulations allowed the local magistracy ‘‘to make special rules for the maintenance in a state of cleanliness of all houses occupied by registered prostitutes . . . and for the provision therein of a su≈cient supply of water and of proper means of ablution.’’∞∞ The Fyzabad cantonment in the northwest provinces boasted in the late 1870s that ‘‘in every room in the brothels a permanent brickwork stand has been erected, the height of a man’s hips, and on this stand the basin is kept ever ready with water. Soap is always present, and a towel is kept on a nail close by.’’∞≤ These evocative images say much, not only about the specific and practical changes e√ected in the brothel business by colonial intervention but about the competing and contradictory ideas that shaped the notions of colonial o≈cials dealing with this issue. After all, while the Hong Kong surgeon was celebrating the turn toward do-

The Cordon Sanitaire ⭈ 57

mestication in the brothels under his jurisdiction, the Indian medicomilitary o≈cials were converting bedrooms into miniature sanitized clinics where men were instructed in and expected to clean their genitals before and after their business. One set of brothels was in the process of becoming more homely; the others were being turned into more businesslike facilities. Either way, here was the tangible, manifest fact of control, a veritable vision of colonial good sense, albeit with many and sometimes competing variations on a theme. Colonial o≈cials experimented, too, with methods for marking the brothel, extensions in a sense of the old symbol of the red lamp, tempering visibility with discretion. Members of the military command in India looked approvingly on a practice they had heard was favored by the occupying British troops in Egypt in 1882: marking the houses of diseased women with a warning sign to deter military clients.∞≥ By the 1890s, women’s rooms in some Indian cantonments bore their registration numbers for purposes of identification, while in Singapore and Hong Kong, a ticket system predominated.∞∂ Each brothel worker was issued a ticket, which served as an identity card—a practice routinely represented as a check against brothel slavery, and almost everywhere part of a broader system that required women’s photographs to be kept on file and their names to be displayed on the walls of the brothel, all policies that sought to make prostitution visible within mechanisms of state and local control. All these practices, formal and informal, served both to define and control, though there was never unanimity over the toleration of brothels or what, in India, were often called lal (red) bazaars. Feminists condemned such areas as an ‘‘abatoir of virtue’’ (Woman’s Journal 1901, 282), but many equally saw them as what English sanitarian Edwin Chadwick (1965, 199) labeled ‘‘the architectural barriers of decency,’’ better under supervision than left in a potentially infective state that might ooze out of the indecent and into the decent. I began by quoting the outraged words of a Burmese medical o≈cer frustrated in his attempts to render the business of sex orderly. His focus was on how one might recognize and notate the prostitute woman, how one might know and recognize the trade she plied, and his greatest worry was that she might not look the part, that she might hide the hallmarks and trademark of her calling behind a respectable front, and refuse the liminal public persona of the brothel resident. The prospect of such

58 ⭈ Philippa Levine

resistance, whether covert or overt in form, was clearly alarming for colonial o≈cials, more so given their reading of both Indian and Chinese women as mute, dumb, and ignorant, kept low by the savagery of their cultures. Concerns over the visibility of the prostitute accompanied worries about the sight and siting of the thriving brothel trade. Brothel inmates and other women in the trade were almost always represented as heavily made up, hardened looking, and garishly dressed. William N. Willis, observing what he called the ‘‘great gaudy centre of the Babylonian quarter’’ of Singapore’s Malay Street, described the women as ‘‘heavily painted and decked out with tinselled roses in their hair, low-necked blouses, silk stockings and worked slippers, their profession . . . unmistakable’’ (1913, 14). Such a commentary, focused on nonwhite prostitutes, suggested a service, standard of hygiene, and indeed, rate of payment lower than those of their European competitors. Depictions of the women, brothels, and red-light areas abound with disapproving portraits of colorful chaotic loudness, unembarrassed displays of flesh, and squalid cots open to the streets. This was the common language used throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to describe the conditions, lives, and appearance of women engaged in prostitution. Their trade was a mirror of the bazaars of the East; their living conditions reflected those of the indigenous East in general—overcrowded, unhygienic, noisy, and immoral. But there is here at the same time a curious note of relief; for all the florid vulgarity of their ways, these women bowed to the yoke in adopting the proper dress and behavior that marked them out as prostitutes. Loud and tawdry as they were, they were preferable to the stealthy clandestines who refused the stigma and visibility of a trade that so discomfitingly straddled the line between public and private, visibility and invisibility. Out of reach of the law by dint of their invisibility were women whose services were tied to just one man. The mistress, known also in colonial parlance as a concubine, and in Hong Kong as a ‘‘protected’’ woman, was routinely regarded as superior to the ‘‘common’’ prostitute willy-nilly degraded by attending to multiple clients.∞∑ But what really set mistresses apart from the women of the brothels and streets was their hiddenness from the public gaze, despite their blasphemous parody of ‘‘proper’’ marriage. In Bombay in 1881, the government ‘‘instructed the Commissioner of Police to be careful not to interfere with or attempt to register

The Cordon Sanitaire ⭈ 59

women in the position of mistresses of wealthy persons.’’∞∏ Clearly, issues of power and class were operating here with neither politicians nor the military wanting to alienate the wealthy, of whatever race or nationality. Yet there was more at stake than merely protecting the privileges of the rich. The ‘‘kept woman’’ was not just likelier than the brothel woman to be the consort of richer men; the arrangement guaranteed a level of privacy that the brothel could never emulate. O≈cials in the northwest provinces of India understood that distinction. Framing rules to govern prostitution in 1864, they stressed that ‘‘the proposed Rules are only applicable to public prostitutes. There are prostitutes to whom the term ‘public’ is hardly appropriate. The line will not be di≈cult to draw in practice.’’∞π Another critical note in the operation of visibility in enumerating the prostitute was the visible signification of color. Endless commentators warned that locals were not always able or willing to distinguish among white women. ‘‘The great bulk of natives,’’ wrote one colonial commentator, ‘‘are unable to di√erentiate between English women and Continental. For them any white female is a Mem Saheb’’ (Verax 1895, 16). Worse even than the failure to delineate the English woman was the possibility that the white prostitute might not be distinguished from the ‘‘proper’’ model of English womanhood. And if local men could buy the services of the white sex worker, then surely they could think in sexual terms about any white woman, more particularly since the native population was widely thought to lack those powers of precision, differentiation, and taxonomizing that marked out and distinguished the more analytical as well as critical colonial mind. The failure of subject populations to appreciate the distinction between places of residence and those of business served as yet another index of their sloppy imprecision in these matters, their inability to reason in the Western mode. Japanese women, not quite white, not quite not-white, walked an illuminating racial tightrope in this respect. They stood out, ironically, because theirs was a muted presence, a seemly and polite alternative to the more usual unmannerliness of the brothel quarters. Alec Dixon remembered a distinct change in the atmosphere of Malay Street when Japanese prostitutes came to dominate the Singapore sex trade: ‘‘Europeans who visited those Japanese houses were surprised not to find them sordid and garish; it was shocking, they said, to discover ‘fallen women’ who retained vestiges of self-respect’’ (1935, 211). Australian memoirist R. H. McKie

60 ⭈ Philippa Levine

concurred, recalling the ‘‘high-coi√ured, kimono-wearing Japanese courtesans who had clean tatami-covered rooms, did not scream or throw bottles, bowed you courteously in and out, hoped you would come again, and did not mind if you only dropped in for a few minutes to drink a bottle of beer’’ (1942, 101). Here was what colonial o≈cials demanded of a malleable brothel culture; visible enough to get the job done, but not so loud as to need disciplinary reminding of its distance from real respectability. It was this need for distinction, as much as concerns over military e≈ciency, that prompted the colonial classification of brothels into first, second, and sometimes even third-class establishments. It takes little imagination to figure out that the first-class brothel was one whose clientele was restricted to white (or at the very least fabulously rich) men, sometimes worked exclusively by white women. A European clientele was first-class by default, but indigenous women serving white customers were, conversely, often seen as especially lowly, ‘‘the only class that would be accessible to the soldiery.’’∞∫ The Hong Kong colonial surgeon thought women willing to service non-Chinese men were frequently what he called ‘‘half-castes,’’ women of mixed race and therefore more likely shunned by the Chinese community.∞Ω First-class classification did not, then, in any meaningful way necessarily improve the lot of indigenous women working in the sex industry. Second-class brothels might be peopled by mixed-race women or Japanese immigrant karayuki-san, women from poor provinces such as Amekusa Island sending their earnings home to the famine-hit rural areas of Japan. European Jews, primarily Ashkenazi women pushed out of Eastern Europe by the pogroms of the late nineteenth century, were also likely to work in those brothels that the British colonial authorities relegated to the second class. Their clientele was generally more mixed, with less rigid rules about who might be entertained and a fee scale lower than that enjoyed in the first-class houses. Not surprisingly, third-class brothels were those not only sta√ed by indigenous women but frequented by nonwhite men. In many instances, the authorities insisted that the color bar was respected; women who worked in the registered brothels could lose their jobs or be prosecuted for flaunting these rules, as they found out to their cost when faced with heavy fines. In military environments especially, this separation was carefully policed. In April 1875, a Sikh by the name of Rughbur Singh was seized by

The Cordon Sanitaire ⭈ 61

regimental police while visiting the house of registered prostitute Mussamut Doolaro, ‘‘who was one of those specially meant to be visited by the British soldier only, and not by Natives,’’ in the Dinapore cantonment in Patna, India.≤≠ After something of a scu∆e in which Singh managed temporarily to evade his captors, he was convicted under the Indian Penal Code of obstructing his lawful apprehension. Sentenced to two months’ rigorous imprisonment, he successfully appealed to the Patna sessions judge. Singh, meanwhile, escaped from custody again and was rearrested at Doolaro’s residence, retried, and sentenced to a lengthy tenmonth confinement, while she received a two-month sentence for harboring him. The case went to the High Court in December 1875, where the judges ruled both that ‘‘Singh was in the first instance arrested and confined absolutely without warrant of law,’’ and that he had committed no o√ense.≤∞ Not surprisingly, the court’s ruling, which freed both Singh and Doolaro, set o√ shock waves in the military and a series of legal opinions clarifying the entitlement of commanding o≈cers ensued. In September 1876, commanding o≈cers were notified of their right to exclude natives ‘‘from places where soldiers live, provided that such exclusion be for the welfare of the soldiers.’’≤≤ The Singh case may be unusual, in that a nonelite local man fought back so vigorously, and using his master’s tools, but the message—despite Singh’s victory—was clear: that race and skin color were fundamental and visible determinants of colonial power. Even where formal restrictions did not operate with such zeal, brothel clients were likely to take matters into their own hands. John Cowen, a controversial figure in the early-twentieth-century social purity movement, described such scenes in the Singapore brothel district, claiming that at the start of the 1914–1918 war, nowhere is race hatred more bitter than in the brothel quarters, and in no brothel quarters more than those of Singapore. Here English, German (before the war), Dutch, Mahomedan, Ceylonese and others, jostle each other in the streets and rival one another in the brothels. Soldiers or sailors, and other Englishmen, educated or uneducated, who enter a brothel and find ‘‘niggers’’ there, at once proceed to turn them out. The Dutch visitors from Java and Sumatra do the same, even more peremptorily, and the Germans are always said to have been the most provocative of all. The ‘‘niggers’’ may be educated Malay or Indian youths, who feel themselves superior to 62 ⭈ Philippa Levine

the drunken English soldier or sailor, but give way if the latter are in force. . . . [R]acial animosity is bred and fostered day by day and night by night in the brothels.≤≥ The complications of class that Cowen encapsulates here—the resentful, privileged, local youth marked by their skin color as inferior to the great proletarian mass of English soldiers—were overridden by the racial marking that made a dark-skinned clientele vulnerable to abuse. And while classification and informal control kept the indigenous clientele in its place, the state stepped in to discipline the visible race line among the women. Police o≈cial Shuttleworth explained why European and Japanese prostitutes working in Rangoon had long been obliged to shield themselves from the gaze of onlookers behind swing doors, while their Burmese and Indian counterparts could display themselves more openly. It was, he urged, done ‘‘more from a political than a moral point of view. . . . [T]he white races are at the present time the dominant and governing races of the world and anything that would lower them in the sight of the subject races should, I think be carefully guarded against, and I do not think that there can be any doubt that the sight of European women prostituting themselves is most damaging to the prestige of the white races.’’≤∂ The sights and sounds of the colonial brothel, then, were crucial planks in the building of colonial policy. When memoirists mocked the pitiful few words of pidgin English brothel women used to advertise their wares, when they employed righteous or even man-of-the-world tones to describe the flashy or sordid spectacle of the flesh bazaars, what we are witnessing is the making of a kind of Orientalizing or Orientalist sociology, a visual and aural disciplining of the sexualized East premised on an empirical and thus observable knowledge that laid claim to uncovering the business and spectacle of sex in the colonial brothel. Empiricism and exoticism, as Arjun Appadurai has noted, ‘‘were not disconnected aspects of the colonial imaginary’’ (1993, 328). And that colonial imaginary derived much from the sights and sounds of the sex trade it read and interpreted with a Western cast. The gestures, words, and lives of women engaged in prostitution in the colonial arena were both spectacularized and made mute by the colonial presence. Neither forgotten nor valorized, prostitutes were central to the colonial adventure, but they walked a constant and impossible tightrope that required simultaneously both their notated presence and invisibility as the price for an always uncerThe Cordon Sanitaire ⭈ 63

tain livelihood. Disciplined by race as by gender, they occupied an ambivalent space, always in confused motion, between necessity and revulsion, desire and rejection, the functionally visible and the politically invisible. This sexual colonization, which invariably yoked women and sexuality together, never strayed far from these thorny questions of visibility and its attendant spatial concerns, for as Susan Morgan has pithily remarked, ‘‘In the politics of culture, ‘where’ is as complex and incoherent a category as ‘who’ ’’ (1996, 4). The brothel became a site of interest and anxiety that if left uncontrolled and unmapped, would taint if not immobilize the cordon sanitaire that so fundamentally required visibility and concreteness as evidence of its conformity to colonial rule. This failure of the empire to control women or female space is suggestive of some broader political failures that it is the intent of this collection to explore. As women moved from place to place, as they shifted from the backwardness of colonial life to the modern space of the controlled brothel, so did their status inexorably shift. Yet those shifts were never complete, for women’s own readings of their place in the colonial sex industry were as significant to the spatial understanding of sexuality invited by brothel culture as were those of the more powerful colonial o≈cials who sought, quite literally, to enclose them. Colonial women prostitutes were always both too visible and not visible enough, upsetting the need for a smoothly functioning sexual economy by their failure to conform to metropolitan notions of womanliness and sexual commerce. While the prostitute, wherever she plied her trade, was a contradictory figure by definition, the reading of empire as a place mired in backwardness, a place where time stands still, added critical dimensions to how the sexualized woman was configured. One of the most powerful symbols of ‘‘native’’ immorality, the colonial prostitute threatened not only the health of soldiers but the very boundaries of metropolitan definition. Managing sex in colonial sites was always almost and almost always impossible, for the imperial project relied simultaneously on sexual availability and an invocation of sexual respectability. The brothel needed thus to be both spectacular and secretive, vulgar and discreet, available but controlled, inviting but o√-limits. At the same time as sex was understood as a guarantor of certain kinds of stability, its very existence disrupted some deeply held kindred sensibilities. Colonial space was figured always as a potentially sexual space, a code both for the failings of the locals and the masculine penetrativeness of the colonizing force.

64 ⭈ Philippa Levine

Through this curiously eroticized cartography, controlling the spaces of women and structures of the colonial marketplace of sex, one can see the always circulating anxieties of the colonial state, endlessly mapping and remapping both its own rationale and the boundaries of its necessary others. At work in colonial taxonomy was an ever present fear of the blurring of lines, the fear of unseparated spheres, the contamination risked by rule, and the proximity of that which should not be proximate.

Notes 1 2 3


5 6 7

8 9 10 11 12 13 14

15 16 17 18 19

Oriental and India O≈ce Collections (hereinafter oioc): India O≈ce Records (ior), 1873, V/24/2296, 13. oioc: ior, 1917 (hereinafter Shuttleworth Report ). On how Indian nationalism adopted ideas of home within a nationalist vocabulary with significant implications for the Indian woman, see Grewal 1996, esp. 7; and Chatterjee 1993. Public Record O≈ce (hereinafter pro): Colonial O≈ce (hereinafter co) 129/265 (9874). Internal Colonial O≈ce Memorandum: George Johnston to Mr. Bramston, 8 June 1894. oioc: Proceedings of the Government of India, P/674. Health O≈cer of Madras to Chief Secretary, Government of India, 13 December 1872. pro: co129/184 (6991). Governor John Pope Hennessy to Michael Hicks-Beach, Colonial Secretary, 18 March 1879. pro: co273/457 (41155). Report by H. L. Dowbiggin, Inspector-General of Ceylon Police (n.d. ? 1913), enclosure to a letter from Sir Arthur Young to Walter Long, Colonial O≈ce, 13 June 1917. Ibid. oioc, 1879, v /24/2287, 10. pro: co129/189 (13163). Annual Report of the Colonial Surgeon, 1874. oioc, 1877, p /1003. oioc, 1878, v /24/2290, 96. National Archives of India (hereinafter nai). Home Proceedings A: 23 March 1897. oioc, 1892, l / mil /7/13839; Andrew 1962, 93; pro: co882/6 (20340). Marquess of Ripon, Colonial Secretary to Governor C. B. H. Mitchell, Straits Settlements, 28 December 1894. On the Hong Kong phenomenon of the protected woman, see Smith 1994. oioc, 1881, P/1664: Government of Bengal to Secretary of State for India, 7 June 1881; confirmed in oioc, June 1887, V/24/2289, 7. oioc, 1866, P/438/27. oioc, 1869, P/436/2. R. Simon, Secretary, Government of the northwest provinces to E. C. Bayley, Secretary, Government of India, Home Department, 17 March, 1869. pro: co129/159 (12527). P. C. B. Ayres, Colonial Surgeon, Hong Kong to Colonial Secretary, 26 April 1893.

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20 oioc, 1875, P/1003. Colonel J. Emerson, Cantonment Magistrate, Dinapore to Officer Commanding Dinapore, 28 July 1875. 21 Ibid., Court of Judicature, Fort William, Bengal, 2 December 1875. 22 Ibid., Circular Memorandum of Quarter-Master General, September 1876. Opinion of G. C. Paul, O≈ciating Advocate General, Calcutta, 13 April 1876. 23 pro: co273/452 (60716). John Cowen, Report of a Visit to the Two Great Brothel Areas of Singapore in the Autumn of 1915, 10; reprinted in an amended and abridged version in The Shield, 3d series, 1. no. 3, October 1916. 24 oioc, Shuttleworth Report, l / p&j /6/1448 (2987).

66 ⭈ Philippa Levine



As Anthony King has emphasized, a distinctive demographic characteristic of the colonial community, and the early immigrant and migrant communities in colonial port cities, was the relative absence of women (1991, 35). Colombo, the former capital of Sri Lanka, was no di√erent. This characteristic was accentuated by the fact that the early migrants to Colombo were largely single men who came in search of urban fortunes or to escape rural misfortunes. First established as a Portuguese outpost in the early sixteenth century, modern Colombo took four and a half centuries, until the 1960s, before its proportion of women matched that of the ‘‘nation.’’ By that time, Sri Lanka had become the first nation in the modern world to elect a woman, Sirima Bandaranaike, to its highest o≈ce. In 1960, as the head of Sri Lanka, she came to occupy the most prestigious spaces in Colombo, such as the prime minister’s o≈ce and residence. As much as modern Colombo was created and transformed by European powers, this particular change was also caused by national forces, from outside the city. Colonial Colombo, which developed into the capital of Ceylon, was governed by the Portuguese (1518–1656), Dutch (1656–1796), and British (1796–1948). Ceylon was the colonial territory that covered the entire island after its British takeover in 1815. The name continued after independence in 1948, until it was changed to Sri Lanka in 1972. Changes in colonial policies toward gender relations, and the under-

mining of those by white European and indigenous Lankan women e√ected a transformation that I call the feminizing of Colombo. More than a mere demographic change, it constitutes the transformation, with regard to gender, of institutions and other spaces—their meanings, representations, and power relations. It was also part of a complex set of processes that were indigenizing, proletarianizing, nationalizing, and ruralizing the colonial city (Perera 1998). Moreover, issues of gender are directly related to those of race, class, and ethnicity, and each of these groups has its own story about feminizing Colombo. This discussion, however, concentrates on the relationship between white men, European women, and Lankan women during the colonial period; other important groups such as Lankan men are drawn into the discussion when they have a direct impact on this relationship. European colonialism goes far beyond simple political and economic subjugation to making ideological and cultural impositions (Perera 1998, 61–94). Under colonialism, nature, animals, men, and women were objectified, owned, consumed, and forced to yield and produce. Social space is strategic since colonial authorities could not govern without incorporating a segment of the colonized body into the ruling power structure. David Harvey argues that ‘‘the assignment of place within a socio-spatial structure indicates distinctive roles, capacities for action, and access to power within the social order’’ (1990, 419). In this study, both place and space are social, not merely physical. The colonial spatial assignment and control exerted in order to create and reproduce the white male city of Colombo is represented in the molding of the colonized body in regard to gender, race, class, and other socially constructed categories, the spaces this body occupies, and the way in which assignments facilitate the social order. Yet this process of objectification and sexualization was never complete because it was flawed by the internal contradictions and convolutions of sociospatial maps. The daily practices of certain groups of women progressively undermined the colonial maps of gender control and feminized the city. The term ‘‘feminization’’ employed here is radically di√erent from what is in circulation today; for example, in the ‘‘feminization of poverty,’’ feminizing is viewed as a negative process that worsens the situation of women. In this essay, the term refers to the advancement in gender relations for certain groups of women within extant social structures. Instead of being passive recipients of its e√ects,

68 ⭈ Nihal Perera

the women involved empower themselves by initiating certain processes of change to transform an unfavorable environment into a friendly one. The relative absence of women in the colonial city is intensified by the relative absence of literature on women. Studies on the colonial era do not consider women a significant category, let alone an agency, focusing as they do on activities from which women were excluded: seafaring, exploration of new worlds, proselytizing, and empire building. Charles Boxer observes this lack and notes, ‘‘If women are mentioned at all . . . [it] is usually restricted to famous characters’’ (1975, 9). The roles played by women in and around military and trading complexes, as housekeepers, prostitutes, or otherwise, were hardly documented. In Western urban history generally, women in urban environments have not only been silenced but those in public spaces were considered threats to urban order (Garber and Turner 1995, x–xxvi). It is therefore not surprising that women in the more women-friendly ‘‘Black City’’ in Colombo are the least documented of all. Nevertheless, there are a few recent works on women in Colombo and Ceylon during this period (Boxer 1975; Roberts, Rahim, and Colin-Thome 1989; Grossholtz 1984; Jayawardena 1992, 1995). It is to this developing area of study that this chapter expects to contribute. With a few exceptions, such literature hardly brings out the contested aspects of gender and space. Colonialism was, most critically, ambiguous and contradictory (Bhabha 1991), and one should consider the collision as well as negotiation between the colonizer and colonized in shaping the urban landscape (Yeoh 1996, 9). The key variable in such analysis is social power—that is, the capacity of some subjects to intervene in a given situation, to impose their will on others by the potential or actual use of violence, and transform it (Giddens 1987, 7; Castells 1989, 8). This chapter considers gender as a social construct and aims to investigate gender relationships, the rules that govern their enactment, and the patriarchal power structures that maintain inequalities between women and men. A way to approach this issue is by examining how urban spaces are di√erently perceived and utilized by colonial authorities and women, why conflicts over the definitions and uses of space arise, and the implications of these conflicts. This study is thus informed by postcolonial and feminist theories of social space and geography (Garber and Turner 1995; Blunt and Rose 1994; Spain 1992; Stansell 1987; Jayawardena 1992, 1993, 1995).

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Highlighting the contested aspect of gendered spaces, this investigation exposes the principal o≈cial policies of spatial control and the power relations that marginalized women in colonial Colombo. It demonstrates how, in various stages of colonialism, both European and Lankan women used physical and social-symbolic mobility to subvert these policies. By crossing assigned spatial boundaries and building coalitions across categorical divisions, these trans-status subjects (as Sarker and Niyogi De term them in the introduction to this volume) defied the sociospatial order built on separated but synchronic relationships between public and private spheres. In so doing, these women changed the values and meanings attached to their gender, race, and status. This gendered subversion led to the gradual increase in number and prominence of women in colonial Colombo as well as the creation of a ‘‘women’s third space.’’ First nestled within the domestic sphere, this space was later extended into the public sphere by missionary and socialist women. As examples of one of the foci of this volume, various women’s local spaces within global arenas, the third spaces, produced during di√erent periods, were also responses to successive waves of globalization. While Western education helped upper-class Ceylonese women to claim power and agency in postcolonial Sri Lanka, it was the women of the Black City that were the backbone of the feminization process. In the following sections, I shall show how colonial places and spaces, constructed as part of systems of gender, race, class, and ethnic control, were open to deconstruction and redefinition by subordinate groups through their everyday practices.

Establishing a White Male City Portuguese Colombo was not only European and Catholic but also a male domain by design. Like the city, gender relations in modern Colombo were first established by Portuguese authorities based on their imperialist objectives and, to a much lesser degree, the needs of the local colonial community. Other ethnic groups seem to have resided within the fort, but in small numbers and as less powerful actors—for instance, slaves and guards. So far, I have not been able to find any indication of a female presence in the core of the fort. The fort remained a male domain until the demolition of the fortifications by the British in 1869. The original fort was later expanded by the Portuguese to include residences of mar-

70 ⭈ Nihal Perera

ried settlers, but was reduced again by the Dutch in the seventeenth century. The area outside the core of the expanded Portuguese fort is referred to here as the extended area, which was later called the Pettah. Married Portuguese men, casados, lived in the extended area, within the outer wall, and to the north of the fort, between the fort and the Kelani River, in and around Mutuwal, Wolvendal, and Grandpass, overlapping what became the Black City during the British period (Brohier 1984, 11). The Portuguese fort was an extreme example of male space. The establishment of a white male city involved several important strategies and steps, including the settling of young, single Portuguese soldiers (soldados) and development of negative perceptions of women, which culminated in the ‘‘witchification’’ of the few European women who immigrated. The significance of being single was made clear to the soldados from the beginning, and if any soldado got married, he was immediately discharged from service (Brohier 1984, 14). It is highly probable that any woman who stepped into the core of the fort area was seen as a prostitute, and most of those who entered it also engaged in prostitution. The Portuguese Crown actively discouraged women from going out to Asian and African colonies with the exception of the ‘‘Orphans of the King’’ and reformed prostitutes (Boxer 1969; Russell-Wood 1998, 110). Only a few emigrated to Asia during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and there were hardly any Portuguese women in the colonies and outposts—there was one in Muscat in 1553 and one in Macao in 1636 (Boxer 1969, 129). In an attempt to increase the Portuguese population in the empire, the authorities in the early seventeenth century encouraged men to emigrate to the island, marry the orphans of the king, and make Ceylon their home (Abeyasinghe 1966, 59). The orphans were girls of (sometimes barely) marriageable age who were sent out to India from orphanages in Lisbon and Oporto at the expense of the crown. Estado da India (‘‘India’’) represented the Portuguese Empire in the East. From the mid–sixteenth to early eighteenth century, the orphans, who were intended as spouses for public o≈cials and garrison o≈cers, were provided with dowries, largely in the form of minor government posts for their potential husbands (Boxer 1975, 65–66; Boxer 1969, 129; Russell-Wood 1998, 109). As they did with male prisoners from the Limoeiro, the Portuguese authorities did not hesitate to make use of the bodies of reformed prostitutes and orphan girls in Lisbon and Oporto to achieve their imperial objectives overseas, by transforming orphans in

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Portugal into prospective white spouses in the colonies as well as a problem at home into an asset of the empire.∞ The project was never fully successful; not more than thirty girls ever went out in a single year and the average was about ten. Even those who went East did not impress the men since the cash bonuses were unappealing, the o≈cial posts earmarked for prospective husbands were largely promises and not immediately e√ective, and the prospective positions were poorly paid to constitute significant financial attraction (Boxer 1969, 130; 1975, 68–74). The reason for Portuguese men in India not to consider Portuguese women as potential partners, however, seems to be part of a much larger discourse addressed below. Concurrently, the colonial authorities implemented policies of miscegenation. The fact that the Portuguese who came East were mostly men was a conscious design of the Portuguese authorities to discourage their women from venturing to the colonial outposts so as to encourage miscegenation as a bulwark of colonial control (Roberts, Rahim, and Colin-Thome 1989, 35). Nevertheless, these strategies and controls were flawed, and males responded to the situation by engaging in prostitution and drinking. Although this was not the designed outcome of colonial policies, these developments promoted the further degradation of women. The separation of unequal public and private spaces is crucial to the establishment of spatial control (Garber and Turner 1995, x–xxvi). Despite their presence outside the core of the fort, women in Colombo were largely prisoners in their homes of the husband or amigo, and their lives were perceived as cheap. The sexual license accorded to men including soldados and casados was not extended to women unless they were prostitutes. Yet ‘‘Portuguese prostitute’’ was an oxymoron; an Iberian woman who was the mistress of a man was expected to remain as faithful to him as an actual spouse would be. Whether authorities or priests, nearly everyone who addressed issues of women and marriage was united in the view that adultery and unchastity in a woman was a much more serious crime than in a man (Boxer 1975, 109). The chastity of women was not trusted, though (Pieris [1914] 1983, 2:115, 116); cuckolded husbands were never blamed for killing their ‘‘erring’’ spouses and the men who slew their innocent wives on mere suspicion seldom punished (Boxer 1969, 306). The double standard of chastity for men and women was spatially mapped out in such a way that the women’s domestic sociality would be subsumed by the men’s public sociality, enabling the

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men to control the public world in which women became the devalued other (Rosaldo 1974; Blunt and Rose 1994, 3). The Dutch, too, continued to control the mobility, identity, space, and place of women, but faced di√erent circumstances and outcomes. They were more concerned with Enlightenment beliefs (which caused a number of contradictions in their colonial policies and practices), and had more deliberate policies of settler colonization, miscegenation, and the creation of a new Eurasian race. The celebrated founder of Dutch commercial supremacy in the East Indies, Jan Pietersz Coen, conceived of a flourishing society of vrij burgers (free citizens) in Dutch stations in the East, trading side by side with the East India Company (Arasaratnam [1958] 1988, 195). Yet the European Enlightenment-based belief of racial segregation, that ‘‘the white man, whether merchant, mariner or settler, should stand ‘above and apart’ from the coloured races,’’ implied that white women should emigrate to the colonies in adequate numbers with their men (Boxer [1965] 1990, 241). In contrast to the Portuguese, more Dutch women were prepared to go East. The authorities, however, were dissatisfied with the kind of women who wanted to emigrate. On board a ship, John Splinter Stavorinus observed in the 1760s, ‘‘A woman . . . had disguised herself in men’s clothes . . . and had enlisted as a soldier on board of the ship Schoonzicht; she had long kept her sex concealed, but being at last discovered, she was put on the shore at the Cape of Good Hope, and kept there, in order to be sent back to Holland’’ (1798, 195). The authorities soon learned that it was hopeless to expect ‘‘respectable’’ women to emigrate in su≈cient numbers to the tropics, which were regarded as lands where life was short, especially for those bred in northern climates, and the acute discomforts of shipboard life on long voyages proved to be a powerful deterrent. For the Dutch East India Company, the women who went to the colonies were largely ‘‘light women,’’ more conspicuous for their adventurousness than their morals, who led ‘‘scandalous’’ and ‘‘unedifying’’ lives ‘‘to the great shame of the nation’’ (Boxer [1965] 1990, 241–42, 254–55). As early as 1612, the governor-general advised Heeren XVII not to allow these women to emigrate, and later, the Dutch authorities were content with the results of this preemptive strike against the ‘‘disgraceful’’ women. The language suggests that these women were seen as less controllable, less abiding, more willing to take risks, and therefore dangerous.

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Incorporating Ceylonese Women Ceylonese women, too, were incorporated into the colonial social and spatial order. This is symbolized in the Portuguese ‘‘protection’’ for the families of Sinhalese auxiliaries called lascarins, and the Portuguese and Dutch projects to create a Eurasian race. The usual garrison in Portuguese Ceylon comprised of seven hundred Portuguese soldiers supported by a standing force of about fifteen thousand lascarins (Boxer 1953, 245). Contrary to the policy governing soldados, Portuguese authorities allowed the lascarins to have families, but desired to locate them within fortified settlements near the fort to protect them during war (de Silva 1972, 59, 78). The women and children were located in a knowable and controllable space, under the surveillance of the authority that could thus construct the power to command its subjects. During war, the authorities made these families immobile and hostage with the view to providing protection for Portuguese forces. Phillipus Baldaeus o√ers a description of how Lup de Britto made use of this arrangement to neutralize a group of lascarins who opposed him during the 1656 Portuguese—Dutch—Kandyan war (1958–1959, 249–50). De Britto led 150 Portuguese soldiers who occupied a ‘‘suburb’’ of Colombo, and ordered that the women and children be tied to doorjambs as bait for the Sinhalese to return and realize that they were overpowered. He then ordered that the roofs of all houses near the Portuguese defense be set on fire to divert the Sinhalese, providing enough time to close the gates of the fort. In light of the failure of settler programs, Dutch colonizers saw the success of the former Portuguese policy of ‘‘body colonization,’’ of using the reproductive capabilities of Ceylonese women and company men (Arasaratnam [1958] 1988, 194). Women and men were seen as sets of discrete functioning mechanisms, a category of body that could be controlled, exploited, and coerced to produce a new race. Despite their low numbers, men of mixed Portuguese and Sinhalese descent who fought alongside the Portuguese were viewed as partly, if not largely responsible for the sti√ and prolonged resistance by the Portuguese. The Dutch governor, Johan Maetsuyker, found that ‘‘free burghers’’ could not compete on even remotely equal terms with local Muslims. The children of mixed marriages, he averred, were better acclimatized than those of pure European parentage, and after the second or third generation, they differed little, if at all from pure Netherlanders in complexion (Boxer [1965] 1990, 247–48). The Dutch, then, desired the production of bodies that 74 ⭈ Nihal Perera

looked Dutch yet were as strong as the Sinhalese, but were specific about the bodies and wombs they wanted to employ; Muslim women allegedly deliberately aborted the babies of Christian men (ibid., 242). This policy, and that of miscegenation, produced a reasonable mestizo community, but failed to produce the anticipated results. The Dutch were not successful in attracting their preferred bodies: high-class, high-caste Christian or proselytizable women. According to Jean Grossholtz, ‘‘Although it was a patriarchal society, elements of a matriarchal past, Buddhism, and the idea of land-use rights rather than private ownership gave [Lankan] women an easier, more flexible position’’ (1984, 3). Here I use Lanka strategically to refer loosely to the island and its indigenous societies, as opposed to any particular kingdom, prior to European colonization. In Lanka, while Buddhism contrasted with the male monopoly in the Brahmin practices in India (Jayawardena 1992, 111), most significantly in regard to religious rituals and admitting women into the ranks of its clergy, women were subordinated to the male within local patriarchal ideas combined with the notion that only a man could become a Buddha.≤ Within this broadly sketched position, however, the specifics are quite striking. Women could not only enter the Buddhist order of nuns but could also participate in religious rites with men. In farming, women worked alongside men, except in certain tasks in the cultivation cycle that were forbidden to them at certain times; women did the daily maintenance work of houses, while men engaged in house building and repair work during nonpeak times in farming. During the peak time of either activity, the whole family including children participated. Hence, men, women, and children were all essential members of the social, cultural, and material production and reproduction systems at the family and village levels. The choices o√ered by Lankan gender relationships were apparent in marriage practices, too—women seemed to have enormous freedom and mostly made decisions regarding marriages. They could be married in the patrilocal diga in which the bride was given a dowry and had no further claims to inheritance, or the uxorilocal binna in which the woman was entitled to an equal share of the inheritance when her father died, her husband was subject to expulsion at will, and the marriage contract could be dissolved by mutual consent (Jayawardena 1992, 115). Virginity in women was not valued, and a loose form of trial marriage was common (Knox 1981, 134–35; Davy 1821, 214–15). The Sinhala Buddhist precepts incorporate diverse moral codes, which were more guidelines than Feminizing the City ⭈ 75

commandments, and monogamy, polygamy, and polyandry were customary in various segments of the society (Gombrich and Obeyesekere 1990, 28; Jayawardena 1992, 115; Grossholtz 1984, 19). A determining factor of this system was that marriage was not a mode of transferring cultivation rights to a family living outside the village, irrespective of the gender of the person who relocated (Grossholtz 1984, 110–11). Unlike the situations of the Orphans of the King or women in many parts of South Asia, dowry was not a way of ‘‘bribing’’ a man to marry a woman but of substituting movable property for the immovable rights to land in a society that was not based on private property. European (Dutch) colonialism transformed these relationships, displacing the older system with the patriarchal Roman-Dutch legal system, and enforcing new marriage and inheritance laws (Jayawardena 1992, 116). Patriarchal inheritance, for example, a more individualistic orientation to material acquisition, was rooted in European capitalism and required a nuclear family structure. Given indigenous practices, women of upper-caste, upper-class families did not have much of an incentive to liaison with Portuguese or Dutch men. Those who were attracted by the prospect of living with a white man in the fort were largely from ‘‘lowercastes,’’ presumably meaning non-Goyigama caste womenfolk (Roberts, Rahim, and Colin-Thome 1989, 35). For Dutch authorities, the final outcome was the most undesirable: Dutch children born in the Indies were derogatorily called ‘‘liplaps’’ (Stavorinus 1798, 315); the children of mixed marriages drew the contempt of the European-born and the Ceylonese, inherited the vices of both races and the virtues of neither, and their defects were ascribed more to their Eurasian blood than their upbringing (Boxer [1965] 1990, 253).

Creating a Third Space Despite the rhetoric of male superiority and women as degraded, women seem to have better adapted to climatic and cultural conditions in Ceylon. The perceived mysteriousness of Portuguese women was integral to the discourse that represented them as inferior to the conquistadores. Paradoxically, men died in large numbers in the ‘‘tropics’’ whereas the women adapted and indigenized faster; their willingness to mingle with Ceylonese and slave women helped ‘‘colonial’’ women create a third space for themselves that subverted the colonial gender control and maps of spatial subjectivity. 76 ⭈ Nihal Perera

The prevailing rhetoric projected Portuguese women, and their adaptation, as deranged and inferior. Paul Pieris’s words illustrate the point: When at home these women wore a baju of fine muslin . . . varying in quality with the wealth of the wearer, wound round their waists, and loose sandals or slippers on their feet. All their spare time, which was considerable, was devoted to chewing of betel leaf; their food was chiefly rice and curry with some pickled mango . . . [which] they invariably ate with their fingers . . . [and they] drank water in the Oriental fashion from gorglets, which were never applied to the lips. They were very cleanly in their persons, having learnt the Oriental custom of frequent baths . . . and were fond of scents, using sandalwood and similar articles on the body like Indian women. ([1914] 1983, 2:116) Socially conditioned to think that they were superior, the men did not give any credit to the versatility and adaptability of their women, since they perceived Portuguese women as physically inferior, not tough enough certainly to acclimatize to the tropics. As Padre Fernao de Queiroz wrote in 1687 about women’s frailty, ‘‘Even nowadays the pregnancies of Portuguese women almost invariably terminate fatally for both mother and child’’ (cited in Boxer 1969, 129). Whether supported by political or medical knowledge of the time or not, this dominant notion must have justified thinking of Portuguese women as inferior beings, not only physiologically but also mentally and morally. In large part, men’s inability to recognize or control the processes of transformation experienced by the women, or an increasing inability to know them at all, seems to have contributed to the perception of the women who wore baju, hung sandalwood articles on their bodies, and drank from gorglets as some sort of strange beings. Within hegemonic structures of masculinist privilege, unrecognizable transformations can only become so much of a potential threat before the order in the gendered landscape of power is reasserted by redirecting or stopping such change. Projecting the male ‘‘lack’’ onto the women to reproduce male superiority, men absorbed the di√erence that this uneven gendered indigenization produced into a dichotomous system of superior versus inferior and good versus bad. Yet the women developed their own space within the maps of colonial and patriarchal control. Like the Portuguese, the Dutch authorities also projected male shortFeminizing the City ⭈ 77

comings onto women. The lack of strong family and communal life was aggravated by the alcoholism that plagued Dutchmen in Colombo as well as the metropole. Cape Town had acquired the reputation as the ‘‘Tavern of Two Seas.’’ The authorities blamed the women and imposed restrictions on burgher marriages with the intent of ensuring the desirability of women; the usual test applied was the regularity of attendance at church and their knowledge of the Christian religion (Arasaratnam [1958] 1988, 206–7). The Dutch community was hardly stable. At the beginning of Dutch rule, owing to the relative absence of Dutch women on the island, the colonists married Portuguese widows, mestizo girls, or Christian Ceylonese, all belonging to quite di√erent cultures. It created a global village with little to share. According to Sinnappah Arasaratnam, once uprooted from their own society and resident in Colombo, the Sinhalese women who converted to Christianity and married Dutchmen tended to fall into what he calls the corrupt life of that place (ibid., 206). It must have been rather di≈cult for any woman from outside to relocate herself within the Dutch colonial community that was, at the same time, searching for its own self, identity, form, and culture. Within this instability, slaves, mostly of south Indian but also African origin, became the progenitors of a women’s third culture. Language, a prime component of any culture, was molded by the slaves who played a crucial role in reproducing Portuguese within the colonial community in an ‘‘Indianized’’ form. In the early nineteenth century, Robert Percival, a Briton, was surprised that the Dutch ladies in Colombo hardly spoke Dutch—a fact he ascribed to their frequent interaction with slaves, all of whom used ‘‘Indianized Portuguese’’ ([1803] 1990, 116). The 409 households within Colombo in 1694 held an average of 4.31 slaves; in 1761, slaves were 53.5 percent of the city population, outnumbering all others (Knapp 1981). Their significant presence and role, especially female slaves, in bringing up children were central to the establishment of the third culture. From them, according to Percival, children imbibed manners, habits, and superstitious notions, of which they hardly divested themselves ([1803] 1990, 139). Instead of simply occupying the slot assigned to them by the colonial authorities, and assimilating into the colonial system, the slaves incorporated the women in the colonial community into the culture that they were building. A major condition that helped the development of the third culture

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was the dissonance between men and women, and the closeness between women and slaves. Women had spent their entire lives apart from males, beginning with their fathers. Ladies and gents clubbed separately. Percival stresses that ‘‘the conversation of women . . . forms very little of a Ceylonese-Dutchman’s entertainment. Although ladies make part of the company, yet they experience none of that attention and politeness to which fair sex are accustomed to in Europe. After the first salutations are over, the men seem to forget that the ladies are at all present’’ (ibid., 137–38). This disjuncture represents a considerable displacement of colonial social and spatial order, and provided a competing public sphere for women in the colonial community. The women’s third culture originated within residential space and the female community, but it made its way to the public sphere. Manifestations—such as women wearing bajus, smelling like oil, speaking in Indo-Portuguese, and socializing together—became naturalized, and violated both the hierarchical separation of public-private and public-domestic spaces. This transgression disabled the ability of the male-dominated public sphere to subsume the domestic sphere associated with women. Ceylonese women crossing the divide to join the colonial community bolstered this process and constructed their own segment of the third space, aided ironically by colonial policies. The women who braved the disdain of their own community and contracted unions with Dutchmen or other Europeans did not simply transform themselves into passive subjects in the new society. While the possession of slaves was especially pleasing for them, these women tended to put on ‘‘airs,’’ became ‘‘ladies,’’ and wished to be waited on (Roberts, Rahim, and Colin-Thome 1989, 37). These new roles and spaces, in e√ect, were further strengthened and expanded by Dutch intermarriage practices. Despite the desire of Dutch authorities for apartheid, within a few months after the takeover of Colombo, about two hundred Dutchmen married Indo-Portuguese women (Goonewardena 1959, 226). During subsequent decades, Dutch soldiers and o≈cials lived in boarding houses ran by Tupass, a Dutch term used to identify the darker people of mixed Portuguese and Sinhalese descent, those born out of wedlock, and Asian converts to Christianity. This often resulted in intermarriage (Roberts, Rahim, and ColinThome, 1989, 35, 36). Mixed marriages were instrumental in the development of a remark-

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able Indo-Portuguese culture within the Dutch colony, of which the lingua franca was an Indianized Portuguese—for Europeans, the Kandyan court, mestizos, Tupass, Ceylonese headmen, and other local people. After the British takeover in the late eighteenth century, the Dutch language waned quickly, but use of the Portuguese Creole continued. Even as late as the 1860s, this language was not restricted to the burghers and Tupass but extended to the urban notables from Bharatha, Colombo Chetty, and other Asian communities (Roberts, Rahim, and ColinThome 1989, 37–38). It is this language that seeped into the women’s sphere of the colonial community through the slaves, unifying the women’s third spaces with the quotidian culture and the nonformal public sphere within Colombo.

The British Reproduction of Gender Subjectivity British Colombo was radically di√erent from that of the Portuguese and Dutch. The British held firmly to apartheid, and thus spatial segregation and control was highly organized. There were more English women living in Colombo than Dutch or Portuguese women during British rule, but the proportion of British women in the city was still small. According to James Cordiner, the British circle in Colombo initially numbered nearly one hundred gentlemen and twenty ladies (1807, 1:76). In the greater Colombo area, in the 1840s, the white population consisted of 2,100 people, of which only 400 were females (Roberts, Rahim, and Colin-Thome 1989, 50). These figures include the Dutch and other Europeans who lived in the European/Eurasian residential zone, the Pettah, which had the most families. In regard to both number and power, therefore, the gender imbalance in Colombo continued, and the fort continued to be a male domain of the colonial community. The British colonial society, marked by the principle of exclusiveness, did not recognize miscegenation. Percival, for example, showed extreme prejudice against the Creole population—he was appalled by the lack of ‘‘polite’’ or cultured conversation among Dutch ladies, their ‘‘superstitious notions,’’ their use of ‘‘barbarous’’ and ‘‘vulgar’’ Portuguese language, their habits of betel chewing and applying coconut oil to their hair, the odor of which ‘‘quite overpower the senses of a European, and render the approach to these women disgusting’’ (Percival [1803] 1990, 139–41; Roberts, Rahim, and Colin-Thome 1989, 50). The British continued the

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same discourse of the ‘‘indigenized witch,’’ but directed toward other European and Eurasian women, not their own kind. The gendered spaces were thus more clearly demarcated at the daily level. Anthony King demonstrates how the relative absence of women in colonial Delhi led to specific colonial institutions such as the bachelor chummery and the club, and to the allocation of disproportionate space to recreational activities for young male o≈cers—including race courses and riding tracks—that were separated from the local bazaar (1991, 35). Colonial Colombo was no di√erent. In the world outside work, the Ceylonese were largely kept at a distance and were not admitted into home, club, or social setting. Clubs were principally for men of the colonial community and ladies were excluded from meetings. Entertainments involving women were occasionally provided by both main clubs, but they took place in the country and fort, not the clubs; when women were present, there was dancing involved (Cordiner 1807, 79–80). The compartmentalization of time and space into specialized blocks, in the separation of activities into segregated spheres and periods of the day, marks a clear break from the more evenly spread time and space of Dutch Colombo. The exacerbation of the unevenness of sociality for men and women would thus reproduce the temporalization of spatial control and subordination of women. Those o≈cials who made the mistake of marrying Ceylonese women, rather than keeping them in concubinage, ruined their careers; the socalled European ne’er-do-wells were quickly deported (Roberts, Rahim, and Colin-Thome 1989, 119). The Colonial O≈ce further tightened the controls by sending out a circular in 1909 prohibiting civil servants from liaisoning with local women (Strobel 1991, 4; Jayawardena 1995, 3). Complementary to the intense stratification was the unwritten rule of colonialism that there should be no breach in the ranks. Englishwomen bore the burden not only of maintaining this social integrity but also of being considered the guardians of the purity of the race. White women who had local friends were therefore accused of ‘‘going jungli’’ and their socializing with local men was seen as a racial betrayal (Jayawardena 1995, 4). Confining them to the particular allocated spaces, the British ostracized those Englishwomen who had stooped to marry Ceylonese, referring to them disparagingly as ‘‘landladies’ daughters’’ (Roberts, Rahim, and Colin-Thome 1989, 119). Despite the hardening of British exclusiveness over the years, these

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apartheid policies never fully materialized. Upper-crust British tended to marry into burgher elite families with greater frequency in the early part of the British rule (ibid., 50, 51). The loosening of the seemingly tighter British control was quickened by the movement of the lower-class British across the lines of segregation into associations with the Ceylonese; some even lived with Ceylonese women. In these ways, then, although its characteristics might have transformed somewhat, women’s third spaces were further reinforced.

Feminizing Colombo During British rule, there was a marked increase in the number of European women who disrupted the colonial system of gender control in Colombo. They became increasingly involved in the social, cultural, and political activities of the island. The wide range of out-of-the-ordinary European women, from a colonial perspective, included Holy Rollers, spinsters, busybodies, eccentrics, divine mothers, fanatics, and prostitutes who disrupted the gendered maps of control to those who more overtly exported the idea of social change to Ceylon, such as agitators, anarchists, and communists. More prominent in the early years were those who brought Christianity, Western education, social reform, women’s rights, and other modernizing processes to Asia within the framework of British colonialism. Toward the latter part of the British rule, Ceylon saw the emigration of women who were rejecting Christianity, negating Western values, and rediscovering indigenous religions and cultures in a context of self-rule, nationalism, and socialism. These women were inspired by social beliefs that motivated them to abandon their home countries to live, and in most cases die, in South Asia (Jayawardena 1995, 8). Missionary women were the first to explicitly subvert the colonial structure of gendered space. As contact with the indigenes was essential to their mission, these women boldly crossed the colonial divide. As those who carried out the broader colonial objective of Westernizing the Ceylonese, missionary women were entitled to occupy the public sphere. Through occupying these new spaces, missionary women not only subverted the colonial map of gender control but also achieved what was denied to them at home. Through their presence and activities, they expanded women’s third space into the formal public arena and, phys-

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ically, to the ecclesiastical space in the middle of the city (churches, convents, missionary schools, and plazas). In the early phase of British rule, missionary schools for Ceylonese women undertook the narrow objective of producing good Christian wives for male converts. The e√ect was that higher education, almost equal to that for boys, granted Ceylonese women access to professions and employment in the formal economy. Women medical practitioners among the missionaries drove this social transformation even further. For example, Dr. Mary Rutnam (née Irwin, 1873–1962) not only worked in the field of gynecology but campaigned for maternal health care, child care, and hospital facilities for women as well. She also pioneered women’s groups such as the Ceylon Women’s Union (1904), Tamil Women’s Union (1909), Women’s Franchise Union (1927), and Lankan Mahila Samitiya (1931) (Jayawardena 1995, 24, 34, 88). Toward the end of colonial rule, educated European women indigenized much faster and crossed deeper into the other side of the colonial divide. In so doing, they accelerated both the Westernization of Ceylonese women and their movement from an indigenous domestic sphere to the colonial public one. Another group, consisting of theosophists, Orientalists, and Holy Mothers, who rejected the ‘‘noble savage’’ hypothesis, wanted to ‘‘Orientalize’’ and ‘‘civilize’’ the colonizers. For them, Asia had ‘‘achieved a degree of wisdom and spirituality far superior to the materialist development of the West. . . . [T]hey were particularly attracted by the concepts of woman’s power (shakti) in Hinduism, by androgynous deities, female goddesses such as Kali, and by the claims of high status of women in ancient Hindu and Buddhist societies. These perceptions placed them in a position of direct antagonism to colonialism, which they saw as a destructive force’’ (ibid., 4–5). The Russian Helena Blavatsky and the American Mary Foster, for instance, were key figures in the revival of Buddhism in the late nineteenth century. While helping its revival process, they also contributed to the ‘‘Protestantization of Buddhism’’ that brought Buddhism into the modern (colonial) society (Obeyesekere 1970). As they were going against the grain of the colonial system, women who took part in these movements did not perceive their role as exporting Western ideas. Moreover, both the men and women of this category did not occupy the colonial public sphere but contributed to the development of an alternative one for the Ceylonese. This public space was built

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around the new Buddhist institutions in Colombo, particularly the Mahabodhi Society, vihares (temples) at Kotte and Kelaniya, piriven (Buddhist universities) at Vidyodaya and Vidyalankara, printing presses, publishing houses, and ‘‘mission’’ schools in Colombo (Perera 1998, 97–122). In the early twentieth century, some European women directly took part in the struggle for independence and socialism in Ceylon. These socialists rejected Kali and local gurus, and wanted the Ceylonese to free themselves—politically from foreign rule, and with regard to women, from socially oppressive structures as well as traditional religious and cultural practices. The British rulers were clearly rattled by the boldness of these Western women who were undermining white supremacy by consorting with the colonized. They were considered far more dangerous than the indigenized witches of the early colonial era. If missionary women developed a niche in the public space for them, socialist women directly contested the validity of the colonial public space and threatened to replace it with a new one. Bringing the involvement of Western women to a peak in this regard, Doreen Wickramasinghe (née Young), who married the leader of the Ceylon Communist Party, defeated her own Sinhalese in-law, who represented the right-wing ruling party, to become the first foreign-born woman to enter the Parliament in 1952. For almost the entire colonial period, upper-class, upper-caste women were not central to the process of feminizing the city. As argued above, there was not much for them to gain by liaisoning with the foreigners in Colombo; they did not even live in Colombo in the early colonial period. Their move to Colombo was largely as members of the political and economic elite who emulated colonial roles and residential preferences in Muttuwal, Kollupitiya, and Cinnamon Gardens successively. It was Western women who helped them enter ‘‘modern’’ (colonial) society, largely through educational systems (Jayawardena 1995, 262). These Ceylonese women crossed the colonial divide to create their own space, an indigenized version of the modernized and Westernized world. As illustrated above, when compared to other countries in Asia, Ceylonese women had a head start in education. Yet there were only a few Buddhist women who had a systematic education, and the literacy rate for women in 1881 was only 3 percent. Modernized Buddhist men, moreover, were reluctant to marry uneducated women, preferring the products of the Christian convent system. In Buddhist culture, where the

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woman is the agent of cultural continuity, the fact that their men were marrying Christian women, some of whom were non-Sinhalese, was a threat to their identity. At the same time, a leader of the Buddhist revival in Sri Lanka, Henry Olcott, an American, was interested in providing opportunities for women to educate themselves based on the idea that the ‘‘mother is the first teacher.’’ Theosophical women were invited from the West to become schoolteachers and principals; Buddhist women’s schools were established in the late 1880s, and the first high school, Visaka Vidyalaya, in 1922, in which all the principals and most of the teachers were women of European origin, and some were burghers. The first Sinhalese woman principal of Visaka Vidyalaya was appointed in 1967, nineteen years after independence. The number of girls enrolled in schools grew from 50,000 in 1901 to 396,000 in 1946. Their proportion rose from 27 to 42 percent, and the literacy rate for women from 3 to 83 percent during this period (Jayawardena 1993, 13–22). Thus, education opened up a broad avenue for Buddhist women to enter the public sphere. These were, however, not the lower-caste, lower-class women who helped European women indigenize and develop a third space. These women belonged to the upper and upper-middle classes and castes, and were helped by educated, middle-class, European women who were in the process of creating a space for themselves in their own Western world. Nonetheless, the challenge posed to the colonial rule by a few educated Ceylonese women such as Vivian Goonewardena, along with her socialist comrades, should not be overlooked. The major actors who brought about the feminization of Colombo’s core were the women of Black City, the unsung heroines. These mostly lower-class women lived in the indigenous part of Colombo during the entire colonial period. When Percival claimed in the early nineteenth century that for its size, Colombo was one of the most populated places in ‘‘India,’’ and the meeting place of a large number of races and ethnic groups, he referred to this part of the city ([1803] 1990, 114). This was also the most women-friendly area in Colombo, where women defied most o≈cial restrictions imposed on them and were engaged in public activities such as vending. Although some of them might have fallen prey to miscegenation, police brutalities, and other discriminatory policies of colonial regimes, and were poor, it was these women, with their men, who continued to contest the European claim to Colombo. These fami-

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lies built their city adjacent to the colonial one and, along with the new migrants, eventually reclaimed the city. It was these women and families who completed the transformation of the white male city into a womenfriendly one. In so doing, they brought the long process of feminizing the city to a new peak.

Successive Cycles of Subversion European imperial powers strategically used social space—the separation between the colonial community and colonized as well as the domestic and public spaces—to make cultural and ideological impositions on the minds and bodies of the colonized. As illustrated, Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonial maps of gender control were not as e≈cient, e≈cacious, or complete as their discursive representations suggest. Both the Portuguese and Dutch authorities were unable to induce a significant number of ‘‘respectable’’ women to emigrate to the colonies, nor were the Portuguese males able to engage in miscegenation to the degree that it would become a crucial instrument in the colonization of Ceylon. Moreover, subordinate groups redefined the maps of gender, race, class, and ethnic control through their everyday practices. If separation was a key strategy of control, women on both sides of the colonial divide made use of their mobility to subvert the sociospatial map of colonial control, enhancing the number and prominence of women in Colombo. While slave and indigenous women helped their European counterparts to both indigenize and carve out a women’s third space, European women facilitated the entry of upper and middle-class Ceylonese women into modern society. Later, missionary women of European origin expanded the third space into the public arena, and socialist women helped Ceylonese women, and men, to occupy the public sphere. In the long run, women’s third space seemed to have progressed from a ‘‘semi-private’’ sphere to a public one. First established in the domestic arena, the third space was developed, during the Dutch rule, into an alternative public sphere, and a representation of women’s resistance to colonial control. Nonetheless, the progress in regard to feminizing the city was not linear. The authorities have periodically reproduced the order within the gendered landscapes of power by obstructing the movements of subversives at the boundaries of masculinist privilege; for example, the Dutch authorities stopped the ‘‘adventurous women’’ from

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traveling to the colonies. At every stage, however, women developed everyday practices that would resist and undermine that order. What we see are therefore successive cycles of reestablishment and subversion of the gendered landscape of power in colonial Colombo.

Notes I would like to thank the O≈ce of Academic Research and Sponsored Programs at Ball State University for the Summer Faculty Grant that enabled me to complete the preliminary research for this chapter. 1 According to Abeyasinghe, many of the soldados who came to the East were men pressed for service from the Lisbon jail, the Limoeiro, and the worst of the Portuguese in the East tended to be posted for service in Ceylon (1966, 93). 2 These patriarchal ideas do not seem to be what Buddha nor the early Buddhists believed (see Horner 1930; Grossholtz 1984, 124). For the forces defining women’s subordinate position, see Jayawardena 1992, 115.

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Indonesia was willed into birth out of and against the Dutch East Indies that had sought to craft a colonial state on a multiplicity of islands, ethnicities, and communal narrations of time and place, now commonly designated as adat (customary) communities.∞ That this new state was envisioned as an ongoing project rather than a static entity is illustrated in a speech by the first president, Achmad Sukarno, to the eleventh Colombo Plan Conference in 1959: ‘‘We are still engaged ourselves in burying the dead of [the] past, both physically and mentally. Those of us living today have necessarily been both the executioners and gravediggers. . . . We ourselves are the products of it, even when, consciously and violently, we rejected [the imperialist past]’’ (1959, 14–15). It seems redundant to remind ourselves that Sukarno’s speech to the powers assembled was a plea for the recognition of a di√erent identity, an acknowledgment of the destruction of precolonial patterns of subsistence, surplus allocation, distribution, and trade by an extractive, often violent system centered in Europe. Yet his arguments (as with those propounded by others of the Asia-Africa movement of the 1950s) served to remind world leaders that the often hard-won independence was incomplete, and that forms of assistance from the West were frequently new manifestations of empire, intended to ensure that the fragile new nations would serve as dependent posts, supplying raw material and labor along the capitalist routes.

This modernist-inspired project of assembling a new identity in contestation itself was already in the process of sublating older, local narratives—in particular, that of the desa (village). This process was taken up by the New Order regime that came to power in the bloodbath of 1965, and altered significantly for reintroduction into the global ‘‘pattern of administration’’ and finance. Here, I attempt yet another reintroduction of a local narrative and to trace its complicated interface with New Order discursive appropriations of the nation. Baue bangeut, Nyi Pohaci bade dek dicandak dibawa dirawu dipangku ku paibuan dilungsur linggih calik ka Nyi Pohaci Durung bebek pancur iman nu sasiki matak mahi nu sabangsal nu matak nyesa Sri nu ditetepkeunana Sri nu netepkeunana. Come Nyi Pohaci, you shall be taken, you shall be carried, you shall be upheld, you shall be seated in the lap of the community of women, invited to take your seat by Nyi Pohaci. Fountain of faith, it is not full. One grain shall be enough, one unhulled grain shall be su≈cient. Sri it is who is placed. Sri it is who places. (Rikin 1973, 68) I begin with this invitation to Nyi Pohaci Sangyang Sri—the spirit of rice, earth, and the ‘‘community of women’’ among upland Sundanese communities in west Java—to designate a ‘‘place’’ from which to comprehend the expansions of imagined community into nation and beyond. The incantation calls on the pohaci of rice and the earth to take her place within the community, thereby investing it with her presence.≤ In the local imaginary, Sri is also the ‘‘eye of the wind’’ (‘‘anginsari’’), the point at which the four winds gather, thus the central point for spatial orientaFailure of the Imaginary ⭈ 89

tion.≥ It is her voice in the sound of the rice pounder that marks the boundaries of community. Her name is the ‘‘name that gathers’’ (‘‘nama ngukuh ari nama ngumpul ’’) and the ‘‘kernel of community’’ (‘‘aci lulut aci irut ’’) (Rikin 1973, 62–67).∂ It is also her name whose invocation smoothes the surface of a disrupted earth, making it suitable for the human projects of building and agriculture. As rice, it is her place in the rice store ( goah, or womb) that makes a structure a home (as I observed from my own fieldwork on rice ritual in west Java). The myths around the ‘‘earth mother’’ and female spirit of grain are old and familiar. It is not my intention to provide a description of the local ritual of place but to understand Sri as the zero point from which a community remembers itself uttered into existence. For the village community, neither time nor place is empty. Memory inscribes place just as place fixes this memory. Traditional stories, particularly the cycle of tales around rice, mark breaks in the narrative by the formula ‘‘Cag teundeun di handeuleum sieum, tunda di hanjuang siang, paranti nyokot ninggalkeun’’ (‘‘Spike it down, place it at the handeuleum plant, lay it down for now at the hanjuang plant; it is the customary place whence you can retrieve it; lay it down for now’’).∑ This verbal fixing of place enables the storyteller to leave an episode, begin a new one, and eventually return to the first in order to weave together the two strands of the narrative. The stories are oral and thus the formula ensures that nothing is lost in the complicated intertwining of events. Who owns the story? In oral compositions, reference may be made to an anonymous owner of a tale (in Malay, yang empunya cerita) or the tale may reside in a jeweled box (cupu manik) encountered on a path. The narrator is only a medium because the tale belongs to the entire community stretched over time past, present, and future. Its formulas—commonplaces—fix ephemeral utterances to ensure that the present is tied to the past and to guarantee survival into the future. The narration is the ‘‘rope of commonplace’’ (‘‘tali paranti’’) emerging from the pasarean (sleeping place), the cemetery where the village founders lie buried, to bind individuals to the community and earth. In the local imaginary, Sri is also a fugitive spirit: time and place are both contingent, subject to a myriad ruptures, and must be periodically retrieved and redrawn through ritual o√erings, which teach the intangible forces the language of human boundaries, and through communal meals, which bind the community in an endless mesh of obligation (hutang) (Scott 1973). Transfer of land to another is rarely a permanent deal because ‘‘buying’’ (‘‘meuli’’) might also be understood as an 90 ⭈ Sylvia Tiwon

ongoing relationship between two parties requiring periodic renegotiation, not so much to adjust the price but to rea≈rm a social relationship.∏ Rather than ask, Where have all the places gone? (Casey 1997, 197), the project of this chapter is to trace some of the ways by which place has been subsumed into nation. It is also to show how Sri, who vests the earth with herself to create a place for community, is recast in the service of the fraternal imagination of empty time and homogeneous space (Anderson 1983). In a recent conversation with a geographer, Dr. U. S. Wiradisastra of the Department of Soil Sciences at the Bogor Institute of Agriculture in Indonesia who specializes in remote sensing and geographic information systems, I was told, ‘‘The Indonesian people no longer have a place to put their feet.’’ Poring over a stack of regional maps, he pointed out the wild discrepancies between calculations ‘‘on the ground’’ and data collected through aerial surveys. Adding up figures for each area resulted in conflicting configurations. The administrative grids imposed on the maps, sites of local and regional bureaucratic interests, only added to the confusion. How many hectares of forest did each region encompass? How many hectares of rice fields? How many mineral deposits? Attempting to add up the figures from each area and mesh them with those of adjacent ones opened up a veritable Pandora’s box of local fictions in competition for limited, albeit abundant, natural resources. In an attempt to make sense of it all, the central authorities in Jakarta have invested heavily in the technology of remoteness, surveying its possessions from satellites in outer space. Remote sensing: the Indonesian language uses the new term penginderaan jauh; jauh means ‘‘far,’’ while penginderaan, coined out of the name of the Hindu god Indra, gives authorities a term for the god’s eye view of nation, ostensibly to minimize the corruption of human desire, to ‘‘absolve’’ space of the ‘‘specialness of place’’ (Casey 1997, 200).π And local repositories of knowledge are caught up in the overarching narrative of nation now legitimized by new heavens. Contesting the imagined community of nation from the standpoint of gender and/or ethnic specificities may well seem like an anachronistic redundancy in the age of globalization (era globalisasi in Indonesian), when the world is surveyed through the eye of Indra. Capital has permeated political boundaries, homogenized urban landscapes, and demarcated new, international lines along which labor is divided. Responses to these phenomena have resorted to strategies that expand national imagiFailure of the Imaginary ⭈ 91

nations to encompass ever larger, regional communities such as the European Economic Community and Association of Southeast Asian Nations. In particular, the regional community of Southeast Asia has already projected itself far into the new millennium, envisioning itself as a powerful player in the global community. ‘‘This is the new nationalism,’’ declares the Indonesian minister of state secretarial a√airs in an e√ort to stem the public outcry over the sale of shares in a major domestic company to a foreign enterprise. The statement has touched o√ a barrage of attempts to define and redefine the psycho-political boundaries of the nationalist imaginary in the face of nationless capital.∫ Meanwhile, the spatial vocabulary of cultural critique has conceptualized place, margins, and ‘‘heterotopias’’ as standpoints from which to deploy resistance to the homogenizing power of (absolute) space (Casey 1997, 299–301). The promise of resistance may be perceived in the infiltration of Others into the centers of power, confusing sameness, muddying clarity with their heretofore denigrated di√erence (Chambers 1995). Or resistance may be launched from reconfigured imaginings of the body and particularly of the ‘‘womb’’ as ab-original place; we might say, a recovery of the matrix as cultural ground-zero to contest the empty grid through which space materializes lived experience (Irigaray 1985; Butler 1994). And although the idea of revolution—that fermenting kettle for so many a Third World nation—may have outlived its actual potential for radical change, resistance from the peripheries seems to hold out hope for transformation. The growing groundswell of support for such politically oriented practices as community mapping, gender and social class conscientization, and struggles to uphold ethnic ‘‘nationalisms’’ pose an undeniable challenge to the bureaucratic preference for uniformity that now has come to characterize nation. Are events, external and internal, conspiring to bring the notion of nation to crisis? How might the recovery of the virtue of ‘‘non-metric, unsited place’’ transform the (Third World) postcolonial nation so that it might yet serve as a site for resistance? (Casey 1997, 201) Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesia’s foremost novelist, casts a jaundiced eye on the Indonesia into which he was released after more than thirteen years in an island prison camp: ‘‘History teaches much about the power of capital. Free people are enslaved, artless people are transformed into compradores, the unemployed become paid murderers with uniforms and badges of rank; vast forests are torn apart by infrastructure, cities and ports spring up out of nothing at its command; labour force is sucked in 92 ⭈ Sylvia Tiwon

from all over, even from remote hamlets whose names no-one has ever clearly heard’’ (1996). It is important to note that his ‘‘apology’’ does not spring from a crisis in his national identity; rather, it is a scathing indictment of ethnicity, an identity into which he was born and reared, without choice. In his view, ethnicity (in Toer’s case, Javanese) finds its salvation in a transcendent nation. The empty, homogeneous time and transparent space of nation are remedies for the age-old ills that the murky twists of a Javanese cosmology legitimized. The nation for which he fought provided the inspiration for a revolution of independence not only from Dutch colonial rule but also from a ‘‘feudal’’ mentality. Indonesia is in crisis today precisely because it has fallen into the trap of an ethnic mythology. Muhammad Suharto’s New Order (and the army that brought him to power and kept him there for more than thirty years), in its relentless drive to development, justifies its own brand of oppression by validating this mythology. In doing so, it has betrayed the initial revolutionary contract and condemned the nation, short in history but long in mythology, to a repetitive cycle of violence as it ‘‘bathes in the blood of its brothers and sisters’’ (Toer 1996, 3). Toer’s apology thus pulls the carpet out from under any simplistic attempt to reinstance ‘‘place.’’ And to further complicate matters, he shows how this repressive mythology is built around the belief in Nyi Roro Kidul, the goddess of the South Seas. Initially a local deity, she gains cosmic dimensions as the lover of the sultans of Java, and through this sexual union, her powers expand until she becomes a ‘‘police force.’’ Toer’s apology must serve as a sobering reminder of the dangers inherent in any project that smoothes away the texture and internal density of ethnicities and valorizes non-Western cultures. The Other singing his or her alien song from a tent pitched in the heart of the Western metropolis may be serving a purpose in disrupting the centeredness of the city, but what strife has brought his or her nomadic journey to a stop in the West? (Chambers 1995, 15) Unless one tends to such localized questions, ‘‘place’’ easily falls into an unwarranted idealization as the significanceladen opposite of an unremittingly transparent, uniform space.

Postmodern Imaginings on a Postcolonial Nation ‘‘A full resort residential area in the center of the City of Bogor’’ (Bogor Real Estate Development advertisement, July 1997), a glossy flyer promises its Indonesian audience. The carefully airbrushed photograph o√ers Failure of the Imaginary ⭈ 93

a scene of rustic tranquillity, framed by a river cobbling over rocks, its steep banks cloaked in untamed greenery. In the distance, a huddle of homes nestles up against the blue slopes of a mountain, whose triple peaks are mantled in mist. To those familiar with Bogor, there is an obvious artifice at work. The small town that the Dutch called Buitenzorg (‘‘beyond worry’’) is now burdened with new residents spilling over its boundaries from neighboring Jakarta, the capital city. Also seeping into it are the pollution, tra≈c jams, and urban stress associated with the metropolis. But the silences of the advertisement are not nearly as interesting as what it does say, for the promise of rustic, localized tranquillity is to be fulfilled in terms that invoke the place-transcending topoi of the urban imaginary: ‘‘The houses are built in the Post Modern [sic] style, complete with Shopping Centre, Club House [in English], SwimmingPool [sic], Tenis Court [sic], Social facilities, and Jogging Track [in English] surrounding the location and the River Cisadane.’’ The houses depicted display the architectural features of Orange County architecture that have become the sign by which Indonesians recognize their urban(izing) identities. The ‘‘Mediterranean style’’ homes (‘‘bergaya Mediterranian’’) are designed (dirancang) to exude a ‘‘rural nuance’’ (‘‘nuansa pedesaan’’). Meanwhile, a ‘‘stately bridge’’ (the adjective warranted, no doubt, by the hints of medieval Europe) connects this oasis to the city with its intercity bus terminal, train station, and the major arteries leading to Jakarta. Coupled with the declaration of ‘‘new nationalism’’ I mentioned earlier, this flyer for a new residential area indicates an important shift in the imagination away from the ‘‘traditionally’’ nationalist to the consciously postmodern. What the flyer actually depicts is the burgeoning of city lifestyles, complete with spatial stress and its commercialized antidote, in which the marginalized rural village (desa) is re-evoked and rearticulated in the terms of an urban nostalgia that posits village as emotional center at the same time that it physically paves over what were once fertile rice fields. It then recombines a constructed memory of the ‘‘ease’’ (‘‘kenyamanan’’) of the village with the attractions of international (‘‘Mediterranian’’) resorts familiar only to the jet-setting rich. The stylistic quotes—architectural and verbal—from a bewildering array of foreign settings dislocate the new settlement in much the same way that the transfer of shares ruptures national boundaries. Thus, it requires the mountain and river to anchor it in a place. For while the international vision may be exhilarating, it is also accompanied by the same type of

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trepidation with which the public has reacted to the possibility of capital flight. The dis-ease behind the vision of a world without national boundaries is beginning to force the reinvention of nation away from the conventional, revolutionary image. This is illustrated in the newsmagazine that carried the story about the transfer of shares. Its cover featured, against the background of the Indonesian flag, an Indonesian businessman of Chinese descent, living ‘‘in exile’’ in Singapore, who insisted, ‘‘I yearn to return home to Indonesia’’ (Forum Keadilan 1997, 103). A separate box had an interview with another businessman of Chinese descent, James Riady, of the Lippo Group, made notorious by his contributions to the Clinton campaign. To the charge that those who come only to profit from the land and its peoples are no di√erent from the colonizer of preindependence days, Riady declared, ‘‘Nationalism means love for the country, being happy to live here, mixing into the mainstream’’ (ibid., 101). While business concerns take people—and money—elsewhere, nationalism is protected by designating nation as an emotionally significant place. To paraphrase, home is where the heart is. The reinventing of nation as home is not new. The revolutionary narrative rooted itself in the powerful topos of nation as motherland (Ibu Pertiwi or mother earth); blood spilled in the war for independence could only strengthen the community imagined around the ‘‘land where my blood is spilled’’ (‘‘tanah tumpah darahku’’), a phrase enshrined in the national anthem and many patriotic hymns. Sacrificing life to the native soil (bela tanah air) echoed the sacrificial o√erings to the local earth. The revolutionary imagination tapped into the imaginary of local narrations of community and transformed it into a ‘‘spirit’’ (‘‘semangat ’’) that breathes life into an entity inscribed on a terrain of physical and emotional fragments united at first only through the colonial grid.Ω While traces of this village sensibility remain entwined in the language of today, the developmentalist mentality of the New Order has brought about distinct changes. The capital city is still the ‘‘mother city’’ (‘‘ibu kota’’), and fallen heroes are still returned to sleep in the ‘‘lap of the motherland’’ (‘‘di pangkuan ibu pertiwi’’). But the urban environment of the power and business elite no longer relies on this village imagination for revolutionary spirit. Instead, a powerful drive toward urban-style standardization has been launched in every area of life. The national language has been fixed (dibakukan) to minimize the possibility of uncontrolled change through contamination. The educational system is marked by

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sameness (private schools advertise their merits by claiming that they have been disamakan—that is, made the same as the government-run institutions); and religious life and marital relations are forced into predictable patterns. Throughout Indonesia, villages must also conform to a single model of administration, while the village population is o≈cially designated as a ‘‘floating mass’’ and barred from engagement in party politics except for a narrow window of ‘‘participation’’ in the general elections held every five years. The state deploys a gender-controlling ideology, supported by the 1974 unified Marriage Laws, which define all women as creatures of a subordinate kodrat (inner essence) and the husband as the ‘‘head of the family’’ (Sears 1996). This drive to uniform order is reiterated and legitimized in the five-year ‘‘Outlines of State Policy’’ ratified by the General Assembly. In a sense, then, the village is doubly marginalized. The discourse of postmodernism, one that has been taken up by Indonesian intellectuals and activists, also privileges the city. Influenced by Walter Benjamin’s modernist views of the city, even those who advocate resistance see it emerging in the cracks of contemporary urban spaces. By comparison, the everyday forms of resistance by Third World peasants (Scott 1985) appear remote, even ancient, and hardly relevant in the age of globalizing capitalism, new nationalisms, and new urban settlements. To speak of the village is to teeter dangerously on the brink of nostalgia and an unrealistic flight into the past. Yet the rural village has not remained inert. Nation is besieged also by that which it has incorporated. Through cyclical migrations—people shuttling between city and village— the boundaries are crossed and recrossed. The city, of course, demands the lion’s share of village resources, including cheap labor. And the village continues to pro√er its hidden subsidy to city folk and factories, domestic and multinational alike, through the constant promise of shelter and sustenance it holds out to its own. When workers in the cities fall ill, have children they cannot support, or become too old for work, they return to the village for renewal and support.∞≠ City households are dependent on (largely female) domestic workers from the village; and villagers (the majority female) migrate to other countries to find work and send money home. Publicly silenced, this ‘‘floating mass’’ continues to exert its own influence. During a time when the New Order had e√ectively silenced campus-based protest movements and imposed strict censorship regula-

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tions on the mass media, it was factory workers who filled the streets in massive strikes and demonstrations to protest low wages, discriminatory practices on the basis of gender and ethnicity, and violations of human rights. The overwhelming majority of these workers were young women recruited straight from the villages. Accounts by factory workers reveal their utter amazement not at the new technology they encountered in the factories but rather at the enormous numbers of young, single women the new industrial complexes brought together.∞∞ Ironically, although the factories and many of the factory-run dormitories imposed strict controls, including new configurations of time and space, they also opened up an opportunity for women to come together outside the restrictive limits of increasingly domesticated home lives. The alien regimen of the production line that forced thousands of women into close proximity as well as synchronized movement and action, was rearticulated as the ritual of new community formation. The women were quick to take advantage of these conditions to share experiences and devise new strategies for common survival, reinventing on denationalized ground the ‘‘community of women’’ that the New Order military had demonized and that the green revolution subsequently dismantled.∞≤

Place in the Colonial Inventory The establishment of the colonial state was the most powerful force in the disruption of local communities. Hindu and Muslim configurations had indeed left their undeniable imprints. Hindu-Javanese cosmology, imagined from a decidedly phallic political imagination, had installed a system of appanage to ensure that the royal center received its share of village produce. Patriarchal Islam moved the cosmic center to Mecca, a place less visible to the average villager than the moon. But at least in Java, it was the colonial presence, driven by cannon and capital, its center in distant Europe, that invalidated the village narrative and its relations to the soil. Cornelis van Vollenhoven, the Dutch scholar and advocate of ‘‘native law,’’ remarked in 1906: ‘‘Viewed through the eyes of a codist the legal inventory of the Indies presents a jumble, an incomplete, inadequate and untidy whole’’ (cited in Holleman [1906] 1981, 1). The ‘‘legal inventory’’ was one of the cornerstones of Dutch agrarian policy and the colonial state in the East Indies. It formed a crucial point on the administrative

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grids—the ‘‘native law courts’’—through which the colonial state became a reality (Anderson 1983, 169). From the perspective of the inventory, local imaginations of place became fragments in an imperial jigsaw puzzle that could only be brought to completion by the supralocal power of European law. Once the inventory of the so-called native law was complete and organized, the colonial government could declare that ‘‘the desa held no more secrets for it’’ (Holleman [1906] 1981, 148). As early as the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Dutch East Indies Company had begun documenting local, popular custom. Van Vollenhoven’s own enormous work divided the archipelago into fifteen ‘‘native law areas’’ and described them in detail. His personal mission was to gain recognition—and thereby a measure of protection—for local practices against the arbitrary imposition of a unified code derived, he charged, ‘‘from [the] barren age of domestic juristic intellectualism . . . when it was seriously believed that a couple of gentlemen—one in Batavia and one in The Hague—could fabricate a living law merely by publishing something in the Government Gazette and telling the courts to apply it (ibid., xxxv). Van Vollenhoven’s views have in turn been subjected to criticism, not least from the nationalist point of view. Local cultures were assumed to be far too weak to resist the inroads of commercialism; and his view of juridical protection did nothing to prepare these communities for a new world. Not surprisingly, the nationalist view is closer to that of those who wished to see the establishment of a unified code. The year 1960 saw the passage of the Basic Agrarian Law of the Indonesian Republic in which the government of the unitary state arrogated the hak ulayat—that is, the indigenous communities’ respective ‘‘right of avail/disposal’’ (the beschikkingsrecht ) over the entire national territory, leaving little room for the free exercise of village rights to agricultural and virgin land. This move was inspired by socialist ideas about land reform intended to alleviate the poverty of landless peasants in Java. Interpreting the relation of the new national government to its unified territory in terms of the customary rights of the (Javanese) village gave the government a measure of remembered legitimacy by which it could begin to redistribute land in overpopulated Java. Although the massacres of 1965 were at least partly an e√ect of the large landowners’ retaliation for the redistribution of land supported by the Indonesian Communist Party (pki), the agrarian law also paved the way for the wholesale landgrabbing practices and

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exploitation by the New Order government that took over after the coup. Soon after, the land reform program was canceled. The recognition of ‘‘native law’’ forced it into a category subject to Western ideas of justice and arbitration, and trained the colonial eye more closely on its workings. The inventory yielded a composite picture of the desa as small, inward-looking communities bound to the immovable materiality of the earth: ‘‘How could the villager, bound as he is to the talent of such a small circle, bowed as he is for his entire life over the clods of earth in his field . . . fixed as are all his thoughts and deeds on the small socio-economic horizon—how can he, in his spirit awaken the concept of large organizations, national and global tra≈c, national and international credit systems, national and international cooperation?’’ (de Kat Angelino 1930, 273–74). The earth became an enslaving power that kept the man diminished, chained to an endless cycle of mindless husbandry (thus, bands that tie him down) from which ‘‘only the city can set him free’’ (ibid., 274). The ‘‘small circle’’ was dominated by customs, which did not qualify as a proper rechtssystematiek (legal system) because it could not, or would not, distinguish private from public spheres—a distinction critical to Western law. A person had no real private life as every aspect of one’s existence was subject to the community. Communal customs, labeled ‘‘moederrecht’’ (‘‘mother law’’), were inimical to the growth of a fully adult individual, without whom there could be no nation.∞≥ Perhaps more tellingly, without the individual as a fully and singularly responsible adult, the earth could not be taken out of her materiality and transformed into legal, private property. The traditional village as a whole held the right of avail/disposal over the land. While it recognized individual ownership, it did not allow the outright and permanent alienation of land, particularly to outsiders. Thus, by the standards of Western contractual law, village ideas of ownership were defective. Keeping land under communal power meant that it could not enter into the constant circulation of capital, the true force that created and bound large communities into a nation. In an eerie prefiguring of Benedict Anderson’s imagined community, Arnold de Kat Angelino describes the power that binds the modern nation. The ‘‘Easterner’’ he advises, should write a book about the ‘‘Hidden Force’’ of the West and ask: What drives the hundreds of thousand drops of saved capital energy, from the small saver to the wellFailure of the Imaginary ⭈ 99

established, from the laborer to the millionaire, [brings them] together in the mighty concentration of the anonymous enterprise [naamloze vennootschap] and its financing through bank and other forms of credit? Even the smallest saver may feel proudly conscious of the fact that also his small contribution is taken up in the tiniest of trickles, rivulets and streams to finally be gathered in the energyocean of ‘‘capital.’’ . . . In this sense has the nationalization and internationalization of ‘‘capital’’ become a fact today. What is it, that drives forth these invisible drops of energy and brings them together in those might streams? . . . It is ‘‘Hidden Force’’ (1930, 455).∞∂ The ‘‘Hidden Force of the faithful fulfillment of obligations even to those unknown shareholders and savers, towards the unknown letter-writers, towards the unknown travelers. It is she who makes all that possible’’ (ibid., 456–57; italics added). Money, of course, is a note of obligation. The secret of the West is this sense of responsibility to anonymous others. If the Easterner is to learn this, the secret will be found: ‘‘Not in the humming stock markets, not in the droning factories, not in all the halls of busy enterprise, can one find her cradle, but rather in the monogamous family, in the children’s room of a million homes; out of the care of the housewife and mother, out of the example of the head of the family . . . this ‘Hidden Force’ is born’’ (457). What a contrast this paean to the patriarchal nuclear family provides to the large extended families of the moederrecht communities. Those families su√ocate all individual enterprise and responsibility; in those communities, identities are fixed: a person can be neither private nor anonymous. Men in such communities are tied irrevocably to mothers through mother earth and cannot be heads of the household, for all human activity in the consumptive subsistence (hence reproductive) villages is focused single-mindedly on the feminine nurturing of soil and community. The anonymous, large, Western societies have freed themselves of this enthralling power of the earth. By the force of reason, Western ‘‘Mankind’’ has taken Archimedes’ principle a step further, wresting matter out of mother earth, and forcing her and the ‘‘slavish soul’’ that she would instill into man to bend to his will (198). To conquer matter, her being is to be examined by the keen edge of ‘‘spirit,’’ which should ‘‘penetrate into her innermost chamber, and pull out of her that which she would hide’’ (222). I have deliberately kept the gendered language 100 ⭈ Sylvia Tiwon

of the original Dutch because it highlights the metaphor of rape and the violent, unwilled birth of enlightened knowledge about the riches of the earth. Reason or spirit, it works its miracles through capital. For it is money that converts ‘‘matter’’ into Sign. And the ever expanding circulation of the Sign—repository of the non-material obligation—invests the grid with its own value. Village communities, however, resist the transforming powers of money. When they do get hold of cash, it is kept as a ‘‘store of value’’—in gold or other matter—and in this way, they disrupt the necessary circulation of money as the ultimate Sign whose signified should not really matter. It is for this reason that colonial scholars such as Bertram Schrieke and de Kat Angelino considered taxation necessary to break up small communities: it forced them to keep money as money. Land that could not be converted into money was, paradoxically, ‘‘immaterial’’ to the law because it remained, insistently, matter. Schrieke’s report on conditions in west Sumatra, written for the colonial government, is an instructive document for it points to a fear that both the colonial government and present New Order have in common: a fear of Communist-inspired village insurgency. Resentful of an alien system of taxation, an exploitative labor policy, and irresistible land expropriation for cash crops, the village communities’ resistance to the state displayed too many features of international Communism, particularly the refusal to recognize private property. Anxious to emphasize the di√erences between the two systems, colonial scholars labeled village ways ‘‘primitive communism’’ (Schrieke 1960, 123; de Kat Angelino 1930, 286). The report quotes Stalin’s strategy for a Communist revolution in the West, which was to take place ‘‘via the revolutionary alliance with the movement for colonial freedom and with independent states against colonialism’’ (Schrieke 1960, 90). With the express blessings of the Comintern, the Communists in Java and Sumatra were set to work among the peasantry. It is in this light also that one might comprehend the insistence on freeing men from the stranglehold of moederrecht communities, and turning them into proper (that is, legally responsible) individuals and heads of households: recognizing their interests in the web of credit and their right to sell land as property, they would be bulwarks against the Communist threat.∞∑ The colonial discourse on space and place may be understood as a project to define legitimate relations between men and the land, turning

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on a phallogocentric configuration of gender. Despite the Platonic allegory on immaterial spirit, Dutch capital in the East Indies needed land for its plantations, factories, and mines; its cities, railroads, and roads. It had to stamp on the soil of its possessions in the East the imprint of the Royal Crown of the Netherlands, already inscribed on its guilders, but found the earth everywhere already invested with a myriad local imaginaries. This colonial discourse in the (hidden) name of Capital, forged also in the fear of ‘‘materialist’’ Communism, merely rescripted its own materiality. Once colonial force had seized the power of definition, place became the repository of nostalgia for city folk, who might then spend their hard-earned weekend sojourns in search of a childlike return to the ‘‘magical circle of proximity’’ (de Kat Angelino 1930, 273). Without the village, the city loses it ‘‘soul,’’ de Kat Angelino reminds his readers. I might add, it also loses its nourishment and wealth. Meanwhile, the villager, freed though he may be by the city, must remain a peasant, husband to the soil, and to the woman—he may truly call his own. In Indonesia, the postmodern return to the village to recover ‘‘place’’ leads into nostalgia and buys into a colonial, phallogocentric dichotomy in which matter/woman is always the debased and resistant but necessary excess of reason/man. (Butler 1994). The New Order’s invention of itself and the nation in terms of a militaristic Javanese Bharatayuddha (‘‘War of the Bharats’’) has forsaken the story of the revolution for ‘‘Ibu Pertiwi,’’ and glorified its own terrible birth in the 1965 massacres of the so-called Communists along with the imprisonment of countless men and women without trial. Its ‘‘floating mass’’ political policy for the villages debases these communities of labor on the soil (and those who undertake the cyclical migration to the city to work) while its policy of ‘‘space management’’ (‘‘tata ruang’’) leaves them with virtually ‘‘no place to put their feet’’ (Wiradisastra, interview, 1996). The New Order’s imagination thus follows the same contradictory road first paved by the colonials. In this light, one must take seriously James Scott’s caution against theories of resistance that valorize urban-inspired ideas of action and perpetrate a ‘‘slander on the moral status of fundamental material needs’’ (1985, 296). The village must retain its place in the national imagination as a site for resistance precisely because the city needs the village for its material needs. Local forms of resistance should, at the very least, remind urban-based activists that the village is not (yet) a location in the

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past. It is true that the name of Sri is now invoked only rarely, and even then often only surreptitiously. For the state-sanctioned landgrabbing practices continue, turning fertile land into ‘‘real estate’’ and extraterritorial ‘‘bonded zones’’ for an increasing number of factories. The alleged green revolution of the 1970s disrupted the circulation of villagestyle debt and replaced it with a variety of village credit schemes; state policies on forestry, transmigration of Javanese to the ‘‘outer islands,’’ resettlement of ‘‘jungle tribes,’’ and war on communal housing entail violent displacements of millions of its citizens. As though to put an exclamation point to its invention, Indonesia has joined the absurd race to construct the tallest tower in the world on land it is trying to seize from its inhabitants. But as the state is forced once more into a hasty reinvention of nation, new possibilities for transformation open up. Perhaps it is still possible to pronounce a ‘‘Cag teundeun’’ (‘‘spike it down’’) to the current narrative of nation and pick up the threads of di√erent imaginaries. Because a nation is remembered as much as it is imagined, the many small resistances might be further articulated as struggles to interrupt a national memory in crisis. A serious predicament for the largely urban-based Indonesian women’s movement is posed by criticisms accusing it of seeking inspiration in the West, introducing alien interpretations of gender to counter the configuration of a feminine ‘‘essence’’ of subordination that the state has crafted out of a feudal tradition. Meanwhile, the New Order, along with many of its asean counterparts, argues against the Western tradition of universal human rights by deploying a politics of regional identity based on its own fabrication of ‘‘indigenous’’ values. One might be well served to remember Sri who places and is placed.

Epilogue: The Fall-Out This chapter was originally written in 1997, before the onset of the monetary crisis that overwhelmed Indonesia and plunged it into a time of extreme social upheaval. Already at that time, fissures were opening up in the New Order’s facade of stability and national unity.∞∏ The first public intimations of the negative side of mobile capital and the rise of a core of Indonesian capitalists (the ‘‘conglomerates’’) were expressed in the fear of capital flight perceived as the result of inadequate national loyalty on the part of Indonesians of Chinese descent. Government rhetoric in-

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creasingly turned to nationalist sentiments in an attempt to distinguish ‘‘good’’ (nationalist) entrepreneurs from the bad. President Suharto’s children and relatives rushed to present themselves as good entrepreneurs. As the rupiah began its downward spiral, they launched an ‘‘I love rupiah’’ campaign (Aku Cinta Rupiah). The performance proved to be an empty ritual. Within a few months, the Indonesian economy had crashed, and Suharto had stepped down, but not before violence was unleashed, especially on the Indonesian Chinese.∞π The crisis led to mass layo√s, especially in the light manufacturing sector. Fearing further urban upheaval, the government acted quickly to return as many of the newly unemployed to the villages as was possible, buying into the myth of villages as isolated enclaves of peace. But mini– popular revolts rocked the villages as well. Under stress from a prolonged drought, and long resentful of the massive land expropriations that were part of the New Order’s industrializing push, peasants began to reclaim golf courses and fenced-o√ areas designated for real estate and other development projects. They invaded palm oil and cocoa plantations, and rose up to depose unpopular village leaders appointed during the Suharto years. Peasants and workers joined with students, intellectuals, and nongovernment organization (ngo) activists in large protest movements to demand social justice. As of this writing, the crisis has deepened, and Indonesia appears to be on the brink of disintegration as demands for social justice and freedom from oppression are articulated in terms of increasingly narrow ethnic and/or religious identities.∞∫ Memories of traditions long fallen into disuse are revivified and reperformed, in e√orts to reconcile divided communities, or more frequently, to reclaim unique ethnic identity and territory.∞Ω On the other hand, the violent upheavals have produced a new internal diaspora, as migrant populations are returned to the islands from which they originated.≤≠ The Indonesian term for this forced movement back is dipulangkan, meaning ‘‘returned home,’’ although the majority e√ectively have become outsiders in ‘‘homelands’’ they left decades ago. How they will mark their places and times, and how these will in turn transform the dominant space-time of nation in the face of corporate globalization, are questions that still await an answer. More than that, though, they are painful processes in which we as academic practitioners, trans-status subjects ourselves, are implicated. We are hierarchically enmeshed with di√erent imaginings of place and time, their

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dissolutions and reconstitutions, from our investedness in research and the production of knowledge to the financial investments on which our pension funds depend, even to such base material as the copper in the circuitry of our computers.≤∞ What academic praxis, to borrow a term from liberation theology, might come about, is a question to which we can begin to formulate some answers.≤≤

Notes 1

In many of the communities now subsumed into Indonesia, adat is the legal, social, and cultural transitional space/place between transcendent law and customs that are time and place specific. The term, which designates pre-Islamic custom as distinguished from syariat law proper, was first introduced by Islam, then used by the Dutch, and then by Indonesian lawmakers. It already signals precolonial globalizing forces transcending local noetics. 2 Loosely translated, pohaci means ‘‘goddess,’’ although the translation of local usage into an alien imaginary is always problematic. 3 To this day, many people in west, east, and central Java base directions on the points of the compass—rather than the left-right bodily division—which are reinforced periodically through o√ering and ritual. 4 All community members are invited to communal meals, by which the village marks important events. These meals are, naturally, based on rice, and the sound of the rice being pounded rhythmically by the women tells people who live within earshot of the upcoming event. 5 Such invocations are found, for example, in the tale of Sanghiang Lutung Kasarung. 6 Pemeuli, translated as ‘‘bride-price,’’ as is generally done, even by activist women in Indonesia, imposes a capitalist interpretation on a tangible sign of relationship between a man, woman, and their families. 7 Pancaindera is the modern Indonesian term for the five senses. Popular usage still relies on rasa, a term that includes as well the embodied seats of emotion and knowledge such as the gut ( perut ), liver (hati), and navel ( pusar). 8 See especially the extensive coverage in the Jakarta newsmagazine, Forum Keadilan, 25 August 1997. 9 ‘‘Indos’’ of mixed European and native stock imagined ‘‘Insulinde’’ as a home, too, in terms of an unmitigated nostalgia for the ‘‘ten thousand things’’ (the reference is to Maria Dermout’s collection of memories of the ‘‘Indies’’) lost when Indonesia gained its independence. These tropical memories have now been transported, often in a deliberate Indies accent, to Holland. 10 For women factory workers, ‘‘too old’’ is roughly thirty years of age. 11 See, for example, the account by a factory woman in my work (Tiwon 1996, 47–70). My own interviews with factory workers reveal the same powerful impact on women forced to work and live together. Women working for long periods, on the same shift and machines (rows), report that their menstrual cycles begin to synchronize—a fact

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that can wreak havoc on production schedules because Indonesian labor regulations grant women the right to two days of menstrual leave. My current project, tentatively titled ‘‘Indonesian Women in the Production of Discourse: From Sri to Nike,’’ traces some of the shifts that women experience from rural communities to factories. 12 The bonded zones and large swaths of industrial complexes are virtually beyond the reach of national law. Workers learned this fairly quickly when, facilitated by nongovernmental organizations like the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation in the 1980s, they began to study national labor regulation. Many workers now appeal to international conventions (the United Nations and International Labor Organization) to make their case against exploitation and abuse. 13 Schrieke (1960) made this observation in 1928 about the matrifocal communities of Minangkabau in west Sumatra. de Kat Angelino (1930, 1233) quotes him and expands the idea to all indigenous village societies. 14 The reference is to the novel The Hidden Force (De Stille Kracht )—by the Dutch writer Louis Marie Anne Couperus—about the ‘‘magical powers’’ underlying life in the East Indies. 15 It may not be surprising that in the midst of the 1965 purge of Communists, the government launched a particularly vicious campaign to discredit women in the Communist Party’s women’s organization (the Gerwani), charging them with lewd orgies, and the torture and murder of seven army men. The fabricated stories, in the media and military tribunals, focused on the slashing of the generals’ penises by dancing women. The old well in which their corpses were discovered is now commemorated as ‘‘Lubang Buaya,’’ the ‘‘crocodile hole,’’ an area that has now become a site to fix the New Order’s distorted memory. An elaborate memorial depicting the dead warriors and their torturers marks the place. The autopsy reports by army doctors made it clear that there was no evidence of mutilation (see Anderson 1987). Could the lurid scene of bleeding penises be related to indigenous practices of male circumcision, in which the blood is made to drip on the earth and signals the bond of the male to the soil? See Rikin 1973. 16 The Javanese jaman edan (time of madness or chaos) is frequently invoked to describe the government’s total loss of control. 17 Chinese-owned businesses and residential areas were looted and burned, and Chinese women and girls were subjected to mass rape. A December 1999 report issued by the fact-finding committee appointed by President Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibe holds the military responsible for inciting the riots. 18 Areas hit particularly hard by such movements are Aceh, Maluku, Kalimantan, and West Papua. While there are strong indications that these riots have been incited by the Jakarta political elite, it is naive to imagine that they could have taken place at all in the absence of high levels of resentment on the ground. 19 In Maluku, for example, the pela-gandong tradition of mutual help between Christian and Muslim villages is valued. In Kalimantan, however, the tiwah or head-hunting ritual has been reclaimed. 20 The latest example of ‘‘repatriation’’ is the Madurese people evicted from central Kalimantan in February and March 2001. An estimated 50,000 Madurese have

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become ‘‘refugees,’’ sent back to Madura and nearby east Java. Most of them have lived in central Kalimantan for decades. According to international humanitarian organizations, there are now at least one million such refugees throughout Indonesia. 21 Freeport McMoRan, a U.S.-based company, produces large amounts of copper from its mine (also the largest gold mine in the world) in west Papua. This company has run up a significant history of violent intervention in local communities and environments. 22 It may not be too far-fetched a parallel, as the academic community itself shares in a common memory of the power of Logos.

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Dang Nhat Minh’s films have been widely popular in Vietnam, with screenings in the countryside as well as in urban theaters. He serves as general secretary of the Vietnam Cinematography Association and is one of the most well-known Vietnamese filmmakers internationally, across various countries of Asia and Europe, and also in the United States. His films use the personal stories, often about love, of ordinary people to explore social and historical issues such as the impact of war, its aftermath, and the e√ects of commercial culture as part of the rapid change from a socialist to a market economy in the context of globalization. Using women characters who are related to other marginalized groups, Dang creates a critical gendered spectatorship. His female, and sometimes male, protagonists inhabit marginal though simultaneously privileged spaces, from which they recognize multifaceted problems that are personal, national, and global in dimension. Even as Dang’s films depict a postwar Vietnam that has frequently failed to fulfill the promises of the revolution, they also construct a vision of the potential for an egalitarian society. Dang directed ten feature films between 1982 and 1997; here I discuss two of those films, Girl on the River (1987) and The Return (1993).∞ Paradoxical space (Rose 1993, 137–60) is an imagined and strategic position in which one occupies inside and outside, center and margin simultaneously so as to critique the master subject. The individualized body and the global are not distinct and separate but intersect in this

multidimensional space of di√erence and contradiction. Women, as Dang presents them, occupy such paradoxical space: complicated, multiple, and intersecting historical, social, and class positions. Through the lens of the position within-without, the everyday becomes multilayered and multidimensional, at once infused with contradictions, oppressions, and resistances (Foucault 1978, 1980). It is from this politicized space, defined by centers of power but also imagining something beyond, from this ‘‘elsewhere-within-here’’ (Trinh 1991, 104) that a self-conscious, reflective, critical spectatorship becomes possible.≤ Dang’s highly nuanced reappropriations of femininity and female sexuality locate critical, oppositional perspectives and contest both Western colonial as well as emerging nationalist discourses where the feminine is used to ascribe weakness, backwardness, underdevelopment, and moribund tradition to non-Western cultures, lands, and bodies. Dang uses the symbolism of gendered spaces, both masculine and feminine, to analyze how gendered power works in the larger society as well as on the selves and bodies of ordinary human beings. This symbolism helps him to delineate the ways in which oppressive forms of this power are contested in the course of nation-making. As a nationalist who critically appropriates a tradition that depicts women as heroes of the marginalized, Dang appeals to educated, urban spectators who know that tradition well and have the potential of political influence. While Dang’s films have provoked negative responses from some portion of this specific audience who have challenged his social critiques, his respect as a filmmaker, widespread popularity, and support within the Vietnam Cinematography Association have provided a strong base for his work.

The Question of Women in Vietnamese Nationalism The ‘‘question of women’’ has been strategic to nationalist discursive practices and constructions of the ‘‘real’’ and ‘‘imaginary’’ nation of Vietnam throughout the twentieth century, often incorporating images from the early struggles against foreign domination by the Chinese.≥ The project of nation-making through revolution in struggles against the French, and later the United States and Saigon regimes, included contradictory uses of women as warrior heroes and victims of oppression who are motivated by filial duty and self-sacrifice. The Communist revolution was

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driven by a millennial notion of history that promised a new time and an egalitarian social space for Vietnamese men and women. Revolutionary symbolism was not precisely the same for men and women because it carried aspects of Confucian patriarchy; women, however, became images for the emerging nation when the transposition of female selfsacrifice to the greater good became a revolutionary ethos within political struggles for liberation from foreign domination. Men and women fought and sacrificed themselves as comrades for the project of nationmaking, driven by symbols and practices that were rooted in powerful nationalist mythologies and popular imaginaries. In response to colonial French censorship and repression of direct political dissent, tales of female heroes allegorized women as symbolic of Vietnam nationhood. In 1911, Phan Boi Chau (1867–1940) wrote a drama concerning the Trung sisters, who had led a rebellion against Chinese overlords in the first century c.e. This play represented an obvious call for women’s participation in anticolonial struggles, not out of a sense of obligation or servitude to family but out of patriotism. Written in Siam, the play was smuggled into Vietnam in handwritten copies, and after 1913 was circulated through oral transmission (Marr 1981, 200). Exploits of the Trung sisters and their lieutenants have inspired popular cults in Vietnam for nearly a thousand years, producing a gendered concept of the nation in struggle against foreign domination. By the 1920s, discourses on gendered roles were clearly conflicted— the French and their collaborators, the ‘‘traditionalist’’ Vietnamese moralists, supported conservative positions on the place of women within the family. Neo-Confucianism put almost mystical emphasis on the family, counseling women that if they could not obey the three submissions (obedience to one’s father, then husband, and then eldest son), how could they obey the laws of the state? Complicity between colonialists, the patriarchal family, and the state fueled the revolutionary impetus to emancipate women, whose images in nationalist discourse constituted a language of struggle for freedom (Tai 1992, 88–113). Nguyen Du’s early nineteenth-century poem Truyen Kieu (The Tale of Kieu), the most wellknown and much-adapted Vietnamese literary work, represents female self-sacrifice and a daughter’s piety toward her parents. The well-born, beautiful, young Kieu tries to help her father, who is falsely imprisoned. She falls prey to a clever seducer, su√ers in a brothel and as an abused concubine, and after many adventures, is reunited with her first love. Scholars have lauded the tale as the essence of Vietnamese national 110 ⭈ Kathryn McMahon

heritage, while social commentators have debated its revision of Confucian ideals of chastity for over a hundred years (Marr 1981, 143–44, 195). Another tale of self-sacrifice is Hoang Ngoc Phach’s immensely popular 1922 novel To Tam, a romance about To Tam and Dam Thuy, who love one another but are committed to arranged marriages out of duty to their families. To Tam submits to her mother’s wishes and marries without love, only to die of a broken heart shortly after the wedding. While the story itself seems to allow no escape from duty and self-sacrifice, young people read To Tam and Dam Thuy as victims of oppressive family practices whose desires constituted a space beyond the confinement of the authoritarian family (Tai 1992, 108–13). Beginning in the 1930s, peasant as well as middle-class women became involved in the struggle against the French. Ho Chi Minh returned to Vietnam in 1941, and spent much time communicating an alternative set of values that, from an outlawed position, challenged the French and their collaborators. His most important ethical tenet was ‘‘revolutionary heroism’’ driven by patriotism (Marr 1981, 135). While male sexism was not limited to the French collaborators, the Indochinese Communist Party included in its founding goals the liberation of women, and thus women joined the party. Revolutionary discourse employed the images of women as fighter heroes willing, if necessary, to sacrifice themselves out of duty, loyalty, and love of country. Millions of ordinary women fought, and many died, in the thirty years of struggle against the French and then the Americans. During those dangerous years, ‘‘traditional female attributes such as chastity, obedience, and self-denial were often transposed to the political realm and used to bolster new ideals, for example, love of country, unswerving loyalty to the Party, and postponement of personal happiness until group objectives could be fulfilled’’ (Marr 1981, 251). Postwar Vietnamese film draws on historical legacy to include images of women as fighter heroes who sacrifice their personal happiness to the nation out of a sense of patriotic duty. One of the more complex examples of a genre that memorializes women’s risks and sacrifices during the revolution is The Mother’s Story (1987) directed by Bach Diep, the most honored woman filmmaker in Vietnam. It depicts Huong, a single woman who defies village prejudice and the military police by adopting the babies of three women fighters killed in the revolution; in the process, she is recruited to the cause of the National Liberation Front. After liberation, she relinquishes the children to their relatives; of these, the The Works of Dang Nhat Minh ⭈ 111

youngest and most beloved, an Amerasian girl, is returned to the child’s grandmother from the United States. The rights of the child’s father, a now-deceased U.S. military o≈cer who raped the Vietnamese mother, supersedes any claims Huong or the family of the mother might have. Paradoxically, Bach’s film both honors and deconstructs the nationalist concept of the ‘‘revolutionary mother.’’ Huong is honored in the film for her revolutionary self-sacrifice in extending the concept of motherhood beyond physical maternity and immediate kinship to the nurturance and protection of children. Yet in the postwar context, the revolutionary mother becomes expendable as the patriarchal family reasserts what amounts to ownership, rather than mere custody and nurturance, of children. The films of Dang o√er postwar audiences female characters who speak to such paradoxes through the perspectives of a gendered elsewherewithin-here in which women’s social spaces are situated ‘‘precariously in the interstices of diverse systems of ownership’’ (Trinh 1991, 104–5). Dang’s work exposes contradictions between the revolutionary promise of egalitarianism and the history of the emerging modern masculinist nation-state in the postwar context of material progress within the global economy. Women remain central as symbols yet become increasingly marginalized in this economy that both excludes and employs them in the production of growth-oriented social spaces. In Dang’s films, women are spectators as well as participants, shifting across boundaries between agency and duty, and between adherence to tenets of self-abnegation and the refusal to be complicit with their own oppression. Dang’s films construct an oppositional history that delineates how, from sociopolitical and economic margins, the disenfranchised critique the competing histories of the new Vietnam; at the same time, they depict the promise that the disenfranchised can reclaim their own histories and geographies of community through this ability to critique and challenge the dominant powers. The feminization of the margins through the privileging of women as critical spectators is potentially empowering for real women because Dang’s films show how the issues of women are and will continue to be included in the future of Vietnam.

Girl on the River: Gender, Class, and Nation-Making Girl on the River opens with a view of the Perfume River that identifies the place as the city of Hue, former Vietnamese political capital, a cultural 112 ⭈ Kathryn McMahon

and religious center, home to the thirteen Nguyen emperors, a puppet court under French colonialism, and also a historical site of resistance to French and then U.S. domination. Place operates as symbolic of the nation—the river can be surveyed and traversed; it can be the site of dispossession and violence as well as a historical recovery of identity. Lien, a middle-class journalist, is gazing at the river through the window of a hospital room, where she is visiting a young working-class woman, Nguyet, who has been injured. Lien urges Nguyet to tell her story, and the narrative that follows o√ers a tale of the river, from the perspective of an ordinary, impoverished woman, as a symbolic site of personal and political struggle. Nguyet’s story is framed by another view of the river, resonant with Vietnam’s colonial history, and then by a scene in a bar on the riverbank, which is marginal to this dominant cultural history. The opening scene introduces historical time as central to the conflicts of the film narrative and sets up the juxtapositions of di√erent chronologies: ‘‘present’’ postrevolutionary time, a long history of domination by elites, revolutionary struggles against oppression, and Nguyet’s story of exploitation, promise, and betrayal. Nguyet’s tale recounts how the revolutionary promise of a new time in which egalitarian social spaces would open for marginalized and oppressed people is proven false. In its history of material progress, the emerging masculinist modern nationstate of Vietnam instead attempts to deny the history of Nguyet and, by implication, the histories of disenfranchised people like her. The feminization of these margins o√ers an empowering perspective for audiences of women as well as men who identify with the critical positions of marginal-yet-central characters. In the bar scene by the river, Nguyet is identified as a prostitute, talking to a soldier from the Saigon regime’s Army of the Republic of Vietnam (arvn). Dang describes the character of Nguyet as ‘‘neither a hero nor a victim, but an ordinary woman with a job’’ (1992). Yet as a prostitute, she is an embodiment of poverty and oppression as well as ‘‘the homeland as a female body violated’’ (Parker et al. 1992, 6) by political corruption and the global economy of war.∂ During the U.S. war, there were an estimated five hundred thousand prostitutes in the southern part of Vietnam. After the reunification of the country in 1975, prostitution was outlawed and a campaign was launched to counter the ‘‘alien culture which degraded women’’ (Eisen 1984, 230). After the war, the Vietnamese government represented prostitutes as victims of U.S. neocolonial attempts to dominate Vietnam and the corruption of the Saigon regime that degraded The Works of Dang Nhat Minh ⭈ 113

women as commodities to be sold to foreigners (Eisen 1984). In Dang’s film, after the arvn soldier tells Nguyet that he must go to the front the next day, the scene shifts to a riverboat, Nguyet’s home and place of work. The boat is small and poor, but the magazine pictures on the walls, Johnny Walker whiskey, and Salem cigarettes for Nguyet’s customers signify the globalization of U.S. commodity culture. The male and female protagonists hold di√erent positions within their marginality. The arvn soldier, who would be a marginalized figure in postwar Vietnamese discourse, is represented as a sympathetic character; he asks Nguyet if one day in the future they might go away together. In this scene, Nguyet is represented as a su√ering woman embodying the su√ering people of Vietnam; she says that she can neither return to (the innocence of ) childhood nor think of the future. While Nguyet is depicted as disenfranchised, she is also portrayed as a narrator who assumes the power of a subject engaged in the process of reconstructing her own history. Located paradoxically as outsider-within, Nguyet gains the position of an empowered critical spectator—a status she shares with Lien as the listener and recorder of the narrative, and the audience, whose empathetic identification shifts between the two characters. After the arvn soldier departs for the front, a wounded man slides out of the water into Nguyet’s boat, pursued by the sounds of guns being fired from a police boat. Without hesitation, Nguyet covers the man with a blanket and pretends to be having sex with him to protect him. The police with flashlights unsuccessfully search her boat and others’ nearby, and then leave. Nguyet bandages the wounded man’s arm and allows him to stay until morning. She responds to the revolutionary cadre’s request to let him remain on the boat in case the police return and to take him away from the city so that he can escape; she does so without question or a rational, explicitly political motivation for her actions. The narrative establishes Nguyet the prostitute as a woman of courage, intuitive judgment, and selflessness who risks her own safety to protect another, though Nguyet herself asserts that she took action without understanding the revolutionary struggle she assisted. The southern revolutionary cadre occupies a space peripheral to the power of the elite and state; yet he believes that the national community has a common goal that will bring change, even if it also brings death. He tells her that she must believe in the future, that she has the power to change her life. The river is represented as a temporarily peaceful place where the two become

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lovers; though surrounded by war and peril, they are able to create an ‘‘elsewhere-within-here’’ (Trinh) from which to imagine a future without violence and oppression. The cadre describes a revolutionary time, a promise of a millennial transformation that proves to be illusory. The war sweeps away the fragile space of tenderness as arvn soldiers arrive, the cadre escapes, and Nguyet is taken away in a menacing scene where it is implied that she is raped. She has saved the cadre’s life, but she is no revolutionary hero figure. Her body is a site of struggle between political forces beyond her control, mapped as reconquered territory and taken by violence by the soldiers of the Saigon regime—symbolized in the image of her small boat being towed back to the city behind a large, armored military patrol boat. Dang represents the full emotional degradation and claustrophobic imprisonment of Nguyet’s conscription into prostitution; the image of an ashtray full of cigarette butts with a package of U.S. imports lying nearby drives home how inextricably the commodified and marginal space in which Nguyet lives her life is fully integrated into the global economy of war and commercial culture. Nguyet’s agency is severely limited within this globalized yet prisonlike space, but her experience is simultaneously recovered and given new meaning by her voice as narrator. The audience is also often reminded that the narrative is being prompted by the journalist Lien. This device interrupts the flow of the narrative, creating a critical distance in the audience so that while sympathy with Nguyet is encouraged, identification is disrupted. The audience is also encouraged to partially identify with Lien, who is presented as a sympathetic listener, presumably able to understand and interpret the political implications of Nguyet’s story. While the two women are both represented as marginalized from the centers of power by gender, the class di√erences between them create another geography of inequalities, and encounters between them thus become multidimensional and contradictory. Lien reveals class complicity through her desire to know, speak for, and represent Nguyet. Nevertheless, Lien’s class complicity is contradicted by her advocacy of Nguyet’s right and desire to speak from the margin. Her encouragement is a catalyst that helps to establish Nguyet’s outsider-within spectator position—one from which she can overcome the pain of remembering, speak her history, reclaim the past, and create critical self-reflection. Nguyet’s narrative comes to a turning point with betrayal by the for-

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mer revolutionary cadre who has risen from the periphery to become an influential government o≈cial. After the war, Nguyet, working on a road construction crew, spots the man she knew as the cadre being chau√eured into a government compound. She goes there to see him, and while waiting, remembers the cadre saying, as they were making love, that after the war he would find her. Having only a paper releasing her from re-education camp, her lack of a regular identity card exposes her as an ex-prostitute who is excluded from the benefits of social change. She is told that the o≈cial does not recognize her name and is rudely turned away as the o≈cial watches from the window. Humiliated and crying, Nguyet walks out into the street, where she is accidently struck by a truck. Telling the story to Lien, Nguyet is full of self-doubt. Thinking that perhaps she was mistaken, that this perhaps was not the same man, she does not trust her own perceptions. In denial, and out of a sense of loyalty and duty, she is not willing to acknowledge the implications of the betrayal. Nguyet repeatedly tells Lien that she must not write about this story. By depicting Nguyet’s self-doubt and complicity with her own betrayal, Dang deconstructs the notion of a woman’s essential or intuitive loyalty that is often fetishized by patriarchal nationalist imaginaries. The political implications of the betrayal are clear. When he was a revolutionary cadre, the o≈cial had recognized Nguyet as one of many Vietnamese people su√ering from poverty and war, and had included her as a subject of the revolution when he spoke of the necessity for change. The revolution is over, and the o≈cial, corrupted by power and privilege, turns his back on the common woman who saved his life along with the many Vietnamese people she represents. In a scene where Lien is asleep at her writing desk and the o≈cial carries her to their bed, the audience learns that he is, in fact, Lien’s husband. As he goes to Lien’s desk to turn o√ the light, he sees and reads her story about the girl on the river. The feminine narrative about a marginalized history that takes place on the river, a symbol of the national landscape, calls into question the o≈cial’s credibility as a powerful masculine subject whose revolutionary credentials inform his legitimacy as an influential agent of the postwar government. On the level of sexual as well as national politics, he tries to control both Lien and the subversive potential of Nguyet’s narrative through using his influence to censor the story. This establishes the o≈cial as

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morally corrupt, while giving Nguyet’s narrative the status of a politically suppressed history. When Lien confronts her husband, he at first denies his e√orts to censor the story, and then says he did it to ‘‘protect’’ her. Through Lien’s point of view, the audience sees an image of a callous o≈cial who discredits Nguyet’s story; he is drinking and haranguing her, there is money and a full ashtray of imported cigarettes on the table. The images of globalization—imported cigarettes and whiskey—that were there in Nguyet’s commodified space are now signifiers of the integration of the o≈cial’s interests into the global economy in the context of postwar economic reform. His interests no longer include solidarity with the common people of Vietnam. Lien suddenly recognizes her husband as the man in the story. She leaves a note for him declaring this and goes away, refusing to be complicit with her husband’s attempt to censor and control her. Lien finds Nguyet in a fishing commune with the former arvn soldier, from earlier in the narrative, who asked her to join him there to work on building a boat. Nguyet and the former arvn soldier are portrayed as partners; he is not represented as a hero who either rescues or redeems her. When Lien arrives at the commune, she lies to Nguyet, saying that she traced the cadre and learned that he had been killed during the war. This falsehood, meant to protect Nguyet from the truth of the betrayal, suggests that Nguyet may be incapable of understanding her own history fully and that the middle-class, educated Lien is the one who has full knowledge. Lien’s well-intentioned goal to represent Nguyet through writing, even against the latter’s wishes, and her desire to ‘‘protect’’ her are both problematic in terms of class di√erences. These actions position Lien as selfinterested, someone who appropriates the narrative as a truth that must be revealed. Nguyet, however, in telling her story, has become a selfreflecting subject of her own history, which has been recovered. She leaves the hospital and goes to the commune to join the arvn soldier without Lien’s assistance or knowledge, asserting that she now has choices and is able to take action on her own behalf. Nguyet is no longer imprisoned within the confined space where her identity was an embodiment of territory mapped by others. The film’s resolution speaks to the postwar issue of reconciliation through the reunion of Nguyet with the former arvn soldier. A marginal character in the postwar context, and also in Nguyet’s narrative, the former soldier becomes a central character in the narrative’s resolution.

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Even though Nguyet is no hero, her narrative is critical in understanding the role of memory in postwar realities as these relate to revolutionary political values. When Lien tells Nguyet that the cadre died in the war, the film presents Nguyet imagining his death as a hero in battle. The cadre, who represented revolutionary values in Nguyet’s narrative, must be remembered by the ‘‘common woman’’ as a false hero in order to resolve the contradictions between the promises of a revolutionary history and the postwar history of cultural and economic globalization. This memory is problematized by the filmmaker since the audience knows that the image of the cadre dying in battle is a fiction constructed by Lien and imagined by Nguyet. The resolution of the film also exposes disjunctures between dominant histories: a millennial, revolutionary history that constructs heroes who promise transformation through self-sacrifice remains incommensurable with the history of the emerging nation-state as it constructs selfinterested, oppressively masculinized individuals who are committed to material progress through incorporation into a global economy.

The Return: Gender and Economic Globalization In The Return, Dang continues to address issues raised in Girl on the River: the critical, self-reflective position of the disenfranchised feminine subject negotiating this divide, and eventually claiming her own time, space, and community. The narrator is Loan, a teacher from the north who has taken a job on the southern coast. As a teacher, Loan is understood to be of modest means, and as a public servant, she is understood to be outside the centers of trade and commerce, which constitute the day-to-day business of economic reform. Loan becomes involved with two men—Hung, whose family migrated south (he is thus considered a southerner), and Tuan, a northerner who moves south to Ho Chi Minh City for business. Both men are involved in aspects of postwar geopolitical economic development and reform. Even as Loan is marginalized in the spheres of economic power and influence, her intimate experiences with each man are played out in the context of political and economic processes of social change. Like Nguyet in Girl on the River, Loan’s position of the outsider-within enables the critique of the credibility of masculinized subjects of power, including Hung and Tuan, both male representatives of an emerging nation-state that is increasingly integrated within the global economy. 118 ⭈ Kathryn McMahon

The everyday lives of the characters in The Return—their ambitions, desires, family relationships, loves, and betrayals—are constituted within the milieu of the globalization of capital and its e√ects in the context of Vietnamese postwar market reform. Hung the southerner, at the insistence of his middle-class father, escapes Vietnam by boat in hopes of making money overseas. Anticolonial readings of 1920s’ narratives like the novel To Tam (described above) incorporated the ‘‘traditional’’ authority of the family of the past within the values of commercial culture and global market relations (represented by colonialism as a repressive force). Filial duty compels Hung to negate his own desire. He was happy as a common sailor, but his father wants him to become a prosperous trader; he was unhappy in a loveless arranged marriage (made for economic reasons), but betrays his freely chosen lover, Loan, leaving the country without telling her after their first and only night together in a small riverside hotel. Hung migrates to the United States, where he becomes a successful businessman. His return to Vietnam, as the agent of a foreign corporation, gives the title to the film. The film sets up a comparison between regional spaces by contrasting the private and domestic spheres of families in the north and south. After Hung has disappeared, leaving Vietnam, Loan visits her family in Hanoi. The curious questions of an old cyclo driver, who takes her from the train station to her parent’s home, about Loan’s absence from Hanoi represent an interconnection between people who recognize one another as part of a community. On learning that Loan left Hanoi to work as a teacher, the cyclo driver comments that it is impossible to live on only a public salary and that one must be in trade in order to make money. The marginal voice of the old cyclo driver speaks critically, with the insight of a common, articulate man, of the economic geography of the new economic order. The neighborhood community, threatened like the livelihood of the cyclo driver who is being replaced by motorcycle taxis and automobiles in a growing market economy, is constituted as an intimate space extending beyond the boundaries of the domestic. This community represents a complement to the national space (that Dang critiques in his films) as a public space needed to create a new time and history in which the lives of common people are recognized in the context of more egalitarian relationships. The blurring of the boundaries between the public and private is symbolized spatially by the small shop that Loan’s mother has opened adjaThe Works of Dang Nhat Minh ⭈ 119

cent to the house, and that presents the domestic and commercial on a continuum. In contrast, for Hung’s family in the south, domestic space is portrayed as privatized, incorporated in a di√erent way within globalization and the growing market economy. In the interior of Loan’s house, the global economy of the war is present, painful and personal, integrated into the domestic space of the home and intimate relationships between family members in the form of a family altar with the photograph of a young man, Loan’s brother, killed in the war with the United States. The audience meets Loan’s father for the first time; he has retired from public service, but is busier, his wife says, than when he worked for a salary. Loan connects the politically divided north and south of the nation through a memory of loss and the history of the war when she tells her family that she has visited her brother’s grave in the south and hopes to take her father there one day. A courtship begins as Tuan visits Loan at her family’s home in Hanoi, and three months later, comes to her teaching post in the south. Tuan has moved to Ho Chi Minh City for a job in an international trade company; he is a man of ambition who tells Loan that money empowers a man to speak his mind and compels others to believe the worth of his words. Loan tells Tuan about her a√air with Hung; this is framed by her own critical narrative voice-over, which remarks that she feels relieved that she can tell another about her su√ering. Tung coerces her into taking him to the small hotel where she spent the one night with Hung and takes possession of Loan’s body there. He tells her to forget Hung and acknowledge only him from that moment on. This oppressive, masculine assertion on Loan’s self and body symbolizes the inextricable interweaving of monetary power and patriarchal privilege in the context of the global economy. The next scene presents Loan, two years later, in a house in Saigon. Dressed in stylish clothes, she is alone in a sterile domestic space dominated by imported goods (a television, stereo, modern new furniture) with only an expensive dog for company. The private, feminized domestic space, constructed in terms of modernity and global commercial consumption, is separated from a sense of community and even the world of domestic work that her servant occupies. Loan’s voice-over says that Tuan has become the leader of a company, and that when she asks him about his job, he tells her that she would not understand. She is shown alone and waiting, with prepared food left on the table, idle and bored within

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her status as a privileged, Westernized, middle-class wife. Dang’s theme that various histories produce various orders of space emerges poignantly in this scene in the construction of spatial metaphors of globalization and modernity. The contrast between traditional ways of remembering, on the one hand, and the processes of modernization and globalization, on the other, is further accentuated when Loan’s father comes to Ho Chi Minh City in order to fulfill a traditional ritual: collecting the bones of his son for reburial in the family’s ancestral grave site back north. Tuan rejects this practice of changing the tomb as old-fashioned and unacceptable in the house of an important business leader such as he, and directs Loan to take her father and the bones directly to the railway station after the visit to the cemetery. As they make o√erings, and disinter the bones with the help of the military cemetery sta√, the taxi driver who brought them waits, playing a cassette of U.S. popular music from the 1960s. As Loan and her father carry the wrapped bones back to the taxi, the camera pans over the thousands of grave sites at the cemetery, each one representing a young man killed. With the tune of ‘‘swing your hips now, come on, baby . . . do the locomotion with me’’ playing in the background, the taxi driver refuses to take them to the station; he thinks having bones in his taxi might bring bad luck. The U.S. popular music evokes history even as the market culture it represents erases processes of continuity, memory, and recovery. As the father and daughter walk along the road carrying the bones, an elderly southern man, who himself lost a son in the army of the Saigon regime, o√ers to host them for the night in his house so that they can catch the bus for Saigon the next morning. The regional divisions of north and south are reconciled through the two fathers who share the experience of loss and mourning. The space of ordinary life is further fractured by the contradictions of history in the scene of the bus ride back to Ho Chi Minh City. A onelegged former arvn soldier gets on the bus, full of tired-looking working people, to sell lottery tickets. The disabled veteran sings a Vietnamese popular song about mothers waiting for their children to return from war while praying for peace. According to Dang, the bus signifies the nation of Vietnam, with people from the north and south all together, weary from the legacies of war, yet holding onto their memories and hopes for reconciliation and peace. The bus scene shows an interconnected community of ordinary Vietnamese people acknowledging their common

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histories and sharing an intimate public space that exists within the interstices of Vietnam’s progress into modern nationhood. Dang uses male characters who, because of age or social position, are both marginal to and disenfranchised by the impact of social change. For instance, Loan’s father is presented as a vulnerable old man, marginal to the commercial culture of Ho Chi Minh City, one of millions of parents from the north and south for whom the war meant only the loss of children. The cemetery and bus scenes symbolize the poverty and weariness of the working people who are excluded from the ‘‘benefits’’ of globalization. Intercut with these sequences are contrasting scenes: Hung’s return from the United States as a businessman representing a foreignbased multinational corporation that is now negotiating a deal with Tuan’s company; Hung and Tuan in a restaurant full of Vietnamese businessmen drinking with prostitutes; and a nightclub where Hung remarks that the dancing looks the same as in Hong Kong and Bangkok (another reference to global commercial culture). The restaurant scene of businessmen with prostitutes symbolizes the eroticization of the emergence of the modern nation within international commercial culture. This eroticization of nationhood includes the supra-masculinization of men with economic power who assert their dominance through the feminization and commercialization of the bodies of women. Hung occupies the space of an outsider-within because he is simultaneously a foreigner and Vietnamese; through his eyes, the audience gets a critical view of the milieu in which Tuan and others take advantage of market reform to do unethical business. The outsider-within becomes a shifting position, including now both Hung and Loan, and reinforcing the Foucauldian delineation of power in the film: power ‘‘is the name that one attributes to a complex strategic situation in a particular society’’ (Foucault 1980, 93); it is represented as unstable, produced from one historical moment to the next, and mobile in every social relationship. The audience sees lavish consumption in the midst of poverty, corruption in Tuan’s business (he promises to take his secretary abroad with him if she ‘‘takes care of ’’ Hung sexually as part of closing the business deal), and moral bankruptcy in Tuan’s infidelity to Loan. In a pivotal scene, Tuan invites Hung home to dinner in order to celebrate the closing of the deal. The table is loaded with an excess of expensive, imported luxuries, including Coca-Cola, 7 UP, U.S. whiskey, and imported wine. Loan leaves the table as the two men sit drinking and talking; she retreats

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to the feminized space of the bedroom, where she covers her ears to block out their voices. Loan’s act is one of resistance. The audience sees Hung and Tuan through her position as outsider-within, even as Hung bears witness to Tuan’s dishonesty from a similar position. At the conclusion of the film, Loan rejects both Hung and Tuan, leaves the modern house in Ho Chi Minh City and all its contents while Tuan is overseas, and returns to teaching. In the final scene, she is in an animated discussion with her students concerning a traditional Vietnamese poem when Tuan comes to the school, where he has her class interrupted to order her to come back with him to Ho Chi Minh City. Loan neither looks at nor speaks to him, returning to her students to continue the lively and obviously pleasurable conversation. As a poorly paid schoolteacher in the context of an emerging market economy, she chooses to be in the gendered position of outsider-within. Loan has work again. She is connected with her students, the youth of Vietnam, and through their critical interpretation of literature, she is connected as well in an interactive way with a legacy of Vietnamese history. Because critical discussion of the traditional poem appropriates tradition, creating new interpretations and meanings, the interaction with her students positions Loan as a facilitator of knowledge, bearing the potential for a new history. Loan’s narrative ends happily not because she is reunited with her first love Hung, nor because she has made a decision based on a sense of duty to others, but because she has made a choice based on self-respect and the pleasure of meaningful work. While the final scene of the film might be read as portraying tradition, and romanticizing femininity and community as alternatives to commercialization, the conclusion may be read more convincingly as a challenge to a modern Asian nationalist imaginary, with its own tendency to romanticize women, tradition, and the rural for its own agendas.

Bearing Critical Witness With the production of Nostalgia for the Countryland (1995) and Hanoi, Winter 1946 (1997), Dang’s work addresses a span of fifty years of Vietnamese history, always with a perspective on the everyday lives of ordinary people. The questions Dang asks are about how people might find ways of being together with dignity and respect for one another, while su√ering the consequences of war and in the midst of rapid socio-

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economic and political change. Although Dang is often preoccupied with the place of tradition as important for processes of memory, continuity, recovery, and reconciliation, he does not fall into the trap of nostalgia for an idealized past. History is represented as conflicted, its legacies always negotiated and appropriated within the contradictions of the present. Social issues that most heavily impact the majority of Vietnamese, including those who have su√ered from a legacy of war and those whose lives are most impacted by socioeconomic change, are explored through characters whose outsider-within status gives them the position of critical observer. Sometimes the outsider-within acts to demonstrate how one might live honorably; these characters, however, are not representations of moral purity. Often constrained by historical forces, characters are not idealized but rather come gradually to consciousness and make choices within the limits of their positions. Dang’s choices of marginal-made-central or outsider-within characters include a complex range of political, class, and gendered positions. For instance, the arvn soldiers in both Girl on the River and The Return play minor though significant roles in representing marginalized yet critical perspectives, as do the old men from both the north and south in The Return. Hung, the expatriate in The Return, represents the outsiderwithin from the politically complex position of the overseas Vietnamese refugee community. The working-class Nguyet (from the central coast) and middle-class Lien (a southerner) in Girl on the River along with Loan (a northerner in love with the southerner Hung) in The Return represent major regional diversities and historical divisions within contemporary Vietnam. Dang’s use of a wide diversity of critical film characters/spectators creates a complex spatial and temporal symbolism that speaks to the contradictory, ideologically contested sociopolitical histories and geographies of postwar Vietnam. The use of multiple and shifting subject positions for the marginal-made-central perspective constructs a critical spectator o√screen as well, allowing for identification with a number of diverse points of view, sometimes simultaneously. Dang’s use of personal narrative as a self-reflective examination of symbolic constructions of competing nationalist and globalized histories with their specific constructions of gendered social subjects and spaces creates a multilayered critique of postwar Vietnamese nation-building. While it might be said that feminized women characters positioned as marginal-made-central narrators run the risk of endlessly remaining spectators (Trinh 1991,

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104–5), the act of bearing critical witness is itself political and in representation avoids the trap of idealization. Through his geographies of gender, space, and time as subjects of social critique, Dang subverts the society of the male-centered spectacle.

Notes 1

Dang’s other films include City under the Fist (1982), a love story exploring the social consequences of Maoism and the 1979 border war with China; When the Tenth Month Comes (1984), a drama about a doting war widow that deals with the themes of historical continuity, loss, mourning, and reconciliation; Nostalgia for the Countryland (1995), a coming-of-age story about a seventeen-year-old boy that represents the life of a small village in the context of economic reform, globalization, and rapid social change; and Hanoi, Winter 1946 (1997), a historical drama about the beginning of the French war that uses ordinary people as intimate witnesses to international events. 2 From the perspective of Western genre conventions, Dang’s films have been read as melodrama. Marchetti (1991) argues that Asian cinema, including postwar Vietnamese filmmakers have transformed the Hollywood melodrama into a form that presents a critical discussion of characters’ historical, political, or social roles. Like the Hollywood melodrama, Vietnamese films often privilege the domestic and women’s lives, and Marchetti says that emotional excesses both draw in and distance the audience from the characters, encouraging critical viewing. Marchetti specifically reads Dang’s film When the Tenth Month Comes as an example of Vietnamese melodrama. Dang himself has objected to that reading, saying that the film genre is realism, ‘‘emotional realism,’’ and that country audiences, particularly women, responded not with distance to emotional ‘‘excess’’ but with intense identification to screenings of the film (Dang 1992). One culture’s emotional excess may be another culture’s realism. 3 The real and imaginary cannot be distinctly separated; they are inextricable. When speaking of the nation, however, it is important to understand that the referent is more than a theoretical argument. See Nash 1994; see also Anderson 1983. 4 By ‘‘the global economy of war’’ I mean the interconnected, globalized forces of political, economic, and military power that are necessary to wage multinational, modern warfare.

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Nearly four decades ago, Gerald Berreman sketched this summary of gender relations among the pahari in the Indian Himalayas: ‘‘Pahari women of all castes enjoy a degree of freedom unknown among any but the low-caste women of the plains. They work alone or in groups without male accompaniment. They come and go as they please around the village and talk to whomever they please except strangers. . . . [T]heir subordination to men must be recognized as subordination within a context of relative freedom’’ ([1963] 1972, 167). Today, one could nod in agreement to Berreman’s general point: women’s and men’s movement is a pervasive feature in the daily course of events on these contoured slopes, for work and socializing. For women, this may mean a certain kind of ‘‘freedom,’’ but what else does such movement signify? Are pahari women’s and men’s lives significantly di√erent from those in lowland, urban, or plains areas? And to which women and men is one referring? Since Berreman’s writing, there have been few in-depth gender analyses of the more interior hill residents in the north Indian Himalayas, a larger number being about the Nepal Himalayas (Raheja and Gold 1994; Raheja 1988). Hill women’s freedom of movement and their literal position on hillsides both shapes and reflects various understandings of their social position. As seen by lowland or urban residents, for example, hill people’s lives are understood as deprived, dirty, and disadvantaged. Hill

lives are simultaneously touted by tourist propaganda as romantically colorful, authentic, and traditional. How these rural hill residents internalize these and other stereotypes, and understand their own identities, is as fluid as their mobile lives; in this sense, they are the trans-status subjects described in the introduction to this volume. Indeed, their very mobility provides various contexts in which others’ and their own ideas about themselves are formed. A fuller consideration of the daily travel of pahari men and women and some of the recent conceptual approaches to mobility and gender, better sets the context for revisiting Berreman’s observations.

On Shifting Ground Atul was one of my favorite people in India.∞ His face was set with determination and balanced with excruciating shyness. And his little three-year-old legs were strong. With his arm extended above his head to grasp his mother’s hand, and his face serious with concentration, Atul worked his legs hard to keep up with Tara as she dropped quickly down, or strained more slowly up, the uneven mountain trail. This little boy had made the trip up and down this steep trail dozens of times already in his short life. His father was a police constable in town, but since the extended family kept the terraced farmland on the hills outside town, it meant that Mann Singh and Tara were apart a great deal, and that with various configurations of their three children, they traveled up and down, back and forth, from their quarters in Paharnagar to their private room in the big family house on the hill at Tishu in order to be together as well as help take care of the work in the fields.≤ In fact, both lateral and vertical movement over steep slopes defines the activities of all the residents in Tishu, perched on the steep terraced hills above the Hara River in the Himalayan hills of Himachal Pradesh. Even as infants, children accompany their parents to narrow strips of terraced fields, to forest areas for fodder or firewood, or to graze animals. When the children can handle some of the tasks themselves, they take turns cutting grass, steering the cows toward good grazing, or walking the twenty to thirty-minute round-trip to the spring to fetch water for cooking and washing. Elementary schoolchildren walk along the slopes to a village schoolhouse on the hill facing Tishu. Older children prepare early in the morn-

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ing and budget for a half hour’s quick trot all the way to the government high school in the valley below (at about 3,050 feet). At the day’s end, the steepness of the trail and the work on returning home slow their trudge uphill, their pigtails drooping and book packs sagging. For transhumant Gujjars (Muslim) and Gaddis (Hindu) who also live on these hills, school attendance might mean giving up seasonal migration, or conversely, migrating with the family may result in lower school grades and failure.≥ Within a larger state structure that attempts to monitor and limit the movement of transhumants, schools are one of the earliest sites for government directives that both incite and regulate movement. Perhaps any discussion about the confluence of ideas shaping gender and caste, and the mobile and vertical lifestyles of Hindu and Muslim tribals and nontribals living on the hills of north India, would be set on shifting ground. The dynamics of flows across spaces and cultural constructions of mobility inform more recent scholarship on such communities (Appadurai 1988, 1996; Cli√ord 1997, 1992; Tsing 1993; Rodman 1992; Jackson and Penrose 1994; Diprose and Ferrell 1991). These flows generate multiple gendered or caste-shaped ‘‘subjectivities’’ that are formed by various interpretations of the grounds that people traverse and the kinds of movement in which they engage. A three-dimensional and fluid map of this area can help us to understand the ways that movement and physical position on the landscape intersect with social position. On varying slopes, elevations, and contours, neither the spaces, the people who move through them, nor the movement itself is singularly or transparently defined (Blunt and Rose 1994; Lefebvre 1991). Recent analyses that advocate ethnographies of translocal and mobile lives provide useful frameworks. James Cli√ord (1997) encourages a reimagining of the more traditional anthropological notions of ‘‘field sites’’ that include dislocated researchers and sedentary subjects in static villages into a more versatile ethnography of the mobility of subject and researcher (see also Gupta and Ferguson 1997a, 1997b). He advises that one take into account the layers of forces impinging on and interacting within these areas—local economies, regional transfer of goods, and ever-more-visible international market forces—because ‘‘cultures . . . are sites traversed . . . by tourists, by oil pipelines, by Western commodities, by radio and television signals’’ (Cli√ord 1992, 103). Arjun Appadurai, through his concept of ‘‘ethnoscapes,’’ accounts for increasingly mobile individuals and communities on international

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levels, noting that the ‘‘woof of human motion’’ intertwines with the ‘‘warp’’ of the still ‘‘relatively stable communities and networks of kinship, friendship, work and leisure as well as birth, residence and other filial forms’’ (1996, 33). In emphasizing not transnational but local patterns of movement—Appadurai’s warp of stabilities—in one region of Himachal Pradesh, I add the literal landscapes covered in daily and seasonal work as these intersect with local understandings of pahari genders to Appadurai’s ethno-, media-, techno-, finance-, and ideoscapes (1996). In the hills around Paharnagar, transhumant Gujjars and Gaddis, farmers, literacy and development workers, doctors, nurses, and forest personnel all cover a great deal of ground on a daily basis. This motion directly a√ects how hill travelers think of one another, how they are perceived by their more sedentary and less vertically oriented neighbors, and how gender is constructed. Women are defined within the parameters of male-dominated structures or perhaps the general context of ‘‘subordination’’ suggested by Berreman.∂ These subjectivities, however, are complicated by, among other things, external and internal assumptions about transhumant and hill farming lifestyles, and their location on exposed and di≈cult slopes. Such constructions of social position reflect what some feminist geographers refer to as ‘‘geographies of power’’ (Blunt and Rose 1994, 5). Feminist geographers and anthropologists have for some time examined the gender-specific use of space, and have introduced more complex understandings of the social construction of bodies and spaces (Rosaldo 1974; Blunt and Rose 1994; Butler 1993). As Blunt and Rose suggest, ‘‘spaces are constituted through struggles over power/knowledge’’ and it is important to consider the ‘‘ways in which di√erent epistemological claims about women’s identity produce di√erent interpretations of space itself ’’ (ibid., 5). The inverse is crucial for analysis as well: interpretations of certain spaces and di√erent values of types of movement, or work done across them, can shape ideas about gender.∑ In the context of this invitation for more mobile ethnographies, regional studies of ethnoscapes, and feminist geographies of power, this essay explores how movement and verticality mark hill women (and men) as incomparable with their caste and class counterparts in more sedentary valleys and plains. Di√erent constructions of gender are tied to some interesting and contradictory ideas about the relationship between ‘‘freedom’’ and ‘‘movement’’ for these various groups. Hill women, for

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example, may be seen as ‘‘free’’ to move about (Berreman [1963] 1972), but such freedom and visibility is not necessarily prestigious or desirable. In other cases, a middle-class Indian woman in town is seen as ‘‘free’’ to stay at home. Atul’s family is of the Kshatriya caste, one of the ‘‘twice-borns.’’∏ Still, compared to other Kshatriya castes in the town below or on the plains, their lives are quite distinct. These distinctions between mobile, visible hill people and the more sedentary women and men of the towns or plains imply not only di√erent criteria for assessing people of the same caste but often evoke a sense that these women and men from di√erent physical and economic realities are di√erent creatures altogether. The varying perceptions of plains or valley people about transhumants reflect more than generic and supposedly harmless stereotypes. Movement marks hill people across caste and gender lines, and it should be examined as an important factor in analyses of social position and inequality. As a researcher, perhaps movement was one of the most defining characteristics of my own time in north India: I moved from the district center of Paharnagar (home to the Forest Department, police department, all other city and district o≈ces, and a fair-sized market), to the hamlets north of town and vertically a thousand to two thousand feet higher. This analysis is based on research that was itself more an ethnography of those who traversed slopes and village forest areas—how they regarded forests, and how those people interacted with one another—than of a village or town. I traveled along hill roads and paths to neighboring interior and roadless areas, rode buses to Shimla and Solan to visit universities, and journeyed to Dehra Dun and the Forest Research Institute many hours away. Occasionally, I went to Delhi to check sources, conduct interviews with national government o≈cials, and visit libraries and bookstores. Significant to this research and discussion is the fact that I come from a rural area in the Rocky Mountains of western Montana. Many of the people I worked with in India knew this, and friends in the hills and I felt an a≈nity. Some people assigned the term pahari to me, and in casual conversation I was often included in a sense of ‘‘us hill people’’ as distinct from ‘‘those city (or sometimes government) people.’’ Yet despite this a≈nity, the di√erences between us were always conspicuous: my mobility as a white woman, my relative financial standing, and my ability to approach all sorts of o≈cials to request information for research, to

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name a few. My paths literally and experientially overlapped with those of many residents of the hills, yet there were places that I could go that they probably never would (locally, nationally, and internationally). Conversely, I didn’t feel I could go to some of the higher pastures or on longer multi-day ‘‘treks’’ in the higher mountains due to my being on my own as well as the local ideas about appropriate behavior for single women (though tourists often make such trips).

Fields of Movement Tara and her son Atul’s route from Tishu to Paharnagar involves a long vertical drop down and then a walk or bus ride along the river to town. Paharnagar rests on a rare plateau above the Hara River, and its slateroofed houses and shops creep up the steep surrounding hills. Now home to about twenty thousand people, Paharnagar was first formally settled in roughly the sixth century (Negi 1963, 1966; Hutchison 1904; Hutchison and Vogel 1933; Kaushal 1965; Ohri 1989). Temples from around the eighth century on, protected from destruction during violence in neighboring areas by the town’s relatively sheltered location, are scattered throughout the town. The cluster of Paharnagar’s old and new structures is nestled in a pocket at the spurs of the Pir Pangal and Dhola Dhar mountain ranges in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Roads are carved on the sides of some of these mountains; foot and animal trails mark others. Many people rely on walking or a combination of walking and busing to get around. On any given morning in Paharnagar’s market, tall turban-headed Gujjar tribals carry huge cans of water bu√alo milk on their heads and shoulders, delivering door-to-door, and selling milk and milk products from carts pushed through the rough streets. Shops open, and produce sellers in the subzi mandi (vegetable market) shout out prices to advertise and compete with their neighbors. Uniformed children of every size, with shiny oiled hair, neckties, and book bags, make their way to and from various schools in town. The morning’s sewage and trash is swept along in open ditches by water released twice daily from a reservoir above town. Women and men, from the town and outlying village areas, wander from shop to shop in search of daily necessities. A small number of lepers and other marginalized people take up their positions for a day of begging. Chai-wallahs (tea sellers) pump up their kerosene stoves to

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keep their customers supplied with hot chai, and the town’s cows wander about freely, eating and defecating where they please, only occasionally swatted out of the way by perturbed shopkeepers. A two-hour walk away, in the hamlet of Tishu in the hills, women and men rise early to stall feed especially young goats, sheep, and cows.π Women and older girls prepare breakfast and ready children for school. Very young children usually walk some distance to a village-level primary school; high schools are often even further. If they don’t attend school, children will help adults take animals out for grazing on the slopes, or cut and store grass; work in the small terraced fields will produce a summer crop of maize and a winter crop of wheat. Only in a few areas where the valley floor is near the river can rice be successfully grown. After a day’s work or on a weekend, hill folks might walk an hour or more to traverse a few large slopes to visit the neighboring healer or relatives and friends. The three general patterns of movement or ranges of mobility for people in this particular hill area are local and regional movement for work or leisure, transhumance, and job-related travel as well as the phenomenon of transfers of government workers. These categories help organize the discussion and certainly are not fixed ones. The relocation of new people moving into the area, pilgrimage, and the travel of foreign and Indian tourists can also be taken into account, but the primary focus will be on these three.

Local and Regional Movement Through the course of daily and seasonal activities, hill residents travel a great deal, largely by foot in the hills and by bus where there are roads. Work-related movement on these slopes is unending and cannot be easily summarized. Depending on the season, animal herds might be grazed once or twice a day, with cattle kept separate from the sheep and goats that demand a great deal more agility, attention, and range of movement. In late summer, grasses need to be cut for storage for winter stall feeding. Women and men gather leafy branches for stall-fed animals and grass for storage in either sheds or stacks suspended in trees. Various family members gather firewood constantly and store it up when possible; they collect pine needles dropped from the chil pine ( pinus longeifolia) and mix them with dung for mulch. Just getting to the fam-

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ily’s terraced fields may mean a walk of some distance vertically and/or laterally, and spreading compost, sowing, weeding, and harvesting demand a great deal of time. One traverses the hills constantly for these and so many other incidental activities, such as gathering herbs, fruits, and berries as they become ripe. Such work-related movement is viewed by town or plains residents as perhaps vaguely admirable or even romantic, but ultimately undesirable. Forests are seen as sites for spiritual retreat and romantic encounters, such as those in the epic stories of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. But field and forest work is local and visible; it is seen as di≈cult and dirty by comfortable or well-to-do sedentary town residents and, to some extent, by hill residents themselves. Internalizing this view, Atul’s aunt, who lived full-time in Tishu, referred to their clean two-story home as ‘‘dirty’’ compared to the ‘‘cleanness’’ and amenities of the city. To the contrary, I always felt as though I was escaping the profusion of noise, sewage, dust, and chaos of Paharnagar in the welcome coolness of the smooth dung and mud-finished floors in their home in the hills. Beyond daily work, village women and girls sometimes travel further for social visits or to the market, on foot and/or bus, sometimes with a male family member, as a planned group outing. For almost all the village women I knew, such journeys were always an occasion of considerable preparation. They would put on nice clothes, wear dress shoes— however impractical for mountain trails—and make some special puri (deep-fried bread) to carry along. Once, early in my stay, one of my closest friends and assistants in Tishu took me for a long walk to talk about the trees and plants in areas beyond her usual range of travel. Sita wanted to take me to a point on the end of a ridge where we would get a good view of the convergence of rivers from two watershed areas, and a wide span of related mountain ranges. Only after we were on our way did I realize that she herself had never been to the point before, even though it was only a little over an hour’s walk from her home. Her father had described it to her so she could show me. Even though she, like other girls, covers a great deal of the mountainsides while grazing animals, cutting grass, gathering wood, or even going from field to field, Sita and her sisters are more restricted in their movements than their brothers, uncles, and fathers. Although we shared a sense of enjoyment and awe as we looked out over the landscape, she had never been able to choose to come there before. Sita

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wanted to climb higher on the mountain she lived on, or go to the higher grazing pastures, but despite her intensive activity over some slopes, she was not ‘‘free’’ to go further or higher. Oftentimes when I would urge unmarried young village women to come to town for a meeting or event, they would say that they needed their uncle and/or their father’s permission, and would almost never come on these unplanned trips. Additionally, verticality and trail quality, and incidental factors such as large dogs on certain routes, played significant roles in defining ‘‘far,’’ ‘‘di≈cult,’’ or ‘‘easy’’ trips. On other occasions, we walked over an hour to visit Sita’s mama (maternal uncle) on a lateral trail more familiar to her. It was a trip she made fairly often and with little trepidation, although a gully area at dusk was seen as a spiritually dangerous place to be. Village men who reside in the same house all year (non-transhumant) travel quite often. They are mainly in charge of going to town for supplies such as sugar, soap, and other necessities not produced on their land. They will also take extra quantities of wheat or maize for sale; women help transport grains to and from the mills in order to get it ground first during the heavy harvest seasons. Some men work in government positions in town, the ‘‘service,’’ which makes up a large majority of the available paid employment, walking and/or busing down from the hills daily. A village man such as Atul’s father may be in service and reside primarily in town, yet will come to the hills for family weekends and to help with farmwork. In addition to traveling for work, people across all social positions value leisure travel. If they can a√ord it, almost anyone will travel for a chhutti (holiday). When possible, wealthy and poor hill villagers alike make trips to other hill areas such as the Khajjiar-Kalatop Wildlife Sanctuary, hill vacation towns like Dalhousie or Shimla, or the plains. Many people in the hills around Paharnagar were proud to report on their experiences in these vacation spots. People travel in groups to melas (festivals) in town or other regions, over great distances and for several days at a time. Religious pilgrimages, such as to Mt. Manimahesh, are a big event for people from both hill and plains areas (see also Gold 1987). Villagers plan these vacations carefully and think them out all year. Leisure travel may also involve visits to relatives, although these trips are often dictated by needs like the harvesting or planting of crops. The ability to take time to travel was in itself a demonstration of some status.

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While leisure and recreational travel are seen as prestigious, travel related to work—especially with animals—is seen as ‘‘low’’ by those who do not engage in it, and is internalized as such by those who do. To shift one’s sight from hills traversed (views out and down) to a perspective from Paharnagar (views up and out), movement in the town and on the valley floor is distinctly di√erent. Many of the people I knew in town kept some land outside it for an income from crops, but had hired help to work on such land. Other townsfolk rarely went into the hills except to travel to other ‘‘hill town’’ vacation spots. Many women from middle and upper-middle-class families were often quite ignorant of the surrounding hills. Some were married to government o≈cers who were transferred to Paharnagar, and thus had no familial ties to these areas or any reason to go out of town (or up). In some cases, I knew sons of such families who traveled around on scooters into the hilly areas ‘‘just for fun,’’ to go swimming, or to tour the villages. Some women of very little means go to the hills to gather bundles of firewood to sell in town; their low class and caste status demanded movement, though whether or why they are more ‘‘free’’ to move is an issue I discuss below. A certain number of townsmen, of mixed ages and backgrounds, mill about, play cards, and chat and lounge, especially on the town’s three chowgans (large parklike areas). Some women, during their leisure time, also may rest on the chowgan, but public napping for women is rare; they congregate and knit, gossip, and possibly even nap within the bounds of their own or a neighbor’s courtyard or stoop. Amid the day’s activities, most shopkeepers and government workers enjoy numerous chai breaks, and the most commonly heard remark of courtesy is ‘‘baitiye, chai pijiye’’ (‘‘have a seat, have some tea’’)—an invitation to cease one’s movement and rest.

Transhumance or ‘‘Permanent Temporary’’ Movement The Gujjars and Gaddis are two tribal groups whose herding takes them in large sweeps over the hills, from the upper reaches in the summer and down to the plains in the winter, covering an elevation change of several thousand feet. In di√erent configurations every season, various Gaddi family members take sheep and goats to the higher pastures for grazing while others urge a single crop from their terraced lands (Saberwal 1999; Bhasin 1988; Bose 1963). Nontribal sedentary villagers like Atul’s uncles

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hire Gaddis to herd their sheep and goats to high pastures for half the year (‘‘buying’’ extra mobility for the animals) then join them for a few days for shearing activities. Muslim Gujjars also split up various family members to take water bu√alo to the plains in the winter (a trip take takes at least four weeks one way) and the higher mountain pastures in the summer. People comment on Gujjars and Gaddis in Himachal in contradictory ways. Perhaps because they cover great amounts of territory, Gujjars and Gaddis do not easily fit into the usual categories of Himachalis. They are seen as residents, but not fully so; as progressive and savvy about urban areas due to months in the plains areas, yet as backward with regard to their lives in the high hills. Most are obviously economically pressed and say they travel purely out of necessity for fodder (Subrahmanyam 1985). Some people speculated that many Gujjars really were wealthy; others suggested that they wear dark clothes because they rarely bathe and dirt doesn’t show as easily on dark fabric. While regarded as dirty and needy, Gujjars and Gaddis are also viewed by town residents as quintessential ‘‘pahari-log’’ or hill people, the bearers of traditional culture. Handicrafts such as double-sided embroideries (rumals, for which the area is famous) feature figures of picturesque Gujjars and Gaddis on the hillsides with their animals. It appears that the more physical distance covered, the greater the distance in imagined sameness or shared gender identity between hill herders and the well-to-do, sedentary women and men of the valleys and plains. Sedentary villagers appreciate transhumant travel as constituting hard work as well as o√ering the opportunity to go to indisputably spectacular high mountain pasture areas. Hill dwellers agree that the landscapes they cover are strikingly beautiful and even sacred (on Gaddis, see Saberwal 1999; Bhasin 1988). At the same time, institutional concern about transhumant grazing as damaging to hill environments reverberates through the hills. This rhetoric of environmental degradation caused by transhumant grazing is perceived by some as alarmist and excessive (Saberwal 1999). Certainly it reflects a transnationally shaped debate about environmental degradation that originates far from these actual mountain pastures. Here, Appadurai’s notion of the warp of regionally specific and more stable behaviors, shot through with the weft of motion, is also intersected by influences of transnationally shaped ethnoscapes— in this case, transnational environmental discourses. Additionally, hill residents are often targeted as people in need of

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assistance. Female and male development workers set up both women’s hygiene and literacy training camps for all residents, in the midst of what they consider downtrodden and backward conditions. Gujjar, Gaddi, and other village women receive monetary incentives to attend the camps, which serve as a sort of paid vacation; women earn roughly the same as day laborers—that is, twenty-five rupees (about a dollar at the time). Rural and hill women hear and often internalize the negative rhetoric about improving their backward lives. Such messages counter as well as commingle with the pride and enjoyment hill Gujjars and Gaddis feel about their work and lives. Many women of the interior hill areas, far from the ‘‘civilized’’ parameters of town, lack formal education; this contributes to the idea that they are disadvantaged, needy, and ultimately incomparable to other ‘‘women’’ in cities or towns (see Escobar 1995; on the invention of need and neediness, see Sachs 1992). Women in fairly well-o√ positions in Paharnagar often described the lives of rural women as impoverished, ill-fated, and pitiable (Mohanty 1984). Women’s equality leaflets outlining the horrors of child marriage and abuse of tribal women by men were meant to generate awareness of these hapless women’s plights but served to reinforce social and conceptual di√erences between women. Significantly, these leaflets were circulated and read in town; many of the hill women I knew, the subjects of the flyers, couldn’t have read them even if they had wanted to.

Government Employment and Transfers Work in government positions of di√erent types, across a wide range of incomes and privileges, make up the vast majority of paid labor in Himachal. Many in government positions travel daily as part of their jobs. Some employees, such as police constable Mann Singh, may live in villages and cover great distances to do the unpaid work necessary at their hill homes, in addition to traveling to and also possibly for their jobs. For example, Forest Department district o≈cers, range o≈cers, and guards are required to cover certain areas in the forest, whether for protection, seed collection, surveying, and rewriting the forest directives called Working Plans. Whether an individual o≈cer actually covers the ground that he (rarely she) is supposed to is another matter. Development, medicine, education, and forestry jobs may require some travel outside of town daily or weekly.

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The roads and jeeps (signifying greater privilege than stationary jobs) used by some Forest Department employees speed up travel, change the degree of engagement, and determine a set route through the forests, but discourage more vertical movement along the slopes and in the tree areas themselves (Allan 1991). In comparison, horse trails and the rate at which horses or people on foot move along them, a√ords a di√erent kind of engagement with forests. Overall, work in government positions (‘‘the service’’) is seen as prestigious and, while shifting, somewhat secure. If one handles a position in a way that superiors approve, she or he might retain it; sometimes employees can ‘‘buy’’ or influence movement in the direction of new positions (Wade 1985). These include transfers that take place roughly every one to three years from the time of appointment, requiring the employee and his/her family to move—uprooting children from schools and one’s spouse from employment—to a new site within or outside the state, over and over again. Many unscheduled transfers take place, sometimes as a result of political shifts in state and central government, within a very short time of the appointment. Some people explained to me that transfers reduce corruption, others said they invite it, and still others more diplomatically claim they enable people to understand various aspects of a department’s operation. The frequency and inevitability of transfers, not only for forest personnel but all government employees, has important implications for the e≈cacy of state operations. Among forest department personnel, frequent transfers lead one to wonder how well particular o≈cers, however dedicated, really know the forest circles for which they are responsible, especially when contrasted to the rich knowledge of those living, working, and traveling in the forests for decades (Gaul 1994). What does remain stationary, as individual government employees move on, are their written records. Since these are o≈cial records of the activities for a particular o≈ce, regardless of who fills it for a given period of time, careful attention is paid to what should be included or excluded from such documents. Imagined successors, as much as real events, may dictate this selectiveness. Movement by Forest Department and other government employees through transfers is seen as necessary and perhaps beneficial. In an odd paradox, a mobile state apparatus, despite its own rotating personnel, tries to enforce immobility and fixedness on area residents—namely

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in the Indian government’s numerous schemes to settle transhumant tribals whose motion resists the very nature and intent of state apparatuses. As Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing notes in the case of the Meratus Mountains of Kalimantan, ‘‘[The] impossible to regulate’’ movement of ‘‘isolated populations’’ is seen as a problem by the state (1993, 155). Besides government records remaining stationary, and despite the fact that hill residents cover a lot of ground locally and regionally, hill people by and large remain. I once spent a day with an environmental activist friend who was explaining the area’s demanding environmental problems to a new deputy commissioner, and that o≈cial made some serious commitments to remedy these problems. I asked my friend what happened when the deputy commissioner was replaced; he replied, ‘‘We explain it all again.’’ In a longer loop of time over these hills, mobile hill residents live on for generations while temporary state workers come and go with relatively greater rapidity. Finally, beyond rural, transhumant, and government workers, visitors into the area constitute another type of traveler. Tourists from the plains, pilgrims, ‘‘vips,’’ and foreign tourists also flow in and out of Paharnagar and its surrounding hills on a seasonal basis. Countless commodities from national and foreign markets make their way up the winding and bumpy roads to these hills. It is not unusual to see a hill resident making the long trek to his home along a steep dirt trail with a giant boxed-up television on his back.

Moving Genders With this variety of daily, seasonal, and occupational travel in mind, let me return to Berreman’s description of women’s position in the hills: ‘‘Pahari women of all castes enjoy a degree of freedom unknown among any but the low-caste women of the plains . . . [and] their subordination to men must be recognized as subordination within a context of relative freedom’’ (1963, 167). On reflection, Berreman’s assertion contains a number of troubling suggestions. First, inequalities between castes are erased as pahari women of all castes are understood as free to move about, indicating that this mobility o√ers liberation from certain social constraints. Berreman’s contrast to plains women alludes to traditional expectations that Indian women, particularly from the upper castes and classes, remain fairly sedentary and less visible in the public sphere than

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men. His comparison of the mobility of low-caste plains women to all castes of women in the hills carries the suggestion of the undesirability of public visibility and movement of women. On second reflection, the egalitarian-sounding freedom that Berreman alludes to is a low-status one, associated with low-caste plains women. But in fact, these Himachali women going to the market, working in the fields or forests, alone or in groups, are of all castes and tribal groups—Brahmins and Kshatriyas own land on these hills, as do Gujjars and Gaddis. While it seems clear that Berreman meant to emphasize the relative freedom of hill women, when the implication of a lower status is considered next to comments o√ered to me about hill women and their work, it is clear that social discernments are attached to visible and mobile work by women. If it is true that the movement these diverse women undertake daily collapses the caste distinctions among them and ‘‘lowers’’ all of them to one low-status level, then Kshatriya and Brahmin hill women are not understood in the same terms as similar caste women in valley towns and on the plains. Thus, a pahari Brahmin is considered di√erent from an urban or plains Brahmin; hill women, despite parallel castes, are measured negatively against more stationary and less visible plains women. Certainly, more mobile and hands-on work is perceived as less desirable than more sedentary and ‘‘clean’’ work such as in government o≈ces. ‘‘Social mobility,’’ when generally discussed in relation to social status or caste, refers to a symbolic value and the degree to which people may be able to ‘‘move’’ beyond normal expectations for a particular class, caste, or social position. Through certain marriages, education, or employment, some individuals may ‘‘move up’’ socially (although it is important to remember how caste and class di√erently a√ect women and men). When physical mobility is introduced into these paradigms, divisions and values placed on various social positions are reconfigured. ‘‘Marking territories’’ carries with it social as well as physical meanings. Women and men who traverse mountain areas daily—for agriculture, animal husbandry, forest use, or recreation—are regarded as inferior and other by the more stationary people of the valleys and plains, even if their caste and gender are otherwise comparable. I suggest that physical movement, especially that which is vertical, visible, and removed from the more horizontal town activities, leads to a sense of incomparability between the groups on the part of town people and ultimately also on the part of hill

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people. Women and men in comfortable homes and jobs in towns see themselves, in some cases, as significantly di√erent from women and men of similar castes in the hills by virtue of the configurations of caste, gender, class, location, and mobility. Many of the assumptions summarized above are views held by the more stationary people of the middle to higher castes and classes. While some of these views may be somewhat internalized by more mobile women and men, Gujjars and Gaddis as well as non-transhumant small landholders view things somewhat di√erently. These traveling peoples mark their vertical territories literally by moving and working on them, carving terraces and animal trails into the steepest hillsides, constructing homes, and redirecting water sources. The territories they mark through repeated use, and thus extend through multiple generations, are extremely far ranging. It is through use that they insist on maintaining mobile lives, even in the face of state settlement strategies. By contrast, many state workers mark time as a short-term assignment to a particular station that will shortly (and perhaps unpredictably) change. Their lives are marked by movement that is not necessarily controlled by them. The actual territory they can know or mark through their term of service may be somewhat limited. The importance of people’s sense of their spatial environment, their movement through it, and their related social standing cannot be underestimated in an area where mountains sharply jut up thousands of feet and go on as far as a person can see or travel in days. Residents spend the majority of their time shepherding, ploughing, gathering, sowing, harvesting, socializing, and playing according to the contours of their slopes. They return home to villages that sit on slightly di√erent soil and rock types, surrounded by varying shrub and tree species, and weather conditions. Movement on terrains of terraced field and jungle, village and town, hilly and occasionally plains areas, pervades people’s actions and the ways they view the world. These regional movements across local landscapes are ethnoscapes that both underlie and are intersected by broader, transnational ones. In the hills of Himachal Pradesh, multiple and shifting subjects travel across variously understood spaces by means of di√erently valued movement. On landscapes that almost all would describe as beautiful, though not necessarily desirable, ‘‘backward’’ and ‘‘unfortunate’’ transhumants are simultaneously held up as icons of local tradition and culture. Be-

144 ⭈ Karen K. Gaul

cause of the range of movement, verticality and distances involved, and other sorts of constructed ‘‘di√erence,’’ transhumant women, seen as victims of abuse and hard work, are excluded from a more narrow understanding of ‘‘women’’ among urban high-caste and middle and upperclass women. Yet some of these constructions are shrugged o√ as transhumant groups claim vast territories by means of their movement through them. As they move from lowlands to highlands on circuits ‘‘asynchronous with the routes of capital and labor,’’ as Sarker and Niyogi De observe in the introduction, constraining social assumptions about them become less relevant. In the high hills, their knowledge of vast territories, and enjoyment of expanding into those spaces—social as well as physical— can eclipse some of the derogatory social claims made about them. The persistence of the transhumant lifestyle in contemporary India may be seen not so much as a resistance to the forces of globalization but as selected participation in and, in turn, rejection of its enunciations.

Notes 1

Extended stays in Himachal Pradesh enabled my field research (1991–1992, 1992– 1993, 1997, and 2000). The 1992–1993 trip was funded by the Fulbright Foundation, and the 1997 and 2000 trips by the Smithsonian Institution. Although some of this discussion is in the past tense, my relationship with this place, these people, and this research is an ongoing one. A number of colleagues generously read and commented on various drafts of this chapter. In addition to Sonita Sarker and Esha Niyogi De, I am deeply grateful to Paulla Ebron, Melissa Johnson, Ashley Preston, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Anne Waters, G. G. Weix, and the feminist research group at the University of Montana for their valuable comments and suggestions. 2 Despite some di≈culty with this decision, I have chosen to use pseudonyms for all the people and local place-names mentioned here. Following Salman Rushdie’s playfulness with the invention of names (as in, for example, Haroun and the Sea of Stories), I use generic aspects of these people and places; Paharnagar, for instance, simply means ‘‘hill town.’’ 3 ‘‘Transhumant’’ means the seasonal, alternating movement of livestock and their caretakers—in this case, from higher hills in summer to pastures in lower hills and the Punjab plains in winter. 4 Patterns of gender inequality in India are shifting, regionally as well as historically. Raheja and Gold describe how the ‘‘protection’’ of weak and passive Hindu women became ‘‘a strategy of colonial domination’’ (1994, 5). See also Chatterjee 1989; O’Hanlon 1991; Mani 1990. Characterizing Indian women as victimized by or subordinate to men denies the complexity of women’s lives, the multiple relationships they have with

Traveling High and Low ⭈ 145

men and other women, and their agency as well as possible strategies of resistance— issues that many scholars have been exploring and emphasizing in recent years. 5 Anthony Giddens suggests that while ‘‘space’’ and ‘‘place’’ once coincided in premodern times, modernity ‘‘increasingly tears space away from place’’ (1990, 18–19). Below, I observe the ‘‘representation of space without reference to a distinct locale’’ (ibid., 19), and see ‘‘place’’ as referring to ‘‘a physical setting of social activity as situated geographically’’ (ibid., 18). 6 ‘‘Twice-born’’ refers to the top three castes in the basic version of the Indian caste system. Only Brahmins, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas claim to be reincarnated or twiceborn. The lower castes, the Shudras, and those outside the caste system, are not able to claim this. 7 Revenue maps use ‘‘village’’ to designate a small cluster of houses and their surrounding fields on a hillside. The nearest shop may be at least an hour’s walk away.

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Anyone who has been to Bangkok is familiar with the overwhelming presence of people selling cooked food on the streets and lanes (sois) of the city around the clock. Though the presence of women selling food in public space is a well-known feature of the Southeast Asian region, the Thai case is perhaps the most dramatic example. The vast majority of these food sellers, more than 80 percent, are women (Yasmeen 1996a). This gendering of urban space is in direct opposition to the general historical spatial confinement of women in neighboring South Asia. Thai women food vendors, who can be referred to as micro-entrepreneurs, are instances of the trans-status subjects referred to in the introduction to this volume. Food sellers in Bangkok occupy liminal positions, as they are at once rural and urban, patrons and clients, independent microentrepreneurs and yet subjugated to the whims of landowners as well as municipal authorities. Increasing globalization results in women food sellers in Bangkok also becoming imbricated in transnational spheres of production and consumption, as evidenced by their selling and promoting international brand items such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi. This chapter explores the geographic uniqueness of Thai ethnogastronomy, explaining how and why Bangkok’s ‘‘foodscape,’’ or landscape of public eating, is gendered. The discussion also looks at the ways in which foodways, place, and gender intersect within the context of the urban public eating that permeates civil society; this phenomenon con-

firms the historical access Southeast Asian women have had to what Western social theory has conceptualized as the ‘‘public sphere’’ (Landes 1988; Ryan 1990). By focusing on the practice of selling/purchasing cooked food on the streets, lanes, canals (those that remain), and indoor complexes of urban areas, I argue that nurturing (liang) has a commodified dimension in Thailand. The commercial aspect of nurturing is a significant influence on the process of change currently apparent in Bangkok’s foodscape. My conclusions are supported by reference to secondary sources, but are based primarily on extensive fieldwork involving qualitative interviewing and detailed case histories.∞ The chapter first discusses the role of women in Thai society, and the contrast between gender roles in rural and urban contexts. Perceptions of femininity and masculinity are of particular concern. Nurturing has important historical roots, which indicate that femininity is associated with the role of economic ‘‘provider’’: women act as ‘‘rice winners’’ for their families. Many argue that this association between women and money earning, however, is traditionally ensconced within an ascetic Buddhist value system where the material world is subordinated to things spiritual. Hence, there is a paradox here where women occupy high status in both the material and spatial sense, particularly at the local scale, but are subordinated in the abstract realm. In other words, there is a contradiction in the meaning associated with the marking of time and space in Thai society. Others see the link between femininity and nurturing as having wellentrenched pre-Buddhist roots as part of indigenous fertility cults where women are associated with power. It is clear that a strong connection exists between women and food in Southeast Asia in general. The regional cult of ‘‘women, earth, and rice,’’ which predates the adoption of Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity, has been noted by many scholars (Keyes 1987), and has prompted a series of debates on the ostensible links between femininity and nurturing. The discourse has had a particular impact on Thai studies of gender relations. This chapter explores these debates in the face of the rapid urbanization and modernization of the early 1990s, with especial reference to observations centered on the ‘‘primate city’’ of Bangkok, the country’s preeminent metropolis. The uniqueness of this chapter is its approach toward the spatiality of nurturing behavior. Femininity and masculinity are partially predicated on where a society conducts its nurturing activities. Conventional pub-

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lic/private sphere models have been used to characterize the supposed ‘‘traditional’’ place of women as domestic and public life as masculine. The model of private and public spheres has been severely criticized as an empirically inaccurate representation that is class biased as well as ethnocentric, and that reifies, thus making it typical of concepts based in dichotomies. Naming location-specific ways in which the private and public may or may not be of symbolic or empirical significance can speak volumes on social construction along with the practices of gender, class, and other systems of hierarchy. I choose, therefore, to retain the terms private and public for their analytic utility rather than referring to an empirically accurate ‘‘ground truth.’’ The conceptualization of space in Thai culture that emerges here is a step toward unveiling the inherently ethnocentric nature of conventional public/private sphere models that more validly apply to Indo-European and East Asian societies. Defining public and private spheres is a daunting task, which cannot be accomplished in this chapter; Mary Ryan (1990) summarizes well the lively debates associated with the work of Hannah Arendt, Jürgen Habermas, Michelle Rosaldo, and others. A binary public-private model may be entirely inappropriate to Southeast Asia; rather, it appears that space is di√erently coded into similar categories in ways outsiders do not immediately understand. Yet there are subtle notions pertaining to the appropriate ‘‘places’’ for Thai women and men. A certain degree of spatial segregation does exist, particularly when one moves upward in terms of socioeconomic status where the upper classes have been more imbued with Sinitic and Indic (especially Brahminic) values and practices that tend to restrict women spatially. Nevertheless, in a general sense, Thai and larger Southeast Asian gender relations appear to be qualitatively di√erent from, and more flexible than, those exhibited in neighboring South and East Asia. Women are granted much more geographic mobility and are not secluded in the home or family compound.≤ This spatial liberty for the masses is in some ways conditional on women earning income for their families. It is from a standpoint of women generally having more easy and thorough access to public space in Thailand, notwithstanding slight adjustments for class and ethnicity, that this discussion approaches gender, food, and place.≥ I also examine several ways in which Bangkok’s foodscape is changing in terms of its gendering as a result of rapid urbanization and, to a certain extent, globalization. Men, for example, are increasingly seeking

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a share of the hitherto women-dominated and lucrative business of retailing raw and cooked foods, and are therefore encroaching on feminized urban space. In doing so, they are challenging conventional idealized Thai notions of masculinity as more ascetic and are becoming participants in the material orientation of modernity, often through dire economic necessity, but also as aspiring businessmen. Women have also moved from ‘‘informal sector’’ activities such as food vending to wage employment.∂ Concomitantly, this high female labor force participation helps swell demand for prepared food. Women who choose to continue as sellers in the foodscape either carry on their traditional identification with liang, or given middle-class privilege or good fortune in business, take a commercial interest in the lucrative prepared-food distribution system and restaurant industry. This chapter primarily contends that nurturing as a food-related activity has been displaced and commodified, and is being di√erently gendered. As a denouement, this chapter will briefly integrate recent field research on the impact of the economic crisis on the foodscape, showing that small-scale food retailing is one of the main means of survival for many victims of the region’s economic di≈culties.

Gender Roles and Nurturing in Thai Society Flexibility of gender roles along with related behaviors and aesthetics is evident throughout Southeast Asia. It is visible in the relative lack of gendered pronouns, tolerance of cross-dressing and same-sex relationships, and a less strict sexual division of labor than in the societies in neighboring South and East Asia. Discerning the meaning and status behind these cultural manifestations is, however, a complex task (Atkinson and Errington 1990). Flexibility of gender roles refers to the shifting ascription of value to male and female depending on class position, ethnicity, and rural versus urban ways of life. Gendering is also elastic in the face of modernization, and presents the observer with yet another paradox concerning constructions of femininity and masculinity. The selling of raw and prepared foods by market women, a longstanding tradition in Southeast Asia, is particularly evident in Thailand. Foreigners have typically interpreted this behavior as a sign of Thai women’s strength and independence; it is often cited alongside an impressive list of other factors, which lead one to believe in the equality of the sexes in the region. As Jack Potter observes, 150 ⭈ Gisèle Yasmeen

Chiangmai women are impressive. They have the strength of character, independence, and self-assurance of women who live in a society where they are in a strong position. Residence here is matrilocal. The daughters stay at home and their husbands come to live with them. Inheritance is bilateral, and the women share equally with the men; daughters inherit the parental home and matrilineal ancestors. In case of divorce, it is the man who leaves and the woman who stays home. Women work in the fields, rear the children, keep house; they are also the merchants who earn money for the family selling in the markets. They are the ones who keep the money, for fear that their men will waste it on gambling or drinking, or on other women. There are many strong men in Chiangmai village, but what impresses a Western outsider is the women. (1976, 24) While it is true that Thai women have long played an important income-generating role in the family and have a history of microentrepreneurialism (Manderson 1983; Van Esterik 1982), foreigners may have exaggerated and misinterpreted the meaning associated with the public presence of Thai women. A. Thomas Kirsch (1982, 1985), for example, argues that in the Thai Buddhist ascetic value system, the handling of money and ‘‘worldly’’ occupations are denigrated, and the women who fill such positions are hierarchically subordinated. Thai feminists, similarly, tend to be more sober when commenting on the position of women in their society. Pasuk Phongpaichit, a Thai economist, remarks that the easiest way to describe the Thai rural household is as a corporation of kinswomen who induct males through marriage. The rural family is built around its women, and this central role imposes rights and duties. Women traditionally manage the finances of the household, take (or help take) many of the most important questions about household expenditures, and have a great degree of personal responsibility for managing and maintaining the family’s wealth. . . . [I]t is that sense of responsibility to the family, which propels many of the girls to migrate in search of income. (1982, 256) Food preparation is one of several income-earning strategies commonly adopted by rural migrants in Bangkok. Migrants seeking a niche in this urban milieu encounter gender relations that present a sharp contrast to the ‘‘corporation of kinswomen’’ of rural Thailand. Within an Bangkok’s Foodscape ⭈ 151

urban culture, ‘‘men have many more privileges and pre-emptive rights, often at the expense of women. Taking courtesans or minor wives or simply just going out on the town is not only legitimate but somehow rather admirable—a mark of status. The ability to dominate women, many women, becomes inextricably bound up with concepts of commercial and political power and success’’ (ibid.). The variance between Pasuk’s two depictions confirms the significant urban/rural divide, which distinguishes the ways in which femininity and masculinity are constructed and practiced. The case of urban men displaying status through philandering raises issues of responsibility for one’s family and the ways in which power is used to dominate others. Thai urban women are certainly neither socially nor economically equal to urban men. In both urban and rural areas, however, women are primarily, but not exclusively, responsible for nurturing others, particularly through the provision of food. Charles Keyes (1987) asserts that there is a positive symbolic association between femininity and liang. This explains the predominance of women in ‘‘caregiving’’ activities such as cooking and market vending, which involve nurturing quite literally. Indeed, Keyes maintains that the essence of femaleness in Thai society is nurturing, whereas the essence of masculinity is ‘‘potency’’ (1987, 123). He does qualify this, though, by referring to the various images in Thai and Buddhist folklore that represent ideal women as nurturers, while also depicting oppositional characters such as the ‘‘passionate/su√ering woman’’ and ‘‘demanding mistress’’ (Keyes 1984). He thus acknowledges that Thai culture o√ers a range of options for definitions of and practices associated with femininity (1987, 124). Slightly contrary to Keyes’s portrayal is the argument that nurturing is not exclusively a female activity in the Thai context. Penny Van Esterik (1992b) clearly explains the gender-neutral use of the term and provides plenty of examples of men engaging in behavior where liang applies. In Thai, liang can mean ‘‘to treat’’—that is, to invite guests for a meal or sponsor a banquet. It also means ‘‘to foster,’’ such as when one adopts a child. One can liang orchids, for example, whether one is male or female. The word has a wide range of meanings besides the literal connotation, ‘‘to feed,’’ and cannot be adequately represented by the English term ‘‘nurture,’’ with its attendant notions of femininity, duty, domesticity, and Western and East Asian ‘‘housewifization’’ (Mies 1986, 100–110).∑ Liang carries with it a sense of power, such as when powerful politicians and 152 ⭈ Gisèle Yasmeen

o≈cials guarantee the loyalty of their entourage by hosting elaborate meals/festivities (Van Esterik 1992b). Liang, too, involves reciprocal rights and obligations. To raise a child (liang luuk, liang dek)—and by implication, feed it—is not martyrlike, selfsacrificing work but anticipates that the child will later owe something to its parents, specifically its mother, as summarized in the Thai concept of bunkhun—a debt of gratitude. Hence the Thai practice in which the bridegroom pays ‘‘milk money’’ to compensate the bride’s mother for breast-feeding the daughter during infancy. ‘‘One looks forward to a daughter’s labor until marriage and the ‘milk money’ that her husband or his parents pay her mother for the milk that the bride once drank at her mother’s breast. If she marries young or elopes, the return is small; if she brings a husband into the home to help with the work, the return increases’’ (Sharp and Hanks 1978, 47). Bunkhun applies to a range of patron-client relations where favors are granted and concrete acts of gratitude are bestowed in return. Thai men, like their cohorts in other parts of the region, often participate a great deal in nurturing, including food preparation and child rearing (Van Esterik 1992b). Hazel Hauck, Saovanee Sudsaneh, and Jane Hanks (1958) stated succinctly in their study of a village on the outskirts of Bangkok that there was no marked sexual division of labor when it came to cooking. The same has been said of the upland Philippines (McKay 1994). Responsible men are expected to take an interest in the overall well-being of their families, as is illustrated by the case of Samrit, a former driver of a tuk-tuk or samlor (a motorized, three-wheeled rickshaw). Samrit turned away from the ‘‘wild’’ life of late nights and drinking associated with his occupation to open a chicken noodle stall with his wife, Lek. As Samrit puts it, ‘‘There were many tra≈c jams. It was hard to earn money. I thought to myself, if it goes on like this, I won’t be able to take care of my wife and children. The children are still small; they won’t be able to go to school. We’ll have to send them up-country for their studies. I noticed that my friend was selling [food] successfully. If I could do the same, I’d have the opportunity to send my children to school in Bangkok. They could then find good jobs. So I decided to change occupations.’’∏ Samrit now tries to influence his friends to shift away from ‘‘dead-end’’ occupations like tuk-tuk driving. Due to Bangkok’s legendary tra≈c jams, this bastion of male working-class employment has been a victim of rapid over-urbanization. He encourages his male friends to start saving money, ‘‘settle down,’’ and care for their families. Samrit sees Bangkok’s Foodscape ⭈ 153

himself as a nurturing figure. At the same time, he exhibits characteristics of Thai machismo—speaking for his wife when they are together and clearly acting like the one in charge in public.π Van Esterik lists the many symbolic images of masculine nurturers, notably the king, who is a supreme example of the pau liang archetype (Wijeyewardene 1971). Observers such as Aihwa Ong (1989) have argued that a model of gender complementarity ought to be applied to Southeast Asia. I maintain instead that women occupy a contradictory position in relation to men in Thai society. Thai women have one of the highest rates of labor force participation in the world, make up a significant sector of the workforce within business, the academy, and the civil service, and have most of the control over the household budget. As asserted in this chapter, Thai women also traditionally have impressive access to space, unlike their counterparts in other parts of the world. A paradox nevertheless presents itself when one begins to examine the reasons for the above. On the one hand, women are respected as the more ‘‘responsible’’ sex, thereby leading to a high degree of participation in remunerated work and control of household income; men are thought to be less responsible, especially in their youth. Women in Thailand, however, recognize that they still have a number of legal and institutional hurdles to overcome to gain equality (Decade Magazine 1992), and have yet to achieve a significant presence in occupational sectors such as the Buddhist sangha (clergy), Parliament, and military (though there are even a few women generals now). Kirsch’s position is that this is due to a void created by Theravada Buddhism’s ascetic value system, whereby men are driven to fulfill vocations in the religious sphere and bureaucratic polity with women filling the remaining niches. This model may be losing its utility, as the desire to become a successful entrepreneur begins to eclipse the masculine archetype of the government o≈cial or virtuous religious devotee. Some attribute this shift to the renaissance of Sino-Thai culture, which is more inherently materialistic, among the middle classes (Keyes 1995). One can also e√ectively claim that the transition to modernity with its attendant consumerism is the greatest motivating factor behind redefinitions of masculinity. On a regional scale, the participation of Christian Filipinas and Muslim Malays in similar occupations also casts doubt on the contention that the ascetic Theravada Buddhist value system forces women into lower-status, small-scale commerce (Neher 1982; Laderman 1982).

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To add another element to the paradox, femininity is generally considered inferior to masculinity, prohibiting women from achieving significant power on the national scale in Thailand. In addition to being socially barred from entry into certain occupations, women’s child-rearing responsibilities and a huge demand for prepared food leads many Thai women to open ‘‘food shops’’ (raan ahaan) or small stalls and restaurants. Indeed, women account for at least 80 percent of owners and employees of small food shops in Thailand. Many of them are migrants from the impoverished countryside. But the overlap in gendered expectations of nurturing suggests that men’s ingress into the Bangkok foodscape represents a more subtle shift rather than a fundamental challenge to gender roles.

Bangkok’s Foodscape Elsewhere, I have provided details on the workings of public eating in Thailand (Yasmeen 1992, 1996a, 2000, 2001). Thai urbanites spend approximately 50 percent of their monthly food expenditures on prepared food (National Statistical O≈ce 1994). Most of this (69 percent) is eaten away from home—that is, on the restaurant premises—while approximately 31 percent is ‘‘take-away’’ (ibid.). Table 1 provides a breakdown of the types of prepared foods taken home as well as the meals eaten outside the home during a seven-day period. It shows that ‘‘rice and curry’’ accounts for the largest proportion of the take-home food expenditure category. Often, rice is easily cooked at home in an electric rice cooker, with the more labor-intensive dishes such as curries, soups, and vegetable dishes being purchased. This habit existed as far back as the 1960s; as observed in the 1960s, ‘‘some housewives rarely cook at all, except the mandatory pot of boiled rice, instead availing themselves of the endless supply of food from the street hawkers’’ (Brennan 1981, 32). Prepared food originates from a range of sources, extending from the humblest itinerant vendor to standard street restaurants ‘‘packed with diners seated on wooden chairs at Formica-topped tables, every square inch of which is covered with bowls of food’’ (Brennan 1981, 13). Elite eating habits include elaborate establishments serving banquet-style fare located in the most expensive districts of the city (Walker 1991; Yasmeen 1996a). Most food micro-entrepreneurs are women of migrant backgrounds

Bangkok’s Foodscape ⭈ 155

Table 1 Prepared Food Expenditures in Seven-Day Period, Greater Bangkok 1990a Food Type Amount in Baht Prepared Meals


Taken Home Rice and Curry Noodles Fried Rice Meals (phinto)b Snacks Other

116.42 85.93 16.65 4.97 4.03 3.26 1.58

Breakfast Lunch Dinner Snacks Alcoholic Drinks Other Food/Beverages

258.69 41.97 163.04 34.56 3.01 14.81 1.30

Eaten away from Home


Includes the provinces of Nonthaburi, Pathum Thani, and Samut Prakan Refers to food purchased from catering networks (delivered in lunch kits called phintos) Source: National Statistical O≈ce 1994. b

who are often from the poorest part of Thailand, the Northeast (Isan). Isan is the home of Thailand’s largest ethnic minority.∫ Many of the men traditionally involved in food retailing are older Sino-Thai, particularly those selling typically Chinese dishes such as chicken rice, rice with pork leg, and many types of noodles (Napat and Blanc-Szanton 1986). Young migrant men from the provinces, however, are quickly taking their places. Historically, the operation of a food shop has been a steppingstone to financial success for a few prominent Sino-Thai; the president of the Bangkok Bank was said to have started his career as a noodle vendor, for instance. It is not surprising, then, that the newest and poorest migrants to Bangkok from impoverished Isan are now occupying these economic niches in the food system. At the same time, the ethnicity and gender of the new incumbents of the foodscape are bringing about the creation of a new cultural matrix. The primary factors that stimulate the demand for prepared food are

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the high female labor force participation rates, the lack of cooking facilities in housing, the di≈culties involved in preparing Thai food, and a cultural emphasis on ‘‘entertaining’’ and ‘‘convenience’’ (Yasmeen 1996b). Thais consider a person stingy if she or he brings lunch from home to save money (Kamolrat 1994), and most urban workers eat out at lunchtime. The preference is to go out for lunch with one’s coworkers, each person taking his or her turn to ‘‘treat’’ the group. Alternatively, each person will pay and eat separately as part of a collective jaunt to the cafeteria. Supper is ideally eaten at home with one’s family (see table 1; Walker 1991). In Bangkok, gridlocked tra≈c prevents people from getting home in time to cook or eat supper, creating an additional source of demand for prepared food (Kwanta 1992). Single workers eat dinner outside the home, and those with families typically pick up take-out food from a small food shop on the street or an air-conditioned ‘‘food court’’ in a shopping plaza (Walker 1991). The food is usually placed in small plastic bags: women who bring home food for the family this way on a regular basis are collectively known as ‘‘plastic bag housewives,’’ or mae baan tung plastik (Van Esterik 1992a; Yasmeen 1996c). Men, particularly those who are young and single, are also often seen purchasing food in this manner; women remain primarily responsible for family food purchases though. Other strategies include subscribing to a meal-catering network where food is delivered in a ‘‘ti≈n’’ ( phinto) or, the more expensive solution, hiring a cook (Walker 1991).Ω Thus, women in Thai society who can a√ord it are able to circumvent the ‘‘double day’’ tolerated by working women in Western countries where, after a full paid workday, a wife/mother is often responsible for another (unpaid) job of preparing and serving supper, and cleaning up afterward. What is ‘‘domestic’’ work in the Western context is commodified and displaced, contracted out to other women, both economically and spatially. Food-related work is conducted in small food shops on the street, cafeterias, and shopping/o≈ce complexes. Formerly unpaid nurturing is mediated through transactions between the society at large and the women (and fewer men) who sell prepared food. Commodified nurturing is located in the public sphere in a geographic sense. There is an important caveat, however; those who own and operate small food shops bear the brunt of responsibility for food-related work. They rise before dawn and go to bed late at night, working excessively long

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hours to make ends meet and to send remittances home to impoverished rural kinfolk. The public food distribution system is therefore predicated on the exploitation of a large, poor urban class. The commodification of prepared food has so thoroughly penetrated the Thai sociocultural system that o√erings for monks are now often bought from special stalls that sell ready-made ‘‘kits.’’ The following vignette of an early morning market is drawn from my 1994 field notes: Early Morning at Say Yut Market The monks started making their rounds around 6 a.m. . . . Usually interspersed—many with assistants who put the food in buckets. I wanted to take a picture but wasn’t sure if it was proper. Daeng said ‘‘no problem’’ and o√ered to make an o√ering so I could take a picture more confidently. We both ended up making merit and a vendor took the picture. This specialized food vending woman sells ‘‘kits’’ that cost fifteen baht (seventy-five cents), containing one lotus flower, one package of incense, a curry and a soup (in plastic bags), and a little cup of rice that one empties into the rice bowl . . . as well as a mini bottle of drinking water. Thus is the act of producing merit by feeding monks itself commodified. The commodification of nurturing does not appear to a√ect perceptions of accruing merit; the person purchasing food is still considered to be the one making the o√ering, even though her or his labor has not gone directly into the food preparation. Similarly, nurturing one’s children is often completed by the purchase of prepared food. The ‘‘moral dilemma’’ of not serving the family a home-cooked meal is overcome by the fact that food shops serve, for the most part, the equivalent of home cooking. The commodification of prepared food in this context is a far cry from purchasing ‘‘convenience’’ and ‘‘fast’’ foods in the West. The meaning, content, and spatiality of Thai traditional ‘‘convenience’’ foods is still mainly in the hands of women. Western, Asian, and locally controlled fast-food chains have, of course, made significant inroads into the foodscape, and as in East Asia (Watson 1997), are attempting to lure consumers away from traditional convenience foods. The economic crisis is proving to be an obstacle to this mission with McDonald’s, for example, finding it di≈cult to compete with vendors (Marshall 1998). Nevertheless, Bangkok’s food vendors are courted by representatives from Coke and Pepsi, and are encouraged to carry their soft drinks. In return, the food sellers are provided with promotional items bearing the company logo such as 158 ⭈ Gisèle Yasmeen

aprons, parasols, calendars, and stickers. Post-crisis fieldwork in Bangkok from 1998 to 2000 pointed to the recent establishment of new ‘‘box stores’’ such as Carrefour, Big-C, and the well-established Makro, selling items in bulk to those who can a√ord to buy in large quantities. The notions of duty and sacrifice built into the ‘‘homemade meal,’’ so prevalent in ideologies of Indo-European femininity, imply domesticbound, unpaid service to the family; such ideas are largely absent in the Thai context. There are certainly explanations for this within Thai gender ideology, as I discussed earlier. Within this value system, no contradiction is perceived between earning a living and caring for one’s family. Quite to the contrary, women are expected to economically nurture their dependents. But the values associated with nurturing and the flexibility with regard to meals might also be due to the availability of low-cost, quality ‘‘homemade’’ food, which makes duty-bound slavery in the kitchen unnecessary for many women in urban Thailand.

Space and Place I have established thus far that a great deal of food preparation and consumption has entered into commodified relations in spaces outside as well as within the home. Prepared food is sold on the street, in small lanes, within educational, shopping and o≈ce complexes, and in homebased businesses such as catering networks. The food is either consumed in the food shops and restaurants where it is sold or is taken home. Street restaurants are the preferred environment for inexpensive eating, although a growing number of indoor, air-conditioned food centers provide a√ordable competition and are especially popular with the middle class, for whom a ten baht (fifty cents) di√erence is a small price to pay for a comfortable environment. Most Thais survive on a daily minimum wage of 150 baht (U.S.$7.50) per day, or even less, making expensive restaurants beyond their reach. With the recent economic crisis, even fewer consumers are able to a√ord the trappings of an expensive lifestyle, including eating in more exclusive venues. This situation has increased the business opportunities for small-scale food vendors. At the same time, the increased competition and fact that cash-strapped consumers sometimes resort to cooking rudimentary food for themselves at home has resulted in most prepared food retailers earning one-third less than they did prior to the crisis.∞≠ Most food vendors are driven to set up their businesses on footBangkok’s Foodscape ⭈ 159

paths because of the increased income-earning potential. These microentrepreneurs avoid paying rent, but often pay local shopkeepers for utilities or secure their selling space through bribery. Still, even with these disbursements, their overhead costs are low. Since in addition to their own survival, most small food shop owners are concerned with sending money to their families in the provinces, profit margins are of utmost importance. Indeed, public eating serves the latent function of redistributing income to Thailand’s poorest regions. Public eating is dependent on rural to urban migration, which has increased in the face of rapid industrialization and the accompanying urbanization. Opening a food shop represents a constrained choice in which selling prepared food is the most feasible way for a micro-entrepreneur to earn daily revenue (Tinker 1987). ‘‘I came [to Bangkok] to help care for my family,’’ Ying told me. She had worked as a cook and maid for nearly seventeen years before finally opening a food shop. ‘‘My employer said to me, ‘If you want to open a shop here I don’t mind. If you stay with me, your salary will not be as high.’ ’’ Ying explained that her salary as a domestic employee was not enough to support her family any longer. She started by operating a small pushcart outside her former employer’s house. Later, the employer’s daughter forbade her to sell there. The landlady and her daughter were concerned for their possessions—an apprehension that is typical of the Thai middle and upper classes, particularly in the boom period of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Though the protection of property among the wealthy is certainly not a new phenomenon in Thailand, the extensive impact of modernization and the resulting creation of a wealthy middle class, often at the expense of the poor, highlights the tension as well as cleavages between socioeconomic classes in Bangkok. Though Thai economists and politicians used to boast about the growth of the middle classes, the impact of rapid industrialization created a group of wealthy, conspicuous consumers juxtaposed against a vast swath of urban and rural poor. Class tension, as in the case of Ying, can have a direct impact on spatial configurations in the foodscape and points to the fundamental hurdle experienced by urban food sellers: that of negotiating secure access to an a√ordable selling space (Santos 1975). (Ying and her niece Daeng, her assistant, were then o√ered a space with an adjacent bedroom for 5,000 baht [U.S.$250] per month to open a larger food shop with tables and chairs. The move meant a drastic increase in expenses and led in part to the decline of their business at that time.) 160 ⭈ Gisèle Yasmeen

With Bangkok’s exorbitant real estate prices of the early to mid-1990s, renting a space for food selling was out of the question for many cookedfood vendors. The most vulnerable micro-entrepreneurs were being edged out of business as a result of drastic rates of economic growth similar to the situation described elsewhere (Jellinek 1991). Samrit explained, as I asked him where he would go when the landlady built an apartment, ‘‘We’ve got big problems! We still don’t have a place to go. We’re trying to find a place but with no luck. We’d like to find something, but it’s hard for vendors to find housing.’’ The same held true for Daeng and her aunt, Ying. The space where they live and run a food shop was scheduled for redevelopment in the following months. When I asked if there would be a food shop in the new building, Ying replied, ‘‘There should be. The owner said that they don’t want us to move. But, we’ll see first. The owner sets the conditions.’’ The landlady, though sometimes behaving as a patron bestowing favors on clients such as Ying, intended to build a high-rise apartment on the site of the food shop. Ying and Daeng were promised the contract for the food shop in the proposed apartment. In spite of that, they felt threatened by the potential development. The example of Samrit and Lek illustrates the power that ‘‘middlepersons’’ such as landowners have over micro-entrepreneurs. Unlike other parts of the world, much of Bangkok’s real estate is owned and controlled by women. Though some of these landowners are Sino-Thai, many of them are not and were simply fortunate enough to have invested in property prior to Bangkok’s boom, thereby accruing great wealth. Thus, a real estate–based class structure has emerged in the city, irrespective of gender and directly a√ecting the lives of food shop owners. Setting up on the street (soi) is the most cost-e√ective solution for most micro-entrepreneurs. O≈cial rent is not paid for selling spaces on sidewalks and in lanes. In many cases, permission of the nearest landowner or shopkeeper guarantees access; others resort to paying ‘‘rent’’ to the municipal police to avoid arrest in sensitive areas or when contravening city ordinances (Yasmeen 1996c). A discussion with Samrit and Lek, with the help of Arporn ‘‘Kapuk’’ Somjit, clarifies this: Kapuk: Are you renting the space for your shop? Samrit: Yes, from the tesakit (municipal police). We used to pay 100 baht per month, but not anymore. Kapuk: And now? Lek: We don’t pay anymore. Bangkok’s Foodscape ⭈ 161

Kapuk: Why not? Lek: Jut phon pan. We have the right to conduct business there now. Gisele: Did the tesakit ever give you a receipt? Lek: No. [laughter] Jut phon pan has been written on certain street signs in Bangkok since 1994 to designate ‘‘vendor-friendly’’ streets and sections of the city. The phrase can be translated literally as ‘‘a point to ease the situation’’ (jut = point; phon pan = to ease the situation) (Haas 1964). The implication is that although some restrictions apply, vending in designated areas is tolerated. A multitude of municipal ordinances pertain to where and how food can be sold on the streets, and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (bma) is in the process of instituting a system of identification cards and other bureaucratic measures for street vendors (Bangkok Metropolitan Administration [BMA] 1994; Yasmeen 1996c).∞∞ As reflected in the jut phon pan street signs, after years of conflict, the bma changed its policy toward street vendors, exhibiting a desire to regulate sellers, protect many of them from extortion, and show greater tolerance toward this activity (Bangkok Post 1993a, 1993b). Thus, municipal policies have lessened the impact that the municipal police, or tesakit, have as middlemen in the foodscape. These policies have also eased gender and authority-related tensions over access to public space in the city. Both legal criteria and questions of access to space distinguish public and private spaces in Bangkok. Private residences, especially when owned rather than rented, are the legal domains of the household inhabiting the space, and dwellers are granted the fullest access to the premises. At the other extreme, most streets are the property of the state, making them at least in theory the domain of the Thai citizenry (although nominally in the king’s name). Subjects of the kingdom can expect to have equal access to the streets dependent on the health, safety, and commercial regulations imposed by the government. Unlike their counterparts in neighboring regions and even some adjacent Southeast Asian countries, women in Bangkok have far greater access to public space due to social and economic privilege. This access, however, is still mediated by middlepersons such as landowners and representatives of the state such as the tesakit. The impacts of the recent economic crisis have also resulted in the state loosening its attempt to control urban public space because of the sheer number of people turning toward the streets to earn a living—often 162 ⭈ Gisèle Yasmeen

through food vending (Yasmeen 2001). Still, the tragic events of May 1992 confirm that when the public sphere threatens those in power, free access to it is certainly not guaranteed. At the time of the May uprising, the student-led pro-democracy protests that took place at Bangkok’s Democracy Monument were met with brutal police violence in the form of gunshots, tear gas, arrests, and several casualties, some of them fatal. These events suggest that should access to urban public space again begin to threaten those in power, such access could eventually be denied.

Future Foodscapes? The foodscape discussed in this chapter represents the confluence of a distinct constellation of cultural, economic, and political factors. A strong feminine presence in public eating, both in production and consumption, reflects the nature of gender relations in Thailand specifically and Southeast Asia more generally. Although the upper echelons of public life, such as the military or elected o≈ce, are still largely barred to them, Thai and other Southeast Asian women have not been secluded in the home, as have women in more patriarchal Indo-European societies and the traditionally Confucian East Asia.∞≤ Women in Southeast Asia have long had access to what Western theory has defined as the public sphere, through their involvement in local politics and small-scale commerce. The a priori access that Thai women have to the public sphere on a deeper cultural plane allows them to occupy public space in the city in order to sell and purchase cooked food. The gender inequalities in access to public space so typical of other regions are largely absent in Thai society. This chapter seeks to emphasize the phenomenon of Thai women’s access to public space and the public sphere despite slight variations due to class and ethnicity as well as debates over the meanings of their ubiquitous presence in the city. The economic ‘‘miracle’’ that was Bangkok until fairly recently attracted impoverished rural migrants in search of income for their families in the provinces. Selling prepared food exists alongside domestic service, factory work, and prostitution as an occupation with relative ease of entry requiring few formal skills. As such, it provides a niche for revenue-seeking migrants (Muecke 1992). For those with limited capital, selling on the sidewalks and in the lanes is the most financially sound option. Food selling in Bangkok is subject to a large number of munici-

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pal ordinances. The local authorities are beginning to instigate procedures such as granting identification cards as part of policies to grant food vendors legitimized access to some spaces in the city. In common with the other occupations listed above, selling cooked food in small enterprises or food shops is a female-dominated activity, mirroring the gendering of cooking knowledge and the fact that women tend to take responsibility for work related to nurturing. Through transactions in Bangkok’s ubiquitous food shops, though, nurturing becomes commodified. It is di≈cult to determine a single factor explaining this behavior. As in the anecdote about the chicken and egg, high levels of female labor force participation in turn stimulate a demand for services such as prepared food because most women do not have time to cook labor-intensive Thai meals. At the same time, men are becoming interested in the lucrative business of selling prepared food and are engaging in this occupation as a livelihood on a smaller scale. Also, they are clearly beginning to dominate as employees and owners of larger establishments. Male involvement in the foodscape was the traditional domain of the Sino-Thai. Today, migrants from Isan and ethnically Thai men are taking a serious interest in food vending and the restaurant business. Evidence of this points to the transgression of ethnic, cultural, and gender boundaries through the blurring of traditional gendered values and roles. Men are involved directly in the foodscape as entrepreneurs at various levels, including as micro-entrepreneurs working with their wives. Their interest in this sector might be seen as a threat to a traditionally female-dominated activity. They are also involved in the periphery of the foodscape regulating access to space as police and other state representatives and policymakers. This gatekeeping can either have positive impacts on small-scale entrepreneurs, as in the case of jut phon phan, or can threaten access to selling spaces. Bangkok’s foodscape is undergoing a multitude of changes, as women leaving food vending to take up wage employment become consumers of food prepared and sold by an expanding number of men. Intersecting this shift is a growing preference among the middle classes for food available in the more comfortable and sheltered environments provided by shopping centers and o≈ce complexes. The extent to which demand for eating on the streets and lanes will be maintained is therefore uncertain, though the present economic crisis appears to be actually benefiting micro-entrepreneurs. These benefits include recognizing the role of food

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vendors in food and income security, and the reversal of some of the trends of the early to mid-1990s documented in this chapter. Concomitantly, food vendors themselves are becoming more and more ensconced in global food production systems, as they are encouraged to sell internationally recognized branded products such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Many of the changes discussed here with reference to Bangkok’s foodscape are manifestations of shifts in traditional gender identification with respect to the intertwined processes of urbanization and globalization. The outcome of these changes for Bangkok’s food systems and, more important, the city’s food sellers remains to be seen. One thing is certain: to survive and prosper, food micro-entrepreneurs will have to form strong, member-driven organizations and unions. The establishment of such associations in both South and Southeast Asia over the past few years points to a hopeful future.∞≥

Notes I am grateful to Carol Bullen, who helped edit the first draft of this chapter and suggested index entries. I thank the anonymous reviewer and the editors of this volume, all of whom provided particularly useful editorial suggestions, and Cyndia Pilkington, who copyedited the penultimate version of this chapter submitted to Duke University Press. The research, on which this discussion is based, was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the International Development Research Centre, and the Canadian Universities Consortium Partnership Program. My research assistants in Bangkok, Kamolrat Sa-Ngeam and Arporn Somjit, provided invaluable insights. I am most indebted to the numerous Thai food shop owners who gave me permission to research the circumstances of their lives. 1 The past nine years of my relationships with the food sellers, rendered anonymous in this chapter, involved considerable participant observation as well as the development of a relationship of trust and often friendship. As a researcher, customer, and friend, I might be defined as a liminal trans-status subject myself, both Western (diasporic French Canadian) and South Asian (southern Indian) who could pass as a Thaispeaking local, but only at an intermediate level. I make no claims to objectivity in this piece; my allegiances are on the side of the micro-entrepreneurs. My current work focuses on the food vendors’ capacity building toward organizing themselves to struggle for their rights and social protection. 2 The South Asian purdah system, depending on the way it is practiced, limits women’s movements outside the domestic compound, and entails the physical and social separation of women and men. It also limits the extent to which women can earn money. Pakistan has the lowest female labor force participation rates in the world—averaging around 14.5 percent of all women over the age of fifteen (Donnan 1988, 112–13). 3 My emphasis on the liberty as much as constraints facing Thai urban women in their

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9 10 11



access to space is not only empirically accurate but theoretically necessary. So much of the Western feminist research on Thailand emphasizes women’s exploitation in the sex industry, which however nefarious, is but one strand in a complex weave of social interactions in Thailand. I conducted this research while Thailand was still in a ‘‘boom’’ period in the early to mid-1990s. My current research looks at the impact of the economic crisis on smallscale food retailing, and is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (cida) through the Development and Security in Southeast Asia project (York University), and Institute for Strategic and Development Studies (Manila). Mies’s contention is that the role of housewife, far from being part of a traditional European arrangement, was a creation of early capitalism, as was the nuclear family. A logical extension of Mies’s position would be that housewifization is an inevitable aspect of Southeast Asian capitalist development—a debatable assertion. Individual informants are quoted from tape-recorded interviews I conducted in Thai with the help of my research assistants in 1994. From recent field research funded by cida, I draw observations concerning the e√ects of the economic crisis on the food system. Samrit’s wife, Lek, told me (December 2000) of Samrit being in significant debt due to gambling and loans for business ventures over the past several years. Only when Lek threatened to leave him and Samrit’s father died did Samrit swear a religious oath to change his ways. Even though northeasterners (Khon Isan) are defined as other in modern Thai polity, they are considered representative of the ‘‘real Thai’’ who, in the past, had little contact with Sinitic and Indic influences. The plastic bag is quickly being replaced by the foam container in many parts of Bangkok. A ti≈n is a multitiered lunch kit traditionally used throughout Asia. Fieldwork in December 2000 confirmed this figure. One air-conditioned restaurant geared to the middle class reported a similar decline in sales. These conditions generally concerned acceptable business hours, prohibition of vending one day per week (Wednesdays, for street cleaning), and certain special restrictions. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule throughout South and East Asia. Prime examples include Gujarat and Kerala in India, where women are known to have a high degree of spatial mobility. Chinese examples include the debated case of sam sui Hakka women in southern China as well as numerous matriarchal hill tribe groups. Here I am referring to Self-Employed Women’s Association (sewa) as well as its lesser-known creation, the National Association of Street Vendors of India (Cohen, Bhatt, and Horn 2000; wiego 2000). The Self-Employed Women’s Union of South Africa was inspired by sewa and has resulted in the creation of StreetNet, a global alliance of street vendors and their allies/advocates ( The Philippines has also been home to creative community organizing strategies among selfemployed micro-entrepreneurs (Yasmeen 2001).

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The Thai village, in the decades of economic development since World War II, has been a preeminent site of cultural contestation. Commonly represented as the cradle of the true Thai character, the village functions as a receptacle of moral and spiritual values, an ideological system for the allocation of gender roles, and a location of powerful but increasingly unstable notions of community. Struggles over the physical structures and cultural status of the village are thus ineluctably linked to constructions of individual and national identities. For the majority of the population, the village remains a basic location of economic activity and social interaction. For the modernizing state, it has become the fundamental unit within a bureaucratic network of surveillance and control. For rural developers, it is an unpredictable yet unavoidable fact of life. Moreover, the forces of development and incipient globalization have placed increasing strains on the village, and the circulation of information, capital, commodities, and people continues to undermine preexistent rural practices and values. The functions and meanings of the village, as a result of these forces, have never been less certain. The waves of development in the earlier part of the twentieth century resulted in a particular production of rural space in Thailand in the latter part of the century. Framed by the outset of a new century and in the wake of the Asian economic crisis at the tail end of the last, this chapter investigates the cultural fashionings of meaning and consciousness,

which demand attention alongside processes of social and economic change. Although this exploration is informed by studies in anthropology and engaged with discourses of economics, the focus is on the representations of rural Thailand in short stories by several prominent Thai authors. The era of economic development, with its emphasis on education and opportunity, instigated an intertwined movement of social realist writing, much of which has been produced by men and women raised in villages whose education and access to (inter)national publishing has been facilitated by the very forces they reflect on in their work (Anderson and Mendiones 1985; Nitaya 1984; Suvanna and Smith 1992). This literature presents critical commentaries on the upheavals of development, thereby making disruptive interventions in ongoing struggles over cultural constructions of space. The village becomes a cultural site shaped within national discourses of tradition and development as they set ideals of stable community against values of circulation and exchange, localized place against abstracted space. The manifold tensions between these two constructions may be clarified through attention at once to the gendering of space and the particular spaces experienced by gendered subjects, from the domesticized realms of the village to the roads and cities of a developing nation-state. The village of tradition is discursively constructed within a feminized space, grounded in associations between women and nature, and a≈rmed in practices of kinship and land tenure. Concomitantly, women are burdened with cultural expectations of fixity, which bind them to the family house and land. The inescapable realities of geographically mobile women, transported physically and emotionally between village and city, consequently provide an important focus for anxieties surrounding rural change. In a consideration of literature concerned with social change, it must be acknowledged that such anxieties are felt most urgently in the work of male writers, whose published work quantitatively outweighs that of women in this period. Most of the images of female mobility to be examined are shaped by men, just as the respective discourses of tradition and development are molded around patriarchal structures and ideologies. Approaching this writing from a multiply mediated position, as an urban, middle-class, Western male—whose own movements have been transcontinental, dictated by the more privileged globalization of the academic job market—my selection of short stories has been informed by the filtering processes of international publication and translation, and

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perhaps also by expectations shaped by Western discourses of Asian development. A further study might well examine the ways in which the inflections and interests of such writers have also permeated predominant Western appreciations of Thailand, through an investigation of issues such as the publishing industry’s treatment of Thai literature, media representations, and tourist discourse. This chapter looks toward such possibilities, but remains primarily focused on the literature at hand, impelled by a critical commitment to appreciate more fully the fluid discourses of space and gender within a context of uncertainty and upheaval. The literary productions reveal culturally inscribed meanings of the twin poles of tradition and development as well as the unending processes of negotiation between them. Through this negotiation, one might discern the uneasy emergence of new configurations of space and subjectivity in the nation. The first two sections discuss the predominant structures of discourse about the village of tradition and then the refiguration of the village in the era of development; the final two sections move beyond this artificially neat binary analysis by concentrating specifically on women displaced from villages—they look initially at the practices and cultural meanings of female mobility, then at two short stories by Ussiri Dhammachoti and Pira Sudham. Like almost all the stories considered throughout the chapter, these two lament the apparent dissipation of rural tradition, and are written from critical modern perspectives. But unlike many other critiques of development, the engagement with mobility in these stories might be seen to deconstruct binaries of village and city, tradition and development, and place and displacement. Both carry intimations of alternative spatial principles as they acknowledge the oppression imposed in the respective causes of tradition and modernity, and both look toward a paradoxical spatiality beyond existing parameters.

Place and Identity: Discourses of Tradition The ‘‘traditional’’ Thai village is a construction of social and cultural forces. Despite powerful assumptions of geographic fixity, rural families have not necessarily been rooted to a single place over successive generations, nor have their villages been stable and unchanging units. Nevertheless, the concept of the traditional village continues to represent a powerful encoding of social space, which is perhaps never accorded such

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weight as when it is threatened by forces of change. Indeed, access to a discourse of rural tradition is never unmediated since it is constantly shaped against the forces of economic development and national modernization. As a conceptual entity, the traditional village accords to some extent with Henri Lefebvre’s notion of ‘‘absolute space’’—‘‘a space, at once and indistinguishably mental and social, which comprehends the entire existence of the group concerned’’ (1991, 240). In any proposed context, absolute space might be shown through further investigation to be always already a thing of the past. The spatiality of the traditional village, however, is culturally embedded in such notions of complete enclosure, and this discourse of rural life underlies countless contemporary complaints in the face of rural change. In accordance with Lefebvre’s analysis, the spatiality of the Thai village is infused with a profoundly localized spirituality. ‘‘In the indigenous conception,’’ observes Thongchai Winichakul, ‘‘space is usually identified with certain aspects of the sacred or the religious. . . . Or to put it another way: the religious subordinates the materiality of space, making the latter dependent upon, or an expression of, religious value’’ (1994, 55). At the village level, this typically involves a reverence of local spirits, which must be consulted and appeased before any new settlement. The perceived spirituality of place in turn informs agricultural practices, supporting a characteristic ‘‘peasant model’’ of production in which the land is appreciated as providing for the sustenance of its inhabitants (Escobar 1995, 96–97). This relationship is endorsed and reinforced through various seasonal festivals and ceremonies, with origins in both Buddhism and indigenous religions (Seri and Hewison 1990, 20–40). Significantly, sacred rituals accord an essential soul to rice, the staple of a Southeast Asian subsistence economy, but to no other plant life. Only rice is thus subject to spiritual protection; only rice fields, as opposed to surrounding forests or areas increasingly devoted to cash crops introduced in the interests of development, are incorporated in the spiritualized space of the village (Hafner 1973, 133; Formoso 1990, 75). The social organization of the village knits together the various independent households that are the basic units of agricultural production. Physically, the houses of a village are generally, though not always, clustered together. For local government, tradition decrees a male-dominated hierarchy organized around a single headman, village elders recognized formally or informally, and household heads. Although obviously blind

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to inequalities of gender, the structure incorporates ideals of economic community in relations between the households. Practices of reciprocal and community labor are generally founded on a conception of parity, while traditions also suppress initiatives of competition for a greater relative quantity or quality of land. In the vast agrarian northeastern region, in fact, the ‘‘egalitarian village structure has traditionally precluded acquisition of new land from poorer neighbours’’ (Hirsch 1990, 34), and this has often provided a spur to the establishment of new villages. At the level of social interaction, moreover, integrative kinship ties are in theory elastic, stretching to incorporate all members of the village. One anthropologist records the term phyan-yaad, ‘‘a compound meaning literally ‘family friends,’ which is used to refer both to friends to whom ego feels so close that he considers them members of his own family and to individuals whom he considers his friends because they are members of his family’’ (Phillips 1987, 23). Though predominantly structured in accordance with patriarchal ideology, the stability of the system, in spatial terms, is actually underpinned by women. Young married couples traditionally reside with the woman’s family, and while this may only be a temporary arrangement for some, the youngest daughter of a family is expected to stay in the family home after her marriage in order to care for the parents. On the death of the parents, land may be divided among the children, but the house and household headship will be inherited by a son-in-law. Western notions of ‘‘property’’ thus collapse into apparent spatial contradictions, as power over the land and its inhabitants remains patriarchal, while inheritance and ties of familial identity with particular places follow matrilineal lines. A similarly gendered pattern may be encoded within the house itself. Bernard Formoso’s study (1990) of northeastern villages demonstrates the way in which houses are conventionally modeled in terms of the human body. The two main posts driven into the ground when a house is erected represent the feet and head, and are associated respectively with male and female symbolism. Although the feet are of lower status, their gendering reflects the greater cultural acceptance of masculine mobility. Within traditional codes, men are more likely to travel for reasons related to family or employment; as Mary Beth Mills asserts, in Thailand ‘‘spatial mobility is perceived as a natural and appropriate characteristic for men, while women’s bodies and their movement are subject to far greater restrictions’’ (1995, 256; Cli√ord 1992, 105–6). As will be seen below,

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these attitudes inform many short stories written by men: while the notion of an ostensibly portable male power translates relatively easily into a development era, the prospect of mobile women undermines a complex of masculine assumptions and desires about tradition and rural belonging. Within this signifying system, the complementary female gendering of the head post of the house is appropriate because the woman ‘‘represents the continuity of the kin group as well as the stability and integrity of the family unit’’ (Formoso 1990, 71). Furthermore, the head is linked to the soul, and this serves to implant the semiotic chain ‘‘woman-head-soul’’ within the space of the village (ibid.). This gendering of space, in which the woman figures metonymically for spirituality and domesticity, repeatedly surfaces in fictional writing. Angkarn Kalayaanaphong’s story ‘‘Grandma,’’ for example, juxtaposes the apparent isolation of an old woman with an argument for her integration into the cosmos, in accordance with tenets of village Buddhism (Phillips 1987, 55). While she is searching for food, plants speak to the woman, o√ering themselves to her and coaching her in nutrition. The plants, which ‘‘share the same world with human beings’’ and are succored by the same ‘‘divine power,’’ tell of the ‘‘deep pathos’’ they feel for the woman (ibid., 85). Her spiritual existence is figured as being at once rooted in and invigorated by the forces of place. Sarawok’s ‘‘Nu Waen and Tui’’ similarly invokes the nexus between woman and nature in a story written for the purpose of social commentary. Here, plants and animals communicate with a young girl (Nu Waen) whose horizons had previously been limited to the village, and tutor her in the spiritual deprivations of a market economy. Rice grains tell her: ‘‘If we were eaten here, we remain here with the people who grew us; but if the town people eat us, we will be gone forever’’ (Sarawok 1984, 66). The story makes a moral point when Nu Waen perceives ‘‘strangers’’ as generic intruders, who ‘‘came to take the rice, and sometimes also . . . led away the buffaloes’’ (ibid., 68). At the close, they take her friend, the bu√alo Tui, and a new understanding dawns on her: ‘‘Those strangers were really the town, with its sweeping arms, which took away everything from the village to feed itself ’’ (68).∞ The naive voice sharpens an important comment on the spatial dynamics of development. Nu Waen, linked spiritually to the local environment, understands better than her elders that the country is irrevocably being reshaped by economic forces, as processes of development corrode absolute space as well as redefine relations between indi-

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viduals and the natural world. It is also significant, though, that Nu Waen remains fixed in the village. In this way, Sarawok establishes in the story a dominant tone of pathos, underscored by the age and evident powerlessness of the girl, which leaves cultural associations of women and nature unchallenged. These stories are, of course, symbolic rather than realistic. Each central character is situated at the margins of human society and its modernizing forces by virtue of her gender, rural location, poverty, and age. As they appeal to traditional codes in the face of economic and cultural change, the authors each construct female characters who have almost no engagement with their societies, and similarly little sense of individuality beyond their embeddedness in the natural. That is, they are reduced to emblems of rural place in a manner impelled by a fundamentally conservative politics, which o√ers little for a nation increasingly shaped by spatial and social flux. The stories to be considered in the latter sections of this chapter operate rather in a mode of social realism, yet they too are informed by a profound nostalgia for an unreachable concept of the past. I will explore below some of the ways in which this shapes their representations of women who move away from originating rural places.

The Abstraction of Rural Space: The Era of Development Though the initiation and pace of economic development in any country is inevitably uncertain, an analysis of development discourse in Thailand might well begin with the 1961 publication of the first National Economic Development Plan. The plan was based on a review of the Thai economy conducted by the World Bank (through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development), and accords with the predominant interests propounded throughout the Third World by West-dominated international agencies. Most notably, it proposed market-oriented approaches to production, expanded transport and communications networks, and a strengthened bureaucracy. Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, these imperatives were further influenced by attempts to quash communist insurgency. The U.S.-funded Accelerated Rural Development Scheme, in particular, targeted areas of communist influence in an attempt to ‘‘open’’ them to the power and surveillance of the state (Hirsch 1990, 21). As the discourses of development gradually saturated the nation, the status of

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the village became increasingly problematic. The village is, in fact, endorsed at the basis of development discourse as an administrative unit and site for the implementation of change. Simultaneously, however, traditional conceptions of the village as place are e√aced by a discourse of abstraction, which steadily draws villages and villagers into (inter)national networks. The thrust of rural development redefines the peasant farmer as a potential entrepreneur (Turton 1978, 117). In the early decades of the twentieth century, teaching and research in economics were banned by King Vajiravudh Rama VI, who argued that its philosophy was unsuited to a country in which all people were equal under him (Thongchai 1994, 4); development discourse, though, seeks simply to erase this myth. One early Western commentator lamented the lack of pressure on farmers due to the nation’s low population in relation to land resources, alleging that ‘‘there is nothing like necessity to induce economy and economic improvement’’ (Zimmerman 1931, 318). The ‘‘struggle of existence,’’ wrote another, directs ‘‘men’s attention from the hereafter to the here, away from the old religious and toward the worship of Science, Technology and Economics’’ (cited in Falkus 1995, 29–30)—a statement based on a concept of the ‘‘here’’ that is devoid of spirituality and open to a profoundly materialist appreciation of space. Competition promised to induce farmers to devote land to cash crops as well as to initiate flows of credit. According to the World Bank, this would be achieved partly through the establishment of a consumer culture, providing individuals with ‘‘increasing knowledge of the things money can buy’’ (ibrd 1959, 68). It also required a more rationalistic apportionment of rights over land so that farmers could readily provide security for loans. In countless instances, the cycles of credit and debt have had detrimental e√ects, dragging individuals and families into the growing ranks of the landless poor. Instead of serving as forces for individual empowerment, these cycles have merely translated members of a rural peasantry into the unfixed proletariat of nascent capitalism. Despite such evidence of personal devastation, however, development economics continues to endorse the view of credit as ‘‘the flow of the life blood of the nation,’’ sustaining a ‘‘spirit of capitalism’’ (Zimmerman 1931, 318). As this metaphor suggests, development is dependent on processes of circulation. The ‘‘spatial dimension’’ of development, as Philip Hirsch states, ‘‘is spoken of as ‘integration,’ ‘linkage’ or ‘incorporation’ ’’ (1990,

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9). The construction of roads, which facilitates circulation in its most material forms, has in fact been the biggest item of government expenditure in rural areas since the 1960s (ibid., 49). Such development erodes the enveloping absolute space of the village, encouraging outflows of agricultural produce and people, and bringing in commodities, information, and bureaucratic power. This process is reinforced by the infusion of advertising and news, most noticeably through the now ubiquitous cheap radios and the public address systems known as ‘‘information towers’’ that are used to pump national directives into the villages (Seri and Hewison 1990, 124; Myers 1994, 78). At the same time, the state, banks, and private companies continuously seek to draw information out of villages. In 1959, the World Bank recommended a drive to increase centralized knowledge of the country, especially through expenditures on ‘‘statistics and statistical services.’’ This required a newly rationalized way of perceiving the country. ‘‘Indi√erence to the need for such information,’’ the report underlined, ‘‘is an even more di≈cult problem than the inadequacy of the information itself ’’ (IBRD 1959, 15). The ultimate purpose of such circulation is the abstraction of rural space. Underpinned by the geometric vision of the modern map and the rational gaze of the state, abstract space is the space of private property and exchange, ‘‘the space of the bourgeoisie and of capitalism’’ (Lefebvre 1991, 57). Thongchai discerns the map’s e√acement in Thailand of ‘‘indigenous knowledge of political space,’’ and its replacement of loyalty to a notably gendered conception of ‘‘the beloved motherland or common soil’’ with a ‘‘new objectification of the nation’s ‘geo-body’ ’’ (1994, 129, 133). At the local level, while the drive to define property rights a≈rms the village in administrative terms, it concurrently undermines traditional appreciations of place. Development similarly e√aces local agricultural knowledge; ‘‘it is thus by definition that ‘villagers are without knowledge,’ for what they know is not knowledge as defined by the dominant discourse’’ (Hirsch 1990, 117). It is apparent, moreover, that these processes are fundamentally gendered; they work, in Gillian Rose’s words, ‘‘to render the world amenable to the operation of masculinist reason,’’ and to subsume local knowledges of ‘‘place’’ (1993, 7). In these terms, those of (neo)colonialism, ‘‘space is itself represented as the physical embodiment of (masculine) rationality whose structures are to be superimposed over ‘nonspace’ ’’ (Gregory 1994, 131). These forces highlight the status of women as a central problematic

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in the struggle between development and tradition. As has also been observed in other Third World countries, rural development tends to occlude the activities of women in agricultural production, assuming instead their merely domestic role (Boserup 1970). Education and technological improvements designed to help farmers have consequently been targeted toward Thai men (Suntaree 1995, 256). In development discourse, rural women become an unstable category, either figured traditionally as homemakers, or stripped entirely from place and represented as a potential industrial workforce. Attitudes toward traditional activities performed by women, such as weaving, typify this uncertainty. Weaving is traditionally performed in the home, and hence fixes a woman within a domestic space at a task concerned with refining rural produce for the immediate benefit of the family. An early surveyor of Thailand’s rural economy contended that while weaving ‘‘may disappear with commercialization,’’ it nonetheless ‘‘deserves to be maintained’’; yet he based his claim not on traditional assumptions of rural place but rather on the grounds of the low cost and high quality of the product (Zimmerman 1931, 109). Given the priorities underlying such a statement, it was not di≈cult for the World Bank, in the 1980s, to reverse the argument, noting casually that ‘‘household weaving activities . . . are a sign of poverty and lack of better labor market opportunities for women’’ (1983, 81). Meanwhile, the market economy was working to redefine clothes as commodities and adjust consumer desires accordingly. Prajaub Thirabutana’s autobiographical Little Things illustrates this shift through its focus on a young schoolgirl’s pride in her manufactured blouse, purchased in the town along with ‘‘combs, powder and cosmetic oil.’’ She compares the ‘‘fresh white’’ material with a classmate’s homemade item, which she declared, with a telling domestic analogy, is ‘‘as dirty as the bottom of the cooking pot’’ (1971, 26–27). The changing practices and attitudes of women also become a key register of male anxieties surrounding development. Indeed male writers, whose education and occupations typically provide them with the opportunity to situate themselves within an urban bourgeoisie, repeatedly focus on images of individual women when considering rural change. Sujit Wongchai explores some of the implications of this dynamic in ‘‘Second Nature,’’ a story that follows a young male teacher returning from Bangkok to his village for a festival. Thian’s ‘‘love-struck heart’’ has conflated his attachment to the ‘‘scents and warmth’’ of ‘‘home’’ with his

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feelings for a village woman, Bun Lam (1985, 95, 98). But while his education and experience in the city have allowed him the indulgence of romanticizing his rural origins, Bun Lam rather a√ects urban fashions and dismisses the festival’s more traditional aspects. For her, the only apparent a√ectation is Thian’s traditionalism: ‘‘Aren’t you afraid,’’ she asks, ‘‘the villagers’ll say how out of it you are, even though you’ve come from Bangkok?’’ (ibid., 99). The satire of the story is directed in at least two ways: at Bun Lam and her female companions, for their equation of urban trends with sophistication; and at Thian, for constructing an equally delusory and arrogantly patronizing urban/rural dichotomy. The piece centers, however, on ‘‘development’’ itself. Thian again conflates place and woman in his caustic observation that Bun Lam ‘‘has undergone such successful Development’’ (107). The reader is invited not to identify with Thian’s misogyny but rather to consider the shading of socalled development into commodity fetishization. Thian’s sarcasm at the expense of the rural women invites this more broadly skeptical reading; he asks, ‘‘What would be left when the Village Development Plans had done their work?’’ (101).

Narratives of Displacement: Women and Geographic Circulation The anxieties attendant on development are nowhere more sharply clarified than when women themselves are drawn into processes of circulation. It might well be argued that modern discourses of Thai nationhood allow for male involvement in development, while continuing to valorize a rural life underpinned by restrictive associations of women and place. Consequently, as long as women remain in the village, a certain measure of negotiation between the poles of tradition and modernity is still tenable. By contrast, the traveling woman unravels the mesh of kinship and inheritance customs that center on her. Her geographic distance from the village also potentially loosens the patriarchal control of the household; and as Mary Beth Mills contends, this may be interpreted as inverting hierarchical models of sexuality, thereby releasing the dangerously unstable force traditionally attributed to the Thai woman (1995, 257). Perhaps most important, the figure of the mobile female might be interpreted as destabilizing the dichotomy between public and private, which traditionally defined the woman’s most crucial role as being within the

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domestic sphere. She therefore typifies development’s commodification of labor, and its consequent erasure of the household as a fundamental cultural and economic unit. At the same time, however, through her myriad acts of accommodation and resistance in the face of change, she also carries the potential to forge new configurations of subjectivity—in the manner of the trans-status subject posited in the introduction to this volume—which valuably problematizes existing discourses of space and gender. Interregional migration in Thailand, the World Bank declared in 1983, ‘‘has been, and will continue to be, an essential mechanism for allowing the population from the poorest regions to participate in growth’’ (19). In these terms, it is perceived as a vital instance of circulation through which impoverished villages may be wrenched into a growing national economy. For rural women, this policy typically means movement to lowpaid wage labor either in Bangkok, other urban centers, or rural industry. The professions, o≈ce jobs, and government work remain dominated by men; nevertheless, the proportion of women moving to Bangkok outnumbers men by almost two to one (Thista 1980, 5; Mills 1995, 257). For the village, the e√ects of these patterns are complex. Most acts of migration are seasonal or temporary, and thus do not simply sever ties between an individual and her village. Even those whose absence drifts toward permanency may on occasion join the tide of workers who recurrently a≈rm their links to originating places by returning to their villages for festivals. Further, familial power structures are for many inherent in the very act of migration, which is often directed by the household head for the purposes of boosting the family’s cash income. But such decisions always risk more profound separation; one representative village study finds that many of the young people sent to Bangkok lose contact with their parents, ‘‘and large remittances . . . are the exception rather than the rule’’ (Hirsch 1990, 111). Given the expectations of stability and sexual propriety for village women, the special concern that surrounds prostitution is hardly surprising. Though not statistically a major employer of women, prostitution occupies a central position in appreciations of social change, and therefore warrants attention in the present context. It became a major issue during the Vietnam War, when the sex industry expanded rapidly in response to the demands of the large numbers of U.S. troops stationed in the country. Throughout the fiction of the development era, then, images

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of village women drawn into prostitution command significant emotional power. The experiences of prostitutes demonstrate the processes of circulation and commodification at a brutal extreme, and numerous writers examine the e√ects of these processes on the women as well as the societies in which they live. Given the gendered structures of discourse examined above, it is hardly surprising that male writers should attend to prostitution with a particular sense of urgency. There is in many of their stories an underlying element of national allegory, aligning the individual sexual exploitation of village girls with the international dynamics of development. Yet as Khamsing Srinawk and Ussiri Dhammachoti show, in stories centered respectively on an aging father and a young prostitute, studies of the individual consciousness may provide some of the most telling indexes of cultural upheaval. Khamsing’s story ‘‘Dark Glasses’’ focuses on a man whose daughter has been taken to Bangkok. The father underlined the significance of the girl for him at her birth when he named her Camkham, after the village of Dong Cam in which he and his wife settled after many years of restless migration, ‘‘from place to place’’ (1973c, 41). Rationalizing his patriarchal control of her as an awareness of the dangers of her beauty, the man attempts to fix Camkham in the private domain. As roads bring new people and values into the village, the man restricts her from farm labor and meticulously fences their house. The fence in Thai villages is often seen as a symbol of progress, as it strictly demarcates rights of property and presents the veneer of ‘‘order’’ beloved by the administrators who propel development at the local level (Hirsch 1990, 213–14). Here, though, the man pathetically hopes that a fence will halt the insidious flows of modernity. Its ironic value in the story is underscored by local youths, who taunt the man: ‘‘Thorns may keep out water bu√aloes and country boys, uncle, but not cars’’ (ibid., 42). Inevitably, the man returns from the fields one day to find that his enclosure has been penetrated by a car, driven by men wearing dark glasses. The glasses serve both as a sign of urban modernity and as a device that furthers the men’s project of dissimulation. Their flattery of Camkham, as they lure her from her loom, is a parody of a rural suitor’s tone: punctuated by conspiratorial smiles, and shaped by lapses of understanding between the country woman and urbane men. The moment of her departure is not depicted in the story but is understood from the outset. In response to this event, her father adopts an injured bird, which

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he keeps in a cage, and he transfers his emotions to the creature he figures as more purely natural and, by extension, more easily enclosable than his daughter. Three years on, the day he releases the bird it is killed by his son, who is delighted to find such defenseless prey. The same day, with unmistakable symbolism, the man turns to see ‘‘his returning daughter mince uncertainly down the path.’’ The attitude of the daughter remains ambiguous; more important, given the central focus of the story, the father’s idealization of her, like the bird ‘‘beat[en] down with a stick,’’ is decisively crushed. The man retreats again into silence and immobility, left in the final sentence ‘‘gaz[ing] stonily at the little bird in his hand’’ (ibid., 45). Ussiri’s ‘‘The Fifth Train Trip’’ (1992) explores, to markedly di√erent e√ect, the consciousness of a young prostitute, Kamsoi. As in ‘‘Dark Glasses,’’ a vehicle of transportation is key to the story; yet through Kamsoi’s familiarity with this experience and the sense of repetition stressed in the title, Ussiri undermines any expectations of drama. The story revolves around the headline on a newspaper article that Kamsoi sees on the train: ‘‘Objection to Legalized Prostitution for Fear the Women Will Be Marked by Sin’’ (Ussiri 1992, 129). The headline prompts her to weigh orthodox perceptions of ‘‘sin’’ against her own bleakly internalized rationale of economic benefit. She pictures herself bringing to her home money earned in Bangkok, where its e√ect will be ‘‘like a downpour of rain in the dry summer’’ (ibid., 130). The simile is devastatingly ironic, setting the traditional identification of woman and nature against the commodification of the female body, and juxtaposing natural cycles of growth with the logic of the marketplace. Her main question further challenges the relevance of religious morality. Given the economic value of her remittances, she asks herself, is her work ‘‘actually a sin, or something from which she would gain merit?’’ (129). While Khamsing’s story confronts dominant male constructions of rural women, Ussiri’s piece examines the e√ect of a discourse that redefines those constructions in the prevailing interests of economic gain. Written by men, from critical modern perspectives delineated by a disturbed and grim play of irony, these stories also reflect valuably, both explicitly and implicitly, on gender issues. Masculine identities in Thailand are in many respects empowered by modernity, just as modern male writers have benefited from the spread of literacy and a mass publishing market. Women, by comparison, become a central problematic of de-

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velopment, and nationalist discourse often operates oppressively, inscribing women to ever more constrained and untenable roles. The body of the prostitute, as is evident in these stories, becomes a site on which a complex of social and moral values are assessed in insistently elegiac tones. The limitations of such writing in terms of refashioning gender discourses are evident; it is nevertheless essential, in the present context, to appreciate the nature and sheer extent of attention devoted to the unfixed woman. The stories discussed in the following section work within similar constraints yet suggest new conceptions of gender and spatial identities.

Beyond the Village: Unfixable Subjects Ussiri Dhammachoti and Pira Sudham are two of Thailand’s leading social realist writers. The former writes in Thai for a national audience and the latter in English for an international one; still, both men come from village backgrounds, and focus repeatedly in their works on issues of rural change and development. That is, they are individuals who have benefited from the process of development, through its gradually widening structures of education and its tendency toward the commodification of literature. Yet the work of each is also profoundly troubled by the politics of development and anxiously attuned to the impact of economic change on the unfixed subject(ivity). I have, therefore, chosen these particular stories because they seem not only to acknowledge the conflicting discourses and expectations of tradition and development but also to appreciate the manifold complexities of such conflict. Crucially, each story also conceives of the central cultural tensions in terms of spatialities, and moves beyond easy associations between women and traditional village life. Though the stories are written by men and may in some respects rehearse certain patriarchal gender stereotypes, they contain remarkably subtle and subversive explorations of the intertwined spatial and gender dimensions of the developing nation. Ussiri’s ‘‘What’s Gone Is Gone’’ (1987c) is based on a young woman’s return to her village after losing an arm in an industrial accident. The ten thousand baht in compensation that the woman brings home throws into relief the interests of various members of her family and the meaning of her previous economic support of them. While she had been separated from her family, she had translated her financial relationship

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into emotional terms, and her sense of belonging had consequently been strengthened: ‘‘She had been able to find happiness as an ordinary, unimportant person who knew what it was to love and yearn for family and friends far away at home. She had possessed the will to face the problems of the world and, most of all, to bear the responsibilities of supporting her very poor family’’ (Ussiri 1987c, 118). The accident therefore ‘‘took away everything that she ever valued in her life,’’ cruelly translating her labor potential into an immediate financial windfall. In terms of traditional expectations, the spaces of the village and the family home should function as the woman’s natural refuge from the rigors of the industrializing world. As the story makes clear, however, the force of development discourse redefines these spaces as the locus rather of the marginal and worthless. Within this context of cultural disjunction, Ussiri works to expose the woman’s emotional attachment to ‘‘home’’ as false consciousness, negated by the reactions of those around her. The story opens with the understated but deeply sympathetic greeting of the woman’s grandfather, who holds her in a ‘‘shaky embrace’’ and says, ‘‘What’s gone is gone’’ (ibid., 115). Her father pro√ers conflicting proverbial wisdom: ‘‘Good luck comes together with bad luck’’ (117). The family tension and tragedy arise out of the apparent ‘‘good luck’’ of the compensation payo√. As the mother notes, ‘‘her eyes shining with more than the reflection of the fire. ‘We can buy things that we have never had’ ’’ (116). The grandfather immediately suggests that they ‘‘pay the carpenters to make a cart, buy an ox, and give what is left to her. It’s her money’’ (116). But the others reject both the obvious need of the woman and the suggestion of modest agricultural improvement. The woman’s sister orders a gold bracelet, an item that is at once a traditional adornment and a market commodity, and that Ussiri uses compellingly elsewhere in his work as a symbol of consumer desire.≤ Her father suggests a gun, a request that betokens the brutal power dynamics of rural life, and also carries a grim proleptic significance in the story. Finally, the sister further proposes exploiting neighbors through loans (116–17). The woman herself, committed to the notion of familial placement, though in the process of reevaluating the dreams of home she had fostered in an alienating urban environment, lays no claim to the money. The exploitative and violent ambitions harbored within the household give way to parallel fractures in the village community, which itself belies sentimental idealizations of rural place. The family members do not

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trust the headman to guard the money, but nor can they resist him when he asks them for it. In the background, as Ussiri depicts with several touches, is a social environment marked by suspicion and gossip: ‘‘The whole village knows that,’’ the headman ‘‘laughed,’’ when told the sum of compensation money (117). Later that night thieves follow the gossip, and although they do not get the money, they casually murder the grandfather. The responses of her family to the death serve to crystallize the woman’s discontent: ‘‘It was a good thing that the headman kept the money for us. Otherwise it would all be gone,’’ her mother told the neighbours who had come to call. Her face was a little sadder than usual. ‘‘Good luck and bad luck come at the same time,’’ her father added. His face was a little sad, too. ‘‘Mother promises to buy me a bracelet,’’ she heard her sister’s voice. (120) The passage moves deftly through the consciousness of the woman, contrasting her despair with the consolation the others derive from the money. As the father rehearses his hollow proverb and the sister finds solace in her wish for jewelry, the woman herself rejects the society that her industrial labor has helped to shape. At the end of the story, the woman flees the village: ‘‘The day’s last bus with its yellow headlights drove on and on through the translucent mist. She wondered where she intended to go but couldn’t find the answer. She only knew that she wanted to go far away and never to return home’’ (120). Given her inability to participate in manual labor, the act of flight has an air of fantasy. Yet the surreal quality of the description imparts a symbolic value to her desire to seek a new, significantly unlocated place that will more readily accommodate her values and emotions. Other stories by Ussiri, such as ‘‘Kunthong, You Will Return at Dawn’’ (1987a), dwell on the jungle, shaped as revolutionary space by communists. This woman’s directionless movement, though it lacks the political imperative of communism, is perhaps even more subversive in spatial terms. She abandons her commitment to ‘‘home,’’ which she recognizes as a myth corroded by the forces of modernity, and instead looks uncertainly toward a utopian space, emancipatory in both gender and class terms. This space is thus ‘‘far away’’ from the wretchedness imposed respectively by the plundering industrial ‘‘Fiend’’ (118) and the cankered en-

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vironment of the village, and almost by definition remains shadowy and unrealizable. Pira Sudham promotes himself as the international voice of northeastern villagers. His heavily autobiographical novel Monsoon Country (1988) traces the path of a boy drawn out of his village and subsequently his country by a commitment to learning, but who ultimately returns to his birthplace and retires to a life of Buddhist contemplation. By comparison with this relatively simple narrative of male exile and return, though, his short stories are consistently more complex, focusing with a subtle mix of pathos and journalistic detachment on mobile individuals, wrenched from their villages to the city or foreign countries. While the novel’s trajectory endorses the relatively privileged traveler’s dreams of a nurturing place of origin, many of the stories explore rather the problematic nature of displacement in contemporary Thailand. They consider, in particular, the uncertain meaning of the villager’s sense of belonging at a time when so many Thai men and women are drawn into the inexorable movement initiated by development. Pira’s ‘‘A Food Vendor and a Taxi Driver’’ (1987) brings together two such people on the streets of Bangkok, and juxtaposes their respective first-person narratives. The woman, whose voice predominates, leaves her village after an arranged marriage disintegrates and her husband disappears. She feels that the event has stained her with shame: ‘‘The word: deserted was grafted on me like a nasty cake of mud which I could not wash o√, while tradition, our village way of life, and my own sense of duty became a heavy steel lid on my life’’ (Pira 1987, 41). The similes aptly turn the woman’s traditional labors in the fields and over the cooking pot into indices of her striking sense of placelessness within the traditional codes of rural life; as Pira appreciates, rural place, for all of its apparent strengths, has its own codes of exclusion and discrimination. But while the ‘‘village way of life’’ seems so oppressive, Bangkok is initially no more accommodating. Although she easily finds work, first as a construction laborer and then in a Chinese food shop, she perceives the city as an alienating ‘‘maze’’ (ibid., 49). As she lies on the floor of the shop at night, she thinks, ‘‘I should go back. I would go back to my home to ask my people to forgive me’’ (49). Caught between the equally discomforting poles of tradition and Third World modernity, the woman’s complicated longing for place becomes the story’s central concern. At the heart of the narrative, the taxi driver o√ers to take the woman

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back to her village in the hope that she will permanently leave the city. Born in the northeast himself, the man has lost contact with his family and overcompensates for his own sense of detachment by attempting to re-place rural women. Indeed, this aspect of the story reflects as much on the emotive yet impractical patriarchalism of urbanized men as it does on women. As the man later relates, he has in the past tried unsuccessfully to return a city prostitute to the northeast. Then, his romanticization of rural ‘‘roots’’ (57) was exploited, as that woman treated the trip as a holiday and a chance to recruit another girl into prostitution. This endeavor at first o√ers greater promise. The woman’s homecoming is endued with spiritual overtones when they stop en route to visit the Khmer shrine Khao Pranom Rung, and she prays before ‘‘the spirits of our forefathers, . . . making a pledge that one day [she] would return home for good’’ (55). But in her village she immediately feels unsettled. Her son, who never wrote to her while she was in Bangkok, has married, and she realizes that ‘‘the house was no longer my house’’ (57). In her absence, it is her son and daughter-in-law who have maintained a familial unit, ‘‘looking after the grandparents all the years I slaved away in Bangkok’’ (57). Moreover, her vision of living in the country unattached, as a ‘‘poor, ageing hag’’ (60), is set against the subtle reawakening of her sexuality in the company of the taxi driver. As she had realized initially, the city o√ers her greater opportunities for forging a social and sexual identity beyond the role of deserted wife. The woman finally establishes herself in the city as a mobile food hawker. This is a role that mirrors her status in the story: as someone weighed down by the gendered division of labor imprinted on her consciousness from childhood; as a person forced to struggle for a living and destined never to rise to the entrepreneurial status of her former Chinese employers; and as an individual bound to the peculiar placelessness of the road. As Yasmeen demonstrates in her chapter in this volume, this form of labor lends the urbanized woman a limited form of agency within the spaces of a city that is itself being reforged by the forces of globalization. It o√ers, then, a form of trans-status subjectivity—though Pira is sensitive to the contingencies and anxieties attendant on an individual subject within this context. The woman also becomes the taxi driver’s minor wife and the mother of more children, and lives first in the Klongtoey slum, where she shares the man with his first family, before moving in with his other family in a poor suburb. Thus, an emergent

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sexual agency parallels her economic position, although any impetus toward a romance closure is carefully restrained. The woman remains dissatisfied in Bangkok and counsels other northeasterners to return to their villages, where they will ‘‘still have a certain dignity despite their miseries,’’ yet at the same time she admits to being ‘‘quite happy with the way things turned out for me’’ (71). Although she retains an emotional attachment to her birthplace, she concedes that the ties are e√ectively severed: ‘‘For me, I don’t know whether I could go back to my village now’’ (71). Pira constructs the woman as spatially unlocatable and culturally unfixable. He does not idealize her achievement; the story’s focus is rather on an ongoing struggle, understood in both economic and cultural terms. But the very sense of process, as the woman reaches painfully beyond the existing codes through which she might understand her life, is crucial. The story therefore glances beyond the cultural parameters of rural and urban life to envisage a sense of a ‘‘paradoxical space’’ (Rose 1993, 154). She is situated in a ‘‘multi-dimensional, shifting and contingent’’ space (ibid., 140)—what Edward Soja calls ‘‘thirdspace’’ (1996, 107–25)—and her lack of wider political awareness merely highlights the importance in this space of local experience. Like Ussiri’s protagonist, this woman is not a revolutionary; nor does she e√ectively challenge masculine power, whether manifested in authority over the family or through control over property. Indeed in terms of its plot, a reader might find something politically quiescent in the woman’s accommodation to capitalism and the arms of a protective male. Pira’s representation of the woman’s consciousness, however, asserts a powerful and insistent counterpoint to this momentum. Through the woman’s narrative voice, the story thus looks toward a spatial principle that deconstructs the exhausted binary of tradition and development. In contemporary Thailand, notions of rural development are received with skepticism. Although conventional development programs continue, and processes of industrialization and globalization are propelling Thailand toward international acceptance as ‘‘developed,’’ a more open political structure over the past twenty years has allowed critics of change new scope to voice their concerns. In particular, ideas of ‘‘community culture’’ have attracted support among nongovernmental development associations and intellectuals (Chatthip 1991). This school of thought

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seeks to break down the development paradigm of indigenous ignorance and introduced knowledge. Working from within the village, it embraces the values of subsistence agriculture and local identities; as Arturo Escobar states in a review of such movements throughout the Third World, they aim ‘‘to imagine alternatives to development and to ‘marginalize the economy’ ’’ (1995, 216). Hence the Thai village is freshly problematized: such critics at once revive and reconstruct the debate between tradition and development as they look to the values of the past in an attempt to reconfigure discourses, practices, and subjectivities for the future. The texts considered in this chapter engage with these ongoing debates. While they repeatedly demonstrate the violence enacted on the village in the cause of modernization, they also suggest that attempts to challenge discourses of development are likely to fail if they are based on no more than nostalgia. As satirists and social realists, the writers discussed here typically acknowledge the brute facts of circulation, and look critically on residual myths of fixity and belonging. Their work reassesses binaries of place/displacement, village/city, rural/urban, local/international, and tradition/modernity. Further, the fraught oscillation between city and village around which both Ussiri and Pira structure their respective stories, rather than simply rejecting the modern, gestures powerfully toward the value of hybrid cultures. ‘‘Rather than being eliminated by development,’’ as Escobar argues, ‘‘many ‘traditional cultures’ survive through their transformative engagement with modernity’’ (219). The image of the woman in Pira’s story selling northeastern food on the streets of Bangkok indicates at once the dangers and the subtle potential of such acts of engagement for the emergent trans-status subject. Indeed, as Thais continue to negotiate positions between tradition and development, the mobile woman stands at once as a crucial symbol of social decay and a center of subjectivity that may valuably problematize the existing binaries. Thus, processes of national and individual refashioning are alike situated between these binaries—as myriad acts of struggle in a contingent and fraught space-time of nascent globalization.

Notes 1

Manop Thanomsri’s ‘‘Greenie’’ (1996) similarly considers a relationship between a young girl and a water bu√alo, but focuses more purely on the emotional attachment. An ending like that of ‘‘Nu Waen and Tui’’ is exploited for pathos rather than political comment.

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Most notably, in Ussiri’s ‘‘Nightfall on the Waterway’’ (1987b), a man paddles home from the market along a canal, worried about his inability to satisfy his wife’s consumer desires: ‘‘A cheap transistor radio to bring music into her drab life, a thin gold chain she could show o√ to her neighbours’’ (154). Further along, he discovers the corpse of a baby girl whose gold bracelet is just visible beneath the bloated flesh. Battling the stench, he mines the ‘‘treasure’’ by hacking away at the baby’s flesh. He concludes: ‘‘The happiness that would light up the drained face of his wife and the eagerness that would shine in his child’s eyes, short-lived and transient though they might be, were blessings as precious to his joyless life as a shower to a drought-parched paddy field’’ (157).

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Architecture . . . is only taken as an element of support, to ensure a certain allocation of people in space, a canalization of their circulation, as well as the coding of their reciprocal relations. So it is not only considered as an element in space, but is especially thought of as a plunge into a field of social relations in which it brings about some specific e√ects. —Michel Foucault, ‘‘Space, Knowledge, Power,’’ 253

One theme consistently reappears in cultural works produced in contemporary Singapore: how men and women living in the city cope with the massive changes that have occurred in their everyday spaces with the growth of Singapore into a powerful capitalist nation. Here, I examine a few pieces of film and literature (Eric Khoo’s film Twelve Storeys [1997b], Catherine Lim’s popular fiction [1980s], and Lee Tzu Pheng’s poetry [1980]) that depict the e√ects on quotidian life of one principle form of spatial change: the structuring of the city’s built environment in ways that support the state’s competition in the global economy. These works look at architecture through the eyes of people living in the city; they ask what it means for men and women to dwell under Singapore’s built forms (housing arrangements, commercial centers, highways connecting and separating neighborhoods), and how self-perceptions and interpersonal relations are influenced by the prevalent architectural rationality. What arise from the pieces are resistant commentaries on the social engineering that underlies this order. These works expose how architecture transforms the organic spaces of family and community

into a ‘‘space of accumulation’’ (Lefebvre 1991, 49) that is layered with contradictions. As Henri Lefebvre argues, the logic of capital accumulation produces a phallocratic order of space that infracts gendered bodies of communities to bring about the most e≈cient ‘‘abstraction [of ] social labour’’ (ibid.). This masculine rationality constructs a social space divided into sites of production and reproduction, and capital and labor generation. This space invariably stratifies its occupants: those who command privileges of gender, class, race, or ethnicity gain access to the tools of production (money, modern education, information), which enable them to move ‘‘with the times’’ into better and bigger futures; others, who lack these privileges, remain fixed in the labors of a nonteleological present. Those who become peripheral in these spaces of accumulation are people clinging to putatively nonproductive, ‘‘backward’’ ways of life. Habits and sensibilities of the past are at once exoticized and commodified, or else they are utilized in narratives of modernization as the temporal marks of a society-in-progress. In the context of Singapore’s anticolonial nationalism, these spatial and temporal stratifications of social labor grow even more complicated. To advance their global economic and nationalist agendas, Singapore’s elite ethnically Chinese leaders introduce cultural pasts into the space of accumulation. They deploy ‘‘Asian’’ (neoConfucian) traditions to regulate people’s productive activities and habits of consumption. These become useful for ‘‘consoling’’ (Foucault 1973, xviii) men and women of the modern nation for the passing of ‘‘authentic’’ lifestyles in the necessary onrush of societal modernization. They also set the standards of moral harmony and social stability that oppose what are construed as the degenerate values of Western modernity coming in with socioeconomic change (liberal individualism, nuclear family life, and not least, women’s autonomy). The commentaries on these intersecting male-dominant global and nationalist agendas presented in the cultural works support a key point of this volume: that gender is an especially useful category of the historical analysis of the e√ects of globalization on embodied subjects. They demonstrate that conflicting gendered hierarchies of spaces and times devolve from the phallocratic architecture of globalizing Singapore into the everyday lives of men and women living in the city. This built environment divides families and communities into groups of the modern educated and upwardly mobile and their dependents and subordinates. It causes devaluation and de-gendering (reduction to the sub-feminine and emascu190 ⭈ Esha Niyogi De

lated) of people who remain fixed in traditional ways of life. The commentaries also reveal that contradictions riddle these gendered stratifications of social labor, and cause shifts in the values attributed to the gender and social class status of subjects caught in them. The architectural design that devalues unmodern-educated, poor, rural, and other so-called backward people is the same one that valorizes places of tradition and these agents of their preservation; it celebrates the latter as the timeless gatekeepers of Asian morality against the baneful ‘‘Western’’ spirit of materialism. Moreover, the women writers underscore how acute these conflicts can be in the lives of one group of Singapore citizens forced by statist planning to be in both space-times at once—middle-class women who must participate in the contemporary socioeconomic order, but must also be ‘‘authentic’’ Asian homemakers breeding the nation’s male progeny. The ultimate point of the film and literary pieces is not, however, to expose the ways statist architecture causes the ‘‘canalization’’ of people in Singapore (Foucault 1984, 253). Their purpose is to scour the grounds of the city to find those emerging places, those sites of heterogeneous experience, where individual men and women struggle to make sense of their everyday lives in light of cultural memories. The subjects of these narratives not only explore why their present lives do not fit in the o≈cial neoConfucian template of Asian heritage. They produce what Sonita Sarker and I term ‘‘asynchronous’’ histories in the introduction to this volume. Such histories are oblique to the dominant temporality of the global state because they interweave liberatory knowledges culled from cultural pasts into the conceptual fabric of modern activities. Which aspects of vernacular and modern knowledges are brought forward or discarded, reinterpreted, and used to think about new possibilities of collective life in Singapore depend on the gendered and class bases of the viewpoints from which the narratives are imagined. What we do capture by juxtaposing these various creative imaginations, and noting how they both emend and extend each other, is a medley of public voices calling for a social life that diverges from statist intentions by empowering individuals in their attempts to re-create community ties.

Planning the Presents and Pasts of Singapore: Architecture, Everyday Space, and Gender Chua Beng-Huat notes that when one studies the dynamics of everyday life in the political context of a modern bureaucratic state like Singapore, Singapore’s Gendered Imaginations ⭈ 191

one must modify Western theories of the everyday (including, I should add, Lefebvre’s theorization of urban revolution). In Singapore, the quotidian is not an unqualified ‘‘counter-concept’’ or ‘‘critique of political life’’; the political and the quotidian ‘‘interact,’’ but they also set limits on each other’s extent of influence (Chua 1995, 79).∞ Although the Singapore government did institute a ‘‘new configuration . . . [of ] everyday life’’ through a series of public policies launched in the years following independence, this dominant social order is always on the brink of ‘‘reversal’’ because people’s everyday practices ‘‘throw up resistance’’ against the government’s attempts to regulate social existence (ibid.). The cultural productions in question delve into the polemical juncture between everyday city life and its enframing architecture, showing how the ‘‘new everyday life’’ imposes present-past or center-periphery divisions both in the microspaces of intrafamilial and social relations and in the macrospaces of Singapore’s cross-regional connections. Together, they also illuminate how the conflicting agendas of progress and traditionalism that have informed di√erent phases of city planning a√ect the lives of all Singaporeans, but notably those of middle-class women. Khoo’s Twelve Storeys probes into the interiors of lower-income living. It shows how individual and family lives in a public housing complex fall apart because people relentlessly pursue material advancement and consumerism (high modern education for the young; the purchase of bigger and better houses, steep-tari√-laden cars, and designer clothes). What appears to be an integrated housing community is stratified into groups of people who possess the means to pursue these ends, and others who cannot or will not seize the tools of mobility. The film also explores ethnically Chinese–dominated Singapore’s relations with its impoverished geographic neighbors (mainland China, Malaysia, and the Philippines), and suggests that these feminized and ethnicized peripheries support the city-state’s centrality in global trade by supplying manual as well as sexual labor. Against this, Lim delves into the lives of private homeowners. She depicts how the ideology of modernization penetrates into the micro-architecture of upper-class homes, reorders even the bodies and clothes of the inhabitants, and fractures the habitual sensibilities of family life. Although Khoo and Lim explore di√erent ends of the social spectrum, they tell the same story: that quotidian life in Singapore is enframed by a city plan that urges both men and women to climb out of supposedly static vernacular ways of life into the space-time of commodity accumulation and social mobility. 192 ⭈ Esha Niyogi De

This city design reflects the first phase of national planning, when Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his People’s Action Party (pap) strove to develop a unified and growth-oriented city-state from a sprawling British colonial port. It links an expanding public housing sector (the Housing Development Board or hdb townships) with a few exclusive private housing sites and many commercial sectors; frequently, highways establish these links, crisscrossing an island once abounding with tropical flora and fauna (Chua 1997, 27–50). These links are not merely physical but are also ideological. They breed human desires and entice Singaporeans to move into more prestigious professional sectors, neighborhoods, and homes. Even though the city was planned with the dual goals of providing cheap and healthy living quarters for the entire population and facilitating commercial growth (Perry, Kong, and Yeoh 1997, 228), its design has grown to be a bulwark for the latter. Initially, the pap government intended to stem the squalid urban sprawl that had derived from the British administration’s neglect of the racialized quarters of this port city. Since this colonial city had been designed for the flow of transregional labor, it comprised a pluralistic assemblage of racecentered settlements: Malay kampungs, Chinese squatter villages, and Indian townships (ibid., 25–44). If the resolution to control urban sprawl initially drove city planning in ex-colonial Singapore, it went hand in hand with that of constructing a hegemonic state under an elite Chinesedominated leadership. This was to be achieved by developing Singapore into a so-called global city—a center for international trade—despite its limited landmass and scarcity of natural resources (12–22). Pursuing this goal of capitalist nation building, city planners launched a series of land acquisition programs amounting to phallocratic infractions of the gendered bodies of preexisting ethnic communities (which had sustained autonomous and female collectivities within local trading arrangements) (Chua 1995, 130; Perry, Kong, and Yeoh 1997, 166–70). What arose on the erased grounds of community life and its sacred places (such as Chinese cemeteries) were monuments to an interstatist formation of secular, developmental time. The new residential and commercial structures breed a highly productive local workforce of people who have a personal stake in the prevalent politico-economic system; men and women steadily pursue upward mobility because access to even a basic unit of public housing rests on the principle of capital accumulation (the compulsory savings funds of employed people) rather than on welfarism (Chua 1995, 124–45). Moreover, these structures remain Singapore’s Gendered Imaginations ⭈ 193

porous to international flows. Singapore’s policy of selectively opening and closing its borders to foreigners produces hinterlands of labor and natural resources around the city. It also draws global capital, cuttingedge technology, and trained personnel into the state.≤ As I discuss below, cultural representations of everyday life depict how this architecture distributes both men and women according to their privileges of generation, race, and nationality; they are put either in the tracks of mobility or in allegedly backward spaces dependent on or serviceable to the mobile. But the film and literature also reveal that the teleology underlying this architecture is riddled with temporal contradictions that arise from the government’s recent Orientalist rea≈rmation of Singapore’s Asian (neo-Confucian) past. Reacting to the slackening of governmental hegemony in the mid-1980s (specifically, alarmed by the protest vote against Lee Kuan Yew’s social eugenics program), the pap leadership ideologically aligned itself against the West and with East Asian powers that espouse a nonliberal patriarchal form of nationalism (Chua 1995, 146–67). Since the 1980s, the pap leadership has not merely campaigned for rekindling the traditional Asian reverence for family and society above self but has used hdb allocations to favor three-tier families and discourage single life (by barring young to middle-aged men and women from owning property) (Chua 1997, 141–42; Wong and Kum 1993, 62–64). Accompanying these programs has been the endeavor to restore selected ethnic areas to their original ‘‘Oriental mystique and charm’’ (Chua 1997, 41). Whereas the organic orders of community life— harboring female and male collectivities as well as grassroots activist elements (Perry, Kong, and Yeoh 1997, 201)—were practically decimated by the first phase of urban development, this conservation program encourages local people to cultivate timeless forms of ‘‘Asian identity’’ (it also aims to attract international tourism) (Chua 1997, 41). Both the male filmmaker and the female writers portray the struggles Singaporeans undergo because their social and psychic lives are circumscribed by these conflicting (material-progress-oriented and culturally regressive) discourses of architecture. Nevertheless, their conceptualizations of resistance against these forms of control (canalization) di√er because they arise from gendered histories of privilege and domination. From his radical male perspective, Khoo critiques the very notions of progress and mobility that architecture imposes. His work indicates that traditions of self and family either freeze or fracture in the course of

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these intrinsically materialistic pursuits. Conversely, both Lim and Lee appear to suggest that women fall in with these pursuits, but simultaneously struggle against the freezing of traditions that intensifies with dominant culture’s rea≈rmation of patriarchal Asian values. Their works emerge from middle-class ethnically Chinese women’s experiences in the postindependence decades, a period during which the government systematically co-opted women’s activist movements, yet utilized bourgeois women in the economy and cultural norming.≥ These bourgeois women writers imply that their protagonists cannot step away from modernity or renege the tools of socioeconomic mobility because these enable them to break away from, or resist regressing into, the closed female spaces of androcentric Chinese homes. Instead, women must, in everyday practice, reinvent modernity by breaking down its polarization from female Chinese traditions. Where these gendered critiques of quotidian architecture still do come together is in their excavation of a city that seethes with subjects who measure their new social practices against cultural knowledges as they attempt to envision change.

Housing the ‘‘Ruins’’ of Community: Gender, Class, and the Male Subject in Radical Cinema Diana Agrest observes that film is the visual art that developed with the modern city and often addresses aspects of urban living. Through film, one learns to read the architectural monuments of modernity from the ‘‘point[s] of view of cit[ies]’’ (1993, 137). One sees the ‘‘unconscious aspects of architecture’’ and the ‘‘discordant spatial structures’’ underlying the stability of monumental forms (ibid., 132). The very first shots of Khoo’s Twelve Storeys direct the spectator’s gaze from the monumental orderliness of an hdb housing tower to the discordant human spaces within it. The opening frame depicts the tower in the shape of a narrow barrel cutting across the night sky like a phallus-gun poised at the angle of attack and penetration. Then, one views the building in all the aspects of its lifeless geometry. It is bathed in a deathly blue light, and sectioned up into empty hallways and disconnected residential units slotting individuals and families into parallel racial compartments (Chinese, Malay, and Indian; the government recently imposed a racial quota on hdb housing and caused an even greater fragmentation of ethnic communities [Chua 1995, 140–41]).

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As the camera momentarily halts its exploration of hdb living to focus on a clock, the viewer realizes that this excavation of the everyday spaces lying between the architectural frame must occur in the time-between of people’s routines, during the weekly holiday. By prying into this interval in the temporality of material progress, and showing how men and women confront the ravages wrought on their social existence by the clock, the camera captures the ‘‘convulsions of commodity economy’’ (Benjamin 1978, 162). It reveals that this monumental destination of bourgeois Singapore life—public housing routing people to private homes—lies in ‘‘ruins even before [it has] crumbled’’ (ibid.). But Khoo’s vision does not stop with these politics of exposure and despair; he strongly believes that Singapore cinema should portray ‘‘totally, in essence, what [Singaporeans] know.’’ Twelve Storeys demonstrates that the nightmarish contradictions in self-understanding and interpersonal relations that erupt in this time of ‘‘convulsions’’ do interfere with the time of waking. In many cases, they blast human lives out of routines. But they also constitute a common knowledge of pain from which alternative orders of community life may emerge. The film builds around three stories unfolding in the hdb block. These feature, respectively, a young and ambitious civil servant (Meng) who attempts to control his unruly sister and brother while their parents are away; a hawker (Ah Gu) who has brought home an acquisitive China Bride; and a working-class woman (San San) who lives alone, haunted by the memory of her abusive dead mother. These main story lines are flanked by two other episodes. One features the suicide of a young man, upwardly mobile and Westernized but a closet substance abuser, who reappears as the guardian spirit of the apartment community; the other depicts a group of working-class men spending an idle Sunday at the housing block’s food center. These discrete sites and episodes are interlinked through two suturing devices—that is, devices that make the spectator critically ‘‘frame-conscious’’ by ‘‘remodeling [her or his] memory’’ of the interlinkages (Dayan 1993, 449). These dialectically juxtapose social life in the housing block with the rudiments of an emancipatory vision drawn from remembered ways of community life. The first of these is the use of a character’s look at the television screen as the cue for crosscutting between sites and story lines. This alerts the spectator to the one thing that connects the fragmented lives of these inhabitants: packaged recreation providing relief from their daily routines. In sharp contrast to

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this is the other cue for crosscutting between life stories: the look of the guardian angel. This implies an understanding of the spiritual core that alone can bind people and communities together. The guardian angel’s look marks the other invisible place where this fractured community comes together—that symbolic common ground where people silently vent their experiences of entrapment and pain in the common spiritual aspiration for a di√erent future. This contradictory visual arrangement reappears throughout the story lines and reinforces their meaning. Meng’s story is a symbolic exposé of the convergence of what Lefebvre describes as the geometric and phallic ‘‘formants’’ of abstract space (1991, 286–87) in the subjectivity of an ideal actor of that spatial logic. It is also a reflection on the psychic e√ects of this kind of subject formation. The first sequence of daylight shots juxtaposes the erectility of the flat building with the erect and disciplined body of the young civil servant. He is seen jogging through a geometric landscape that intersperses built form with greenery (a result of the programmatic ‘‘greening’’ of the ‘‘tropical city’’ of Singapore [Perry, Kong, and Yeoh 1997, 192–93, 211– 12]), and later, performing the geometric movements of calisthenics. As his story unfolds, however, one realizes that Meng’s sense of self is far from centered and monolithic; it is caught between traditional and modern construals of Singaporean manhood, and irreparably fractured. In outward appearance, this conscientious civil servant is a model male citizen of Singapore. He is Western-educated, technologically trained, and generally keeps abreast of contemporary trends. He speaks in English, has taken chemistry in college, and quizzes his brother on current events. It is only appropriate that upwardly mobile Meng replaces his working-class father as the guardian of his younger siblings. Although he literally carries this responsibility for just one week, Meng is the family’s symbolic head. He dreams of and strives for the family’s advancement— higher education for the young (for which he partially pays), a bigger ownership flat, and eventually a private home. Meng also inflects his practice of Western modernity by imbibing the best of Confucian paternalism and moral uprightness. He makes many sacrifices for his family and claims to always abide by strict sexual morals (one learns that he once refused to start a romantic relationship because he was unprepared to marry the woman). If the daylight personality of this civil servant harmonizes the best elements of modern and traditional Singaporean masculinity, it is troubled by a nightmarish other.

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It is Meng who is seen sitting before the clock in that early shot I described above—brooding in that dangerously routineless interval of a late Saturday night over his hidden thoughts and repressed sexual desires. These desires haunt his social existence; he is tormented by incestuous lust toward his strongly sexual sister. The very first frame showing Meng with his sister portrays a doubleness in his gaze. Although he looks with fetishist craving at the exposed thighs of his sleeping sibling, he restrains himself from touching them and instead covers her body with fatherly care. Later, he strokes (the inviting body of ) his sister’s red toothbrush as he gazes at himself in a deeply Lacanian mirror; this flashes back at the imaginary of this modular man as a dangerously selfdistorting other. The other Meng begins to supersede the disciplined civil servant when what appears to be his repressed double erupts onto the screen in the shape of his sister’s wheeler-dealer boyfriend, Edie. This man is able to do with the woman all the sexual things Meng desires. He also acquires big money by harnessing everything in his reach, including the elements of libido, to economic work. One discovers that Edie (whose Anglo name is an indicator of the kind of unbridled Westernization Meng’s Orientalist nationalism opposes) has easy access to covetable objects like flashy sports cars and designer clothes because he works both as a financial middleman and pimp; he supplies local prostitutes to international businessmen passing through Singapore. With Edie’s entrance into the narrative, Meng’s ideal Confucianmodernist manhood spirals into disintegration. It is as if this ideal splinters (causing a nervous breakdown) in the relentless flux of global capital along with manual and sexual labor through Singapore. The episode’s concluding scene shows Meng breaking into a demented rage at the exact spot where he previously performed geometric calisthenics and being removed by the police. Thus, the model male citizen who once embodied the orderliness characterizing the new everyday life of Singapore is also the one whose repressed body erupts out of the political architecture defining his o≈cial social position. Moreover, this story of decentering masculinity is cross-linked, largely through the television screen that catches Meng’s voyeuristic eyes, with that of Ah Gu, housed in a separate apartment and positioned in another social class. Ah Gu’s narrative explores another facet of gendered social life in the context of Singapore’s economic growth and globalization. It shows how this developed nation’s spatial and temporal relations with its surround-

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ing impoverished regions become gendered as men and women move across political and economic boundaries. This story explores how Singapore’s status as a regional nexus of economic migration e√ects changes in Singaporeans’ constructions of gender identity and relations. Ah Gu is what Sarker and I call a gendered trans-status subject (see the introduction). His command over manliness—sexual prowess and desirable looks—shifts with his location on the global map of development and backwardness. In mainland China, he was the man from prosperous Singapore in whose service his poverty-stricken China Bride had willingly yielded her sexuality. Once they are back in Singapore, she sees him with di√erent eyes. He falls from his masculine stature and forfeits his patriarchal control over her womb because she learns that he is a petty hawker. To her, Ah Gu is now only a bucktoothed food seller reeking of soup—an emasculated underling of a man who performs reproductive labor (provides food) for upwardly mobile men and mimics their marks of success (he drives a battered Mercedes-Benz). The point of this story is not, however, a misogynist representation of this working-class man’s oppression by his materialistic immigrant wife. It is the depiction of how both the man and woman are trapped in the groove of economic mobility. Because he strives to reclaim his manly stature and patriarchal authority, Ah Gu isolates himself from his family and community and single-mindedly pursues material goals. He confines himself in this modest ownership flat, straying away from filial duties, because he aspires to acquire a larger property and other fashionable things. His China Bride, for her part, depicts a di√erently gendered story of human degeneration under the seduction of capital. Presently, the China Bride’s life is trapped between the mirror in which she sees the embodiment of her consumerist aspirations and the drudgery of daylong labor in her husband’s food shop. Being unable to connect with the man who is the immediate reason why her hopes in coming to Singapore have vanished, she lives in a state of perpetual rebellion. She struggles to gain control over her body and personhood by humiliating him as well as denying sexual favors. Yet the concluding scene of the narrative reveals a very di√erent side of this woman. The viewer sees her crouching in tears by the bedside of her sleeping husband, clutching a photograph of herself standing with a revolutionary cadre beneath a portrait of Mao. The scene captures her personal remorse for the mistake she made in abandoning her true love; it also

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suggests that by giving in to the lure of upward mobility and turning herself into an object of sexual desire as well as procreative need, she forfeited her agency both as a woman and co-participant in revolutionary history. In e√ect, the China Bride bemoans her involvement in the centripetal flows of material things and human life and flesh that erupt in Singapore’s underdeveloped peripheries with this city-state’s immersion in capitalist progress. This symbolic tale of the China Bride’s plight is linked, largely through the compassionate gaze of the guardian spirit, to that of San San, the woman who lives alone with only suicide on her mind. What one sees in this third narrative is how the aspirations for material progress and social mobility penetrate the everyday lives of working-class women and break down intrafamilial bonds. San San’s story unfolds through the frequent reappearances of her deceased mother on the ‘‘screen’’ of her memory. Although San San’s mother herself had been a Chinese amah (nursemaid), she had persistently dehumanized the female domestic worker by denigrating her own daughter’s daily activities and social position. It is as if the desperate self-deprecation of that deceased domestic laborer now lives on in the form of her non-Western-educated, uncouth daughter. San San is obsessed with the desire to compensate for her lack of modern achievements by constantly scrubbing her lonely abode or cooking. She falls into a still deeper abyss of despair after she is visited by Rachel, the upper-class woman her mother had raised and considered to be the perfection of womanhood. Rachel descends on the hdb flat complex with all the signs of economic success these inhabitants crave: a sleek new car, expensive Western clothes, and the aura of possessing a private home. But she soon reveals that she, too, has lost her human attributes by towing this line of accumulation. She is a mobile participant in the productive sphere and a prototype of the new woman of modern Singapore; but she has lost the ability to be a mother. The maternal care she had received from her amah remains as a nostalgic memory she intermittently revisits. She herself has hired a substitute mother, from another ‘‘backward’’ periphery of Singapore. While Rachel sits in isolation at the wheel of her car, a Filipino maid occupies the seat next to her son and wraps a protective arm around the child. These women do the real work of upholding the alleged Asian family values Singapore government propagates. Later, one sees two Filipino maids sitting by the hdb playground to oversee ‘‘their’’ children

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at play. The point of the story of San San and Rachel is to show a common plight shared by Singapore women of di√erent classes. The film suggests that as these women attempt to cope with the commodity culture of production and consumption, they lose the sense of where their feminine selves fit in contemporary family and social settings. Through these intertwined narratives, Twelve Storeys explores how Singapore’s political system works through the built environment to manipulate people’s everyday lives in ways that facilitate local and global economic flows. By framing these tales in the dialectics of despair and hope, however, it also provokes the question of how these men and women create parallel orders of place in which communities are re-imagined. The compassionate eyes of the dead young man, who deliberately extricated himself from the space of commodity culture and upward mobility, provide one possible answer. In this depiction, the filmmaker puts to radical use the spiritual sensibilities deep-seated in the Asian religious cultures of Singapore. He shows that the guardian spirit looks inward to the community’s core of su√ering, and also outward at the beauty of the clouds and raindrops; it is as if these spiritual looks prophesy a future where the bonds of this community and its ties with nature will be simultaneously rejuvenated. The working-class men who idle at the hawkers’ center, having intentionally stepped away from material pursuits, provide another way of surviving as a community. They reclaim a vernacular collectivity that exists both inside and outside the knowledge system of production. As they sit around all day to gossip and tell stories, they freely mingle current historical information and rational knowledge with folk wisdom, revivifying a heterogeneous tradition of conversation characteristic of ethnic village life in colonial Singapore (Chua 1997, 79–80). As the film acknowledges but does not explore, though, none of these critical perspectives on the teleology of progress a√ords women a release from the patriarchy that appears, in di√erent forms, in the modern capitalist and vernacular landscapes. San San, for example, is unable to be comfortable in the communal site of the hawkers’ center because this has been taken over by sexist men, the idlers who jeer at her unattractive shape. Because the purpose of this film is to position the common Singapore man as the subject of an alternative history, even the visionary guardian spirit it depicts is, can only be, male. As against this, both the female writers I discuss below are concerned with how middle-class

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Chinese working women do and can produce histories of their own. They show that women strategically create places for themselves in the intersections of social spaces that are overdetermined by masculinist signs, whether these be of tradition or modernity. They empower themselves and form female communities in ways that remain partially veiled by their overt acquiescence to being positioned by the architectural orders of statist and familial patriarchy.

Managing the ‘‘Mess’’: Women, Social Roles, and Everyday Life in Popular Fiction Lim explores how intrafamilial, particularly woman-to-woman, relationships fragment with the coming of modernization into the microspaces of family homes. Because she considers this problematic of gendered everyday space in the framework of commercial Singaporean-English fiction, her mode of social critique is significantly di√erent from Khoo’s. In contrast to the debate Khoo launches with Singapore’s dominant political culture, Lim reifies (that is, instrumentalizes and packages for entertainment [Jameson 1979, 130]) the cultural nostalgia pervading the rapidly transforming context of modern Singapore. Yet a second layer of narration frequently enframes and implicitly demands reflection on the obvious one. Lim writes from a location embattled by conflicts between the pasts and presents of Chinese-Singaporean family life—that of a university-educated Chinese woman. Through her multiply layered narratives, she depicts the ideological struggles this social group faces as it copes with the shifting constructions of bourgeois Chinese womanhood that accompany the nation’s economic globalization. In the fiction Lim produced between the late 1970s and early 1990s, one does find reification and nostalgia, but also polemical responses to a conflict-riddled period in middle-class Chinese women’s lives. During this period, educated women were told that their national duty lay in contributing to the economic survival and growth of a country whose ‘‘main asset was its people,’’ not its natural resources (Wong and Kum 1993, 36). By the late 1980s, Lee Kuan Yew was being driven by the decline in Singapore’s working population (a phenomenon resulting from women’s high educational level and economic mobility) to o≈cially urge men to participate in housework to help women retain jobs (Tamney 1996, 121). But during this period, the government also became

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increasingly conscious of the need to restrain educated (middle-class Chinese) women’s growing autonomy as well as ensure their continued commitment to their homes, families, and most of all, the critical task of procreating and nurturing the nation’s male progeny. In the 1980s, Lee Kuan Yew declared that Singapore needed more ‘‘graduate mothers’’ (cited in Heng and Devan 1992, 345). Lim’s fiction seeks to assuage the cultural anxieties that spring from these changing definitions of Chinese women’s roles in Singapore society. Her works are all the more marketable as means of repressing these anxieties that stem from cultural displacement and confusion because they utter nativist notions in English. With the rise of neo-Orientalism in Singapore, English was o≈cially stamped as the colonizer’s tongue, a vehicle for degenerate Western modernity and its technologized sensibilities (Lim 1994, 114–15). Deploying this language and speaking to the English-educated elite, Lim e√ectively addresses people’s fears and guilt about cultural colonization by pitting the harmony reigning over rural Chinese female spaces against the restless materialism in the upwardly mobile, modern-educated women who inhabit exclusive private homes. But her works also destabilize their dominant narrative frameworks. Lim probes between the binaries these set up, into ‘‘messy’’ intersections where women negotiate the categories of traditional and modern femininity into which they have been slotted. On one level, Lim’s narratives suggest that the materialistic new women of Singapore are to blame for destroying the moral and emotional links that ought to have bound the new to the old (that is, ethnic community-centered) orders of Chinese Singaporean life. Her first novel, The Serpent’s Tooth (1982), shows that its protagonist, Angela (the wife of a businessman and bureaucrat, and an entrepreneur in her own right), fails to see why the modest hdb flat of her brother-in-law, who retains Chinese village sensibilities and (nationalist-masculinist) resistance to Western ways, forges an unbroken emotional tie with the remnants of rural abodes scattered around urban Singapore. She does not understand that her brother-in-law’s traditional home extends to her aged mother-in-law cultural reassurance of a kind her own contemporary private home absolutely denies. The latter’s inhospitable character is exacerbated in the eyes of Old Mother by Angela’s own persistence in identifying the aged woman with a useless, past way of life; Angela denies her the right to participate in raising the children or determining

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the family’s future in any other way (she draws her young son away from his grandmother’s folktales on the plea that these distract him from the pursuit of success). Angela ostensibly fulfills traditional family duties by visiting relatives with expensive foods and gifts, but the rounds of the town she makes in her shiny Toyota Corolla only reinforce the gulf in space and time between the ‘‘backward’’ cultural locations the relatives occupy and her own upwardly mobile family unit. In short, the story appears to hold Angela’s kind of woman responsible for causing a moral polarization between traditional and modern ways of life, and thereby fracturing families and neighborhoods in Singapore. Thus, to produce the illusion that social harmony resides beneath surface-level fractures, the stories dichotomize modern and traditional female spaces in Chinese homes. Yet many also intimate that this harmony is only an illusion because real generational rifts in language, culture, and worldview riddle the lives of bourgeois Chinese women. They expose the bewilderment and pain educated women feel as they live through these breakdowns of family and social bonds, which result from the architectural order governing micro-forms of social life in Singapore. As Koh Tai Ann suggests, in The Serpent’s Tooth, Angela’s struggles arise from the fact that although she is financially independent, ‘‘she defines herself and is defined still by the androcentric values of a traditional order’’ (1995, 73). The novel opens and closes with Angela’s words; in these framing chapters, she voices the realization that she was ‘‘left alone to pick up the pieces’’ (Lim 1982, 2) when her family disintegrated under the various pressures of upward mobility and psychic regression (Angela’s own ambitions concerning her family, her husband’s failure in political life, and his infidelity in marriage). Angela also insists she has to forget the ghosts of the (androcentric) past, with whom she fails to harmonize her modern sensibilities anyway. She (like other women in her position) is left to clean up the mess of the disarrayed traditional and modern values that overrun the places and minds of her family members. Because this narrative exposes and recognizes that the di√erent demands being placed on educated Chinese women (social mobility, workforce participation, and traditional ethnic homemaking) infract family and intrafamilial female bonds, it clears a space for renegotiating community ties through redefining their basic terms. Some short stories Lim wrote in this period present more critical explorations of conflicts pervading the microarchitecture of women’s lives, and how women deal with these to empower themselves and rebuild communities. 204 ⭈ Esha Niyogi De

Lim’s ‘‘Wedding’’ (1993b) depicts how Singapore women’s bodies become like the city, with their ‘‘temporal coordinates . . . transformed into spatial ones’’ (Olalquiaga 1992, 93). It is as if the architectural rationale of reestablishing historic ethnic districts on the map of modern Singapore descends on the body of Constance when this highly Westernized bride-to-be momentarily steps into the costume of a Chinese bride of ‘‘half a century back’’ (Lim 1993b, 73). Through this transformation, Constance symbolically arrests the clash of Asian traditions and Western modernity with her own body. She poses in this bridal costume for a television camera that will show her ‘‘o√ering her grandfather-in-law the ceremonial cup of tea, in front of the ancestral altar’’ (ibid.); she is supposed to cast it o√ for a Princess Diana dress before the actual wedding. Overtly, the story suggests that the reconciliation of traditional values with the sensibilities of the new, Westernized generation of Singapore women can be only this staged event. Told mainly from Old Grandfather’s point of view, it underscores the negative comparisons the aged man draws between the memory of his own submissive bride, Siew Huay (the originary female body in the ceremonial costume Constance now wears), and the loud and unwomanly ‘‘Improper One’’ his grandson is about to marry. Old Grandfather’s narration, and his life, fittingly conclude at that moment of complete (timeless) serenity when seated in his ‘‘patriarchal chair’’ (79), he views Constance’s volatile individuality being erased by the sheer weight of Siew Huay’s tradition(al dress). But the story also points out how di√erently the modern Singapore woman, Constance, interprets this event and the moment. For her, this is not a static moment outside modern time but an opportunity to begin grappling, on her own terms, with the disconnected elements of traditional and contemporary culture that circumscribe her everyday existence. Constance attempts to define a place where these cultural fragments can be negotiated and familial (human) contact rebuilt. When Old Grandfather touches her cheek during the ceremonial o√ering, imagining her to be Siew Huay, she tells herself, ‘‘The old man loves me after all . . . on this my wedding day’’ (80). ‘‘Wedding’’ acknowledges that contemporary women’s e√orts to forge any such common human ground from the gendered fragments of social life in Singapore could well end in an illusion. Lim’s ‘‘Change of Heart’’ (1993a) takes another step—that of exploring how women make hybrid social places by bonding across the gap between modern and traditional social spaces. It depicts how two quite di√erent women—one completely Singapore’s Gendered Imaginations ⭈ 205

lacking in the attributes of progress with which the other is replete (English education, rational outlook, white-collar employment, elegant appearance, tasteful Western clothing)—come together in their common resistance to individualist and statist patriarchies. Geok embodies the messiness that pervades Chinese-Singaporean women’s dualistic experiences of modernization and neotraditionalism in patriarchal Singapore. She is a misfit in her upscale environment, unable to take charge of her elegant private home, to mingle in the elite Westernized circles (comprising local and foreign corporate executives) in which her husband moves, or even to fit her corpulent body into the trim Western clothes she must wear for social events. But Geok’s lack of control over her life stems from her displacement from an autonomous role in the productive sphere to a strictly reproductive function. She once ran a thriving food supply business from her apartment, to fund her husband Michael’s education in England; now, she has no option other than to submit to being the supportive wife of a Westernized corporate executive. Much of the story pits the messy Geok against the Western-educated, socially competent, and sartorially elegant Aileen, who participates in Michael’s professional life and commands his a√ection. Yet it concludes by showing how Geok and Aileen invisibly come together in their common resistance against the businessman-turned-politician Michael. Michael is portrayed as exploiting both the traditional and modern woman; he temporarily abandons Geok for Aileen, but readily returns to the former when a well-wishing minister reminds him how important Asian family values are in Singapore politics. Michael finally gets the compliance of neither woman, though. It is far from certain that the incorrigibly messy Geok, although now happily reinstated in her marital status, will perform the appropriate reproductive functions for a modern politician. It is perfectly clear Aileen will never again support Michael. She refuses his proposal of a clandestine relationship and declares that the honest Geok is ‘‘worth ten of [him]’’ (Lim 1993a, 41). Thus, Aileen valorizes the family traditions of stability, loyalty, and selflessness that Geok brings to Michael; but she also sees Geok as an autonomous entity existing outside Michael’s self-serving designs. Neither woman is able to do away with the kinds of patriarchal and sexual exploitation she faces. Nevertheless, the promise of change lies in this forging of a common bond of women’s resistance against exploitation. This bond contains the rudimentary vision of an alliance between women like Aileen and Geok,

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who have been arbitrarily separated in space and time by the cultural architecture of modern Singapore.

On the Routes of the City: The Poetics of Female Citizenship in Modern Singapore With Lee’s nationalist poem ‘‘My Country and My People,’’ one moves beyond Lim’s covert expressions of everyday resistance. Lee strives to rethink public life and the national community from the viewpoint of a female citizen. Her vision also poses a contrast to Khoo’s radical male perspective on Singapore’s future. She refrains from looking outside modernity for the means of rejuvenating community and reconciling with nature; instead, she imagines a contemporary order of everyday space that enables gender and racial equality. On occasion, Lee does fall into a nostalgic lamentation for the passing of the organic orders of Singaporean community life, lived in the midst of nature’s bounty. In this vein of postcolonial nationalism—which ‘‘celebrates the rural as being the fundamental expression of the indigenous and the authentic’’ (Holston and Appadurai 1996, 189)—her ‘‘Bukit Timah Road’’ in her collection Prospect of a Drowning (1980) deplores the ‘‘megalopolitan appetite’’ (210) devouring the ‘‘green trees’’ (210–11) and ‘‘muddy canals’’ (210–11) of Singapore’s rural fringes. But she progresses beyond this romanticization of Singapore’s rural past to the exploration of how the new urban order itself can enable a heterogeneous national community. Her goal is to imagine a community in which she can place herself, a modern woman with strong indigenous sensibilities. Lee recognizes that neither the Chinese village nor modern city will enable her active participation in the community. Torn from its organic roots, village culture comes to her in a frozen form. This enforces a rigid patriarchy emblematized in the ‘‘runt of a papaya tree’’ and a ‘‘duck that would not fly’’ (1980, 208). In the city, she also finds the phallocentric ‘‘lofty . . . profile’’ (ibid., 208) of a dominating architecture that has little room for her modern, gendered individuality. Lee concludes that to selfactualize she must place herself on the roads of the city—that is, on the routes of social movement and perpetual renegotiation. Seizing the socioeconomic privileges of a modern-educated woman, she learns, both in real and metaphorical terms, to ‘‘drive’’ with the times in the quest for a new future. She launches her ‘‘performative membership’’ (Holston and

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Appadurai 1996, 200) in imagining the collective future by reconceptualizing, from a woman’s viewpoint, the city that lies between its political architecture. Lee promulgates the notion of a heterogeneous neighborhood comprising the homes of di√erent kinds (of races and ethnicities) of people: Perhaps, fence-sitting neighbour, I claim citizenship in your recognition of our kind. My people, and my country, are you, and you my home. (207–9) This marks a conceptual midpoint between the old and new orders of multiracial community life in Singapore. Lee draws on the memory of racial and cultural pluralism—the ‘‘rich soil . . . [of ] humanity’’ (208)— that characterized social life in colonial Singapore, but she also recognizes the limitations of that pluralistic order. She recalls the insular mentality that separated her ‘‘gentle, brown-skinned neighbors’’ (208) from those like her who were growing up in ‘‘China’s mighty shadow.’’ In her imagined community of neighbors that stands for the city-nation, she wants to reinvent pluralism. Here, she strives to incorporate the principles of pluralism and tolerance into a modern democratic environment. This extends to all ‘‘kinds’’ of members equal ‘‘recognition’’ and creates a forum for negotiating the terms on whose bases community is forged. The pluralist democracy Lee describes is not a simple a≈rmation of Singapore’s o≈cial concept of a multicultural nation. Veiled by that a≈rmation is a voice critical of patriarchal multiculturalism. What Lee demands is that in the reconfigured city and nation, she be recognized and given the dignity of a woman. In other words, she demands that she is recognized not only as Chinese with her own customs but a person uncircumscribed and unthreatened by the ‘‘runts’’ (208) of trees and other such ‘‘lofty’’ (208) forms of sexual and psychic domination. It is not clear, however, if Lee is aware that her vision of female participatory democracy assumes that women have socioeconomic privilege. After all, it is only because Lee commands the economic advantage of driving out of various patriarchal restrictions that she is able to define her identity and community on her own terms. If one sets Lee’s gendered revisioning of the city against Khoo’s class-sensitive portrayal of the mar-

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ginalization of non-Western-educated women, one is moved to ask if a woman such as San San could participate in Lee’s egalitarian community. By juxtaposing these three unequally radical cultural producers, I show that heterogeneous visions of place and time cannot be thought of as being consistently oppositional to the homogenizing temporality of the global state. As we stress in the introduction to this volume, quotidian practices that amalgamate cultural memories with imposed and new knowledges hold di√erent degrees of complicity with and resistance to power structures. The visions of social change produced by these bourgeois women, Lee and Lim, then, are limited in scope; they fail to encompass the life experiences of those Singapore women who are unable to access the benefits of socioeconomic mobility. Nonetheless, they uphold strategies of resistance and survival practiced by the postindependence generation of upwardly mobile Chinese Singaporean women who have worked under the double bind of being in the present socioeconomic order and a reified space of tradition. Their analyses of quotidian resistance to architectural order also take issue with Khoo’s. From his radical male perspective, Khoo suggests that traditional knowledges and ways of life provide alternatives to this oppressive architectural rationality; contrarily, the female authors argue that for women, there can be no clean exit out of an oppressive contemporary order into another totally empowering one. Women must strategically move in the intersections between social spaces that are overdetermined by signs of tradition and modernity. Their histories of self-empowerment and female community building also must remain partially veiled by overt acquiescence to the roles they are assigned by the architecture of the capitalist patriarchal state. By juxtaposing these stories by and about Singapore men and women, one sees not only how strategies for coping with the phallocratic architecture of Singapore change with gendered subject and context but also how the tactics of telling stories of resistance change with the gender of the author under an authoritarian patriarchal regime (resistant stories by and about women being more covert in expression than those by and about men). What one also sees is where these gendered, centrifugal voices come together to produce a dissenting public that intervenes in the political architecture of Singapore on behalf of the people of the city. In other words, one finds vivid examples of how the lived places of Singapore become breeding grounds for ways of thinking that dis-

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mantle the concepts underlying the built environment, and how localglobal accumulative processes are disrupted in the very spaces in which they spread.

Notes 1

For theorizations of the everyday as a counter-concept of the political, see Lefebvre 1970; Certeau, Giard, and Mayol 1984. See also Soja’s discussion of ‘‘socio-spatial dialectics’’ (1989, 88–91). 2 The growth of Singapore as a global city—a center regulating the flow of finance and technology through the largely ‘‘underdeveloped’’ Southeast Asian region—has produced clear stratifications in the local workforce: by imposing tight controls on immigration, Singapore has been able to bring in, as necessary, highly skilled technical and managerial personnel, on the one hand, and foreign workers for low-paid, service sector jobs, on the other (Perry, Kong, and Yeoh 1997, 14, 20–22). 3 For a concise history of women’s movements and their relationship to the government in Singapore, see Heng 1997, 34–45.

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Working in the Gulf is now such a common option for men from India and Pakistan that it has become part of South Asian popular culture. Two Pakistani films of the early 1980s were Let’s Go to Dubai and Visa for Dubai (Ahmed 1984, 263); an Indian children’s book, The Case of the Shady Sheikh and Other Stories, includes a story about an Indian labor contractor and a Gulf sheikh who take money from poor men, promising passports, visas, and work permits for the Gulf (Singh 1993).∞ Much of the literature reads as though all South Asian workers in the Gulf were men (Gardezi 1991, 192; India Today, 15 February 1997, 39–40). Of the South and Southeast Asian women in the Gulf—domestic workers, brides, housewives, and career women—the world media has only publicized the sensational cases of exploitation, rape, and murder of Filipina maids. I am focusing here on Indian and Pakistani women in Kuwait and Dubai, but the analysis also includes maids from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Southeast Asia.≤ Professional women come from all over India and Pakistan; the maids come primarily from Kerala and Andhra Pradesh (India), and the brides come mostly from Hyderabad (India). The lived experience of these and other expatriates in the Gulf is molded by the internationalism of postwar capitalism in which the speed of the labor flows and the specificity of the places are important factors (Henderson and Castells 1987, 7; Soja 1989, 15, 41). After delineating the gendered landscapes of the Gulf locations, I will show how these women contribute to the unequal flows of economic and

cultural capital and labor. The conservatively conceived South Asian homes brought to the patriarchal Gulf states are undermined by spatial distance and times of international crises or changing family life cycles, which reconfigure gender relations and change imagined futures. Contrary to the plans and expectations of South Asian women and men, their temporary location in the Gulf often becomes the catalyst for greater displacements. As trans-status subjects caught up in the processes of globalization in the Gulf, professional men and women find themselves displaced from their homelands and pushed to consider migration to the West, while working-class men and their wives at home focus more strongly on the homeland and their places in it.

Power and Di√erence in the Gulf Confronted with the inflows of capital and labor produced by an increasingly global economy, the Gulf rulers combat the resultant tensions by trying to reconfirm and preserve their places. The first important di√erence is between citizens and noncitizens. The ruling families of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) limit citizenship to ‘‘nationals’’ or ‘‘locals,’’ a conception that clearly rests on a genealogical (and patriarchal) notion of nationalism. Kuwait, for example, has been called a big family posing as a state government (Shryock 1997, 6; al-Mughni 1993; Goodwin 1995, 175–76). The Gulf citizens benefit economically from guaranteed jobs (Kuwait), subsidies for water, power, and telephones, and nearly universal homeownership. Sanitation services, education (often including education abroad), and health care (often abroad) are free. But even as their citizens prosper, local birthrates soar, and the educational qualifications of young people rise, the Gulf states continue to rely on cheaper and more exploitable expatriates, perpetual noncitizens, to do menial and other work for which the indigenous populations were not previously prepared (Sayigah 1972, 293; Stoakes 1972, 203; Zahlan 1989, 70–72; Economist, 12 April 1997, 20 September 1997). Kuwaitis, one-third of the population, are just one-sixth of the workforce. Expatriates constitute 75 percent of the UAE’s population and 80 percent of Dubai’s. The UAE expatriate population is 70 percent male (mostly bachelors) and 30 percent female (Economist, 20 September 1997, 52), and in Kuwait, 69 percent male and 31 percent female (Kuwait Pocket Guide 1995, 21; for a breakdown of ‘‘nationals,’’ see ibid., 116). 214 ⭈ Karen Leonard

The second important di√erence is between noncitizens of di√erent origins. In the Gulf, the globalization of labor does not erase di√erence but ‘‘revalidates and reconstitutes place, locality, and di√erence’’ (Watt 1991, 10; see also Harvey 1990, 427–28). Most privileged are those in the six monarchies named above, who formed the Gulf Cooperation Council (gcc) in 1981 for security reasons. gcc citizens can generally enter each others’ countries without the visas required of other Arabs and Asians. Most Gulf states do not release statistics about expatriates’ origins but sometimes use general ‘‘nationality’’ categories to indicate these. In the UAE, the categories are UAE, Gulf (gcc), other Arab, and Asian—in decreasing order, reflecting rankings of salaries and other socioeconomic measures—and further gradations exist within the groups (Leonard forthcoming 2002). The Gulf societies also exhibit strong gender di√erences. The Arab rulers of Kuwait (since the eighteenth century, the al-Sabah family) and the seven emirates of the UAE federation (of which Dubai is a part since 1971) brook no challenges to their dynastic authority. They delegate few political rights even to their ‘‘nationals,’’ and only to males. Access to diwaniyehs (Kuwait) or majlises (Dubai)—evening gatherings in which significant discussions occur—has rarely been open to women. The revival of the Federal National Council in 1993, by UAE President Sheikh Zayed (Abu Dhabi), was a move toward some democracy. Kuwait allows men over twenty-one (only from families who have been in the country since 1920) to vote for male National Assembly representatives; in 1996, only the second election since 1986 when the Assembly was dissolved, 100,000 of 750,000 of Kuwait’s citizens voted (Owen 1993, 33–40). UAE women are crucial markers of status, but are perceived as needing protection, and therefore remain largely in the private domain meant for the zaif or ‘‘weak’’ (Devji 1994, 25–27). This patriarchal public world is changing, however, and Gulf women are contesting male power even more in the private realm (Kuwaiti Information O≈ce 1993, 19–20; Goodwin 1995, 157–58, 165–72; al-Mughni 1993). South Asian women serve as catalysts despite their own subordinate positions in Gulf society.

Time and Space out of Nations The experiences of South Asians in the Gulf are best approached through the narratives of the laws that are designed to marginalize them, and that set an inflexible frame for expatriate work and family life (Suleri 1992, Families and Futures ⭈ 215

766; Ardener 1981, 12). A citizen sponsor is needed even for a visitor’s visa, save for gcc citizens, and residence visas are of three types: work, dependent, and servant. Workers of all classes need sponsors or employers to secure work permits and ‘‘no objection certificates’’ before entering the countries. On arrival, they are medically tested and fingerprinted. Noncitizens may do private business only in closely regulated ways, most of them involving a local sponsor or partner. In Kuwait, sponsors must be men, but in Dubai, they can be women. In both places, gcc citizens can own land or real estate; other foreigners must rent (customarily unfurnished) accommodations. Divested of citizenship, South Asians working in the Gulf for economic reasons know they cannot stay permanently. They do not think of themselves as becoming transnational so much as being away from their home nations. The rules determining entry and behavior are quite similar in Kuwait and Dubai, and reflect strong gender biases (for Kuwait, see Kuwait Pocket Guide 1995; for the UAE and Dubai, see India-West, 16 January 1996, A38). Women’s employment options are limited, making them vulnerable and dependent on their own or their husbands’ employers because the policies governing employment change suddenly. For example, domestic servants (mostly maids) are not even covered by state labor codes (India-West, 14 July 1995, 40). Family life is strongly discouraged for South Asians in the Gulf, if only by the high amounts to sponsor members. If both spouses are working, they can combine salaries (in Kuwait, wives may not sponsor husbands, while in Dubai, women teachers or doctors may sponsor their husbands). Unmarried daughters over eighteen can be sponsored, but not adult sons, and dependents cannot work unless they secure their own sponsors and work visas. There is an age limit of sixty for expatriates (waived for major investors in the UAE), and one’s parents may visit briefly only after permits are obtained and fees paid. Indian and Pakistani women enter Kuwait and Dubai under these stressful conditions and immediately experience redefinitions of self and family, in ways that vary by class, age, and marital status. Movement to the Gulf might seem just a step further than movement to the husband’s household, but these wives go as part of nuclear families, distanced from their extended families. These South Asian women may themselves be career women who have children and need household help. Some South Asian expatriate families can a√ord other expatriates as maids, but most cannot, nor can they easily bring parents or other relatives over for help. 216 ⭈ Karen Leonard

They may sponsor one full-time household servant; to sponsor a female servant, a man must be married and have his wife living with him. Sponsoring a maid is time-consuming and expensive—entry fees, residence visas and fees, medical tests, and fingerprinting are required, and renewals are needed every year or two (see Pakistan Link, 16 September 1994, 20). Maids must be between twenty and fifty years of age, and family members cannot be brought in as servants. The many Indian Muslim women married to local Arabs (discussed below) have few or no blood relatives in the Gulf for material or emotional support. Although it is not usual for women in India and Pakistan to travel alone for domestic service to a modern urban destination (regardless of age or marital status), those who come as maids, cooks, ayahs, and workers in hospitals and clothing factories undergo major dislocation and disruption. They consider these temporary sacrifices for the sake of their families at home. Hindu and Christian women, thinking that Arabs prefer Muslims as maids, sometimes take Muslim names or convert to Islam to become part of Arab households.≥ Maids sometimes do ‘‘double shifts’’ as prostitutes, earning well above their salaries (reportedly onethird to two-thirds above the monthly U.S. $135–150) from Arab and expatriate men. Declining prospects caused by crises such as the Gulf War of 1990– 1991 create other pressures on South Asian workers and families in the Gulf. Almost all expatriates were evacuated during the war, and as Mohammed Hoshdar Khan and Mir Ibrahim Ali Khan pointed out to this author (Kuwait, 7 August 1995), Kuwaiti sponsors preferred cheaper, younger labor over older, longtime workers when they brought workers back after the war. Kuwaitis continue to receive monthly allowances per child, although the state stopped them for expatriates. Most important, government and private employers retained prewar wage levels, but prices reportedly rose by 10 or 15 percent, even up to 30 to 40 percent.∂ In 1992 (Kuwait) and 1994 (the UAE), the income requirements for bringing dependents, the visa fees, and the medical fees were also raised (Dawn, 10 September 1992; Pakistan Link, 16 September 1994, 20; India-West, 9 September 1994). Both countries use the o≈cial regulation of private schools for expatriate children to discourage families. Expatriate schools, distinct from schools for citizens’ children only, must be registered with the Kuwait and UAE education departments and meet certain standards, such as teaching Arabic.∑ Educational facilities in the Gulf are good, if expensive, Families and Futures ⭈ 217

but do not extend beyond the intermediate level, or twelfth class. Children must attend college in India or Pakistan and family life in the Gulf ends when mothers accompany their children ‘‘home.’’ Children may leave after the tenth class so as not to be penalized; those applying to colleges directly from Gulf schools are perceived as rich and parents must make double ‘‘donations’’ to secure places for them. In the UAE, new visa regulations in 1994 were followed by higher government fees in 1995 for many things, including school licenses. Expatriate schools raised their fees dramatically, and many Indian and Pakistani students transferred to South Asian schools at the June summer break (IndiaWest, 30 June 1995, A47). Despite all the pressures of dislocation, many Indians and Pakistanis are eager to work in Kuwait and Dubai. The living conditions are excellent; water, electricity, air-conditioning, and other modern amenities are cheap and dependable; food is government subsidized, and health care is free except for nonemergency procedures. Expatriates earn high, tax-free income that they invest back home in land, new houses, dowries, and children’s higher education (Sharie√ 1994; for Indians, see Kurien 1993; for Sri Lankans, see Eelens, Shampers, and Spechmann 1992, 35, 222– 23, 232–35). Government workers get one month’s leave in the hot summers and private workers two-and-a-half month’s leave annually, allowing plenty of time to go home and travel elsewhere. There is law and order, and the freedom to observe one’s religion. Moreover, there are many diversions in Dubai, although it means saving less. A key reason these economic migrants and permanent aliens give for working in the Gulf is that they are still in an Asian context; in South Asia, the Gulf is also called West Asia. The standard of living and degree of modernity in Kuwait and Dubai compare favorably to cities in the West, yet they are culturally non-Western—a significant consideration for those who view the West as threatening to personal safety or family and religious values. Nevertheless, these investments in ‘‘placemaking,’’ with a return home as the ultimate goal, cannot cover the fact that these repositionings push many Gulf workers and their families into further dislocations.

Kuwait and Dubai: Context Matters South Asian women’s experiences are strongly shaped by their Gulf environments, and reflect sharp conflicts between a continuing sense of 218 ⭈ Karen Leonard

‘‘place’’ and a newer and stronger impact of ‘‘flows.’’ Kuwait and Dubai are similar in some ways though quite di√erent in others. Both are on the coast, with long, hot, dry summers and short, warm, and (sometimes) wet winters. Despite the climate, work in both places is demanding, with long hours and late dinners. Private businessmen, in particular, have few hours left for their families, and wives complain about this. Both Kuwait and Dubai cities have undergone major, rapid transformations (Leonard forthcoming; for Kuwait, see Dickson 1971, and alMughni 1993, 30–31; for Dubai, see Dickey 1990, Zahlan 1989, and Stoakes 1972). Just a few decades ago, low-lying houses along the waterfronts featured verandas and interior courtyards, with wind towers to channel breezes down into the interiors. Now, the cityscapes are dominated by architecturally innovative hotels, apartment complexes, shopping malls, and banks. The total e√ect is startlingly impressive, especially in Dubai with its numerous parks and green golf courses. Kuwait City is more residentially segregated by national origin and class—Kuwaitis, expatriate professionals and businesspeople, and expatriate bachelor workers live in specific areas. Private schools for expatriate children help define residential neighborhoods. In both sites, there are gendered spaces designed specifically for women and children, such as parks and sections of restaurants, whereas families and bachelor workers intermingle in spaces like the impressive shopping malls and ethnically specialized bazaars. The dominant cultural patterns in Kuwait and Dubai are surprisingly di√erent, not least so in their impacts on women. While the modernity and cosmopolitanism of both environments bring changes to the lives of expatriates and citizens alike, Dubai encourages more flexibility and variation in gender norms, between the modernizing public and private lifestyles, than Kuwait. In the latter, contradictions mark the gendered landscape as the dominant culture struggles to enforce a traditional lifestyle despite the influx of modern consumerist attitudes.∏ Gender segregation is quite evident, as few women appear in public; when they do, most women wear black abayahs (head-to-toe cloaks) and are accompanied by men. The restraints on women’s mobility in Kuwait mean that more Indian and Pakistani Muslim women report wearing purdah garments there than back home or in Dubai. In Dubai, every style of clothing can be seen, including bikinis at the beaches. In both Dubai and Kuwait, constitutional law is based on the sharia, and Islam is the state religion. In the latter, the o≈cial as well as street Families and Futures ⭈ 219

language is Arabic, and Arabic-speaking mandoubas or agents are needed to conduct business with government o≈ces. South Asian women with children are addressed in Arabic, for example, as Um Fatima (mother of Fatima), which emphasizes their family role. In contrast, because of the past closeness to Britain’s South Asian empire, many Arabs in the UAE readily speak and understand Urdu (called Hindustani, and written in the Arabic script) and English, so expatriates do not need to learn Arabic. In Kuwait, non-Muslim religions can be practiced, although facilities for Islamic observances are built into the work environments. There are several Christian churches, but Hindu temples are not allowed. A powerful, upwardly mobile group of South Asian Wahhabis (fundamentalists) reinforces religious and social restraints on community women in Kuwait, and Muslim revivalists have had a strong impact on Kuwaiti politics recently (al-Mughni 1993, 114–38; Ramazani 1988). In Dubai, nonMuslim religions can be freely practiced and there are two Hindu temples. In accordance with Islamic law, drinking liquor is forbidden for citizens and foreigners alike in Kuwait; non-Muslims may pay for permits to drink alcohol at the city’s popular pubs in Dubai. South Asian popular culture is widespread in the UAE, attracting local people and expatriates to Hindi films, traveling poets, singers, comedians, and sporting events. There are also close smuggling and underworld connections between India, Pakistan, and the UAE. Relationships with the ‘‘nationals’’ (the Kuwaiti term) or ‘‘locals’’ (the Dubai term) are slightly di√erent in the two places; even these usages convey distance and easy familiarity, respectively. People tend to stereotype the Kuwaitis as harder to work with and more arrogant than the people in Dubai. Some South Asians have an emotional investment in the UAE, claiming intimate links with nation-building and business (Arsalan Mirza, Dubai, 21 August 1995). As one Dubai expatriate, Hasan Bozai, said, ‘‘We do socialize more with the locals, men only of course; that reservation is always there. . . . The locals have been educated in Karachi or Bombay, they have been exposed to South Asians’’ (20 August 1995). International cultural flows are evident in both cities, and Dubai’s cosmopolitan lifestyle, tolerant attitudes, and virtually crime-free environment make it as attractive to tourists as to businessmen. Luxury hotels provide a full range of international cuisine in stylish settings, and fast-food restaurants abound. Besides state-run television channels, sat-

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ellite dishes broadcast channels from all over the world (cnn, Star tv, the bbc), with Dubai o√ering more choices than Kuwait. The traditional male sports of falconry, camel racing, and horse racing continue, but golf and water sports have become popular, as have sand skiing and ‘‘wadibashing,’’ or desert driving, in four-wheel-drive vehicles. Besides these, Dubai’s tourist industry also o√ers desert feasts, visits to Bedouin villages, and even ice skating on two huge indoor rinks. International labor flows are also evident in both cities, as the presence of expatriate workers makes the spaces of the city come alive. The workers are most conspicuous on Fridays, when most have their day o√ and congregate in urban locations by national origin. In Kuwait City, Bangladeshis gather in one section of a huge mall area, Indian men in another, Pakistanis in yet another, and maids from Andhra Pradesh (India) in an adjacent smaller shopping center. Employers’ cars drop o√ and pick workers up. The maids, women without accompanying males or family members, are especially visible on these days, in their colorful saris (the South Asians) or Western clothing (the Filipinas). Dubai’s markets and malls are crowded on Fridays, too, but the spaces are not so well-defined as in Kuwait. The larger numbers of families blur the boundaries between workers’ groups that gather at the popular video stores (where they tape messages to send home) as well as at the many inexpensive Indian and Pakistani Mughlai, South Indian, and Afghani restaurants (Constable 1997; for Hong Kong and Singapore, see India-West, 6 February 1998). Below the surface of these colorful urban landscapes, the lives of Gulf citizens and expatriates are increasingly interwoven, in ways both predictable and unpredictable.

Gender Displacements in Kuwait and Dubai Gender relationships in Gulf societies are changing in specific ways, and South Asian women are implicated in the changes. South Asian professional women, like Kuwaiti and UAE women, benefit from the changes brought about by rising female literacy and workforce participation that have combined to undercut the ‘‘traditional’’ images of women. Maids and those who become marriage partners for Arab men are often catalysts for change. The very availability of expatriate domestic servants permits Kuwaiti and UAE women to work outside their homes and they do so confidently, with only minor apprehensions about leaving their

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children in the care of foreigners (al-Mughni 1993, 103, 135; Ramazani 1988, 25—both on Kuwait). Kuwaiti women conform to certain expectations of modest public behavior, even though they often wear Western dress, and some play leading roles in public life. Women students are the majority at Kuwait University; women who work command equal pay, and employment is restricted only at night, except for hospitals (Kuwait Pocket Guide 1995, 43).π Guidebooks suggest that women should only show their hands and faces in public. The abayah—a silky black cloak—is the traditional covering, and nowadays, many women wear long garments and a hijab, or headscarf. The UAE had the highest literacy rate for women in the Arab world between 1970 and 1990, reaching 68 percent in 1995 and 100 percent in 2000. Local women in the UAE sponsor foreign businesses, and hold jobs in many banks and law enforcement agencies. An o≈cial publication states that ‘‘women have been encouraged to play their full role in the development of society outside as well as inside the home. More than 7,000 local women have now graduated from the emirates University. . . . [T]he UAE now has its first locally-trained women doctors, pilots, and engineers. The country’s armed forces have their own women’s corps, the only such unit to exist anywhere among the Gulf States’’ (UAE advertisement in the Los Angeles Times, 2 December 1993). Women use public space and transportation, alone or accompanied, much more freely in Dubai than in Kuwait City, where movement by public transportation still reflects a strongly masculinist Arab culture. Most women avoid the cheap and convenient public buses and take only private cars or taxis (which are expensive for short rides). The Kuwait Pocket Guide (1995) touts the convenience of taxis for women to shop or ferry children to school, including round-the-clock service, promptness, regulated drivers, and regular bookings. Dubai taxis are cheap and readily available, and one can ‘‘share’’ taxis; often Pakistani Pathan drivers maintain Pakistani custom and enforce gender segregation in seating (Kuwait Pocket Guide 1995, 61). The ownership, operation, and use of motor vehicles mark gender di√erences and tensions within the Gulf. The issue of women drivers is critical in Saudi Arabia, where Kuwaiti women refugees driving in during the Gulf War inspired an unsuccessful Saudi women’s ‘‘drive-in’’ (Goodwin 1995, 211–15). In Kuwait and the UAE, women can own and drive cars, although four-wheel-drive vehicles are still a sign of male and,

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sometimes, citizen privilege (Abu Dhabi prohibits expatriates from owning four-wheel-drive cars). The growing numbers of women car owners and drivers led to an innovation in Dubai in 1996: smiling Filipina, Nepalese, and Indian women attendants at petrol pumps. Emarat, the company initiating this, explained that its goal was to reflect its many women customers and create loyalty. Basic English and a willingness to pick up Arabic or Hindi were said to be desirable for the new attendants (India-West, 26 July 1996, A41). The availability of expatriate South Asian women for this work underlines their participation in changing gender roles in the Gulf. Kuwait and Dubai car culture demonstrates the most subversive slippages in gendered behavior, including sexual behavior and perhaps drug activity among rich and bored youth (Economist, 28 February 1998). Kuwait has the world’s highest car per capita ratio (Goodwin 1995, 156). While some of these cars are recreational vehicles for desert use, young Kuwaiti males also use cars as private spaces for flirtation and sex, whether with indigenous or expatriate women. The latter include tourists, maids (who are seen as especially available), and higher-level workers in business and the professions. In Dubai, the young Russian women are the most conspicuous; dressed for a night on the town, they wait curbside for passing vehicles driven by locals.∫ South Asian families express concern about the growth of such urban vices in their ‘‘home away from home’’ (Economist, 13 September 1997; Dickey 1990, 168–75). Young people of means, Kuwaiti or foreign (including servicemen during the Gulf War and current ‘‘international security specialists’’), meet in upscale hotels and restaurants or make contact by telephone. Pagers, beepers, and random dialing on mobile phones in cars are widely used to try to reach someone of the opposite sex who is willing to talk and perhaps meet. The Kuwaiti telephone company prohibits the use of phones for ‘‘immoral conversations’’; it recorded 3,192 cases of ‘‘saucy’’ telephone conversations in 1994, and prison sentences and fines were meted out in 537 cases (Kuwait Times, 3 August 1995). In both countries, while there are apparent crises in the marriage systems, many analysts argue that women in the Gulf societies (not including Saudi Arabia) can claim greater rights than anywhere in the Arab world (Graz 1982; Lienhardt 1972; Stoakes 1972; al-Mughni 1993; So√an 1980; Ramazani 1988). In the traditional arranged marriages, bridegrooms paid the costs (including wedding jewelry and a fully equipped

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household), in contrast to most bridegrooms in India and Pakistan. The bride-price is high, even when cousins marry (a preference), and there is a provision for a separate payment on divorce. In Kuwait, U.S. $16,500 was typical, and in Dubai the figure was higher. Noting the trends of marrying partners from other nationalities, Kuwaitis joke that government loans should be given to encourage Kuwaiti men to marry Kuwaitis (Kuwait Times, August 1996, 6). Kuwaiti women have commented that this trend is a foreign plot to undermine Kuwaiti society. The Education Ministry warned nationals studying abroad that they would forfeit their scholarships if they married foreigners (Economist, 22 February 1992, 33). Most well-known, and probably most numerous, are the Indian Muslim women who become ‘‘locals’’ by marrying Gulf Arabs. Most of the women are from a specific locality (Barkas in Hyderabad, India), and are descended from Yemeni and Saudi Arabs who had gone to India for work in the past. They speak some Arabic, and their parents are willing to give them in marriage to a Gulf Arab for much less than a Gulf bride would cost. An Indian Muslim bride ‘‘costs’’ some 10,000 rupees (U.S. $286) plus 20 to 30 grams of gold (U.S. $500 to $700), whereas a Dubai bride costs 200,000 to 300,000 dirham (U.S. $54,500 to $81,745) (India-West, 6 August 1993). Typically, the husbands are older and the women are second, third, or fourth wives. These marriages produce some tragedies, such as the twenty-three-year-old woman executed for murdering her seventy-year-old husband (India Journal, 28 March 1997, A13). Typically, the women and children of such marriages blend into the indigenous population and, as widows, these women can inherit property and sponsor nonlocals. The trend toward marrying expatriate women is of recent and unknown proportions in Kuwait, while it has been a long-standing and significant practice in the UAE. In the Gulf states, as in the case of Filipinas in Hong Kong (Constable 1997), the ambiguous socioeconomic identities and reputations (not necessarily behaviors) of domestic workers provoke disciplinary measures and other important changes in indigenous familial and economic landscapes. The Kuwaiti divorce rate since the Gulf war has reached one-third of all marriages; Dubai statistics show that citizens, 20 percent of the population, get 55 percent of the divorces annually (Kuwait Pocket Guide 1995, 18; Goodwin 1995, 164; Al-Mughni 1993, 60–61; Dubai Facts and Figures 1994, 2). The Gulf states view alternative wives (Indian Muslim women or young maids) as threats to

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domestic realms and public spaces as well as to national integrity. A 1988 UAE law, explicitly designed to discourage marrying Hyderabadi Indian wives or other foreigners, decreed that children by foreign spouses could not inherit. Making the Kuwaiti joke into a serious e√ort, the UAE began giving loans in 1994 to men as incentives to marry indigenously (IndiaWest, 28 October 1994, A58).

Gender Displacements among South Asians If the flow of South Asian expatriate female workers and wives to the Gulf has influenced Gulf societies, the women have been heavily influenced as well. The contrasting e√ects of the Gulf states on these women rest on di√erent demographic and historical patterns in the two places. The historical roots of Indian and Pakistani business, professional, and working-class people in Dubai are deeper than in Kuwait, and the numbers have always been larger because of the relatively liberal attitudes of that emirate. Dubai has more noncitizen than citizen births and deaths (Dubai Facts and Figures 1994, 2), more expatriate women who work, and more wealthy expatriate families (with two cars and a servant). In Kuwait, South Asians have been increasing steadily, but there are more workers than families; among expatriates, Asians exceeded Arabs for the first time in 1994.Ω There are fewer wives in Kuwait and most of them are not working, so they have fewer cars and servants. The smaller numbers of Indian and Pakistani middle-class women in Kuwait bear a larger responsibility for the honor and cultural security of their husbands and communities, I would contend, than do their Dubai sisters. Social life for South Asian women and men, in both Kuwait and Dubai, is overwhelmingly with fellow countrypeople. Both governments allow only ‘‘nationalities,’’ country-based categories, to form associations, and South Asians congregate for sports (cricket), poetry (mushairas), and religion (prayer or educational groups). In Kuwait, women’s associations did not exist and were not thought possible or desirable.∞≠ In Dubai, time was more of a barrier than disapproval; many types of associations existed, and some continue, despite the current policy against ‘‘nonnational’’ ones. Women’s clubs give middle-class South Asian women more contact with women of other nationalities than with local women, and expatriate women often come together across lines of national origin and class.

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Class and religious variation structure the ways Indian and Pakistani women respond to the uneven modernizing forces in the Gulf. In Kuwait, gendered behavior is constrained by greater cultural, linguistic, religious, and social orthodoxy than they have previously experienced, as described above. At the same time, like their Dubai counterparts, middleclass women function as full partners in expatriate nuclear households, playing greater roles than back home in household decision making and management as well as in maintaining cultural roots. Vivid testimony from one Indian husband, Akbar Khan, illustrates the situation for South Asian women in Kuwait: My wife wore a burqah [head-to-toe cloak] years ago at home (before it went out of fashion), but here she put on the abayah, like other highly educated women, and my daughter donned the hijab at age ten or eleven. Purdah, in fact, is observed more in Kuwait than in India, because the country is . . . more religious . . . from prayers at work to family activities. Here, my wife and children are more dependent on me. . . . I must accompany them. There is no danger to them in Kuwait, this is just for appearances. Kuwaiti women . . . work, they leave their houses and children, they depend totally on servants. But Indian women do not work, they stay in the home, taking care of the children. They may have maids, but they also like housework. Just a few Indian women work, like X’s wife (but don’t tell him I said so). When I alone can support my family, why should my wife be burdened? But my daughter wants to go for an M.B.A., she wants to go for a pilot training course in the United States; she goes to the American School. (6 August 1997) He emphasized the widely shared preference in Kuwait that women not work outside the home, though many educated South Asian wives work as doctors, health professionals, teachers, or for the un. Note, however, the seemingly discordant interjection about his daughter, whose ambitions have been stimulated by an excellent school and cosmopolitan schoolmates; the father’s views about conforming to traditional gender roles do not seem to extend to her. In Dubai, the more typical displacements for South Asian women are generated directly by modernity—that is, the tensions of managing careers, households, and children in a dynamic urban setting. Equally vivid testimony about displacements for South Asian women in Dubai comes

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from the story I watched unfold in Dubai (August 1995). It shows the di√erential experiences by class of a maid and her employer, an Indian working couple with two small children. Their dilemma was a common one in Dubai: they needed household help and child care. Hiring a maid who is already in the Gulf is risky because she may be illegal. Also, if one is not a maid’s original sponsor, one has no control over her—she may leave for a better o√er. Given the expatriate sex ratio, men would be courting a young maid so South Asian employers prefer older women who can speak their language, prepare their distinctive food, and reinforce the home culture for their children.∞∞ The Dubai couple brought over an older woman recommended by relatives in India. The salary was 3,000 rupees (almost U.S. $100) a month—far above Indian salaries. The husband spent time getting the maid’s visa and paying the UAE maid tax. He paid her full airfare from India, met her at the airport, and got her a health check. He received an annual registration card good only for that maid; getting another maid would require the full procedure and fees again. The maid, an illiterate and impoverished sixty year old away from home for the first time, was not allowed out of the apartment alone. Her employers felt that she was incapable of negotiating a big city or coping with the extreme heat. She was miserable and alienated, imprisoned with her young charges, confined to sleeping on the floor of the children’s room, and allowed no privacy, except for her bathroom because others would not use it. The children spoke English to each other, pretended not to understand her Urdu, and sometimes refused to eat her food. In return, she handled the children roughly, pinching them hard to discipline them, preparing foods they did not like, and breaking their favorite toys. She was told not to answer the phone because she could not use it correctly, but she sabotaged the answering machine by continuing to pick it up. She begged and cried to return to India. She had no recourse to legal or state institutions, and could not understand the bureaucratic and financial considerations uppermost in her employers’ minds. Eventually, she was sent back. For her employers, hardworking career people, she was a bad investment; they lost time, money, and emotional serenity.∞≤ Globalization here caught and constrained both women, the professional trying to make the new space of the Gulf a liberatory yet familiar place by importing a domestic servant, and the maid trying to benefit economically but finding her exile too oppressive to bear.

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Changing Family Strategies Attempts to reinforce traditional culture in Gulf homes caught in the fastpaced changes of globalization highlight the interlocking contradictions of South Asian expatriate experience for middle-class women, men, and children. The modernity and sophistication of the two Gulf sites have reconfigured family strategies and gender relations and enhanced the expectations of the middle-class children actually being raised there (see below). Domestic, construction, and service workers are also imagining di√erent futures for their children as a result of the Gulf experience. Most workers cannot bring their children to the Gulf; those who do save less money. Many gain social mobility in their homelands by educating their children (and sometimes their wives) well.∞≥ In Hyderabad (India), as Anees Khan of Nasr School reports, Gulf-returned Muslim parents who cannot speak English themselves are donating money to her exclusive English-language girls’ school so that the institution can expand to accommodate their children (12 October 1993).∞∂ The children will thus escape the old city’s segregation, poverty, and limited opportunities. Family strategies and gender relations were most traumatically upset by the Gulf War. Workers at all levels of the Kuwaiti economy were evacuated (Air India’s airlift of almost 135,000 people was the largest one in history), and though the majority of them returned in 1994, gainful employment in Kuwait was problematic (India-West, 19 February 1993, 16). The unanticipated consequences of the war were disruptions not only in the flow of workers, commodities, and money across national territories but a profound rethinking of the long-term plans of expatriate women and men workers. Couples had cherished the notion of working in an Asian cultural context, living much as they did in India or Pakistan (but better) and protecting their children from the disruptive e√ects of Western culture, but they had to confront new realities. The Gulf War had an irreversible impact on these children’s daily experiences, an impact that unsettled their commitment to their parents’ home nations. The better schools in Kuwait and the UAE enrolled students from all over the world, blurring national identities and enhancing ambitions (remember the would-be M.B.A. pilot studying in Kuwait). Some children were confused about their nationality, reportedly selfidentifying as Kuwaitis or Dubaites when visiting abroad. The short visits home in summers past had not caused families to question their return to their homelands and extended families, but the imposed eight or nine228 ⭈ Karen Leonard

month stay during the Gulf War did so. Forced out of Kuwait, and sent ‘‘home’’ to India or Pakistan, many South Asian children rebelled—some even asked to be sent back to the war zone. They were voicing opinions collectively, not individually, as when they previously returned with their mothers, one by one, to college. They complained of unsanitary urban conditions, crowded and equipment-deficient schools, and the unavailability or unreliability of electricity, water, air-conditioning, and telephones. They missed the kinds of milk, hamburgers, and pizzas they had in the Gulf, and they missed shopping at luxurious malls. The relatives at home, in transnational kinship networks (now common for this class), and expatriates in other Gulf states heard these complaints. The complaints seemed trivial, but parents realized that the Gulf environments had emphasized consumerism and a ‘‘full exposure to western socioeconomic modes of life’’ (Seikaly 1993, 8). The families also experienced extended exposure to Indian and Pakistani politics and communal conflicts that were often dangerous. In Hyderabad, the 1990 Hindu-Muslim riots terrified refugees from the Gulf. As they sheltered with relatives during citywide curfews, some on guard all night with guns at the ready, they thought of the law and order in the Gulf. Parents found these conflicts di≈cult to explain to their children, and they thought about their implications for their own and their children’s long-term futures. For many reasons, they rethought their children’s settlement in the homelands, and they rethought their own placement in the now transglobal South Asian landscape. Many are looking hard at Canada, Australia, or the United States, prepared to sacrifice their own careers to relocate to places more advantageous for their children. They may now have to call on relatives already settled in Western nations, those whom they had criticized earlier for settling in the West. Furthermore, the changing world situation, in the increasing internationalization of labor, means that Gulf workforces are becoming more diverse and competitive at every level, and citizens are rising through the educational system and filling jobs once held by expatriates. As Vipin Singh in Dubai put it, ‘‘With the dirham tied to the dollar, and the liberalization in India, and inflation in the UAE—why are we here? Why not go back or go West?’’ (23 August 1995). The Gulf as a nonWestern refuge is vanishing before the Asian expatriates’ eyes. ‘‘Modernity is comprised of both context and conjuncture’’ (Soja 1989, 25). Indian and Pakistani expatriates in the Gulf, men and women to-

Families and Futures ⭈ 229

gether, have had to rethink identity, cultural di√erence, and national commitment. Mapped onto social and political structures by Gulf rulers as temporary workers, subject to changing Gulf policies that increasingly marginalized them, they forfeited control over the meaning of their residence there. By choosing to go to the Gulf, these expatriates had hoped to stay close to their homelands. Instead, they lost a sense of their imagined homelands and their identities as active citizens. The adopted identity of the short-term economic migrant intending to return home has been challenged by forces beyond their control, by unforeseen circumstances not only of national and international politics but of their own children’s di√erently imagined futures.







I thank the Committee on American Overseas Research Centers for providing funds for my research in Kuwait City (31 July to 12 August 1995) and the United Arab Emirates (12–26 August 1995 and 9–12 February 1996). I also thank Mirza Shamsher Ali Beg as well as Parveen and Shahid Ali Mirza in Kuwait, and Anees and Maqsood Ali along with Sharafat and Sultana Walajahi in Dubai for greatly facilitating my work. Sarah Weiss, Supriya Singh, Junaid Adil, Prema Kurien, Sonita Sarker, and particularly Esha Niyogi De provided helpful comments. Throughout this chapter, I use ‘‘the Gulf ’’ to avoid naming the area the Persian or Arabian Gulf as maps do. The ‘‘Gulfan,’’ or ‘‘Gulf-returned man,’’ is a new social category in Kerala (a southern Indian state). Of approximately ten million foreign workers in the Gulf, more than one million are maids. In Kuwait, most are from the Philippines; of the 180,000 United Arab Emirates housemaids, some 70 percent are from Sri Lanka (Pakistan Link, 16 September 1994, 20). Women doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers, and a few domestic workers work abroad with Pakistani government permission (Pakistan Link, 6 June 1997, 29). In 1992, Kuwait had some 140,000 domestic servants (its indigenous population then was 600,000). Maids can flee to their embassies and request repatriation—the Sri Lankan, Indian, Bangladeshi, and Filipino embassies run safe houses for escaped maids. See Bonner 1992; India-West, 6 March 1992, 1 October 1993. Hindu and Christian maids are recruited from the Cuddapah and Karimnagar districts in Andhra Pradesh, and nurses from Kerala (India), as reported by Mirza Ismail Ali Beg (Kuwait, 3 August 1995), Parveen Ali Mirza (Kuwait, 5 August 1995), and Prema Kurien (Los Angeles, Calif., 20 July 1998). These were reported to the author by Mr. and Mrs. Hamad Nazmuddin (Kuwait, 3 August 1995), and by members of the Hyderabad Muslim Welfare Association (Mohammed Abdul Karim, Ehtashamuddin, M. Nizamuddin Ahmed, Mohamed Habibal-Deen, and Abdul Mateen Khan, Kuwait, 9 August 1995). The Kuwaiti government generously supports Arab expatriate schools (free land and

230 ⭈ Karen Leonard


7 8 9

10 11




textbooks), and o√ers some support to non-Arab expatriate schools. The Arabiclanguage Kuwait University is open to a few fee-paying expatriate students. The UAE University and Higher Colleges of Technology are Arabic-language government institutions for ‘‘locals.’’ In Dubai, private schools outnumber government ones (eightynine to seventy-two) and have larger student populations (in 1993, 60,369 to 37,730) (Dubai Facts and Figures 1994, 3). My research in Kuwait was a√ected—I spoke to more men than women; some women asked their husbands’ permission to do an interview. Many wives were not in Kuwait during the summer; in their absence, men could not invite me home, even to demonstrate their financial success. In 1995, Kuwaiti’s women’s share of earned income was 18.4 percent and UAE women’s was 10.1 percent—the two highest in the gcc. Dubai hotels send free visas to Russian entrepreneur-tourists who buy Western manufactured goods to send back to the former USSR. There were only 150 Indians in Kuwait in 1961; the number is 180,000 to 200,000 in 1995, as reported by Mr. and Mrs. Azimuddin (Kuwait, 2 August 1995) and D. P. Jain (Kuwait, 3 August 1995). Before the Gulf War, Kuwaitis were 27 percent of the population, and now are 38 percent. Palestinians, Jordanians, Sudanese, and others who sided with Iraq were expelled, and bedouins were excluded as citizens (Kuwait Pocket Guide 1995, 20). These were observations presented to me by Mohammed Hoshdar Khan and Mir Ibrahim Ali Khan (Kuwait, 7 August 1995). Sarosh and Ayesha Adil reported that one woman’s servant, who had cooked for her mother in India, worked for them (preparing meals three days a week to stock the fridge), some of their friends, and hotels (Dubai, 21 August 1995). The case of Sarah Balabagan, a Filipino maid in the UAE, was more serious. She killed her employer with a knife, allegedly when he was raping her. Initially sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment, she was sentenced to death on appeal by the man’s family. Worldwide publicity (a French feminist organization e-mailed me to write the UAE government) gained UAE President Sheikh Zayed’s intercession. A special court sentenced Balabagan to one year’s imprisonment and one hundred lashes as blood money payment to the family (Pakistan Link, 29 September 1995, 10 November 1995; World Press Review, August 1996, 36). Mohammed Abdul Jabbar worked his way up to own a restaurant, and had his wife and thirteen children in Sharjah. He wished he had sent his children for less-expensive schooling in India (Sharjah, 20 August 1995). In Hyderabad, in 1991, I met Gulf workers’ wives, women in burqahs getting degrees in Urdu literature, who managed households as well as their own and their children’s educations with considerable autonomy.

Families and Futures ⭈ 231



Diasporas, like pilgrimages, military campaigns and diseases, are indi√erent to the idiosyncrasies of nation-states and often flow through their cracks and exploit their vulnerabilities. They are thus a testimony to the inherent fragility of the links between people, polity and territory and to the negotiability of the relationship between people and place. Diasporas come in many forms. There are diasporas by design and diasporas by accident.—Arjun Appadurai, ‘‘On Moving Targets’’ Women’s domestic sociality is necessarily subsumed by the public sociality of men, and men’s control of the public world means that women become devalued outsiders. . . . The relationship between gendered identity and space suggests that gendered spaces should be understood less as a geography imposed by patriarchal structures, and more as a social process of symbolic encoding and decoding.—Alison Blunt and Gillian Rose, Women Writing and Space

Literary representations, along with visual and expressive forms of cultural expression, are significant particularly in an analysis of modes of celebrating and/or erasing ethnicities in immigrant locales. Here, I discuss how class privilege and racial/ethnic otherness intersect in literary representations (using selections from Bharati Mukherjee’s and Meena Alexander’s work) and visual forms (drawing from Indu Krishnan’s documentary video Knowing Her Place).∞ Diasporic predicaments, whether by choice or otherwise, as represented by Indian-American writers located in the United States portray a paradoxical sense of alienness and

belonging. The contemporary context of globalization guides both the span and selection of texts discussed here. The texts, literary and visual, connect thematically across space-time boundaries. I utilize the concept of trans-status subjects as noted by the editors of this volume, Sarker and Niyogi De, and I look at how mobility contextualizes meaning in the present time. In this chapter, I also explore how economic class privilege fosters a simultaneity of belonging and unbelonging—Indian-Americans as immigrants or citizens become insiders in terms of economic class privilege though they may remain outsiders in terms of ethnicity. Gendered and racial otherness prevail along with the protagonists’ e√orts to create new homes within their diasporic locations. Complex negotiations are necessitated along this axis where class privilege confers insider status whereas the bodily markers of ethnicity, so to speak, confer outsiderness. This class-ethnicity divide has serious repercussions, particularly on women socialized and bounded with patriarchal systems of domination. And the insidious continuities between indigenous and foreign patriarchies curtail women’s agency over their bodies in diasporic locales.≤ Discussions of South Asian American issues today require an honest confrontation and inclusion of the facts of economic globalization, racial and ethnic politics in the United States, and new forms of U.S. cultural and material imperialisms in South Asia as in other parts of the Third World.≥ My scholarly/political observations are guided by my own experiences of teaching Asian American and Third World writers in academic institutions in the United States, and by my personal history. I grew up bilingual (speaking English and my mother tongue, Gujarati) in 1950s’ India, then recently independent from British colonial rule, and came to the United States for higher studies over twenty years ago. In terms of similar journeyings from native to diasporic locations undertaken by recent Indian-American writers, it is important at the outset to challenge a rigid dichotomy between native and diasporic. It is more constructive to think especially of knowledge productions as traveling rather than fixed in location, particularly in the problematic either/or categories of native spaces of origin and hence authenticity, and diasporic locations and hence inauthenticity. Significant cross-fertilizations take place across geographic boundaries (recall Appadurai’s statement at the beginning of this chapter regarding diasporas being ‘‘indi√erent to the idiosyncracies of nation-states’’), especially when diasporic writers them-

Diasporic Alienness and Belonging ⭈ 233

selves have multiple personal histories in terms of native origins, class, education, and geographic locations that may di√er from national and political a≈liations. The multiethnicities as well as multiple locations and allegiances of these writers enable a fruitful challenge to rigid oppositions such as between native origins and diasporic locations. Appadurai’s concept of traveling knowledges is applicable to male and female protagonists in literary texts; women, however, have to negotiate di√erent and oppositional forms of knowledge productions, and counter them often with their own emerging ones. South Asian Americans have crossed many borders—national and linguistic, among others—as they journey to diasporic locations and re-create their own versions of South Asian cultures. Such geographic movements and relocations make the notion of South Asian gain di√erent inflections depending on the context. Thus, assumptions about nationhood, citizenship, and civil society become germane to the very identity of diasporic and migrant subjects. Although in this essay I discuss recent Indian-American writers who write in English and have traversed a journey similar to mine, there is clearly a much older tradition of South Asian writers, especially in languages such as Punjabi that date from the 1920s. More recently, South Asian writers in English have come to prominence, although issues of the literary marketplace are significant to consider since certain writers like Javaid Qazi, Padma Hejmadi, and Talat Abbasi are less well-known and appreciated than Mukherjee, who is better known partly because of the marketing of her books and her participation in various myths of becoming ‘‘American.’’ In my historical approach, I retain important links with the lessons of the past, incorporating that knowledge and the history of U.S. race politics into the new concerns of present writers. In a study of IndianAmerican (as also of South Asian American) writers, it is crucial to be knowledgeable about the varieties of ethnicities among them. Usually, only one variety of one ethnicity is accepted by the mainstream—so all South Asian American writers are lumped together even though, in fact, there are more significant di√erences among them than similarities. Even within South Asia, India occupies what is described as a subcontinent. There isn’t a single South Asian ethnicity as ‘‘required by the needs of multiculturalism’’ that usually makes room for only one variety of one ethnicity, not a complex plurality. Such need for homogeneity is closely connected to state power, immigration quotas, issues of race, multiculturalism, and model minoritism. As Anannya Bhattacharjee points 234 ⭈ Ketu H. Katrak

out in her essay ‘‘Woman, Nation, and Identity in the Indian Immigrant Community,’’ On the one hand, ‘‘model’’ signifies a standard of excellence, set by the dominant power inviting the ‘‘minority’’ to join the ‘‘majority,’’ once it establishes its ‘‘model’’-ness. On the other hand, ‘‘minority’’ signifies a relegation to the ranks of the not-‘‘majority.’’ This contradiction between invitation and exclusion often escapes the leadership of the Indian immigrant bourgeoisie in its eagerness to ‘‘join the mainstream of American life.’’ . . . The politics of minority status and representation within the U.S. . . . succeeds in making ‘‘race’’ into a number game and policy issue for Indians rather than an area of radical social change and action. (1992, 8)

Diasporas by Choice or Otherwise Class privilege, intersecting with the markers of gender and ethnicity, influences female protagonists’ agency in diasporic locations. Certainly, class privilege is complicated by diasporic location along with experiences of racial and gendered otherness. A middle or upper-class status paradoxically circumscribes the space for women’s control over their own bodies. A contradictory empowerment ensues where women who belong to an educated, professional, and financially well-o√ class are inscribed within the most regressive aspects of ‘‘tradition,’’ particularly in terms of controls over their bodies. Sexuality and reproduction are controlled within patriarchal norms that continue from the homeland into the diaspora often in more virulent forms. By arguing that upperclass women have less agency over their bodies than working-class or peasant women, I do not wish to romanticize the latter, who on the surface may appear to have more control over their bodies. In reality, however, their wombs and bodies are controlled di√erently than upperclass women’s, as I discuss below in Amrit Wilson’s Finding a Voice, which depicts father-daughter conflicts among Indian families of peasant background who have relocated to Britain. Economic class fosters di√erent nuances for controlling women’s bodies; what remains are the problematics of female agency within diasporic locations. Agency does not always extend to individual liberty, and is complicated indeed by the politics of sexuality and reproduction—elements that define women’s situations as di√erent from men’s lives. Diasporic Alienness and Belonging ⭈ 235

New locations of supposed ‘‘freedom’’ from traditional norms are experienced as tighter and often violent reinscriptions of tradition that are used most often by fathers to assert their authority over their daughters within the family. The modes of ‘‘freeness’’ that are most frowned on in women in both the homeland and diaspora, are located on the female body—modes of dress, freedom of movement, and the freedom to act on new knowledge, such as the availability of reproductive technologies. The fathers, themselves dislocated and often less comfortable in their new diasporic locations than their daughters, transfer their sense of displacement onto their daughters’ bodies in an e√ort to regain space. These fathers are themselves embroiled in the larger structures of modernity as they struggle to create a better life for their families than in India, and their actions and reactions to their daughters’ Western ways must be contextualized within these larger structures of modernity. Further, in the face of what the fathers perceive as their daughters’ threatening modern ways, such patriarchs react by reifying tradition and enforcing its most regressive aspects on their daughters’ bodies. Even the daughters’ locations within the larger narrative of modernity necessarily inflects their success in terms of education or financial independence. They remain outsiders in terms of the patriarchal systems that frame their lives whether in native or diasporic locations. In this new dialectic of mobility and modernization, values and meanings attached to gender definitions and class privileges change, and such change is di√erently exerted on male and female bodies. Even as both males and females are mobile, fathers remain locked into notions of tradition that are familiar to them and that are upheld by patriarchal privilege. Fathers have the autonomy also to pick and choose from the best elements of modernity. For women, such agency in selecting aspects of modernity (such as new reproductive technologies) is usually fraught and may not work. Further, a complicating factor for both genders to contend with is North American race politics that come into contact with South Asian ethnicity; a useful concept here is that of placetime, evoked by the editors of this volume in the introduction. Despite patriarchal controls, there are spaces of resistance within the very interstices of this intersection of privilege and otherness. Strategies include female protagonists resisting otherness both from within their own communities (that may exclude/exile them for various reasons, such as ‘‘modern’’ notions of alternate methods of insemination to have a child versus the traditional norm of heterosexual marriage and mother236 ⭈ Ketu H. Katrak

hood as depicted in Mukherjee’s short story, ‘‘A Father’’) and from one’s family as well as the dominant culture of the diasporic location (as the protagonist Vasu’s alienness in the documentary video Knowing Her Place). Do the resistances enacted by the female protagonists reach toward a deep questioning of the assumptions behind sociopolitical structures or do the uses of technological modernization enable them to claim individual rights o√ered by such structures? Such questions remain open-ended in the resolution of the texts that I analyze here. And indeed, the historical time period in which the texts are located necessitates such open resolutions. Perhaps more positive endings will be represented as the South Asian American community grows, and there are more second and third-generation members who forge integrated bicultural identities as South Asians and Americans.

Gendered Space and Power How is a knowledge-power dynamic delineated and influenced by diasporic location, specifically for the economically privileged female protagonists in the selections from Mukherjee and Alexander? Although not every experience of physical relocation is perceived as exile, it reverberates with echoes of exilic loss and gain. Women’s bodies in new locations are recolonized within di√erently configured patriarchies. Geographic relocations add a crucial factor to a gendered sense of exile. More precisely, relocations may provide female protagonists with new knowledges. Do these new methods have empowering or destructive impacts on their very bodies? Father-daughter conflicts in literary representations must be contextualized in the larger structures of modernity. Fathers who inhabit an old world with traditional values tend to reify them, especially as defensive reactions in the face of modernity as embodied in their daughters, socialized and educated in the family’s diasporic home. In this environment, the daughters necessarily have a di√erently nuanced stance regarding the traditional values of the fathers, particularly in terms of controls over the female body. When such ‘‘modern’’ women attempt to gain autonomy over their own bodies, they come up hard against the patriarchal authority of their fathers, which it is essential to note, is sanctioned both within their native, indigenous social structure as well as the diasporic space. Within a contemporary delineation of feminist politics especially in Diasporic Alienness and Belonging ⭈ 237

matters of female sexuality, when women do resist patriarchal authority in order to reclaim their bodies, what are the outcomes? It is significant not only to examine the women’s resistances that are, of course, important and demonstrate their courage but equally important to critique resistances when they are destructive (as in bulimia and other eating disorders that are modes of taking control over the body, but that end up destroying its very fabric). The literary examples that I discuss portray the at times constructive, and at most other times disastrous, outcomes of female resistances. A feminist politics of the body both as it is controlled and as it resists daily dominations within the family (often figured as ‘‘protection’’) also enables a rethinking of power relations within the broader society. Such theorizing of the body politics is located within the larger body politic, which after all sustains systems of power at home and outside. Part of women’s recuperating autonomy over their bodies involves a decolonization of their bodies (one may draw parallels between the colonization of geographic territories and female bodies) as controlled by patriarchal structures in various locations. Patriarchy functioning within the household and outside evolves in a continuum—home, work, culture, media. Such an analysis enables a challenging of the binaries of public/private, external (society, community)/internal (family, sexual, intimate), in locating the power of fathers in selected Indian-American texts. The patriarchal privileges that fathers exert within the family walls are crucially validated and even authorized by society—one would not exist without the other. This is also evident usually in the continuity of male privilege to sons versus daughters, and the exerting of brothers’ authority over their sisters. Mukherjee’s short story ‘‘A Father’’ depicts the dynamics of unequal power and knowledge within a father-daughter relationship in a middleclass family located in the United States. A Foucauldian knowledge/ power paradigm is useful in analyzing female protagonists who are controlled within domestic, social, and cultural patriarchies. Michel Foucault locates knowledge not only in macrostate structures (such as law courts) but on the microlevels of daily life, within families and even intimate relationships. In Mukherjee’s story, the father, Mr. Bhowmick, is portrayed as a lonely, Willy Loman—type character, somewhat disempowered in being outside of his traditional belief structures and Indian space of patriarchal authority. ‘‘A dozen times a day,’’ notes the narrator in the story, ‘‘he made these small trade-o√s between new-world reasonable-

238 ⭈ Ketu H. Katrak

ness and old-world beliefs’’ (Mukherjee 1985, 55). Mr. Bhowmick manages his alienation between two cultures by hanging onto his traditional Indian beliefs and superstitions—his daily worship of Kali-mata, and his insecurity before his wife and daughter who seem to him more comfortable in the United States than he is. ‘‘He recited prayers in Sanskrit to Kali, the patron goddess of his family, the goddess of wrath and vengeance’’ (ibid., 50). He knows that his twenty-six-year-old, educated, professional daughter ‘‘wasn’t tolerant of superstitions. . . . ‘This Hindu myth stu√,’ he’d heard her say, ‘is like a series of super graphics.’ He’s forgiven her. He could probably forgive her anything. It was her way of surviving high school in a city that was both native to her, and alien’’ (55). Sadly, he cannot forgive her for taking control of her body, and in a somewhat perverted Kali-mata tradition, he vents his ‘‘wrath and vengeance’’ (50) by taking violent action against his daughter. Mr. Bhowmick retains his old-world notions of femininity and the ‘‘proper’’ sphere of women’s roles in the family. Hence, he is disappointed, unfairly so, with his daughter: ‘‘Babli was not the child he would have chosen as his only heir. . . . Babli could never comfort him. She wasn’t womanly or tender the way that unmarried girls had been in the wistful days of his adolescence. . . . [All her] accomplishments didn’t add up to real femininity’’ (53). Babli is empowered by learning about reproductive technologies and acting on that choice to have a child via alternate insemination—this is her new space for exercising female autonomy within her U.S. location. The tragic e√ects of that knowledge, however, end up disempowering her. The overwhelming sense is that of the continuity of patriarchal power in both locations, India and the United States. Especially when long histories of patriarchal tradition prevail in the father’s consciousness, his relocation to a new geography does not transform his views. Ironically, in this culture where the sexes are not as strictly segregated as in traditional Indian households, the controls over female bodies multiply. Generational, gender, and cultural di√erences influence fathers and daughters who have lived through di√erent historical periods of colonial history, and are relocated to U.S. society where resistances to controls on female sexuality play out. The violent encounter between father and daughter is framed significantly by Mukherjee within Mr. Bhowmick’s superstitions—the entire crisis would have been averted if he had decided to ignore his supersti-

Diasporic Alienness and Belonging ⭈ 239

tion about hearing his neighbor sneeze just at the moment that he is about to drive o√ to work as a bad omen. He decides to return to his apartment and say a prayer. This makes him party to Babli throwing up in the bathroom. ‘‘Mr. Bhowmick knew at once that his daughter, his untender, unloving daughter whom he couldn’t love and hadn’t tried to love, was not, in the larger world of Detroit, unloved. Sinners are everywhere, even in the bosom of an upright, unambitious family like the Bhowmicks. It was the goddess sticking out her tongue at him’’ (56–57). The daughter’s action is read by the father as the goddess mocking him. Mr. Bhowmick fantasizes that ‘‘someone had taken time to make love to [Babli]. Someone had thought her tender, feminine’’ (57). He imagines her deciding on an abortion or keeping the child. After all, ‘‘she was headstrong and independent and he was afraid of her’’ (57). For three weeks, he silently watches Babli and is unable to talk to her. ‘‘He kept his secret from his wife; his daughter kept her decision to herself ’’ (62). Finally, when the ‘‘secret’’ becomes physically apparent (as an African proverb puts it, ‘‘you can’t hide pregnancy with the palm of your hand’’), the husband and wife argue about whose fault this is. Mr. Bhowmick accuses his wife: ‘‘It’s your fault, you made us come to the States’’ (62). The narrator voices Mr. Bhowmick’s prejudices both about his ‘‘backward’’ hometown in India and the ‘‘sex-crazy’’ Americans: ‘‘Girls like Babli were caught between rules, that’s the point he wished to make. They were too smart, too impulsive for a backward place like Ranchi, but not tough, not smart enough for sex-crazy places like Detroit’’ (62). In a violent encounter, the father hits his pregnant daughter because he is outraged that she has decided to have a child by alternate insemination rather than following the traditional arranged marriage and motherhood trajectory. Babli enrages him by saying, ‘‘Who needs a man? . . . Men louse up your lives. I just want a baby’’ (63). He is further incensed when she compares the system of ‘‘a certified fit donor’’ to the traditional arranged marriage system, which she characterizes as ‘‘matching bloodlines, matching horoscopes, matching castes, matching, matching, matching’’ (63). Babli is unprepared for the seething anger and oncoming violence from her father, who is not only horrified at his daughter’s participation in reproductive technology and the conflict between their value systems but integrally and bodily, at her taking such control over her sexuality. Such creativity must not be allowed to flower. ‘‘Mr. Bhowmick lifted the

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rolling pin high above his head and brought it down hard on the dome of Babli’s stomach’’ (63–64). This option of male violence is available to even this father who in other aspects of his life in this foreign home is so weak and unsuccessful. How successful has Babli’s resistances to patriarchal authority been? In asserting agency over her womb, she is punished most brutally. In trying to inhabit a nonpatriarchal physical and psychological space, even rearranging allegiances within her heart, she faces newer and more severe forms of alienation—both from her parents’ culture and the values of her U.S. location. As the story implies, her creativity, when taken outside the parameters of patriarchal regulations, must be stifled, indeed aborted, sadly mirroring her child’s fate. This analysis is not meant to validate, in unmediated ways, the uses of reproductive technologies— after all, there is a long history of the abusive impositions of birth control and reproductive technologies on Third World women both by Western pharmaceutical companies and indigenous medical practitioners.∂ A di√erent kind of father, more nurturing, and o√ering encouragement to his daughter to be educated and become a writer, is portrayed in Alexander’s memoir, Fault Lines. Initially, the narrator’s identity is caught up with her father’s—he makes up her world even more than her mother. When relocating from India to Sudan at age five, and feeling her life ‘‘torn apart’’ (Alexander 1993, 15), the narrator pieces herself together when she sees her father’s face at the pier. Alexander’s father, with his loving and supportive presence, provides the young child-narrator a kind of healing bridge between the past and present. Through his memory and imagination (as he narrates and renarrates the childhood stories that o√er security to the narrator in her new location), he re-creates a past and history, and diminishes the anguish of distance and loss embodied in the severance from a familiar geography, community, and language. These creative excursions imaginatively heal the loss and separation from home. As the narrator recalls, ‘‘Over and over again, I made appa repeat the tale of recognition. . . . The narrative repeated made an entry for me into a new life. Without his words, those inklings of the actual, where would I be?’’ (ibid., 68). In ‘‘Reflections on Exile,’’ Edward Said remarks that exiles have a ‘‘plurality of vision’’ since they are aware of at least two di√erent cultures and settings. Exilic life is ‘‘nomadic, decentered, contrapuntal . . . aware of simultaneous dimensions’’ (1990, 36). This is particularly resonant

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for diasporic writers such as Alexander, who creates ‘‘an aesthetic of dislocation’’ out of her personal journeyings, honestly recognizing both the privileges and losses of her situation. In Fault Lines, Alexander’s father urges her to write as opposed to her mother who ‘‘grew anxious, perhaps justifiably so, about the disclosures that a writing life commits one to, quite contrary to the reticence that femininity requires’’ (1993, 113). So, she writes in secrecy and imagines this writing as coming ‘‘out of [her] own body’’ (114). The mother’s position ironically supports the patriarchy by ensuring that her daughter remain a ‘‘proper’’ (114) woman fit to be a wife and mother. The mother does not have the space, even luxury, to challenge patriarchal boundaries for her daughter. There is an important move in the narrative when the daughter shifts from identifying with the father to drawing a connection with her mother through the commonalities of birthing and the strength of female ancestors. The narrator transcribes a fascinating journey where even as she appears to step outside tradition when she selects her own husband, who is a foreigner, she is subtly reinscribing tradition when she performs the traditional role of following her husband to his home, relocating not only from one part of India to another but all the way to the United States. Both literary examples discussed above portray female protagonists in economically privileged settings in which female autonomy is guarded at times benevolently (as in the case of Alexander’s father) or malevolently (as in the case of Babli’s father). For Babli, when there is burgeoning feminist awareness followed by action that is possible because she is financially capable of paying for the alternate insemination, an outraged patriarch can destroy her e√orts to control her own body. Although she acted autonomously on her knowledge of reproductive technologies, not discarding them as alien and irreconcilable with her traditional family, she did not calculate the extent of her father’s rage and violence. Paradoxically, her courage and near fatal complacency that her father has no authority over her decision backfire on her own body. As stated by the editors in the introduction to this volume, ‘‘Globalization brings old and new oppressions, but also new opportunities to challenge them.’’ In the words of the editors, several essays in this volume discuss subjects who ‘‘recast their status by assembling familiar and new practices to survive . . . and reassert place. . . . At both centers and peripheries, subjects meld individual/collective memories with imposed

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knowledges selectively, to reconsolidate their status within or across boundaries of nation-states and synchronize with dominant history.’’ If the male and female protagonists as discussed above in Mukherjee and Alexander are trans-status subjects, then they resist their oppressions di√erently—namely, the two fathers are quite di√erent and allow varying modes of resistance to their daughters. Mr. Bhowmick is enraged by the new options available to Babli. Her use of modern reproductive technology shatters the old, familiar world that he cherishes and nurtures through daily religious practices, through memory, and old-world traditional values especially regarding gender roles.

Storytelling as Resistance A feminist politics of the body discovers that experiences of loss and recovery are often played out on the site of the female protagonist’s body as she struggles for agency. A bodily experience of, say, geographic dislocation translates onto a bodily site of resistance through the use of voice, sounds, silence, spoken oaths, illness (real and imagined), oral testimony, and interviews as modes of telling one’s story (even when, ironically, women’s identities cannot be revealed for fear of violent reprisals). Nonetheless, women demonstrate tremendous creative energy in telling their stories—verbalizing their situation is often a first step toward self-awareness that can lead to social change. Telling stories through interviews (and the types of questions asked) is a significant avenue that encourages feminist awareness along with the desire for and often a discovery of a new space that the speakers inhabit, if only within their own minds. Wilson’s Finding a Voice: Asian Women in Britain provides space for women to become the authors of their own stories through oral testimonies from and interviews with di√erent generations of immigrants. Ironically, the women’s identities are withheld for fear of reprisals. The text records the plight of father-daughter conflicts: fathers who inhabit (in their mental space) an old world with traditional values, and the daughters who are socialized in the Britain of the 1960s and 1970s. To escape stifling controls, daughters often take drastic actions such as elopement, suicide, and psychological illness—in all cases, putting their bodies and bodily health on the line. Fathers are even willing to risk losing their daughters’ lives in the name of the family’s izzat (honor). As

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Wilson remarks in her book’s introduction, ‘‘The most important and uncontrollable factor in this peasant society [immigrants from the peasant societies of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh are included in this text] occurs then in a woman’s body. The result is that religion and superstition center their attention on the womb. . . . Morality and religion open the door to oppression but in focusing so sharply on the woman’s role they make her the central symbol of the culture. . . . That is why she is kept in her place, if necessary by the most brutal oppression. If she rebels, the society itself may be overthrown’’ (1980, 4). Under headings such as ‘‘Isolation,’’ ‘‘The Family,’’ and ‘‘Adolescence and Marriage,’’ the text portrays the multifaceted struggles and resistances undertaken by Asian women in their new home locations. As they share their struggles, they explore the possibilities of building coalitions in this new location where the pressures to conform within traditional female roles assault them internally from within their own families and communities, and externally from the harsh onslaughts of racism in society, schools, and the workplace. They struggle to locate a space to call ‘‘home’’ and recognize the complex ironies of that search. This is echoed in the introduction to another similar collection of voices, Charting the Journey: Writings by Black and Third World Women, edited by Shabnam Grewal: For Black women [in Britain, South Asians identify as Black British along with peoples from Africa, the Caribbean, and other parts of the Third World] there is an inherent contradiction in the very word ‘‘home.’’ . . . Where is ‘‘home’’? Can you call a country which has systematically colonized your countries of origin, one which refuses through a thorough racism in its institutions, media and culture to even recognize your existence and your rights to that existence—can you call this country ‘‘home’’ without having your tongue inside your cheek? For Black women who are political or economic exiles from countries such as South Africa, Chile, Jamaica, India (the list could of course be longer) where is ‘‘home’’? Is Home this country that wants to deport you? . . . Home with such women becomes a place of mind, a place where she knows she cannot be. (1988, 10) Mukherjee, Alexander, and Wilson all demonstrate that resistances to traditional and prescriptive cultural and gender roles notwithstanding, the physical mobility of men and women is asynchronous, as noted by 244 ⭈ Ketu H. Katrak

Sarker and Niyogi De in the introduction to this volume; they also assert that ‘‘trans-status subjects have used asynchronicities—cultural and historical memories oblique to dominant knowledge—to craft their places, some restrictive and others liberatory.’’ Further, as the title of the section in which this chapter is included, ‘‘Gendering Local-Global Circuits,’’ implies, there are various interventions possible by human subjects as they move across time and space.

Visualizing Diasporic Alienness and Belonging: Krishnan’s Documentary In Knowing Her Place, the female protagonist Vasu experiences a multivalenced sense of being clothed in otherness in her diasporic U.S. location. ‘‘Both visually and aurally,’’ comments Lata Mani, ‘‘the intercutting between India and the U.S. works well to suggest the complex internal geographies inhabited by immigrants. . . . Indeed, the film’s greatest potential contribution might be to initiate discussion of the gendered nature of cultural conflict in the South Asian diaspora. For given that there is no rupture in patriarchal power with migration, merely its reconfiguration, the consequences of diaspora are specifiably di√erent for women and men’’ (1992, 12). Vasu is multiply alienated, caught not only in the simple and literal dichotomy between Indian tradition and U.S. values but also in her gender and class positions. Her middle-class economic status both helps and hinders her emotionally. Although Vasu grew up in the United States, she is sent back to India on the eve of puberty. At age sixteen, after an arranged marriage, she is brought back to the United States. She is caught between the two cultures from her very childhood. As in Alexander’s Fault Lines, Vasu’s father is more supportive of her education than her mother. Mothers, as the bearers and upholders of patriarchal values, demonstrate how patriarchal values are internalized—it is her mother’s insistence that Vasu have an arranged marriage at age sixteen. As an adult, Vasu expresses that she has not forgiven her mother. The marriage brings her to the United States again and into diasporic alienness, where she feels more and more culturally schizophrenic—caught between traditional family obligations and the opportunities to be more independent. She is trapped in her own female socialization; as Vasu confesses, she ‘‘could not stop [herself ] from giving.’’ As a married woman, the cultural conflicts become increasingly genDiasporic Alienness and Belonging ⭈ 245

dered since she is markedly silenced by her husband and sons in terms of her personal conflicts. They overtly and verbally deny that Vasu has ‘‘any problems’’ even as the film visually and aurally, through interviews, portrays her emotional crises that spiral into a breakdown and attempted suicide. Such verbal denial of Vasu’s emotional crisis by the patriarchs is an assault on her consciousness and grip on reality. ‘‘A conflict is often perceived to be more serious than it really is,’’ remarks Vasu’s husband, a professor of mathematics. ‘‘The mind, so to speak, exaggerates it. . . . A conflict is important only if the decision is going to seriously mess up something one way or the other. Otherwise it’s just your mind that’s playing games on you, making you believe that something is terribly important’’—a contention that presupposes that Vasu has a choice to be conflicted or unconflicted about an issue. Mani argues that ‘‘the equivocations, hesitations and facile generalities that constitute his reading of Vasu’s conflict are a paradigmatic instance of an apparently enlightened Indian liberalism which is all the more devastating for its pretensions. It proposes a free market model of human action which e√aces the ‘invisible’ structuring hand of patriarchy and renders women’s anguish into self-generated confusion and psychosis’’ (Ibid., 12). Vasu is rendered other as a female in this Indian patriarchal family tradition of male privilege and power. The paradoxes of belonging and sustenance are complicated and represented ironically as she feels marginalized both in her private Indian family as well as the public space within U.S. society. Indian traditional values often do not accommodate emotional crises, and at times deny them deliberately, as in Vasu’s case. Vasu’s male family members, by refusing to recognize her conflicts of belonging, reinscribe not only their patriarchally legitimized forms of knowledge but also write themselves within colonial forms of appropriation of native women’s ways of knowing. They perpetuate their male forms of domination. Even as she fulfills all her household duties, she is like a walking time bomb ready to explode. She maintains in her interview with the filmmaker, ‘‘I was angry all the time, but I gave them [the family] the image they wanted to see.’’ Vasu is devastated at the total lack of support within the family and escapes into alcohol ‘‘to kill these painful thoughts.’’ She dwells constantly on suicidal thoughts and makes an attempt on her life. That’s the cry for help that finally cannot be ignored by her family. Later, after two years in therapy, she learns to balance the nurturing of her family along with asserting that her family acknowledge

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her needs. Vasu recognizes that she can find a balance, as most working women have to, between family and professional duties. Such insights into her own conflicts are gained by the very process of unraveling her life in interviews with the sensitive filmmaker (as the women in Finding a Voice do). Vasu’s life exemplifies how growing up in two cultures is, as she puts it, ‘‘like moving in two directions, being in two places at once.’’ Vasu learns to negotiate those geographies, and to reconcile the emotional tug-of-war between cultural codes and the demands made particularly on women as wives and mothers. She learns to recuperate and gain control over her own subjectivity, not allowing it to be defined only from the outside by her husband and sons, or her own mother. Her moving back and forth from India to the United States provides an example of how ‘‘women’s colonial and postcolonial geographies,’’ as Alison Blunt and Gillian Rose describe them, ‘‘should address not only the multiple and complex construction of subjectivity but also of space itself. . . . Moving beyond an essentialist notion of space as transparent’’ (1994, 20), viewers of Vasu’s predicament watch her struggle against her otherness (both inside and outside her family), and witness her success in carving out a space from which she can speak and be heard. Vasu has created an internal space where she can reclaim her subjectivity irrespective of whether she is located geographically in India or her diasporic U.S. home. For Krishnan the filmmaker, making Vasu’s pain public is instructive for others who are also on this journey seeking ‘‘who we are and where we belong.’’ In conclusion, female agency is exercised, successfully or not, by protagonists caught in the paradox of economic privilege and ethnic otherness framed within patriarchal authority in diasporic spaces. The sense of alienness and belonging unfold often in a continuum, and can coexist as in women like Babli, who availed herself of new reproductive methods in this diasporic location and, unfortunately, was punished harshly for such agency. In other instances, such as the women interviewed by Wilson or in the case of Vasu in Krishnan’s film, the women are able to carve out a personal space and assert their subjectivity under extremely hostile and di≈cult circumstances. Echoing Chandra Mohanty, I envision ‘‘imagined communities of women with divergent histories and social locations, woven together by the political threads of opposition to forms of domination that are not only pervasive but also systemic’’ (1991, 4). Individuals like Vasu provide hope that women can claim autonomy

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even for fleeting moments, and that such exercises of agency gives them courage to face new challenges. Their lives and actions o√er models of perseverance and triumph similar to the desert blooms of bright magentas and yellows often emerging out of dry sand.

Notes 1

While for the purposes of this chapter I draw on Mukherjee and Alexander, there are several Indian-American writers who have published in recent years, such as Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jhumpa Lahiri (The Interpreter of Maladies and Other Stories). Other noteworthy Indian-American writers include Agha Shahid Ali, Chitra Divakaruni, Amitav Ghosh, Anchana Appachana, Kirin Narayan, Geeta Mehta, and Vikram Seth, among others. Also useful are anthologies such as Our Feet Walk the Sky: Women of the South Asian Diaspora (edited by the Women of South Asian Descent Collective 1993), Contours of the Heart: South Asians Map North America (edited by Maira and Srikanth 1996), and Lotus of Another Color: An Unfolding of the South Asian Gay and Lesbian Experience (edited by Ratti 1993). Other useful documentaries made by IndianAmericans include Vivek Ranjan Bald’s Taxi/Vala, Behroze Shro√ ’s Sweet Jail: The Sikhs of Yuba City, Jayashree Hart’s Roots in the Sand, Nisha Ganatrra’s Junky-Punky Girlz, and Mira Nair’s So Far from India, among others. 2 Recent texts—almost all published in the 1990s—that address issues of gender and space, including those concerning women’s bodies, are McDowell 1999; Hanson and Pratt 1995; Boyarin 1994; Higonnet and Templeton 1994; Chambers 1994; Bammer 1994; Rose 1993; Mack 1993; Wood 1992; Soja 1989; Broe and Ingram 1989. 3 For instance, novelist and editor Moyez G. Vassanji and playwright and theater director Shishir Kurup, both of Indian heritage, grew up in Uganda and Kenya respectively; Alexander, also of the same heritage, grew up in Kerala as well as the Sudan. While the former then went to Canada, the latter two came to the United States. Many other Indian-American writers inhabit multiple locations. These journeys are often part of the movement of capital and labor, such as Britain ‘‘inviting’’ their previously colonized peoples into the ‘‘m/other country’’ after World War II, or the flow of labor into the Gulf region, primarily working-class peoples from India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. 4 In the Indian context, there are many instances of abuses of technology, such as in amniocentesis. This test, meant to detect birth defects, is often used for sex determination, followed by the targeted abortion of female fetuses. Indian women’s groups have mobilized to protest this abuse of technology through educational campaigns, newspaper articles, and television serials such as Anuradha, which aired in the state of Gujarat where high instances of female feticide were recorded.

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In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Baghdadi Jewish Diaspora stretched from London to Shanghai. During this period, the Diaspora is best understood in terms of two principal intersecting units of analysis: the Jewish Orient and British colonialism. The imbrication of these two cultural sets produced a distinctive transnational community that I map here through the life and travels of my grandmother, Miriam (Mary) Shooker Abraham. The members of the network of Middle Eastern traders to which she belonged lived and conducted business in key port cities of the Jewish Orient, and extended their reach to ports opened up by the colonial powers. Important ports for this trading network included Basra, Bombay, Calcutta, Rangoon, Singapore, and Shanghai. This string of colonial port cities must be situated in the context of the transnational flow of mercantile capital that characterized this stage of high colonialism. Much like the ‘‘black Atlantic’’ and ‘‘medieval Jewish Mediterranean,’’ this was a well traveled and interactive cultural circuit. Baghdadi Jews who lived in or were connected to this string of commercial centers saw themselves as part of an extended community, and depended on other Jews in this circuit for economic, spiritual, and social support. These transnational or supranational links to other Jews that Sarker and Niyogi De theorize as ‘‘transborder solidarities’’ in the introduction to this volume, muted strong ties to the host nations where they lived; such soli-

darities enabled its members to move easily across and within Jewish communities over wide geographic spaces. The Baghdadi Jewish trading and migratory routes through and from various locations within South Asia challenge unitary and fixed definitions of what lands constitute ‘‘South Asia’’ as well as who can be called ‘‘South Asian.’’ The Baghdadi Jewish community that lived and traded through the region had a distinct identity along with a set of relationships to the physical, cultural, and politico-economic geographies of the landmasses mapped as South Asia by dominant political and economic forces. In the nineteenth century, due to the ambitions of Portuguese and then British traders, Calcutta became a significant nodal point on this circuit. Traders from many parts of the world—including Armenians, Greeks, Portuguese, and Baghdadi Jews—were drawn to Calcutta, the nerve center for the British colonial empire. Mary’s parents were among the two to three thousand Baghdadi Jews at the turn of the nineteenth century who sought better economic opportunities in Calcutta, where the British provided the economic and military institutions for trade to flourish. The riches of all of eastern India were plundered and exported to Europe through Calcutta, and Jewish and other traders played a role in this extractive colonial process. Mary was born in colonial Calcutta in 1901 and lived there for most of her life. Later, she emigrated to Australia and then England, and spent her last few years in Israel to fulfill her spiritual yearning to be buried on the Mount of Olives. Her narrative and location underlines the porousness of national and cultural borders, several of which impinged on and shaped her life.∞ Middle-class women like Mary, from minority communities in colonial India, drew on several cultural traditions to structure their worlds and forge their identities. Mary reworked and reinscribed cultural forms and traditions from Baghdad, India, England, and the United States in her everyday life, defying notions of cultural purity. Her selective adoption and adaptation of numerous traditions was not a decentering phenomenon. A deep sense of her Jewishness, reinforced by strong family and community ties, centered her religious cultural identity. These ties, not a stylish cosmopolitanism, led her to survive in many di√erent countries. Mary was at once rooted and rootless in a deterritorialized community: ‘‘home’’ was not a consistent geographically locatable place. Rather, as this account will illustrate, it was a shifting site. She relocated from Calcutta when the locus of the community moved in response to the

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political shifts of the imperial project and the formation of new nations. While the Calcutta Jewish community was home during the first part of her life, in her latter years, home was a changing set of rooms in unfamiliar and often alien places. Yet in these alien rooms, she maintained community, remained close to family, and performed her religious duties in the manner that she was accustomed. Thus, although Mary experienced a constant loss of place, this did not lead to a loss of history and identity. Her story elaborates the active and constructive roles that women play in these diasporic processes that have too long been overlooked. A study of these gendered roles, undertaken through this examination of Mary’s life, demonstrates the usefulness of gender for analyses of globalization. Through e√orts of self-actualization, Mary made heterogeneous dominant definitions of citizenship and the nation-state in each of the locations she inhabited, embodying a notion of belonging that is asynchronous with the dominant narratives of nation. Her rootedness in Sephardic Jewishness and Jewish customs, her location in the diasporic network of Baghdadi Jews, together with a colonial education and exposure to Western popular culture, contributed to a transnational mobility. She did not identify with the places in which she lived in India, Australia, England, or Israel. Regardless of geographic site, Mary’s praxis was to reinvent her place, through her interpretation of her gendered Jewish identity, by selectively appropriating practices from both globalized spaces and her community’s traditions, even as she resisted those forces within each country she lived that sought to homogenize her as imperial subject, citizen, woman, and Jewish woman.

Marking Community, Maintaining Borders Mary’s mother, Simcha, came to Calcutta via Bombay from El Ozer, Baghdad, in the 1890s. Simcha’s brother who had worked for a short time in Bombay was en route to Shanghai where several of his brothers lived. He made arrangements for Simcha to marry Ezra Shooker, a religious Baghdadi Jew living in Calcutta. Simcha and Ezra were poor but extremely orthodox. Ezra would go twice a day to pray at the synagogue. They lived in North Calcutta where the poor and mercantile middle-class members of the Jewish community resided alongside Chinese, AngloIndians, and Armenians. Ezra bought and sold petty items of food and

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clothing from his home as a Jew like him could not take regular jobs that could interfere with religious practice—the keeping of the Sabbath and regular synagogue attendance. Simcha worked as a seamstress at home to provide for her children since Ezra’s earnings were meager. The Shookers relied on Jewish charities to educate and provide for their five children. Mary had three brothers and a sister, Mathana (Matty), to whom she was close all her life. The Jewish charities supplied the poorer Jews like the Shookers with money during the festivals, clothing, and other necessities. The Jewish schools, too, helped the poorer students with tuition, clothing, books, and lunches. Despite the assistance, Mary remembers going to bed having dined on just tea and bread on many occasions. The Shookers spoke Arabic at home and Hindustani in the street. Simcha did understand quite a lot of English, but almost never spoke it. At the Jewish schools, her children mastered the English language, and were exposed to Western ideas and ways. Thus, though Mary grew up in Calcutta, she was located in a proto-cosmopolitan rather than an Indian place. Mary was a scholarship student at the Jewish Girls School (jgs) from 1904 to 1916. The school was committed to o√ering a strong Jewish as well as British-oriented education as England and English were associated with advancement and opportunity. As the early twentieth century marked the heyday of British imperialism, the school and broader cultural environment upheld the belief in English superiority and projected Orientalist notions of other ‘‘inferior cultures.’’ The hierarchy saw the British and Europeans at the apex of the social pyramid, Anglo-Indians, Jews, and Parsis in the middle tiers, and the ‘‘natives,’’ for the most part, at the bottom. Of course, class issues intersected the pyramid, placing some natives (such as Indian royalty) as well as a few members from other communities on the top tier of the pyramid. Mary imbibed British influences and maintained this sense of racial hierarchy throughout her life. I was bemused when she always referred to Indians as natives. Mary’s exposure to Western ideas and values went in tandem with a strict adherence to Jewish law and Baghdadi traditions. A diligent and dedicated student, Mary benefited from the intellectual opportunities the school provided, and through her education found her place in the world. On completing school, she trained as a kindergarten teacher at the jgs, and on completion of this apprenticeship, taught at the school for several

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years. The fact that she could pursue an education and career indicates that the move from Baghdad to colonial India brought considerably greater freedoms for women like her. More liberating roles for some were possible in Calcutta than Iraq, which was more socially conservative. Mary, who came from a materially poor background, did not face community resistance as she responded to new educational and career opportunities. In this way, she benefited from the flexibility a√orded her by both her trans-status subject position as well as the trans-status character of her community, concepts theorized by Sarker and Niyogi De in this volume. Whereas many wealthy Jews were part of Calcutta’s fashionable and cosmopolitan society, Mary’s life was narrowly circumscribed by her community. Jewish festivals and celebrations were her social highlights. She was exposed to the West through school, books, and movies. Granny loved to read English romance novels; among her favorite authors were Marie Correlli and Ryder Haggard. Even more than her love for reading was her passion for the movies. As soon as she could a√ord to do so, she went regularly to the cinema because going to the movies was an inexpensive and immensely enjoyable form of entertainment.≤ Through print and film technologies, Mary came to imagine something other than her small Jewish world in colonial Calcutta. Her otherwise insular Jewish middle-class life acquired a quasi-cosmopolitan sheen. It is interesting to note that in the early twentieth century, there was already a film industry in India, with Bombay and Calcutta as its chief centers. These busy port cities, ‘‘active in the culture of commerce and bearing [the] deep imprint of British influence’’ (Chakravarty 1993, 33), had a commercially successful class that could adopt Western visual technologies and exploit them for profit. Despite a growing and thriving Indian cinema, most Indian audiences saw more U.S. movies since they were in greater supply. Most of the Calcutta Jewish community did not see Indian movies. Mary loved the Western romantic silent movies that were popular in the 1910s and 1920s. Her favorite stars were Rudolph Valentino and Theda Bara. Through school and the popular media, Mary’s eyes focused on the West. The India around her was not in her line of vision. Mary, like working-class women in the United States in the 1910s and 1920s, discovered the movies as a dream world of pleasures, consumption, and romance. Kathy Peiss (1986) discusses how early U.S. movie-

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makers were aware of the cultural and class divisions among their emerging female audiences, which they sought to address, and projected new cultural forms for their audiences to imitate. I am sure they were less aware of female viewers like Mary in the British colonies who drew on the images created in the United States to establish her own images and representations of the modern woman she sought to be. Granny and the rest of the Jewish community adhered to Western styles of dress and patterns of behavior that marked them as the other in India. She never wore the Arabic style of wrapper worn by her mother and the older generation; instead, Mary wore skirts and blouses from the time she was in school. As she grew up, she developed a distinct sense of fashion. Whereas the wealthy Jews pored over French and European fashion magazines, ordered dresses from abroad, or had their clothes made by European dressmakers in Calcutta, Mary selected the fabric, buttons, lace, and other trimmings (then almost all of these were imported from England) to be sewn by local (typically Muslim) durzees (tailors). Baghdadi Jewish women never considered wearing Indian clothing. Mary, while familiar with the West and attracted by many aspects of it, remained on the threshold of the Western world, not quite ready to become part of it. She seemed caught between the Judeo-Arabic world of her parents and the Judeo-British world of the next generation of Jews. Despite a deep-seated conservatism that fit her personality, class, and religious framework, Mary was in the first generation of her community not to have an arranged marriage. Most probably the roles of the modern woman as represented in the movies gave her the freedom to choose her own partner and have a career. She first met her husband, Elias Abraham, in the synagogue and subsequently met him a few times in the neighborhood. They married in 1921 when Mary was twenty years old and Elias twenty-three. They had a simple wedding ceremony in the Neveh Shalome Synagogue, which was followed by a small reception at the jgs hall where the family and guests enjoyed Iraqi Jewish sweetmeats and preparations along with a wedding cake. Theirs was a decidedly Western-styled wedding, quite di√erent from the Baghdadi extravaganzas of the previous generation. Mary wore a calf-length white dress replete with veil and train, and she carried a small bouquet of flowers. Her wedding party consisted of two flower girls and a page boy. Mary’s husband, Elias, held a steady job as a measurer with the British Port Commissioners of Calcutta, while Mary was a homemaker and

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teacher. The couple had five children, two of whom died as infants. The Abrahams were deeply committed to giving their three children a sound Jewish upbringing and an English education. Mary made sure that her home was run on rigid Jewish principles, and rituals were observed meticulously. My mother adds that a strong dose of Victorian discipline accompanied their Jewish upbringing. Mary lived by the sets of rules she imposed on her family in fairly uncompromising ways. As was customary at that time, even among middle-class Jewish women, Mary had some household help that enabled her to balance her house, children, and career. She did not like to cook but made sure that her Muslim cook, Karmalli, learned Kosher cooking, which she supervised with great attention. After the death of two of her children, Mary turned even more to religion and became relentless in her performance of religious ritual and duties. Elias was less superstitious and observant than his wife. Through these emotionally troubled years, granny read romance novels and went to the movies regularly—perhaps as a form of escape from her grief. She enjoyed listening to popular Western music on the radio and phonograph. When she was an old woman, I still remember her humming to popular tunes on the radio as she crocheted and chatted with us. Mary’s social life revolved around her home, and her extended family, who lived in close proximity, were in and out of each other’s lives and homes, helping each other with their chores and children. Whereas women’s lives centered around family and the Jewish community, the men had broader social worlds and were frequently in spaces outside of community life. For example, many ethnic communities in Calcutta had their own social clubs; those for the middle classes were often large canvas structures on the maidan (large open space in the heart of the city) where men would gather to drink, socialize, play cards, and participate in sports like cricket or hockey. The more elite clubs were in gardened mansions at prestigious addresses. Since Elias worked with Anglo-Indians, he often visited their clubs and socialized with them. The Judean Club was established in 1929 to provide cultural, social, and recreational programming for Jewish adults, but Mary rarely went there.≥ Though the world of middle-class Jewish men was wider than that of the women, most Jews still lived in fairly circumscribed social spaces. This lack of broad exposure is reflected in their general lack of interest and engagement in Indian politics during a period of intense political

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activity in Calcutta. This immersion in Jewish community life and the parallel nonparticipation in politics contributed to a greater mobility for the community since it was not politically invested in a particular place. From the 1920s to the 1940s, when Mary was a young adult, she witnessed many Indian women taking an increased interest and active role in sociopolitical a√airs. It was the period when Gandhi launched the civil disobedience movement, and Indian women participated in large numbers. Many influential women’s groups were formed during this period, including the Indian Federation of University Women’s Association (1920), Women’s India Association (1923), All India Women’s Conference, Calcutta branch (1929), and All Bengal Women’s Union (1932).∂ Important legislation like a woman’s right to vote was passed in 1926 due to the political e√orts of women. While there was a great deal of political activity in Calcutta, Mary did not consider this her business. It was beyond her world, and she did not identify with any of the actors in the struggle for independence. While decidedly a British subject, she identified as Jewish, and neither was considered nor saw herself as British. The Jewish community had petitioned unsuccessfully to be classified as European. Mary definitely did not identify as an Indian; in fact, she clearly saw herself as di√erent from Indians and wanted to keep it that way. So she lived in India, but had little contact with Indians. She had never been to Iraq and did not consider it her home. She only identified as a Baghdadi Jew and saw no need for a political identity. Like most others in Calcutta’s plural society, she was satisfied with the compartmentalization of di√erence between Jews and others. I remember asking my grandmother her nationality, insisting that she define herself as Indian, British, or Israeli. She resolutely refused to do so, and kept saying she was Jewish and nothing else. While her passport and residence changed, granny’s core identity did not alter over the years to respond to the political changes she witnessed and in which she got caught up. Mary and other Baghdadi Jews were in a position to choose to participate only obliquely in the processes of (post)modernization. The political events leading up to India’s independence in 1947 were clearly beyond granny’s Jewish world. She was interested in Jewish religious matters, and the sphere of her community and its a√airs. For her, the world outside the community was that of Hollywood movies and British books, illusions and fantasies rather than the realities surrounding her. She, and most of the Jewish community, generally continued

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their lives choosing to be completely uninvolved or neutral in these events unless and until they were forced to take a position. Mary actively engaged and participated in her own small social scene as dictated by the norms of her class and community. This refusal to engage with political processes and movements in her host country perhaps explains her lack of attachment to a place, except as a location for her community. In the 1940s, Mary did cross from her Jewish and Anglo-oriented world into an Indian space. Her first border crossing occurred when she found lucrative employment in the homes of a few wealthy Marwari families. As this traditional and commercial community prospered, the more successful Marwaris sought to make their wives familiar with Western ways and the English language. Mary ventured beyond the Jewish community to teach the women of these joint family households how to knit, crochet, and speak English. She spent the entire day with the women and children she taught. This exposure to Indian homes and culture opened a window into another world for her. Never before had Mary visited an Indian home. While poor and middle-class Jews lived amicably with neighbors from many di√erent ethnic communities, they did not socialize or go to each other’s homes. Each community kept to itself and feared intermarriage. The only Indians that granny knew closely were the domestic servants who worked in Jewish homes. Working in wealthy Marwari households acquainted Mary with a milieu beyond her Jewish one in Calcutta. She became more familiar with Indian ways, got to sample many more Indian dishes, and became somewhat familiar with Indian culture. Even in this close encounter, however, Mary set the terms of her engagement with ‘‘Indianness.’’ As she did throughout her life in India, granny stepped into a non-Jewish space where she was perceived of and presented herself as an outsider, which was probably reassuring to them. The Marwaris, too, are a close and tight-knit community that keeps to itself. Granny retained her distance from Indians and Indianness, and wanted it that way. Whereas she differentiated herself from Indians, it would be hard to say whether she actively thought of Indians as inferior or just di√erent. Whether this di√erentiation from Indians and Indianness was born out of an intrinsic racism or fear of opening the floodgates of resistance to a dominant and overwhelmingly Indian culture is hard to gauge (Appiah 1990). What is clear is that Mary, like the majority of Calcutta Jews, was dynamically engaged in a selective process regarding what parts of India and Indian

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culture to adopt and which ones to keep at bay. While she crossed an invisible border by going into Indian homes on a regular and sustained basis, she took her social and cultural barriers along with her. The engagements outside her Baghdadi Jewish world were always limited and utilitarian; her interaction with Indians set the pattern for those later with the dominant cultures in Australia, London, and Israel. In each place, she remained immersed in her family and community, only interacting with the cultures around her when it was necessary to do so.

Geographies in Motion: Reforging and Relocating Community World War II fundamentally altered the moorings of the Calcutta Jewish community. By and large, the community remained loyal British subjects. They were fearful of their futures in an Indian India. They came to Calcutta during the British Raj and knew no other rule in India. Despite their anxieties, Calcutta Jewry participated in the ceremonies celebrating the inauguration of India as a republic (1948). Jews participated in Indian elections, and many accepted Indian citizenship although they were unsure of their commercial futures in India. These political and financial uncertainties occurred at a time when there were increased opportunities for immigration to England, Australia, and Israel. Some Jews considered emigrating to the West, where they thought they would have better economic opportunities and could become part of the broader Jewish world (Musleah 1975, 448–50). Once a few made the decision to leave, other family members left to join them. From 1947 to 1952, all those living in India still held British Indian passports and could choose between holding British or Indian ones. Consequently, those Indians who wanted to emigrate to England and could a√ord the fare left India. In the early 1950s, the White Australia Policy extended the ‘‘privilege’’ of emigration to Anglo-Indian, Armenians, Jews, and a few Parsis (Stratton 1996a). Applicants had to be certified as having no Indian blood in order to be considered for immigration. Thus, while these minority communities were considered ‘‘whiter’’ in India, their whiteness had to be proved and tested to pass as such in Australia. These trans-status subjects found the valency of their race and class status change as they shifted their location from India to Australia. Charles, Mary’s elder son, applied for a visa to Australia and passed the whiteness test. Shortly thereafter, Mary and Elias made a brief visit to Australia to 258 ⭈ Jael Silliman

attend Charles’s wedding to an Ashkenazi girl. The Eliases considered emigrating to Australia, which was home to several Calcutta Jews who had recently settled in Sydney. Furthermore, since Elias was born in Singapore, a Crown colony, he was a U.K. citizen and had preferential immigrant status. The decision to emigrate to Australia in 1955 was Mary’s first step on a transnational circuit that would make her part of Baghdadi Jewish communities around the world. Their move to Australia, however, was extremely short-lived due to the unexpected death by heart attack of Elias, within a year of their leaving Calcutta. Mary was devastated by this loss and returned immediately to Calcutta. She mourned Elias’s death for many years. Mary lived close to her daughter and grandchildren for a few years in Calcutta, but was restless and dissatisfied with the disintegrating Jewish community life there. After being in Calcutta for a few years, she visited London, and decided to try and settle down in Golders Green. In the early 1960s, Golders Green had become home to a large Iraqi community from Shanghai, Burma, India, and Singapore. In fact, granny met up with some members of her mother’s family who had settled in Shanghai and then moved to London after the war. I find it interesting that there were more Calcutta Jews in London (Golders Green) than Calcutta at the time. Aside from the attraction of a vibrant Baghdadi community, Mary had close family in London, including her sister-in-law Ruby, to whom she was close all her life. Mary attended the synagogue where the Sephardic services were held in Iraqi Jewish style. With the money from Elias’s pension, she was able to rent a room and provide for herself. Her simple lifestyle, the proximity to close family, and the emotional and spiritual support of the Iraqi community made Golders Green her home for a few years. Thus, Mary found stability in the relocated and reconfigured Baghdadi Jewish world, even in her mobility from Calcutta to London. Today, the Baghdadi Jewish community is spread over Tel Aviv, London, New York, Toronto, Los Angeles, and Sydney, to name only a few places. From London, Mary visited the Holy Land and was intent on settling there. On India’s independence, her life had been physically and emotionally set in motion by larger global forces that she navigated uneasily. Her strong sense of Jewishness made her believe that Israel was her ultimate destination in her search for a home in the rapidly changing world of the Baghdadi Jewish community. To her dismay, there were many factors—such as the language, her age, the food, and the religious structures in Israel—that worked against her strong desire to settle there. Jewish Diaspora ⭈ 259

Granny tried to learn modern Hebrew, but found her Hebrew pronunciation was attuned to the biblical articulation in which she was fluent; at her age, the di√erent style of modern Hebrew seemed like learning a new language. She wanted to join a religious kibbutz, yet was not accepted because of her age. Though only in her fifties, she said she just wanted to find a place where she could live simply, eat kosher food, and fulfill her religious obligations, but she could not make this happen. Defeated and still unable to accept her husband’s sudden death, she returned to London. While in London, she was o√ered a job as the superintendent of the jgs hostel in Calcutta. Being born in India, she could return to India and live and work there. In 1966, granny returned to participate in the Jewish community and immersed herself in a familiar world even though Jewish life was at a low ebb. The hostel, located on the grounds of the jgs, provided a home for the poorer Jewish girls attending the school on scholarships. Mary lived with the girls, deeply identified with them as she had also come from a humble Jewish background, and served as a surrogate mother. Her school experience molded her character and o√ered her opportunities that shaped her life, and she wanted to extend this opportunity to her girls. Daily, she took it on herself to provide for their material, spiritual, educational, and emotional needs. The Jewish Agency was supporting Jews to make aliyah (emigration to Israel), but many of the girls’ families could not a√ord the application fees. Mary helped to raise the money for several of them, and many of these young women were able to make better lives for themselves in Israel. Thus, Mary was at the heart of the Jewish community as it was unraveling, playing roles that involved assistance and nurturing. She sustained community life among the few Jewish girls who were left, while presiding over the demise of the community. Through her actions, she ensured that the values of the community were passed on and opportunities were made available to even the poorest members. Throughout the 1970s, the Calcutta Jewish community dwindled further, and most of Mary’s contemporaries and relatives had either died or left India. The synagogues employed inept readers who would previously be employed as minyan men so as to have a congregation of ten males. It was against this backdrop of further religious disintegration that she heeded Ruby’s persistent plea to live in London where she could continue familiar Jewish rituals and traditions in a more satisfying manner. Ruby found out that Mary was entitled to a small pension from the 260 ⭈ Jael Silliman

British government because of Elias’s U.K. citizenship. Mary was able to capitalize on this privileged imperial status to live in Golders Green with some modicum of financial stability. She was able to use her trans-status subject position to her financial advantage. Picking up the threads of her life as part of the Iraqi community, she continued teaching boys their bar mitzvah prayers and took part again in Iraqi community life. In 1978, her daughter Flower moved to Israel and invited Mary to live with her in Jerusalem. This was a dream come true for Mary. As a Jew, she was entitled to settle in Israel, and so could pick up and go live there. Mary, who had long nursed a secret longing to die in Israel and be buried on the Mount of Olives, moved to Israel in 1978. In her poignant search for community and belonging, Mary’s citizenship and o≈cial status could be flexible because it was not based on a politics of self-representation. Rather, citizenship and residency were arbitrary, and in her relentless search to be part of her shifting community, the bureaucratic hurdles she had to overcome were few. In imperial England and Australia, identity was racially constructed. Because she was Jewish, her racial categorization changed as the definitions of British subject versus U.K. citizen adjusted to meet imperial political and racial agendas. Her status as a Jew and her husband’s U.K. citizen status gave them preference when emigrating to Australia. On this basis, too, she was able to emigrate to Britain with a small pension from the government. In Israel, her Jewishness was not racialized in constructing her o≈cial status as immigrant. James Cli√ord’s construction of diaspora (1997) as a way of sustaining connections with more than one place while practicing nonabsolutist forms of citizenship clearly applies to Mary. When she relocated to be part of the Baghdadi community, she was able to rely on community material and spiritual resources to sustain her. Throughout her life, then, Mary did not see herself as a citizen of anywhere, and kept her ties to many places while her Jewishness defined and sustained her. She was able to use her ambiguous racial and national status to her own advantage, and accrued greater mobility and a few financial benefits because of it. In summary, my grandmother crossed a lot of national borders, but was conscious of those borders and drew firm boundaries in all aspects of her life. In my mother’s small kitchen in Jerusalem, in a rare humorous gesture, granny called her kosher side of the kitchen the East Bank as opposed to my mom’s nonkosher West Bank. Borders determined her social world, the food she ate, where she would eat, and established the Jewish Diaspora ⭈ 261

distance between her and the non-Jewish worlds that surrounded her. Through border setting, she allowed the Jewish community to expand and completely fill up the place she carved out for herself. Granny also organized her life in rigid and inflexible patterns. My mother says that as children, they knew the day of the week from what was served at the table. Similarly, I remember granny always visited us in our Calcutta home on a Tuesday afternoon at four o’clock. Primly dressed, she brought her own flask and straw so she would not have to drink from the nonkosher utensils in our home. While this adherence to religious strictures was part of her character, I think she rooted herself in the routines of her life as well as the web of family and community relations to further anchor her as she moved across many geographic spaces. Rooted in religious practice and routine, she espoused no politics in the traditional sense of the word. She was able to make a place for herself in disparate locations because her movement was part of structured travel circuits. She moved in circuits that had already been charted by Baghdadi Jews whose wealth, status, and community organizations and networks cushioned her journeys. She could rely on transborder solidarities—the material and spiritual resources of her community—wherever she went. Even when traveling to a distant place, her ‘‘home,’’ the Baghdadi community, remained the same. In each of these places, there were people she knew who shared religious customs, foods, and worldviews. Until Mary’s death, this imagined community was very much intact.

Re-membered Histories and Nations When granny was in her late seventies, she moved from London to live with my mother in Jerusalem (1978). She immediately reestablished contact with members of the community who had emigrated to Israel, and spent days and vacations with her sister Matty and her family in Tel Aviv. Visiting Matty for long weekends was a high point of life for granny. Both found these visits deeply satisfying. Much of their time was spent reminiscing about the good old days in Calcutta and talking about their children, grandchildren, and relatives who were now spread across the globe. These visits were a time of re-membering: the two sisters constituted from memory their Jewish life in Calcutta and relived community in the spiritual land of their imagination. Here again, Mary was deeply involved in turning space into place.

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Granny attended the Sephardic synagogue in Kiryat Moshe, a few blocks from where she lived. She loved visiting the religious sites, especially on high holidays. Despite the inspirational aspects of Jewish life in Jerusalem, Mary was extremely disappointed with and alienated from life in Israel. Her visions of the Holy Land did not resonate with everyday life in Israel, the secular state. She felt out of place with many of the Ashkenazi customs, and was too orthodox in her beliefs to conform to religious norms in Israel that were predominantly derived from Ashkenazi customs and traditions. The study and practice of her form of Jewishness, a subject to which she had devoted herself through much of her life, was confronted by Ashkenazi practices that superseded Sephardic ones. Sephardic Jews and their customs were often looked down on in Israel for being ignorant, superstitious, and not following the letter of the law as interpreted by Ashkenazi Jews. Even the Sephardic services differed from the Baghdadi ones to which she was accustomed. Ironically, of all the places in which she lived, Israel was the most alien to her for her most cherished status, her practice of Jewishness, was challenged. Thus, while she wanted to end her life in the Holy Land, Israel was never home to her. Mary spent her last few years preoccupied with her death and the arrangements that needed to be made for it. She longed to be buried on the Mount of Olives so that when the Messiah walked out from the ancient city of Jerusalem, she would be able to rise from the dead and follow him. In 1980, Mary had a stroke. She was paralyzed and had to be moved to a home for the infirm and disabled, where her sister Matty and many other relatives and members of the community took turns caring for her; they also visited her frequently until she died a few months later. She was buried on the Mount of Olives amid family and community. During that week of shivah (mourning), women from the jgs and hostel where Mary had taught and worked for so many years all came to pay their last respects. Her resting place on the Mount of Olives marked the culmination of her spiritual yearning. Only in her death did she find the home as well as history that she had searched for throughout her life.

Beyond Borders This account of Mary’s life unsettles notions that cultural flows and patterns align themselves neatly with national borders or nation-states,

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and destabilizes concepts of citizenship bound to nation-states. While today the rapid flow of ideas, capital, and people across borders is understood as a postmodern phenomenon, these movements, as I have demonstrated here, have a long history. So many of the members of the Baghdadi Jewish community moved through porous borders for centuries while taking their own borders with them. Their history is supranational, and as such, o√ers an alternative to those histories tied to nation formations. Their histories were formed on a continuation of lifestyles based in a religion as well as culture. As Baghdadi Jews moved, they re-created their communities and traditions in diverse settings. They created hybrid cultural forms while the Sephardic Jewish core remained constant. It was perfectly natural for Mary to say her brachot (blessings), settle down to eat a kosher meal of Indian food, listen to Western popular music after she ate, and curl up in the cool of her room in the hot Calcutta afternoons with a British novel. In this hybrid experience, she did not feel fragmented. Hence, the idea of ‘‘multilocationality’’ across geographic and cultural boundaries, rather than displacement, captures her state more accurately. In Calcutta and the other Iraqi community settings in England, Australia, and even Israel, she did not venture out much into the dominant societies that surrounded her. This suggests that ‘‘home’’ can be set in an alien landscape. The physical and social landscape in which her home existed seemed almost incidental to her. Mary continued to live her life regardless of what was going on around her, so long as the outside world and events did not impinge on or disrupt her pattern of life and the performance of her religious practice. The Iraqi Jews were not a landbased community; they were a community of mobile traders and businesspeople who, as times changed, picked up new professions. Mary’s profession, that of a teacher, was a skill that could be transferred and continued in other settings. Her knowledge of English was also of great use in the commonwealth countries in which she settled. The fact that she could rely on other Baghdadi Jews in the new settings was crucial in establishing herself as well. Similarly, many of the men were in business and professions that were transferable, and their community networks and familiarity with English were invaluable as they sought to settle in other parts of the world. In this way, Mary persistently, though almost subconsciously, emptied out spaces on which dominant histories were written to ground

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herself and her Jewish identity. All the places where she lived were holding places for her to practice her form of Jewishness. Through the unconscious action of emptying out space, of ignoring the local histories and cultures around her, she claimed identity and place. She wrote place onto space by producing her own history, values, and routines in locations that were both empathic and antipathetic to her practice of Judaism. Mary forged her identity in response to political, economic, and cultural exigencies, demands, and opportunities, making the most of her complex and flexible positioning. She consciously or unconsciously created multiple identities for herself, sometimes resisting a racial or national identity and at other times embracing one. She carved out a hybrid culture born out of a productive and creative syncretism within that ‘‘third space’’ (Ang 1994). As I have shown above, some aspects of her identity, particularly her Jewishness, were deep or central to her being, while her British identity, which derived from her country of citizenship, was fluid and politically determined. Iraq was the place her family came from—it was her past, but not any part of her present or future. India, Australia, England, and secular Israel were her present. Her future was her spiritual and mystical pursuits that she tied to mythological places connected to Judaism. On this basis, Mary turned necessity into opportunity and gained (for the most part) rather than lost in this diasporic process. Salman Rushdie expresses this sentiment in Imaginary Homelands eloquently: ‘‘It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately, to the notion that something can always be gained’’ (Rushdie 1991b, 17). My grandmother, a trans-status subject, seemed to have used her ever changing conditions to seize new possibilities to advance herself, her family, and her community, both economically and socially. Mary never did find an earthly physical space that she could unequivocally call home. Her ‘‘home’’ or ‘‘place’’ shifted to be part of the traveling Baghdadi community that reconstituted itself in various sites to respond to new economic opportunities. Perhaps that is why she longed to be buried on the Mount of Olives. This eternal space was the imagined home, part of that Jewish mythology to which she clung and that anchored her in all her journeys. It was the culminating point of all her restless spiritual and material searches—a serene and final resting place that she attained only in her death.

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Notes 1

This chapter is a sequel to a previous work on her mother-in-law, Farha Baqaal Abraham (Silliman 1998). This analysis grows out of my book (Silliman 2001), which traces the lives of four generations of women in my family. The book examines issues of travel, identity, and Diaspora from these women’s particular locations, as well as providing the reader with a sense of the material and social world of middle-class women from the Calcutta Baghdadi Jewish community. For a more detailed account of Mary’s life and the Calcutta Jewish experience in India, see Silliman 2001. 2 Peiss (1986) discusses how movies were a popular form of entertainment for workingclass women in New York for much the same reason: their a√ordability. The early movies, she contends, expressed and legitimized a heterosocial culture, and could easily be incorporated into the world and lives of married women. 3 This club tradition, though less ethnically based, is still strong in Calcutta. Ethnic clubs like the Punjab Club (for Punjabis), Dalhousie Club (for Anglo-Indians), and Parsi Club remain important community spaces. There are many clubs all over the city that are opened to all communities, however, and more homogeneous on class rather than ethnic or religious lines. 4 A few of the elite Jewish women who had married out of the Jewish community, like the Guha sisters (whose mother was a Jewish woman who married a Hindu gentleman who converted to Judaism), were leaders in Indian women’s associations. This points to the fact that when Jewish women wanted to get involved in Indian society, and in national struggles and political activity, their involvement was welcomed.

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Every nation has an individuality of its own. . . . [T]hose who would help India have yet to learn how to expand what is best and noblest in her without reproducing a faded and monotonous copy of themselves.—Cornelia Sorabji, ‘‘Stray Thoughts of an Indian Girl’’ Freedom become [sic] an English patent and to be free was to imitate an Englishness and in those early days of immigration, when she was the only Asian among a sea of whites, she was so continually and constantly di√erent to yearn to be the same.—Narrator in Ravinder Randhawa, A Wicked Old Woman

The mercantile missions of the British East India Company in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries metamorphosed into England’s imperial politics in India in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Colonial capitalism, based on the circulation of armed and other labor forces, supplied England’s strength in Europe and the rest of its empire. Colonies, like those in India, were the source of raw materials (goods and human) that fueled British and Western European technological industries, sciences (natural and social), and particular philosophies of civilization. Not only was an essentially local English modernity fed by this global machinery, it was also disseminated through it (Woolf 1975; Hall 1997). The political rhetoric feminized and sexualized the colonies as grounds for the seeding of a version of modernity (Massey 1994; Rose 1993). Ideologies advocating the rational individual, secular notions of progress, and civil society (the basis for colonial philosophies, sci-

ences, and technologies) were both implanted and contested by subjects traveling in colonial and postcolonial circuits. I focus here on two such subjects made mobile in the routes binding England to India: Sorabji (1866–1954), a Parsi Christian Indian citizen of the British Empire, and Randhawa (1952–), a Punjabi Indian citizen of ex-imperial England. The diachronic juxtaposition of these two figures in an earlier and later era of globalization exposes the contingency of the terms that swirl around Sorabji and Randhawa: Parsi, Christian, Punjabi, Indian, South Asian, Black British, and woman. These labels attempt to fix their historical and geographic coordinates, but they also raise the issue of their political membership in the nation-state of India erupting out of the British Empire (for Sorabji) and postcolonial England’s current place in relation to the European Union (for Randhawa). The epigraphs above can be read transversally: Sorabji is a lone Asian ‘‘among a sea of whites’’ in many situations, and Randhawa is still an ‘‘Indian girl,’’ though the meaning of that phrase has changed. In imperial England’s relationship to the protonation India that is still its colony, however, the economically privileged traveler Sorabji holds a place in imperial England and colonial India that is not valid later for middle-class immigrant Randhawa in postcolonial England and independent India. Sorabji’s and Randhawa’s mobility in the successive cycles of globalization also reveals how dominant national and imperial principles of citizenship as well as civil society deploy old/new hierarchies of identities. These principles derive from demos (related to jus solis—that is, the right to political and social liberties regardless of origin) and ethnos (related to jus sanguinis—that is, membership in society based on ties of blood) (Encyclopaedia Britannica; Oxford Classical Dictionary; Jones 1996). Sorabji’s professional memoir India Recalled (1936) and Randhawa’s novel A Wicked Old Woman (1987) are cartographies of citizenship that demonstrate how, in both Indian and British civil societies, the rhetoric of democracy disguises racial and ethnic exclusions, especially as those deny women full subjecthood (Spivak 1997, 91). Through their mobility, both writers become aware of the racialized and sexualized physical and social geographies in which the bodies of women are interpellated by oppositional, but also complicit British and Indian patriarchies. In the view of both authors, the nation-state (England or India) co-opts the present and future for its programs of progress in which certain women are ‘‘allochronic symbols’’ of a timeless past (Fabian

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1983). As such, spaces like the zenana (in Sorabji’s India of the 1930s) and immigrant Indian home (in Randhawa’s England of the 1980s) signify particular categories of time. Sorabji and Randhawa protest these productions of spaces as well as the (mis)use of explicit and implicit cultural and political chronologies to exclude women. Both the epigraphs indicate the irony of modeling a dominant modernity: Sorabji objects to and warns against mimicry, and Randhawa’s protagonist realizes that imitation is ultimately ine√ective. The authors’ ‘‘alter/native modernities’’ (Gaonkar 1999) revivify memories and practices that are simultaneous, though not in full agreement with dominant ethnicized, racialized, and gendered productions of history. I term their acts ‘‘gynechronologies’’—that is, women’s politicization of time and space, acts of women reclaiming time as the very terrain on which to build emancipatory histories of the plural. These are acts within, not outside the flow of time (Showalter 1997; Kristeva 1986; C. Mohanty 1997) that argue against the empty homogeneity that dominant history imposes (Chakrabarty 1997). Their disagreement with masculinist demos, both British and Indian, is not that the past is sustained but that it is reified in order to disadvantage women. Based on their various encounters with other women on their professional routes, Sorabji and Randhawa place marginalized women (purdahnashins and immigrant women respectively) in new visions that challenge the exclusivities of demos instituted by nation-states; here, I employ the distinction between ‘‘space’’ and ‘‘place’’ theorized in the introduction to this volume. In drawing up their own programs, they remain unruly in dominant masculinist and racist histories of modernity.∞ Joined and separated on the chronological axes of colonial past and neocolonial present in England and India, both women demonstrate the ways in which race, ethnicity, gender, and class make the promise of demos accessible or unavailable. Their gynechronologies transcend the boundaries of those nation-states, yet are di√erent investments in Englishness and Indianness.≤ In redrafting the future to include reconstitutions of women’s customs and coalitions, Sorabji moves from simultaneous and separate to simultaneous and participatory, and Randhawa to simultaneous and oppositional. Sorabji envisions East and West as inviolate entities sutured together to produce a syncretic modernist program for women, and yearns for a whole in which cultural and political contradictions coexist peacefully.

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Sorabji’s sense of racial and cultural distance allows her, paradoxically, to conceive a new kind of participation. Her emphasis on her Parsi heritage and Christian upbringing (both enabled her conversion to English colonial modernity) along with her unusual privileges in both India and England generated an attempt to amalgamate seemingly contradictory elements. In adopting the contemporary racial typology of ‘‘Asiatic’’ and ‘‘Oriental,’’ Sorabji identifies India as a multiracial culture of Muslims, Hindus, and Parsis. To her, since race is coterminous with religious culture, demos is continuous with ethnos even as she contests the dominant modernity. In the chronological interregnum separating Sorabji and Randhawa, India appears to shrug o√ its image as the exotic backdrop to English romance and adventure. In England, now the ex-imperial center, the ‘‘race’’ of those recently arrived, like the Indian woman, becomes associated primarily with color and ‘‘backward’’ culture. Randhawa’s distance from India (she emigrated at age seven) and her intimacy with England’s ideological framework (as a citizen) appear to repeat Sorabji’s recipe for success: hybrid citizenship, global womanhood, and sociopolitical enfranchisement. Contrary to many feminist and other chroniclers’ assumptions of teleological progress, Randhawa’s situation does not become ‘‘better’’ than Sorabji’s. The dream of Sorabji’s imagined community is shattered in the late twentieth century when the signifiers ‘‘Indian woman’’ and ‘‘race’’ change both geographically and conceptually. Randhawa is exiled between geographies and histories, the beneficiary of neither ethnos (blood) nor demos (soil), but no longer wanting to be. Both nationhoods, native (the macrocosmic patriarchy of an ex-imperial England where she resides) and immigrant (the microcosmic Sikh Punjabi patriarchy transported to England), bracket Randhawa’s identity, like her protagonist’s, into ethnic, racial, class, and gender categories to deny her the rights and liberties of demos. While Sorabji confidently transplants her ideals to the soil of Indian culture, Randhawa and her protagonist, itinerants in neoliberal urban deserts characterized by racial discrimination and cultural conscription, are significantly less sure of any such foundation. Like Sorabji’s, Randhawa’s gynechronology is unruly to both Indian and English patriarchal (post)modernities; unlike Sorabji’s, hers does not ask for inclusion but for redefinition of the basic terms of social and political engagement toward a new citizenship.

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As contributors to discourses on women’s democratic participation in modernity, Sorabji and Randhawa may be considered ‘‘emergent’’ or ‘‘new’’; however, these words may only describe the perspective of the observer—that is, they are emergent or new in her or his awareness. As much as this chapter introduces such South Asian issues and individuals, it a≈rms the significance of their reformulations of dominant narratives of history and geography that attempt to elide or quarantine them. As such, it raises questions about one’s responsibility in accounting for their ‘‘place’’ in one’s epistemological landscapes.

Sorabji’s Gynechronology: ‘‘What India Needs’’ A Christian upbringing within a Parsi culture, a matrilineal heritage of social service among Indian women, and the guidance of English mentors (Sir William Markby, Lady Mary Hobhouse, Elizabeth Manning)— these are the spatial and temporal coordinates of identity by which Sorabji understood her relationship to England and India.≥ Through these, she is inducted into a notion of imperial historicity—that is, history with a noble purpose in which she shares the white (wo)man’s burden of bringing civilization to ‘‘help India,’’ as the first epigraph indicates. Sorabji reveals this sense of her place in a seemingly innocuous diary entry, written on 6 March 1890 when she was the only Indian woman studying law at Somerville College at Oxford. She notes: ‘‘I find that neither Honours Jurisprudence nor the Pass Greats is exactly what India needs. . . . ‘[L]ittle me’ had to choose between Notoriety & Usefulness, & me’s been enabled to choose the latter. . . . I will be a sort of real Indian Civil Servant’’ (Sorabji 1890, 79). In declaring that she knows ‘‘what India needs,’’ she adopts the stance of a secular missionary who will bring civil society and progress to India. Her status, although an exception to that of Indian women’s generally, upsets the prevailing assumptions about Asian women as the oppressed constituency of the empire or nation. Sorabji’s Oxford membership is especially significant if she is compared with Virginia Woolf—the icon of British modernism and Anglo-American feminism, and the daughter of a learned man—who protests the exclusion of women (including herself ) from ‘‘Oxbridge,’’ her fictionalized seat of patriarchal power. Sorabji’s fond memories of Oxford (especially Markby’s mentorship) reflect her easy access to the privileges of demos (Sorabji 1892).

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A sense of entitlement and mission is part of Sorabji’s trajectory that began in India. She was the first female to study at Deccan College in spite of protests, placed first in an exam that gave her a government scholarship at a British university (but denied it because of her sex), and became a lecturer in English literature at a men’s college in Ahmedabad (India). Sorabji’s plans to study medicine in England were redirected first into teaching and then into law (Burton 1998, 123–26). Although she distanced herself from formal missionary endeavors such as those of the Church Missionary Society, she was above all driven by a desire to be useful, as she enunciates in her Oxford letters. One learns from her diaries that she applied for positions as soon as she passed the law exams (June 1892), qualified as a barrister of the High Court in India, and was counsel to the British Bengal government. The understanding of her own role and participation in the grand historical mission is, for Sorabji, concordant with her Victorian Christian missionary zeal to uplift Indian womanhood. She adopts practical means to fulfill that role: she becomes a pleader for zenana women landholders in the Bengal Court of Wards. Initially, her observations about the state of India’s cultural progress do not appear to be any di√erent from the British colonial perception of the East as ‘‘primitive,’’ even allochronic—that is, outside modernity. This rationale, which justifies the Orientalist political approaches of la mission civilisatrice, is apparent in Sorabji’s ‘‘Tea Time Talks: Women in Changing India.’’ Her reading of contiguous and uneven chronologies is phrased significantly in metaphors of mechanization and militarization, the two most prominent arms of contemporary Western European modernity: The unchanging East has changed rapidly through the last century. . . . And now even the governmental machinery made in England has been handed over to Indian operatives. But the area of operation is far more di≈cult in regard to the human elements than it was when the machine was installed. To racial cleavage must be added . . . the pace, severally, at which we travel. The masses are still held fast in the second century, in superstition and hampering custom. The small advance battalion may be described as in the twenty-second century, so quickly do they move. . . . While we honour the vanguard, we must not forget the rear: and that our strength lies in evening the pace. (Sorabji 1935a, 9–10) Sorabji’s vision of India’s marking time with global modernity is based on her belief in Western European (primarily imperial Britain’s) ideas of 272 ⭈ Sonita Sarker

civil liberties and political citizenship. She seems a willing subject of the status quo, especially in her antifeminist and antinationalist sentiments, and appears to contradict her own words in the first epigraph to this discussion. In ‘‘Tea Time Talks,’’ she expresses disdain for British and Indian ‘‘women’s rights women’’ (ibid., 8), noting that the All India Women’s Conference was started by an Irishwoman, and that the feminist movement missed the ethos of discipline, accuracy, and organization, although it achieved overnight what it took England centuries to do. Sorabji credits neither feminists nor nationalists, but minorities like Brahmos or Arya Samajists who have adopted Western ideals for advances such as women having the vote as well as women o≈cers in government and industry in Madras (1930d). She traces the origin of Indian nationalism to opportunities o√ered by the British: the Charter of 1883, the Proclamation of 1858 (‘‘King George’s gift’’), the Acts of 1919 and 1935 granting progressive self-government, and the 1930 Round Table Conference (Sorabji 1930a, 1930c). In ‘‘India and Nationalism’’ (Sorabji 1930b), delivered at Williams College’s Institute of Politics in Williamstown, Massachusetts, Sorabji speaks as a Christian ‘‘businesswoman’’ and attacks a patriarchal self-Orientalizing Indian leadership for posing ‘‘as protectors of ancient usage. . . . [T]hey imagine that a fierce refusal to use Western machinery or to industrialize India . . . proves them to be Nationalists.’’ She points out that such tactics, adopted by Gandhi, reduce India’s chances of becoming a modern nation in a global membership. This phase in her career (1920s and 1930s) begins, I argue, the reeducation of Sorabji. It is evident that Sorabji herself considers feminists and nationalists unruly subjects of an empire that has provided all the means for India to align its own discrepant chronologies with dominant European (British) history. It is even more evident that Sorabji cannot overcome the allegiances that inform the very basis of her status (Flemming 1994; Burton 1998). Yet even as a studious subject of an imperialist chronology eager to ‘‘help India,’’ she moves from a strategic identification with Englishness, in her earlier years, to an understanding of the negotiations that active participation in history involves, in her professional years. In ‘‘The Position of Women in India’’ (1908), Sorabji expresses an enthusiastic impatience to correct inaccurate and stereotypical descriptions produced by writers like Rudyard Kipling who, in her view, wrongly choose hill and bazaar women to symbolize all Indian women. In another speech at Williams College’s Institute of Politics Unruly Subjects ⭈ 273

(Sorabji 1930a), she also confronts ‘‘the civilized world’’ for perpetuating the same Orientalization for which she faults the ‘‘fathers’’ of the nation (primarily Gandhi). She protests the unfairness of being asked to join the modern world on that basis; as Sorabji reminds her audience: ‘‘Mummy Peas cannot sustain a growing body. Mummy Wrappings cannot be sold as reach-me-downs in the modern market’’ (1930a, 1). India Recalled (1936) depicts Sorabji’s travels through Bengal as an advocate of ‘‘secluded women’s’’ legal a√airs in the public judicial systems of British India. Sorabji’s staunch support of the British administration of India is modulated by a gradualist reform that does not sacrifice ‘‘good’’ customs. This professional memoir reveals a shift in her sense of ‘‘what India needs’’ since the 1890 diary entry. She elaborates on her belief that ‘‘evening the pace’’ as a way to ‘‘help India’’ will be done not by erasure or encryption. Her gynechronology is an integration of the contribution of the so-called backward, like the purdahnashin whom she encounters on her professional itinerary. As honorary secretary of the Working Sub-Committee of the Bengal League of Social Service for Women, Sorabji writes that the orthodox Hindu and Muslim women of Bengal ‘‘must learn the meaning of Citizenship’’ (1929a, 26). She seems to have separated these mothers only as breeders of citizens, not participants who must be taught the fundamental dreams and goals of modernity. But in ‘‘Prospice: The New India,’’ she demands to know ‘‘[w]hat provision is being made for enlarging the woman’s franchise’’ (1931a, 7), and insists in other writings, as she did in 1891 (the first epigraph), that attention must be paid to women’s health and religious customs as well as to retaining what is good, such as women’s rights to property that Manu’s Laws (Hindu) and the Koran (Muslim) guarantee. In response to the misguided instincts of Indian nationalists, British and Indian feminists, and British colonialists, Sorabji o√ers what I describe as a religio-technical modernity—a scientific and rational sensibility combined with the best of religious-cultural traditions in the women of the future Indian nation. For instance, she imagines a statistical department in a social service institute where real research work is undertaken, and where both English and Indian women can discuss religion and culture. She envisions training colleges for orthodox nurses in an all-India scheme, proposing a link between professional women and professional institutions with liaison o≈cers and forerunners (in

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purdah) to extend the network to villages and remote areas. Although she envisages all this guided by workers trained in England, she comments that Englishwomen must have the right views about India before coming to serve there (Sorabji 1927). While India Recalled produces Sorabji’s own Victorian Orientalizing of Eastern wisdom and the lovable, childlike woman of the zenana, it also alters her sense of her subjects, India and its individuals. The main contradiction in Sorabji’s approach to history is that her gynechronology, even as it often reifies di√erence, resists an erasure of the histories of Indian womanhood. In encountering di√erent strata of women, Sorabji gains a growing understanding of their place rather than carrying out programs on the spaces that she imagined from a distance as ripe for reform. Her own experience of being produced for the British as a ‘‘wise woman of the East,’’ and celebrated as a unique mixture of the old and the new, as someone who could conduct authentic research on mysterious and exotic lands, make her more sensitive to a prescribed modernity even as she believes that it had made her own status possible (Sorabji 1902). As an Indian, she struggles to depict the values of other Indians, even though as a Parsi Christian, she feels distant and thus able to advocate their cause objectively. Sorabji says of the Parsis that ‘‘though now counting themselves Indians [they] have lived una√ected by Indian customs and traditions. While avoiding competition for power with Indians proper, they claim the right to serve the country both by their wealth . . . and by personal service’’ (1935a, 1–2). Such sentiments are often self-serving—one wonders how her attitude, even of reverence for tradition based on ethnic di√erence, contributes to the maintenance of boundaries. She accepts unquestioningly the explanations of ‘‘the dear old man’’ (Sorabji 1936, xiii) about the slavishness of the Hindus that makes them surrender first to Muslims and then to the English. Sorabji includes these observations without comment; her very acceptance gives the man’s words the importance of truth and also supports her goal of maintaining the weight of tradition. In India Recalled, Sorabji addresses especially ‘‘the feminist’’ in stating that ‘‘this little book’’ is not ‘‘a learned disquisition of which [she is] not capable, but . . . a film of living pictures from . . . [her] recollections and experiences . . . [that lets] the personalities and situations tell their own story’’ (ibid., viii). She displays the modesty expected of a woman, yet that

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is tinged with a belief in the superior truth of her ‘‘record of living India’’ (x), undiluted by interpretations and analyses. Declaring that she can never grasp fully the meanings of centuries-old ceremonies, Sorabji uses firsthand explanations from her friends Giribala Devi and Mathaji Maharani about their own lives and customs, thereby dissociating herself from the scholars (male, by implication) and ‘‘feminists.’’ Sorabji speaks of the zenana women she meets with an amused, proprietorial, a√ectionate condescension, inflected by an admiration for their faith in tradition, childlike innocence, and bravery. She concedes in India Recalled that these ‘‘women are not unteachable’’ (39); ‘‘nor is it impossible to make them realize civic responsibility’’ (40). If secluded women are ‘‘educated and guided along the right lines’’ (40), and there is a ‘‘wise woman lawyer [who] might help’’ (34)—namely, herself—a lot can be achieved. In some letters and articles preceding India Recalled, Sorabji places great hope in reform from within, in women’s own initiative, and sees women as the vanguard of progress that will even the pace (1930d). In her exhilaration about the imminent changes for which she prepares systematically, Sorabji fantasizes how women can take on new roles: ‘‘The emancipated woman worker! Women Land Agents; Women Dairy Farmers; Women Gardeners; Women Experts in Industry’’ (1936, 34)— images similar to those that her contemporary Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain depicts in the utopian Ladyland of Sultana’s Dream (1905). Sorabji’s imagination is tempered by a respect for custom; she cautions reformers not to ‘‘fling open the doors of the zenanas and let out the prisoners into the blinding brilliance of too rapid and ill-based reform’’ for fear that they might produce a ‘‘monotonous copy’’ (1891, 640–41). As cautionary tales of ‘‘ill-based reform,’’ she gives the example in India Calling (1934) of a young prince who went to England and whose bride was sent to France, resulting in a great misunderstanding between them when they returned to India to live out their marriage. In India Recalled, Sorabji uses the example of an Indian woman, Ganeshbala, whose tragic fate was an ‘‘inevitable product of unequal and too-rapid change in an ancient country’’ (1936, 11). Nevertheless, she also o√ers successful instances of a religio-technical modernity: there is Arnakali Devi, a child bride, emblematic of orthodox Hindu widowhood as an autocratic ruler of a joint-family zenana; and Prithvi Maharani, ‘‘the demurest little piece of wifely and motherly conservatism’’ (ibid., 119) who becomes Sorabji’s ultimate test case. The last chapter of India Recalled is

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a paean to progress and mobility, both technical and ideological. In ‘‘Bishun Singh and the Consecration of the Motor Garage—An Oblation to the Changing Times,’’ Bishun Singh’s grandmother anoints and then rides in a ‘‘purdah motor’’ (254), participating enthusiastically but with balance, ‘‘a combination rare and entirely attractive’’ (249). Sorabji counts among her friends the ‘‘Jat Princess’’ (102), Thakur Ma, and especially Mathaji Maharani, ‘‘the shrewdest, the most humorous, the most liberal-minded’’ (112), for whom she exhibits genuine admiration for advising her to blend modern education and custom. The larger landscape of global womanhood becomes part of what India needs, as Sorabji learns from her Indian and English counterparts. Her religio-technical vision of the future is expressed in her call to Englishwomen to join women everywhere in ‘‘the adventure of consolidating enlightenment and progress for all pilgrims of the family of God, on our one journey towards the Light—don’t miss it!’’ (Sorabji 1935a, 9–10). These sentiments are similar to those in India Recalled and an essay about her participation in an international women’s meeting in Vienna, ‘‘Wein and Women’’ (1930e). This is the era in which other Indian women blend modern technologies with a reverence for tradition— Sarala Devi, Nanibala Devi, her own sister Franscina Sorabji, Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain (founder of the Sakhawat Memorial Girls’ School), and Hemlata Devi (who started the Sadharan Brahmo School). Sorabji herself proudly lists women about whom any nation could boast: Toru Dutt, Pundita Ramabai, Anandibai Joshi, and Ramabai Ranade (1930f ). Sorabji’s class privilege and resultant ease with which she traverses spatial and cultural boundaries—across England, India, and the United States—make her aware that those territories are symbolic of di√erent chronologies, such as the Oxford campus, London streets, Indian zenanas, pilgrimage sites, homes of the progressives and orthodox, and hotels in the United States. Each location reminds her of her di√erence as well as her claim to membership, and confirms the need for a new kind of citizenship. In India Recalled, Sorabji prefigures the vocabularies of globalization in observing that ‘‘the world has shrunk, and we have become competitors in a race with women of other countries’’ (1936, 277). While her writings do not project her as a revolutionarily unruly subject, her life is anomalous to Western European and Anglo-American projections of underprivileged and submissive South Asian womanhood. Her works also make her own example of political and personal re-

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membering uncontainable in obedient subjecthood to British ideology, Indian nationalist agendas, and Indian feminist projections, both in her era and today.

Interregnum In the years that separate Sorabji from Randhawa, the accelerated flow of capital and labor in and from South Asia was guided increasingly by both international and Indian neocolonialist circuits. In England, exploitative and racially discriminating laws of immigration and citizenship channeled that flow (Visram 1986). That demos, in the forms of liberal pluralism and individual rights, persisted as a disguise for ethnos (membership by racial and cultural genealogy) became evident in the selective inclusions instituted by the series of immigration laws and labor policies before and since Sorabji’s time. The British Acts of 1813 and 1823 restricted sailors from Asia and Africa (citizens of the British Empire) from seeking residence. After World War I—a war in which colonial subjects fought in Britain’s defense—the Act of 1919 legalized di√erent pay rates for Indian, Chinese, and Caribbean sailors; in the same act, Section 5(2) of the Aliens Restriction (Amendment) Act mapped the position of such citizens explicitly in the use of the word ‘‘aliens,’’ and the subsequent Aliens Order of 1920 deprived them of legal status as Britons (Fryer 1984; Ramdin 1987; Walvin 1973). Sorabji’s temporary stay in England and occasional visits until the 1940s were received with a mixture of racial caution and a zeal to demonstrate the virtues of British cultural and political ideologies. J. M. Macfie, in his review of Sorabji’s India Calling in the British Weekly, describes how ‘‘she came to Oxford and London to study. Everybody was wonderfully kind. In her case there was no colour bar’’ (1935, 93). Such observations produced England as a philanthropic liberal patron and imply why others, who might have di√erent motivations, could be restricted. The same routes that brought Sorabji conveyed other travelers, notably activists and writers such as Una Marson (1905–1965) and Jean Rhys (1890–1979) from the Caribbean. Yet they faced relatively greater racial alienation, gender discrimination, and professional hardship, and their gynechronologies attest to their conflicted locatedness in British national-imperial history. The British Nationality Act of 1948 decreed that British subjects who

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were citizens of the United Kingdom, colonies, and Commonwealth could enter, settle, and work in Britain. The same populations brought in for cheap labor in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s became a threat in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, as globalization gained momentum, when England was caught in what the introduction to Black British Cultural Studies calls ‘‘Enoch Powell’s white nationalism and a triumphal Thatcherism’’ (Baker, Diawara, and Lindeborg 1996, 13). Organizations such as the Indian Workers’ Association and West Indian Standing Conference protested the exclusion from citizenship of their constituencies who fought to defend Britain’s political philosophies of democracy and liberty in World War II. The underlying strain of ethnos as the actual basis of the English nation began to emerge much more strongly in the criminalizing of black settlers in the 1940s and 1950s. These groups, associated with fears of miscegenation, uncontrolled sexuality, and lawbreaking, became objects of study by organizations like the Eugenics Society and Home A√airs Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration. Winston Churchill’s Conservative Cabinet discussed using ‘‘Keep Britain White’’ as a policy in 1955, and this was followed by the ‘‘White Britain’’ policy of the late 1960s. This racism erupted in Enoch Powell’s ‘‘rivers of blood’’ speech in April 1968, followed by his November speech that same year, at Eastbourne, in which he declared that the foreigner does not become an Englishman by being born in England. During that same period, there were demonstrations against the racist National Front (1967), and formations of groups such as Rock against Racism (1976) and the Anti Nazi League (1977), and journals like the antifascist Race Today. The 1971 Immigration Act, bolstered by the 1981 and 1983 British Nationality Acts, put an end to primary immigrant settlement, targeting groups that included people like Randhawa’s Sikh immigrant parents. The metamorphosis into the neoimperialist Thatcherite ghettoization of minorities in the 1970s and 1980s led to a series of urban riots, but were countered to some degree by the fact that in 1987, Britain had its first ethnic minority member of Parliament in nearly sixty-six years, from the Labour Party. In April 1999, however, there were bombings in London that were alleged to have targeted racial and sexual minorities. Randhawa’s generation, located in this milieu, faces the discrepancy between law (technical status as citizens based on demos) and cultural belonging (the actuality of ethnos) that Sorabji was able to navigate as

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twin aspects of citizenship. As Paul Gilroy observes, ‘‘For contemporary Britain, the limits of nation coincide with the limits of race’’ (1987, 60). In Randhawa’s case, British hegemony still controls the place of immigrant histories subalternized by a nation (England) and its continental a≈liation (the European Union). While England appears to be expanding across borders (European and international ones through transnational commercial relations), it continues to place increasingly rigid constraints on the political participation of its minoritized populations (women and racially categorized migrants and immigrants). The intersection of race, gender, and class in notions of nationality allowed Sorabji as a citizen of the empire to move freely as a beneficiary of both demos and ethnos. The same now enables but also constrains the mobilities of Randhawa, who faces a divide between demos and ethnos as a citizen in a postcolonial transnational circuit.

Randhawa’s Gynechronology: What England Needs In contrast with the upper-middle-class visitor and social worker Sorabji, the immigrant activist Randhawa is unequal in, but also a threat to racial and economic stratification and exploitation. The change from Sorabji’s to Randhawa’s position in relation to England is evident in the very vocabulary of nationality and race. Sorabji is a Parsi Indian citizen of the empire, while Randhawa is part of a community often categorized derogatorily as ‘‘Paki’’ (an abbreviation of Pakistani) or ‘‘wog’’ (an abbreviation for golliwog, which is slang for black). Paradoxically, blackness has become an identity with which Randhawa is frequently associated— namely, Black British, a term based on a sense of political solidarity with other minoritized peoples in Britain such as those of African and Caribbean origin. The identity signifies unity not only against the erasure of one’s history and culture but a demand for full citizenship in the present. As Gilroy remarks, ‘‘It is impossible to theorize black culture in Britain without developing a new perspective on British culture as a whole. This must be able to see behind contemporary manifestations into the cultural struggles which characterize the imperial and colonial period’’ (1987, 156). In this context of race and citizenship, Randhawa is both obedient and unruly; her 1973 degree in English from the London Polytechnic symbolizes a kind of training that Sorabji sought for her purdahnashins, and

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appears to o√er the promise of recognition as a citizen that Sorabji desired so strongly. After teaching for a year (1975–1976), Randhawa actualized what Sorabji had aspired to—the culmination of her dream in studying to become a barrister—and never attained o≈cially: the position of a British civil servant. Randhawa’s life and texts, however, are part of the tidal waves of increasing revolutionary movements of the populace (workers, students, women, and so forth), movements of the counterculture and responses to the oppressive and aggressive tactics of large industry, finance, and government sectors. Randhawa’s activism is informed by her participation in the Asian Women Writers’ Collective and Southall Black Sisters, against the background of rising labor unemployment, racial and gender discrimination, and urban distress, a milieu quite di√erent from Sorabji’s times and the missionary spirit of the Federation of University Women in India and Bengal League for Social Service. Randhawa’s novel A Wicked Old Woman can be read as a socioanthropological document of postcolonial Britain as much as Sorabji’s India Recalled is of colonized India. In this semiautobiographical testimony, Randhawa’s task of portraying the journey of Indians to England, home of their ex-colonial ruler, is preconditioned by the fact that the Indian subject (in terms of political subordination and individual identity) is marginal or absent in the landscape of British democracy and nationhood, as I’ve described above. Set in England, the narrative had already begun in India, from where her father had brought them—they had emerged out of the fragmentation created by the formation of India and Pakistan, in the hopes of economic and social betterment, to become part of the cycles of globalization. As the protagonist Kuli says, ‘‘England allured and England procured and like tadpoles to a shark we swam right in deep into its pink mouth . . . part of the endless stream from grain to tea to art to ideas’’ (Randhawa 1987, 15). Sorabji had been a part of this stream, but now, not only does the stream flow one way, there are paradoxes inherent in the allurement—the ex-colonized are ‘‘incorporated’’ into the system only as marginals or outsiders. In other words, they are taken in, in the sense of being both ‘‘admitted’’ and ‘‘lured.’’ Moreover, the attractiveness of the illusion (the pink mouth) disguises its predatory danger (the shark). The imbalance of power between the tadpoles and shark only emphasizes the success of this transaction and ensures its perpetuation.

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To Indians, England is a place of opportunity, yet also a place of degradation and corruption: ‘‘God knows what happens when you send daughters out to work. . . . If you’re with English people all the time, it’s not long before you pick up their ways. . . . Once a family goes to the bad it never gets right’’ (ibid., 69). These words make England decadent and inferior, reversing the myth of India as the corrupt land that lures virtuous Englishmen and Englishwomen.∂ Both English and Indian, then, agree to reside in mutual distrust. For Indians, this separation is maintained by the desire to preserve a past that gathers ‘‘a rosy hue around itself, acquiring a perfection . . . which the reality had never possessed’’ (150). The past becomes the measure of a present existence, a transfixed and therefore safe place in which immigrants have ‘‘left a blank outline of themselves waiting for a day when they could step back into the frame’’ (7). This nostalgia only seems to justify rendering them into absent political and social entities in the present. Memory thus causes a simultaneous territorialization and deterritorialization, resuscitating the past and marking its territories in the mind, while preventing the possession of or assimilation into new territories; Arthur Wesley Helweg (1979) observes this displacement in the experience of Sikhs in England. Contrast Sorabji’s attempt to reterritorialize into the present those perceived to be living in the past. Due to the nature of this memory, Randhawa, unlike Sorabji, does not present a future that is a neat suturing of East and West. Also unlike Sorabji who displays her di√erence proudly, Randhawa’s protagonist Kuli learns to keep her ‘‘past’’ identity as an Indian invisible while attempting to assimilate into a postimperial modernity prescribed by formative institutions like the school she attends. As the second epigraph to this essay indicates, freedom bears ‘‘an English patent and to be free [is] to imitate an Englishness.’’ Kuli overcomes her sense of marginality by imitating others and taking a boyfriend, choosing symbols central to Englishness: blond, blue-eyed Michael ‘‘the Archangel’’ (Randhawa 1987, 6) and then Mark/Karm. She faces the same pressures that most immigrant South Asian children experience (Crishna 1975, 6). Nevertheless, she is only further removed from the claim of self-definition since in Michael’s eyes, she is the exotic, mysterious ‘‘Indian Princess,’’ ‘‘our Inscrutable Eastern Beauty,’’ and ‘‘Oh Lady of the Land of the Kama Sutra’’ (Randhawa 1987, 6). These images, reminiscent of the seemingly more complimentary description of Sorabji as a ‘‘wise woman of the

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East,’’ draw from the same distorted English memory to relegate Kuli to a zone of timelessness. Kuli is unable to resist Michael’s overtures because the claim to any other kind of territory is denied her. Either from deliberate indi√erence or genuine ignorance, the British deterritorialize her by confusing the Indians of Asia with those of the American continent. As Michael, Kuli’s school sweetheart, says scornfully, ‘‘Take this Indian to her wig-wam’’ (ibid., 26). In contrast, the young blond woman who confronts Kuli and her family correctly locates the region by religion. In her outright hostility toward these aliens who now inhabit her native territory, she recognizes their participation in modernity and, at the same time, relegates them to a place outside the modern, as she shouts at them: ‘‘I’m not a rich sod like you wogs. . . . Getting down on your knees and grovelling on the ground . . . [w]ith your mumbo-jumbo and Hari-Krishnas’’ (125).∑ In response, Indians commodify their ‘‘ancient culture’’ so that there is a ‘‘part of England that is forever India’’ (33). One remembers Sorabji’s objection to both Indian nationalists and British imperialists for adopting this Orientalizing strategy to participate in modernity. Kuli’s sons become English citizens by using ethnos (their foreignness) to claim demos (the privileges denied to that foreignness). Anup, her eldest, joins the enterprise culture ‘‘that made him feel successful . . . part of an elite’’ by commodifying Indian history as seen by Buppies, ‘‘Black Yuppies,’’ in his book project ‘‘The Invisible Indian’’ (100). His ‘‘Indian Emporia’’ creates a ‘‘simulation Sub-continent . . . a home from home for the Asian woman . . . [and] a helping hand for the Asian man shell-shocked from . . . the revolving-door racism and vagaries of white bureaucracy’’ (31). Arvind, Kuli’s other son, assimilates by marriage and becomes ‘‘a real working-class Black-Englishman hero with his white wife [Shirley] at his side’’ (92). He teaches his children Hindi to complement their English; he thus crosses the borders constructed by languages (signifiers of power and cultural uniqueness) by using those very same tools in a way that he hopes will be ‘‘good for business’’ (94). Arvind and Shirley’s children hold a place similar to Eurasians in the colonies that Maud Diver called ‘‘the pathetic half and halfs who seemed to inhabit a racial no-man’s-land’’ (1921, 298). This nebulous area of racial and cultural alienation is already Kuli’s habitat since she is a selfdeclared exile from the world of the preceding and succeeding generations. Kuli’s a√air with Mark/Karm and British socialism o√ers a way to

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claim demos. Randhawa wrote Kuli’s story in a period when the Greater London Council introduced the Ethnic Minorities Committee, in 1984, to study and combat institutional racism. Like Kuli’s a√air, such projects promise change but ultimately fail. For Kuli, unlike Sorabji, removal from definite political a≈liations is aggravated by the experience of being in limbo along with a lack of direction (Crishna 1975, 7). Kuli’s position also contrasts with Kim’s in Kipling’s novel of that name, fifty years earlier, in which Kim’s suspension between East and West is resolved as a happy synthesis. Kuli is burdened only with ‘‘the crystallised nostalgia of the exile, an empty womb,’’ with the feeling that ‘‘but for England, [she] would be whole’’ (Randhawa 1987, 96), a sentiment that contrasts sharply with Sorabji’s faith in England. For Randhawa, any possibility of a gynechronology is suspended between a coagulated past and an unknowable future. Her protagonist Kuli conveys the stories of the ‘‘disappearing women captured on polaroid’’ (ibid., 161)—a paradoxical attempt to transfix what gradually metamorphoses into nothingness. This wicked old Asian woman, as her English friend Caroline nicknames her, deliberately descends, through the camouflage of the bag lady, a step lower on the social ladder in defiance of the categories to which she has been forced to subscribe. She feels that ‘‘she’d stepped across the line that separated spectators from participants’’ (23); Sorabji’s journey could be described in the same words, but it has very di√erent consequences. This dissident female figure also challenges familial duty by removing the emotional anchorage expected of a traditional mother and becoming a wanderer. Kuli’s goal is to ‘‘create a woman who would, by her example, inspire many others’’ (93); again, Sorabji believes she has done the same, but with quite di√erent implications. Like Kuli, other women in the novel such as her friends Big Sis, Rani, Ammi, and Maya feel the gift and curse of freedom because the consequence of ‘‘Asian girls’’ leaving home is further marginalization. Dissidence arises out of this state of suspension for ‘‘sub-world itinerants, who have opted out of normal life and live like urban gypsies’’ (107).∏ Big Sis refuses a proposal of marriage-without-dowry—a lucky catch for an Indian woman; she opts instead to find independence by becoming a leader of a factory labor union. Rani voluntarily chooses anonymity in halfway houses under the alias Rosalind. She expresses her resentment of racial and cultural categories to her doctor: ‘‘Don’t you give me your Indian greeting, I was born on English soil you know. So what if my

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colour’s di√erent? It’s an even sun-tan’’ (Randhawa 1987, 82). Ammi, discarded by her husband and family, joins the Greenham Peace Camp’s protest against the use of nuclear power. Maya the journalist’s unfulfilled dream is representative of the aborted journeys of other women in the novel. She had wanted to be ‘‘one of the Great Explorers . . . [g]oing where no man, note man, has gone before, charting regions unknown’’ (ibid., 56) to search for a self lost under the rubble of social definitions. Maya’s story about an unusual woman, the ‘‘zig-zag woman . . . [who] saw the world in zig-zag ways’’ (183), becomes a parable of women like Kuli who form a sisterhood of dissidence. Their gynechronologies remain resistant to dominant national-patriarchal prescriptions of citizenship that are based on restrictive notions of ethnic belonging. Kuli eventually abandons her disguise as a bag lady, acknowledging that the camouflage had been a crutch. She does not, however, abandon her search to give expression to the suppressed histories of rebels like Rani and herself. Kuli gathers this band of unruly women in the inner cities of London and takes on a di√erent kind of enterprise in an enterprise culture. She produces a new sense of English and Indian culture and race to achieve the dream of creating a hybrid reality (for other accounts, see Lewis and Parmar 1988; Bryan, Dadzie, and Scafe 1985; Bhachu 1988; Phoenix 1997). The title of the final chapter, ‘‘. . . The Day Done Come,’’ hints at a feeling of inevitable doom, but also conveys a sense of momentousness, roused by a spirit of crusade and fueled by a sense of determination. The contours of a new history are unclear, yet the signs, even ones that lie outside the present narrative, are enough for the women. Kuli ‘‘[rubs] the colour on her skin, which wasn’t ever going to rub o√, and [makes] her decision’’ (Randhawa 1987, 29) to map her own resistant history. The nature of her choice has changed radically since Sorabji’s time, for now being ‘‘Black’’ in Britain is about a state of declaring a political kinship with other minorities; Chela Sandoval (1991), Kobena Mercer (1990), and Chandra Mohanty (1997) have modeled such feminist minority alliances. Kuli and her cohort live not beyond ‘‘the color bar’’ (as J. M. Macfie had described Sorabji’s more privileged place) but in constant negotiation with and resistance to it. In the British landscapes of the early twenty-first century when membership is determined by either jus sanguinis or jus solis, Randhawa remains unruly by standing between them. Where Sorabji imagines a role because her ethnic heritage, religious belief, and education grant

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her that privilege, Randhawa is caught in what Gillian Rose calls a ‘‘paradoxical space’’ within which one is included and excluded simultaneously (1993, 150). Sorabji creates her gynechronology on the basis of reified ‘‘racial’’ di√erence that leads, through reconstructed terms, to a solidarity toward assimilation. Randhawa creates instead, despite reified ‘‘racial’’ di√erence, a solidarity for reconstruction through nonassimilation. She converts Sorabji’s confident understanding of ‘‘what India needs’’ into a reminder of what England needs to do—that is, to account for uncounted members in its teleology of progress.π Randhawa’s gynechronology presents a sense of place that remains at odds with the English neocolonial nationalist agenda as well as the often reactionary traditionalisms of immigrant communities. The questions still remain: Who shall be counted as citizens? Who shall participate in the making of the future?

Distant Relatives: One Possible Conclusion Both Sorabji and Randhawa address the emergence of the new woman, as interventionists in their own eras; they o√er scripts that are read infrequently, but that should be part of the dramas of globalization. Each challenges a nostalgic imperialism and nationalism in di√erent ways. Both authors ask for new productions of knowledge based on redefined concepts of citizenship. Both demand a cultural reorientation, a modernizing force that keeps pace with or reflects the systems at work, and moves from homologies of culture with race and nation to complex transnational structures. Sorabji and Randhawa capture women’s histories, but also histories as imagined and written by women themselves. Thus, they ask for a place in the making of modern time, however unformed or tenuous that place may be. They both argue for historicity— that is, the consciousness of being in history, and of the manner of enacting and recording it. Their own response is to construct histories that include certain constituencies (such as the women for whom they advocate) and demonstrate how those histories change the notion of a future. While Sorabji reconstructs within given (and imposed) ideological frameworks, Randhawa demands new ones. The historical periodizations to which Sorabji and Randhawa are confined are certainly indicative of the parameters unique to their positions in relation to colonial and postcolonial India and England. Still, the juxta-

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position of these two subjects—the women and their eras—reveals that the neatness of distinct periods is artificial. Those divisions cannot conceal the vestigial political, social, and economic inequities, in national and individual histories as well as scattered places (Punjab, Bengal, London, Oxford, the zenana, and the immigrant home), that inspire Sorabji’s and Randhawa’s gynechronologies. In the context of the canonization of cultural texts, the writers discussed here could and should be placed alongside their more well-known literary and political contemporaries: for instance, Virginia Woolf (England) and Sarojini Naidu (India) for Sorabji, and Angela Carter (England) and Pratibha Parmar (India/ England) for Randhawa. This new mapping would underscore the artificiality of current canonicity that considers them all separately, or not at all; it would be a reminder of their significance in discussions of modernity, citizenship, and history; it would also uncover, to a greater degree, the troubled relationship between canonicity and postmodern di√erence (Carby 1996; S. Mohanty 1997; Bhabha 1996; Sandoval 1991; Spivak 1997). Politically invested debates still continue to rage over the extrinsicality or intrinsicality of these subjects who are deemed unruly, like Sorabji and Randhawa, because they are new or emergent to present-day contained bodies of knowledge. The e√ort to advocate their place in time, or declare their separateness in a history of their own, is worthwhile, but it risks an inclusion of otherness that does not create a fundamental shift in the perception of terms such as demos and ethnos, nor a di√erent understanding of words like ‘‘nation,’’ ‘‘foreign,’’ ‘‘citizen,’’ and ‘‘future.’’ This chapter does not so much ask for the canonization of Sorabji and Randhawa; it demonstrates instead that reconfigurations must necessarily warrant a redefinition of the assumed whole.

Notes 1

Touraine’s thesis (1977) is that social movements by women, youth, and antinuclear peace coalitions arise with changes in modes of production, and contest systems of knowledge production. It does not explain, however, the hierarchical inequities that gender and race create. Among others, Anthias and Yuval-Davis (1993, 9, 29) show how state legislation racializes, ethnicizes, and genders subjects to define identity. 2 Contrast Nava and O’Shea (1996); the only essay on ‘‘black’’ peoples—in ‘‘a century of English modernity,’’ as the subtitle to the volume reads—is on a visitor, Paul Robeson, in Bill Schwarz’s ‘‘Black Metropolis in White London.’’ 3 Sorabji’s father, Reverend Sorabji Kharsedji, converted to Christianity, and Cornelia was

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named after a Christian army o≈cer’s wife, her godmother Lady Cornelia Ford, who had raised her mother, Franscina. For a detailed genealogy, see Burton 1998, 115–16. Elizabeth Manning was the secretary of the Indian National Association. 4 Robin Alden, a character in nineteenth-century author Edward Thompson’s An Indian Day, voices a typical feeling that has lingered into the twentieth century: ‘‘We go on judging them [Indians] because they’re not first-rate Englishmen in dark skins. . . . We seem to them incredibly rough and rasping; and they seem to us worms. We’re both right—by our own standards’’ (cited in Belliappa 1991, 316). 5 Parry comments that ‘‘Indians were feared not only as subjects who had once rebelled and who could do so again, but as perverts threatening to invade and seduce the white world’’ (1972, 4). Helweg records a similar fear: ‘‘An Englishman walking through their residential area may feel like a foreigner in his own country and fear that the Asians are taking over his homeland. Southall . . . is appropriately called . . . ‘Little Punjab’ ’’ (1979, 1). 6 Kuli’s resistance is symbolic of young women’s participation in minority protests such as the 1985 Brixton riots. Dolly Ki≈n, one such activist on the Broadwater Farm estate (and called ‘‘Mama Queen’’ in reports), created a Youth Association in 1982. 7 For a revisioning of English ethnicity, see Haseler 1996. Randhawa’s contemporary Angela Carter depicts multicultural tribe worlds as social structures in fables such as Heroes and Villains (1969).

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One day, I was calling household help wanted ads in a South Asian newspaper, trying to find a domestic worker’s job for an undocumented woman. On one such call, I told an employer who was going to pay $100 a month for a round-the-clock domestic worker that such wages were against the law. She responded with palpable venom and contempt, and with shock at being challenged at all, ‘‘How dare she ask for legal wages! She is illegal. Who is she to talk about the law to me?’’ Yet another time, I had just finished mailing packets to employers with information about a domestic workers’ organization, the rights of domestic workers, and the legal responsibilities of employers.∞ One of the active members, a live-in domestic worker, told me that when her employer received the packet, she glanced at the materials without really reading them and said, ‘‘Well this does not really apply to us. You are not a domestic worker. You are a member of our family.’’ This is the same employer who had threatened a few months before to call the police when our member, tired of being insulted, had said she wanted to leave the job. These incidents foreground some of the key conditions of the domestic work industry in general, as well as certain conditions created by the fact that in the U.S. South Asian community, most of the workers are hired by South Asians. A demeaning feature of this industry is the assumption that a domestic worker is a kind of indentured laborer: her ‘‘salary’’ is a token, and the employer assumes complete control over

someone who is unlikely to be able to a√ord autonomy. The severity of this exploitation is aggravated by an employer’s intimate knowledge of a worker’s legal and social nonperson status as undocumented (stemming from selective citizenship and immigration privileges). This enables the employer to dismiss her as a person who can be exploited and whose abuse will go unchallenged. Second, the employers are confident in being able to disguise exploitation under familial ties—invoking a shared culture of food, religion, and home (also the worker’s workplace). Third, the employers use the law as a weapon with which to intimidate the worker at the same time that they are confident about their own legal immunity. Although it is illegal to hire an undocumented worker, employers clearly do not fear legal repercussions against themselves, feeling protected on the whole as legal and bourgeois residents. In short, the low value of women’s labor, the ideology of the family home, and the U.S. nation-state’s law enforcement ideology and legal definition of personhood all combine to dictate the conditions of immigrant domestic workers. Exploitation of such workers, who are disproportionately women of color, immigrant women, and Third World women in the United States and other First World countries, is hardly a new phenomenon historically. Nigel Harris notes that ‘‘domestic labour has expanded very rapidly in recent decades. . . . The movement is more international than ever before, but in part it resumes processes last seen on this relative scale in Europe and North America in the nineteenth century’’ (1995, 36). For the purposes of organizing and theorizing, however, it is important to understand the forms and practices in the domestic work industry within the context of contemporary community life in a globally connected world. As a community organizer in New York City’s South Asian population, I began to hear stories of the exploitation of domestic workers a little over ten years ago, and we initiated the first organizing e√ort for domestic workers in 1994. I am most familiar with the community I have named above, which is what I explore in order to understand the local and global conditions, processes, and institutional structures that facilitate the industry’s exploitative existence.≤ It is crucial to remember that although household workers labor under certain unique conditions, they also have much in common with other immigrant workers. Here, I examine some of the complexities around relationships between women in di√erent roles in di√erent spaces, as employers, wives, workers, and community

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organizers. I will first discuss the working conditions and relationships that rule the lives of South Asian domestic workers in the spaces in which they work as well as inhabit, then I will explore the larger immigration policy and culture that structure and promote such conditions and relationships in the United States, and finally, I will look at the challenges and potential for organizing work.

Exploitation and Intimacy Most South Asian female domestic workers are hired predominantly by other privileged South Asians for the reasons described above, unlike Latina or Filipina domestic workers, for example, who may be exploited largely by employers from other communities.≥ South Asian employers prefer South Asian domestic workers because of the workers’ familiarity with the employers’ culture and the intimate knowledge of the employers about the workers’ vulnerabilities, thereby facilitating the maximum degree of exploitation. Workers remain trapped in these jobs due to their lack of English-language capabilities, nontransferable skills, economic hardship, and lack of legal employment papers. For them, the cultural familiarity, although comforting at times, is more often a source of oppression. Most domestic workers in the South Asian community live at the home of their employer. One such live-in worker, Sumita, typifies some of the conditions encountered by employees—she worked as a housekeeper, baby-sitter, and cook for a wealthy Long Island Indian family (the man was an investment banker and the wife a computer programmer). It is common for employers to claim initially that they are hiring a baby-sitter, and then have the worker do everything. Sumita’s employers required her to work from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., seven days a week. She received $400 per month.∂ The employers verbally harassed Sumita, rarely allowed her to leave the house, and confiscated her passport. Her isolation was extreme because she was confined to a suburban home in an unfamiliar town. Eventually, she literally escaped with the help of a family visitor and miraculously found the needed help. Long workweeks, no vacations or days o√, less than minimum wages, no benefits, verbal and at times physical harassment, regulated meals, health problems from overwork, inadequate sleep and rest, relentless tension, the withholding of a passport, and threats of deportation are typical problems that many domestic workers face. Sometimes, the

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worker may come directly from the airport to the house, and may not know the name of the town or, in some instance, even her own telephone number. The worker is usually too afraid to protest even in an abusive situation as she risks being cast out and made homeless. In one case, a diabetic worker never got adequate meals and was directed not to touch most of the food, even though she cooked it. She related to me one of her most humiliating moments when desperately crazed with hunger, she ate a rotting apple from the garbage. Another worker explained how every night, she would eat very late, and only after all the work was done, in a corner of the kitchen, supervised by the employer. In the ‘‘home’’ that the employer either rents or owns, and where the worker labors and lives, the employer clearly has rights, governed by strict notions of privacy and ownership arising quite simply from a financial transaction that the employer fulfills. In such a culture dictated by the financial power of ownership (as opposed to considerations such as the worker’s labor), this functional home, for the worker, is strictly a place in which to sleep and eat. The employer thus sets not just the terms of her working but also her living conditions. In most cases, the worker may not have any other space to call unambiguously home, as is commonly meant by the word. In an earlier work (Bhattacharjee 1997), I discussed the conflicting social constructions of home that are exposed when the domestic worker’s position is juxtaposed with that of a battered woman. There, I look at the connotations of the heterosexual marital home as ‘‘private’’ for employers and ‘‘public’’ (as a workplace) for the domestic worker, and demonstrate that neither the private nor public connotations are particularly enabling for either woman. One should note, however, that because of hard-won battles by the women’s movement, a battered woman may be able to get legal remedy, a court order, to eject the batterer from the home so that she can continue to stay. It would be unthinkable for a domestic worker, even though her labor contributes significantly to the maintenance of the household, to envision the possibility of telling her abusive employers to vacate the premises. In the legal and cultural context of a home, solely defined by private property and/or heterosexual and patriarchal marital bonds, it is unfortunately the worker who faces homelessness if she wishes to leave. It is also important to point out that although a woman employer, abused by her husband, and a domestic worker are both women who are oppressed in the home, the employer-worker rela-

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tionship more often than not supersedes solidarity as women. As Nahar Alam asserts, ‘‘When a worker is working for an employer, that employer has power . . . and can do anything. . . . The woman employer may be a su√erer who is being abused by her husband. But she does not care; she has money and she is controlling the worker’’ (cited in Bhattacharjee and Mathur 1999, 17–18). Domestic work is further characterized by peculiarities arising out of the close, relentless contact between employer and worker. As Angela Davis comments, ‘‘People who work as servants are generally viewed as less than human beings. Inherent in the dynamic of the master-servant (or mistress-maid) relationship . . . is the constant striving to annihilate the consciousness of the servant’’ (1982, 97). In my experience as an organizer, this has translated into the employer’s intense scrutiny of the worker’s life and work, an almost pathological desire to extract the maximum manual labor at all times, and a blurring of lines with regard to the workers’ duties in maintaining the employer’s personal cleanliness and mental health. A few of the workers have described, with some embarrassment, having to throw away used condoms and sanitary pads. One domestic worker often said in public speeches that if it were acceptable to wash the employer after she or he goes to the toilet, she or he would make the worker do that. Many workers have sleepless nights when employers insist that they attend to their baby, who may wake up frequently. Most employers expect the worker to have no life outside service to the employers’ family. One of the ways in which they often express this is by depriving her of private space—while some workers may get a room to themselves, this still does not shelter them adequately from overwork. The worker’s sleeping quarters can also often be in the corridor, by the television, or with the baby. If the worker can claim a space, it can be noisy, uncomfortable, or frightening (when men pass through the space), not to mention o√ering no respite from work. Workers also complain about employers’ assumption that the worker is available, if needed, as an emotional outlet, regardless of the worker’s own desire, opinion, or time. As some of the workers wearily say, ‘‘She talks, I listen.’’ Some call this ‘‘emotional labor’’—nurturing, counseling, and sacrificing one’s own welfare. One worker who got no leave finally convinced the employer to provide a weekend o√ after every two weeks of continuous work. She returned from her first free weekend to find the employer unhappy and grumbling about how this practice was too taxing after their own week’s

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hard work. The employer made the worker feel quite guilty for being selfindulgent; only after the worker discussed these feelings at a meeting with other workers did she realize how the employer was manipulating her. As is evident, one of the consequences of live-in domestic work is the worker’s emotional vulnerability, especially as she works and is forced to live in the same location. The employer can hold this power over her, alternating between familial and punitive gestures. If the worker needs a day o√ or needs to see a doctor, she may wait for weeks before bringing it up, if at all, knowing that the consequence is to confront an employer’s unpleasantness for days. Shahida Ahmed says, ‘‘They can go out, go to the movies, do anything. But when we say we need [a] vacation . . . their faces change. If they give permission by some luck, they give it very reluctantly and not in a nice way’’ (cited in Bhattacharjee and Mathur 1999, 17). Lest this emotional aspect of the relationship be mistaken for a form of ‘‘benevolent’’ feudalism, Mary Romero notes that ‘‘feudal relations . . . no longer exist. We live in a relentlessly capitalistic society. . . . [P]aternalism and maternalism may resemble feudalistic relationships, [but] this level of analysis serves only to conceal real sources of exploitation. . . . Like all workers under capitalism, private household workers exchange their labor for wages, and even when the employee-employer relationship is masked by notions of the employee being ‘one of the family,’ employers take no responsibility for protecting or caring for them’’ (1992, 93). I do not, of course, mean to suggest that even a benevolent feudalism is a better system. Romero’s comment is interesting because it serves as a reminder of the present context. A worker’s constant availability provides employers with the excuse to extract maximum labor by dictating duties they would otherwise not even bother to have done, resulting in ridiculous task lists and tremendous overwork. One worker relates how if she took a moment’s respite, the employer would dig out silver to shine or would tell her to clean window corners. A worker may be asked to move furniture several times weekly, polish bathroom floors on hands and knees, clean the inside of the toilet bowl without brushes, clean the fridge and oven daily, do loads of laundry and iron every day, hand wash an inordinate amount, make certain timeconsuming food daily, and so forth. When I have loosely compared some live-in domestic work to slavery, some have challenged my depiction as inaccurate. Keeping in mind that slavery has a unique and complicated

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history in the United States, I would like to support my claim by quoting Phyllis Palmer: ‘‘Three factors metaphorically and structurally linked housework and slavery: not treating domestics as people independent of their employers, designing housework to give domestics the physically hardest tasks, and demanding almost unlimited working hours’’ (1989, 73). Ironically, I have noticed some employers simultaneously describe domestic work as not significant labor, as relaxing, as being free of bosses, fun, and so on. Given that the women’s movement has challenged the way housewives are often perceived, the extent to which women are socialized to discount their own/women’s labor becomes evident when women employers especially express such sentiments. Romero aptly suggests that images of housework are derived from those of ‘‘the home [in that it] is assumed to be an escape from the world of work and a haven for leisure activities and emotional warmth. In fact, activities in the home are sometimes confused with leisure; housewives are perceived as enjoying free time not available to employed women. Full-time homemaking has even been held up to women as preferable to employment outside the home because they can be their own boss’’ (1992, 21). When I was talking to an employer about a possible job and objecting to the heavy workload and low pay, she claimed, ‘‘It is not work at all. My daughter has to wear a suit, get into the car, drive through tra≈c. I for one would think that this job is enjoyable and relaxing.’’ She was taken aback when I said that perhaps her daughter would like to be a domestic worker, and stated with a shocked laugh, ‘‘Oh, her husband won’t let her.’’ This demonstrates that not only is the work devalued but it is also lacking in social esteem. This perception is based on the distinction between housework and ‘‘real’’ work; the former is not seen as ‘‘productive labor . . . [with] values [that] can be exchanged in the capitalist marketplace’’ (Romero 1992, 21). In a similar vein, one finds employers talking about domestic workers as if they were mobile on a social ladder, and ignoring the fact that an undocumented domestic worker has few such opportunities. Romero argues that ‘‘women of color experience [this work] as an ‘occupational ghetto.’ . . . [T]he act of cleaning up after others is frequently assigned to subordinates’’ (27). The worker is not fooled by the illusion of home that disguises exploitation; the employer’s familial gestures only serve to remind her about the hypocrisy of the home in which she is forced to live. While employers

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may occasionally relieve their own minds of vestiges of guilt (if there is any), the worker experiences the intimacy of the alleged home as supplying more work, loneliness, exploitation, and discomfort. She does not need such a home. At a minimum, she needs a living wage so that she can have her own home. Neither bound by family (even if only patriarchal) nor recognized by traditional labor (even if only exploited), she is transgressive in spaces conventionally identified with family or labor.

Immigration Policy: Privilege and Marginality The culture and policies of immigration play central roles in determining the conditions and relationships within industries that are heavily dependent on cheap immigrant labor such as domestic work. In the current climate, the bias of U.S. immigration toward professional skills and bourgeois credentials bolster the sense of entitlement (legal and social) of the class to which the employer is likely to belong. In the United States as in Canada (the latter incidentally has tended to have slightly better immigration laws), migrant domestic workers are assigned to the least-desired category of the ‘‘unskilled,’’ in ‘‘citizenship statuses subordinate to those of their citizen-employers. These may range from undocumented (or illegal) status, to indentured servitude or virtual slavery’’ (Bakan and Stasiulis 1997, 30–31). The majority of South Asian domestic workers come on visas frequently obtained by employers themselves, concealing the fact that they are brought solely to service the latter. The professional legally documented employers encourage and advise them on obtaining such visas, knowing that there is no immigration law to allow such entry into the United States openly. Laws and nation-state structures both benefit the already privileged class. The employer’s legal and documented immigration status carries social, economic, and cultural power that provides protection from law enforcement. Supported moreover by the laws as well as the culture of privacy and ownership, the employer’s home (also the worker’s functional home and workplace) is a space immune to legal scrutiny that allows for unlimited exploitation and control. There are labor laws to protect even the undocumented domestic worker, but the larger culture of subjugation of this class makes such laws largely irrelevant to her.∑ While both employer and worker are subject to immigration laws that forbid illegal employment, the employer is likely to threaten to report the

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worker and have her deported. In a culture of disrespect for workerimmigrants whose status as unskilled has ‘‘racial and gendered dimensions’’ (C. Mohanty 1997, 16), the worker experiences economic exploitation, shame, and vulnerability to being reported and deported. Saskia Sassen emphasizes that nation-states play a part in this fear by selectively lifting border controls ‘‘for the flow of capital, information, [and] services . . . to further globalization. But when it comes to immigrants and refugees whether in North America, Western Europe or Japan, we see the national state claiming all its old splendor, and asserting its sovereign right to control its borders’’ (1996a, 7). Women come here as—or they become—domestic workers due to poverty, as economies in South Asia are increasingly strained by the current global economy; because of domestic violence that one is unable to escape inside the home country; and as a result of widowhood or abandonment, often with children and no source of financial support from one’s family or spouse. Immigration typically results in downward class mobility for a domestic worker here who may have been lower middle/middle class in South Asia. Eighty percent of her earnings in the United States may be sent back home to support family members. Due to her immigration and economic status that make travel and communication impossible, she has little hope of visiting or sponsoring her family. South Asia, a place charged with intense personal economic burden, is also where she has left her loved ones in desperation and her children frequently in the care of extended family members. As Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo and Ernestine Avila have observed, ‘‘Being a transnational mother means more than being the mother to children raised in another country. It means forsaking deeply felt beliefs that biological mothers should raise their own children, and replacing that belief with new definitions of motherhood’’ (1997, 557). This global flow of migrant workers is restricted, underground, and risky; the women and men travel in the shadow of the elite, at the mercy of the elite, and often without any hope of return to their original homeland. Although the global economic system, and therefore the United States, is deeply implicated in the flow of such workers, Sassen insightfully points out that ‘‘immigration policy is shaped by an understanding of immigration as the consequence of the individual actions. . . . [T]he receiving country is . . . not implicated in the process of emigration,’’ thus making ‘‘the individual the site for accountability and for enforcement’’

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(1996a, 8–9). Some employers tempt and retain a domestic worker with promises of sponsorship for the much-coveted green card, even as the worker is unaware that this goal is practically unattainable for so-called unskilled workers, and not informed about the time limits pertaining to her visa. Her status eventually lapses and she becomes undocumented/ illegal/criminalized, the historical fate of many exploited immigrant workers in the United States. The South Asian bourgeoisie, on the other hand, is on the road to increasing upward mobility into a global bourgeoisie. Able to travel and communicate on an increasingly global scale, their economic power straddles the United States and South Asia because of their privileged immigration status and power of legal residency in the First World. They can expand their class in the United States by bringing family members to the country on an income that is well above the legally approved income level for immigration sponsors. They are certainly in a position to find workers through word-of-mouth or newspaper ads in South Asia, bring them to the United States from South Asia, and set the domestic workers’ wages according to South Asia’s standard of poverty. As we have seen, the global bourgeoisie has control over its own movements and that of the worker. Just as easily as the employer can import a worker, she or he can also send one back (even against her will). In one case, a worker for a un employee was kept practically imprisoned and not allowed to use the phone. She called our organization by chance, but by the time we could act, the employer found out about it and immediately sent her back, unpaid, to South Asia. She spoke no English, did not understand what they were doing, was found wandering in a transit lounge in Europe, and helped by a passenger onto the correct flight back to South Asia. Her hardship had changed her appearance so much that her family could not believe that it was she. The globally connected bourgeoisie enjoys privileges with law enforcement not just in the United States but also in South Asia. In the case of a worker in our group who was suing her past employer for cruelty and past wages, the wellconnected and powerful employer threatened police and/or gangster retaliation in South Asia against her relatively powerless husband. Though terrified, she maintained her courage, and the employers, fearful of public exposure by our group, came to a financial settlement. Immigration policies help the U.S. nation-state to strengthen the rights and power of highly educated, highly skilled men and their fam-

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ilies. In the process, it makes invisible and subjugates those deemed unskilled and less educated, a category containing many women. The Immigration and Naturalization Service (ins) documentation system allows the law to pretend ignorance, and let poor and working-class immigrants into the country; indeed, their cheap labor is needed to fuel this country’s economy. Yet at the same time, ins enforcement pushes them beyond the realm of documentation—further underground, afraid to organize, and even more exploitable. As Nigel Harris remarks, ‘‘Governments appear as hostile to immigrant domestic workers as to others who are classified as unskilled, even though home help is a decisive factor in the productivity of women workers. In economic terms, domestics may contribute disproportionately to national productivity by enabling highly productive workers to work’’ (1995, 37). If governments genuinely did not want such ‘‘illegal’’ household workers, then there surely would be more discussions about alternatives. Angela Davis contends that the lack of discussion is because ‘‘the capitalist economy is structurally hostile to the industrialization of [socialized] housework . . . [in that it] implies large government subsidies . . . to the working-class families whose needs for such services are most obvious . . . and little in the way of profits would result’’ (cited in 1982, 194). An underlying phenomenon is the international hierarchy of citizenship rights, in which ‘‘state regulations restricting the rights and freedoms of migrants . . . reflect unequal relations between First World and Third World countries . . . in the racialized and gendered definition of who is and who is not suitable to obtain such rights . . . [as well as] in the assumption of the permanently subordinate status of Third World states (Bakan and Stasiulis 1997, 46). The central mechanism to identify and define immigrants’ predicaments can be captured in the term ‘‘documentation.’’ The possession of appropriate and valid legal documents is a complex system often decipherable only with help from English-speaking lawyers and other professionals. The immigrant is reminded of his or her status at every moment—the frequency and insistency of such reminders rising with the level of one’s undocumentation. At a practical level, it is about concrete material access to jobs, banks, health facilities, welfare, education, and travel. At a psychological level, it is about identity, self-esteem, legitimacy, and voicelessness. Ironically, in spite of the sophisticated, complex, and bulky legal docu-

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mentation, personal histories of workers (and women like the domestic worker) are undocumentable, in contrast to their employers’ class. Although the system, as in the United States, is quick to record the criminality of undocumented immigrants, it is completely uninterested in the historical trajectory of a woman fleeing Third World poverty to work at exploitative jobs in the First World, where the power of the dollar allows her to support her children back home more than if she were to stay in her native country. I do not mean to suggest more state scrutiny and documentation by a patriarchal, capitalist state. My point is a rhetorical one to show that documentation serves to selectively criminalize as well as reward in the interest of the nation-state and is not a disinterested legal exercise reflecting the true history of individuals. It must be concluded that the invisibility marking the lives of those migrants who are under most attack is no inadequacy on the part of this kind of documentation. It is a deliberate strategy that by camouflaging the history of exploitation, helps to propagate it.

Collective Action: Challenges and Pitfalls Organizing e√orts are important for many reasons, not the least of which is that they play a key role in a≈rming and legitimizing the worker’s feelings of alienation and anger. When a worker decides to fight an employer because of abusive conditions, the employer typically ridicules and denies the charge, and accuses the worker of lying, confident that she or he would be believed over the worker. An organizing e√ort can take the battle to the next level, which involves a lawsuit and collective public action. The lawsuit, which generally deals with matters such as back wages and cruelty, can be fairly toothless if unaccompanied by the collective public action campaign. First, the employer, confident of his or her legal immunity, usually tries to trivialize and dismiss the lawsuit. Yet publicity and collective action not only convey the seriousness of the issue to the employer but also transform the singular employer(s)—vulnerable employee relationship into a collective demand for a better workplace. Public action may consist of a demonstration in front of the employer’s home or workplace, media outreach, and other similar measures. Demonstrations are a great success for a variety of reasons, primarily because they inspire a collective sense of power, dignity, and joy for domestic workers whose negotiations, if any, with their employers are otherwise isolated in 300 ⭈ Anannya Bhattacharjee

the employer’s home. Needless to say, the publicity that these campaigns generate is critical in changing the terms of the discourse around domestic work: by publicizing the employer’s name, making their treasured private home a site for public scrutiny, and collectivizing the workers’ demands, the campaign breaks the conventions that traditionally protect employers. Even when an organization is willing to support a worker in her fight, however, it is still extremely di≈cult for the worker to decide to initiate the fight. She is rightly terrified of her employer’s privileged position in the United States and South Asia, and her or his reprisals (deportation, blacklisting, and so on). The isolation of domestic workers is so extreme that even the act of belonging to an organizing struggle reduces the worker’s emotional vulnerability. Usha, a domestic worker, described how her employers would call her didi (elder sister). She su√ered considerably in their employment in terms of humiliation, inadequate food and privacy, and the like, not to mention unfair wages. When she left that job, she told them, ‘‘In the future, do not call your worker ‘didi’ and do not ever call me ‘didi.’ Would you ever treat your real ‘didi’ the way you have treated me?’’ Part of her strength and courage came from knowing that she knew other workers from whom she drew considerable emotional sustenance. As I mentioned above, South Asian domestic workers move lower in social standing, compared to their home country, when they become domestic workers in the United States. Women, in particular, lose their standing in a patriarchal society that was constructed in the first place through their connections with spouses or other male family members. Domestic workers share this physical, emotional, and political journey with most low-wage workers in communities: workers in restaurants, retail stores, cabs, and similar industries. This journey impacts the consciousness of working-class people in contradictory ways—the demotion in class can make such immigrants aware of the fragility of their class position, but also the importance of a working-class struggle, especially for women. A U.S. domestic worker may distance herself from a South Asian one by perceiving of herself as a more sophisticated kind in that category. She may try to hide the fact that she cleans and cooks, and instead portray herself as a baby-sitter, interpreting the latter somehow as more privileged work. She may hide the fact of her domestic servitude from her family back home; indeed, she herself could be from a family that employed a domestic worker in some capacity in the home country.∏ Still, through community organizing activities and discussions about Immigrant Dreams ⭈ 301

her journey, which can in some ways be liberating, the worker here can develop a visceral understanding of low-wage exploitation, her place in society without patriarchal support systems, and a consciousness as a comrade-worker in the ranks who must join the class struggle. Shahida Ahmed explains in an interview that she herself does not have ‘‘any bad feelings in [her] head because [she has] gone through a change. . . . But in Bangladesh, [her] sons may feel bad. . . . [M]any [women] do not even admit that they are doing babysitting’’ (cited in Bhattacharjee and Mathur 1999, 16). I have found that organizing domestic workers, more than any other activity, incurs the anger of larger sections of the elite in our community, including those who claim progressive politics. Not everyone can own a restaurant, but most middle and upper-middle-class people can a√ord a domestic worker, especially if the worker can be underpaid. Thus, it is an issue that can potentially divide people even within the progressive community. A middle-class activist can also potentially be an employer of a nanny or housekeeper and pay less than optimal wages. Among bourgeois women and men, I have found that the discourse around domestic workers is characteristically full of discomfort. When I first became aware of the problem in the community, and when middleclass women began to discuss plans of action, our conversations were extremely limited. In retrospect, I realize that this was because initially, as first-generation, mostly single, young women, the issues around domestic work had not resonated personally. If most of these women came from families that had servants in South Asia, that region itself was distant enough that women in the United States did not yet seriously reflect on their relationships to domestic workers. As work around this issue progressed, discomfort and divisions became clearly ominous, and in spite of discussions, escalated. A diverse mix of political and personal motivations makes the presence of bourgeois activists in this kind of organizing a complicated one—more than in any other kind of organizing, I would venture to say. This is not surprising given the fact that women, not men, continue to be primarily responsible for housework in this patriarchal society, and hence are the first to be liberated by the presence of a domestic worker; that there are unique dynamics between domestic workers and women employers; that class politics are complicated within women’s movements; and that upward mobility is connected to the larger capitalist culture. Since one

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principle of the organizing e√orts I have been part of has been not to have employers as members (although they can support it from the outside), the issue of membership itself has created di≈cult dynamics. I venture to draw here a few thumbnail sketches of the mix of motivations and practices that I have encountered among bourgeois women who have been peripherally and centrally involved in domestic workers’ organizing e√orts. The purpose of these sketches is to help illuminate the possible dynamics so that one can be aware of and learn from them in the future. They are not so much discrete categories of people (although some of them are) but phases or processes a bourgeois person involved in this kind of organizing experiences. Some women believe that as long as they do not actively obstruct the organizing work (rationalized as ‘‘helping’’ women less fortunate than them), they should be absolved of all responsibility. In fact, they find any scrutiny of their labor practices, from which they benefit, to be an invasion of privacy. The best one can say is that they are honest in their selfinterest in and detachment from the issue. Some women, even though they think that such work is exploited by low wages, emotional abuse, and poor living conditions, see no option but to hire domestic workers. They do promise to pay them the average wage (still below minimum wage) and commit to creating an emotionally unexploitative situation. These women really do believe that ‘‘empowering’’ and ‘‘healthy’’ emotional relationships at such vastly disparate levels are possible. One such woman, who supported the struggle of domestic workers, was unhappy that the project did not allow employers like her to become members. She explained that she did her part by paying the maximum she could (still below minimum wage); incidentally, she and her husband came from extremely wealthy and supportive families. She said her relationship with the domestic worker could not be expressed through dollar figures, describing how they both woke up to comfort her crying child one night, that the worker would not go back to bed though she insisted, and that she cried, touched by the worker’s loyalty, and apparently so did the worker. This incident confirmed for her their mutual bond. It never occurred to her that in an unequal power relationship, the relatively powerless individual usually has a keen sense of communication geared to gratify the one who has power. Another woman with similar values as this employer once brought her domestic worker to a meeting, to show that they could share the same

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political space to benefit the worker. The employer, who supposedly knew the customs at such meetings, did little to inform others at the meeting about the worker’s language skills and translation needs; another participant, noticing the worker’s noncomprehension of the proceedings, made the proper arrangements. The worker sat at the back of the room clearly marked for child care, minding the employer’s child, while the employer protested the organizing project’s suspicions of employers. She directed her worker to stand up and say something, anything, in an attempt to demonstrate that she was all for the worker’s free speech. The worker, who had never before been encouraged to join the organizing e√ort and knew nothing about it, simply said she wanted help to find her husband a job. She perceived this event, to which her employer had brought her, clearly without any preparation, as one where she could seek employment opportunities. The best one can say in this case is that the employer’s struggles to explain her situation and reach a zone of comfort was commendable, but that her lack of self-critical thinking made her attempts somewhat disingenuous. Some women may initially make personal decisions to refrain from employing domestic workers in order to directly participate in the organizing e√ort of such workers. Later, however, their personal and career choices may end in a decision to do so. They may pay minimum wage and be relatively conscious employers. Ironically, since they had once espoused ideals that they find themselves abandoning, they can be shaky political comrades; their own change of mind makes them defensive and angry with others not in the same dilemma. Those who make personal decisions not to employ domestic workers and join the organizing, without changing their minds, usually do so with substantial support from their spouses, if not others. They may incur certain costs to their personal lives—namely, some financial hardship and additional stress in struggling to maintain all their duties. It is unclear whether their model is viable for all women and men in our patriarchal and professionalized, upwardly mobile society. There are some women who have not yet encountered pressures to hire domestic workers; if they espoused sympathy for domestic workers, it would not create personal contradictions in their lives. Among these can be women who have a lived understanding of the realities of workingclass women, and they are an asset to an organizing e√ort. There are also those who have developed what they would self-consciously call class

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consciousness, which could be an abstract knowledge at best and a thin rhetorical grasp at worst. Such women decry paternalism yet essentialize the worker identity, as victim or hero, and mistake it to be a lived understanding. They may infantilize a worker and commend her loudly for her regular and ordinary tasks or decide that one is not a true worker if she challenges their ideas of worker identity. With their class privilege, which breeds a narcissistic and uncritical activism, they unleash their cloudy rhetorical understanding at will in an organization, heedless of the consequences. Thus, they may have all the right rhetoric of class politics, but they are unable to translate it into practice. I would say that a fundamental factor in the radicalization of a bourgeois woman’s identity is her ability to visualize her own class transformation, not just that of workers. This kind of conscientization is seriously jeopardized by capitalist societies’ aggressive promotion of individual success and upward mobility over collective good. As bell hooks observes, the larger systems encourage this prioritization, though the origins of the contemporary feminist movement is in ‘‘the sincere desire . . . to eliminate sexist oppression’’ (1981, 191). Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak further cautions that these large ‘‘civil’’ structures that ‘‘feminists with a transnational consciousness . . . seek to shore up for gender justice can continue to participate in providing alibis for . . . the major and definitive transnational activity, the financialization of the globe’’ (1997, 93). Even the struggles for social change begin to measure success by business standards, and face the threat of an increasingly encroaching professionalization and corporate-style institution-building in a global capitalist economy (Bhattacharjee 1999, 21–25). The struggle around domestic workers is important not just for the workers but also for all concerned because it challenges people’s vigilance about questions of class, gender, and race in their own personal choices. Only through developing a collective analysis and understanding of the journeys of such workers across the globe, as the South Asian domestic workers discussed here, can the underbelly of global capitalism unequivocally supported by the majority of the South Asian bourgeoisie be comprehended. Here, I have looked at the domestic worker industry in the U.S.-based South Asian community in the larger context of global capitalism, within which privilege and exploitation are selectively defined and practiced. It is essential to keep the larger context in mind so that this problem does not get conveniently labeled a South Asian one brought on by South

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Asia’s cultural peculiarities. Once, a white woman came across an Indian domestic worker who had been imprisoned by her employers and made to su√er the conditions I have depicted, and called to inform me about this worker. She was rightly shocked and said, ‘‘For God’s sake, this is the United States.’’ Her words betrayed to me a familiar denial within the white community about racist, classist, and sexist oppression—and not just in the domestic work industry—and a belief that these are alien cultural practices. Although my chapter does not describe bourgeois white women employing domestic workers of color, some of the authors I cite have examined it extensively. Leti Volpp, in the context of domestic violence, comments on racist misconceptions about cultural di√erence such as those harbored by the woman above—attitudes that seem not to apply to the white community. She points out that this disguises what is actually ‘‘a political problem. Moreover, to explain behavior as ‘cultural’ implies that it is insular to Asian communities and that the dominant society bears no relationship to that behavior’’ (1994, 94). It is critical that one understand the industry I have discussed in the context of a global economic system modeled on Western (white) masculine capitalist beliefs, within which a global bourgeois class (although by no means monolithic) perpetuates its goals. I use the figure of the domestic worker to expose the processes of racist, sexist, and classist oppressions that have consequences for all. My intentions can be partly captured by Chandra Mohanty’s reminder, in another context, that while the focus is on the worker, ‘‘the argument . . . is about a process of gender and race domination, rather than about the content of ‘Third World.’ Making Third-World women workers visible in this gender, race and class formation involves engaging a capitalist script of subordination and exploitation’’ (1997, 7). The challenge in organizing is to facilitate a process by which workers develop a sense of the significance of their struggle as opposed to a feeling of despair about their relegation to the ranks of the working class. As feminists, we must challenge the construction of the home not only in how it perpetuates patriarchal and racist oppression but also class exploitation; prioritize viewing domestic labor as something other than a private and isolated activity; create a movement for a socially responsible model that demands the end to household labor as it exists; and rethink the sexist, racist, and classist basis of legal personhood so that those who are fundamental to the productive servicing and manufacturing of our

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societies’ needs have the right to a full life and certain powers within society, along with obligations to the communities in which they live and work. In other words, we have to revolutionize, in theory and practice, ideas of home, labor, and personhood.








I thank readers of this chapter who have helped tremendously in developing it: S. Shankar, Jael Silliman, Leti Volpp, and Chandana Mathur. I am indebted to all the inspiring women I have worked with over the years, some of whose stories and thoughts are here. At the time this chapter was written, I was involved in domestic worker organizing e√orts in the South Asian community in the New York metropolitan area. These e√orts had their origins in Sakhi for South Asian Women in 1994 and evolved in various ways, leading to the formation of nascent South Asian domestic worker groups with which I was involved. The organizing e√orts have involved immigrants from Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. As the U.S. census figures do not reflect the South Asian community adequately, they cannot be used to understand the diversity (including South Asian domestic workers) within this community. Reliable statistics are not available and most of the information is anecdotal. This is not unique to the South Asian context, though. Within ‘‘South Asian,’’ one finds Indian employers of Bangladeshi domestic workers or a Pakistani family hiring an Indian domestic worker, to cite two examples. Here, I use ‘‘South Asian’’ without breaking it down further. In some of the better-known situations, domestic workers earn $175–300 weekly, significantly below minimum wage given the long hours. As of 2001, the average wage is $225, and the lowest salary I have seen recorded is $25 per week. Generally, domestic workers have the right to a federal minimum hourly wage of $5.15 (state-level figures may vary slightly as of 1996). For a live-in domestic worker, overtime begins after forty-four weekly hours of work at $6.35 per hour. The employer can generally deduct no more than $7.72 per day for all meals and $38.63 per week for lodging. For live-out domestic and other workers, it begins after forty hours at $7.72 per hour. These deductions may apply only if the employer is paying her legal wages already. The law is that an employer can deduct either fair value or actual cost if she or he keeps records. Nevertheless, these deductions can be reduced significantly, if not eliminated, if the worker has to live and eat there. Among the women I have known, some used to employ dailies (workers who come in for a few hours every day) in South Asia. I have not yet encountered anyone who used to employ a live-in worker.

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anannya bhattacharjee is currently an organizer with Andolan (a South Asian working class organizing project), cofounder and collective member of samar (South Asian Magazine for Action and Reflection, a South Asian Left media resource), and a steering committee member of the Committee on Women, Population, and Environment (cwpe). karen k. gaul teaches at Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas. Her work focuses on mountain communities in the western Himalayas in India and northern Rockies of the United States. She has related interests in gender studies, environmental history, and visual anthropology. ketu h. katrak is Director of Asian American Studies, and Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, Irvine. She is the author of Wole Soyinka and Modern Tragedy (Greenwood, 1986), and co-editor of Antifeminism in the Academy (Routledge, 1996). Her essays have appeared in numerous journals and critical collections. karen leonard is a professor in the anthropology department at the University of California, Irvine. She has published on the social history and anthropology of India, and on Asian Americans in California. Her work focuses specifically on caste, ethnicity, family history, and South Asians in diaspora. philippa levine teaches history at the University of Southern California, and is the author of books on Victorian British feminism and the development of the historical profession in the nineteenth century. She has published widely in this area with articles in diverse journals. kathryn mcmahon teaches in the women’s studies program at California State University, Long Beach, and is a≈liated as a research scholar at the Center for the Study of Women at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has served as an adviser to the Vietnam Feature Film Studio in Hanoi and is the project director for the Women of the Southeast Asian Diaspora Project in Los Angeles.

andrew mcrae teaches at the University of Exeter in England. He works on issues of space in relation to the literature and culture of both the Asia-Pacific region and early modern England. He is the author of God Speed the Plough (Cambridge University Press, 1996), and articles concerned with space and travel. susan morgan is Professor of English at Miami University of Ohio. She has authored books on nineteenth-century fiction and many articles; she has edited two travel memoirs, by Anna Leonowens and Marianne North, and Ada Pryer’s biography. esha niyogi de teaches Women’s Studies and English at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her scholarly interests include Singaporean and Indian literature and film, British literature, and postcolonial and feminist theories. She has published or has articles forthcoming in a variety of journals, including Genders and Screen. She is the author of a forthcoming book, Canons, Translation, and Cross-Cultural Ethics: Popular Shakespeares in Metropole and Colony. She is also at work on a second book-length project focusing on Singapore. nihal perera is Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at Ball State University. His numerous publications focus on urban colonial spaces. He is the director of PolyArk XIV, a semester-long field study to India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. sonita sarker is Associate Professor and Chair of Women’s and Gender Studies, and a≈liated with English at Macalester College. She has published essays on British and South Asian modernism, and on comparative transnational feminism in relation to race and democracy. For the last two years, she has convened the International Task Force at the National Women’s Studies Association, and is executive committee member of the Division of Women’s Studies in Language and Literature at the Modern Language Association. jael silliman is Associate Professor in the Women’s Studies Program at the University of Iowa. She co-edited Dangerous Intersections (South End Press, 1999), and is the author of Indian Portraits, Jewish Frames: Gender, Colonialism, and Identity (Seagull Press, 2000). sylvia tiwon is Associate Professor of Indonesian in the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley. She has written Breaking the Spell: Colonialism and Literary Renaissance in Indonesia (Leiden University Press, 1999), and is completing a book on Indonesian women in the production of discourse. gisèle yasmeen, a geographer, has served as a consultant to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Development Research Centre (1991). Currently a regional director of the Centre for Research and Information on Canada (cric), she is also a Research Associate of the University of British Columbia, and a French- and English-language radio columnist with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. carol bullen holds an undergraduate degree in Asian studies, and completed an M.A. in international development planning from the School of Community and Regional Planning in 1998 at the University of British Columbia. She is the co-writer with Gisèle Yasmeen of the essay in this volume, ‘‘Nurturing, Gender Ideologies, and Bangkok’s Foodscapes.’’

334 ⭈ Contributors



Abraham, Miriam (Mary) Shooker, 18–19, 249–65 Acculturation: dress and, 77, 254; food and, 254; of Indian migrants in Great Britain, 269, 275, 282–83, 285, 288 nn.4, 5; of Jews in India, 256; Westernization as, 12, 55, 196, 198, 200, 206; and women in Sri Lanka, 76–77, 80–81, 85 Agriculture: agrarian laws in Indonesia, 98–99; cash crops, 174; land expropriation, 101–4; local knowledge and, 175; rice, 89–90, 105 n.4, 148, 155, 156 t.1, 170, 172; transportation’s impact on, 175. See also Villages Alarcon, Norma, 8, 13, 23 Alexander, M. Jacqui, 24, 26 n.2 Alexander, Meena, 241–42 al-Mughni, Haya, 214, 219, 220, 222, 223, 224 Anderson, Benedict, 91, 98, 99, 101, 106 n.15, 168 Appadurai, Arjun: on the colonial imaginary, 63; on community, 131, 132, 207; on constructions of mobility (ethnoscapes), 131, 132, 139–40; on diasporas and traveling knowledges, 233–34; on people-system binaries, 26 n.2

Appiah, Kwame Anthony, 22, 257 Architecture, 93–95, 171, 189–96 Automobiles, 198, 222, 223 Bakan, Abigail, 296, 299 Bangkok (Thailand), 16, 20, 147–65, 178, 185 Benjamin, Walter, 96, 196 Berreman, Gerald, 129, 132, 133, 142 Bhabha, Homi, 7, 26 n.2, 69 Bhattacharjee, Anannya, 18, 21, 23, 234–35 Blanc-Szanton, Cristina, 20, 26 n.2, 156 Blunt, Allison, 7, 34, 69, 72–73, 131, 132, 247 Boxer, Charles, 69, 71, 72, 74, 76, 77 Brooke family (White Rajahs), 40–41, 44– 45 Brothels. See Prostitution Brunei, 37, 38, 39 Buddhism, 75, 83–85, 148, 151, 154, 172 Butler, Judith, 102, 132 Calcutta (India), 250–60, 264 Castells, Manuel, 69, 213 Castes, 15, 61, 76, 133, 143–44, 146 n.6 Ceylon. See Sri Lanka Chakrabarty, Dipesh, 6, 269 Chambers, Iain, 92, 93

Chatterjee, Partha, 16, 26 n.2, 145 n.4 Children: child caretakers, 78, 200–201, 221–22, 227; of expatriates in Gulf States, 217–18, 219, 226, 228–29, 230 n.5, 241; of migrant domestic workers, 297, 300; of Paharis, 129–31; race and acculturation in Great Britain and, 283; slaves in Dutch Ceylon and, 78 China and Chinese, 36–38, 190, 192, 195, 199–203 Christianity, 78, 83, 217, 269, 287 n.3 Chua Beng-Huat, 191–92, 193, 194, 195 Citizenship: and expatriate children’s national identity, 228–29; in Gulf States, 214, 216; Jews and, 251, 255–56, 258; legislation, 15, 287 n.1; mobility and, 17– 19, 20, 23; and racial discrimination in Great Britain, 278–79, 284, 285, 288 nn.4, 5; women in Singapore and, 207– 9. See also Migrations Class: in British-based education, 252; castes, 15, 61, 76, 133, 143–44, 146 n.6; distinctions in films, 253–54; colonialism, 46; concubines and mistresses, 59–60, 72, 81; and consumerism, 160, 201; downward mobility of domestic worker, 297; employers’ relations with their domestic workers, 302–5; IndianAmericans and economic class privilege, 233; prostitution and, 60–62; The Return (film), 120–24; social mobility and labor in Himalayas, 143; women and, 16, 18, 84–86, 157–58, 235, 305 Cli√ord, James, 131, 171, 261 Colin-Thome, Percy, 69, 72, 76, 79, 80, 81 Colombo (Sri Lanka), 67–87 Colonialism: Dutch colonialism, 11, 12, 37, 73–74, 76, 78–80, 93, 102; English language and, 203; feminization of, 34–35, 42–44, 46–47, 48–49, 68–69; and Great Britain, 31–38, 34–35, 41–42, 44– 49, 267; imperialism and, 34–38, 41– 49, 53 Commence: consumerism, 160, 174, 181– 82, 188 n.2, 190, 198, 201, 229; development of Borneo, 30; economic development, 36, 40, 162–63, 172–75; in Girl on the River (film), 118–19; international

336 ⭈ Index

brand items, 147, 158–59, 165; nation building and, 122; Paharnagar’s market, 134–35; street vendors in Singapore, 199, 201; women food sellers in Bangkok (Thailand), 16, 20, 147–65, 185 Communication technology, 6, 175, 197, 220–21, 223 Communism, 98, 101, 102, 106 n.15, 111, 173 Community: architecture’s impact on, 190; globalization and images of, 90–92; images in Girl on the River (film), 119; and individual rights, 99–100; in Indonesia, 88–92, 94; Jews and, 250–64; migrations, 132; moederrecht (mother law), 13, 99, 101, 106 n.13; overseas Vietnamese community, 124; performative membership, 207–8; Singapore’s community development, 193, 201–3, 207–8; white community and domestic worker exploitation, 306. See also Diasporas; Family; Villages Consumerism, 160, 174, 176, 181–82, 188 n.2, 190, 198, 201, 229 Cordiner, James, 80, 81 Crishna, Seetha, 282, 284 Dang Nhat Minh, 12, 24, 25, 109, 112–25 nn.1, 2 Davis, Angela, 293, 299 De, Esha Niyogi: trans-border solidarities, 249; trans-status subjects, 8, 46, 70, 253; on women’s mobility, 16 de Kat Angelino, Arnold, 99–100, 101, 102, 106 n.13 Dhammachoti, Ussiri, 169, 183–84 Diasporas: Indian community in Great Britain, 269, 275, 278–79, 282–85, 288 nn.4, 5; Indian diasporas in North America, 19; Jews and, 18–19, 249, 258–59; South Asian diasporas, 24, 245–46; Vietnamese community in, 124 Dirlik, Arif, 6, 9, 26 n.2 Domestic workers: activism in support of, 300–301, 302–5; domestic violence and domestic worker migrations, 297, 306; exploitation of, 289–90, 292–95, 301; Filipinos as, 200–201, 231 n.12; in Gulf

States, 216, 217, 221–22, 227, 230 nn.2, 3; in the South Asian community in the United States, 289–92; United States immigration controls and, 298–99. See also Labor and employment Dress, 77, 205, 219, 222, 226, 254 Dubai, 216, 218–20, 222, 224, 227 East India Company, 32, 40, 267 East Timor, 5–6, 24 Economic development, 36, 40, 162–63, 172–75 Education and literacy: citizenship and, 281; of expatriates’ children in Gulf States, 217–18, 219, 226, 228, 230 n.5; farmers and, 176; in Himalayas, 135, 140; missionary schools in Ceylon, 82– 83; and social status, 271; of women, 11, 82–85, 140, 221, 222, 252–53, 260, 271– 75 Enloe, Cynthia, 26 n.2 Escobar, Arturo, 140, 170, 187 Ethnicity: ethnic mythology in Indonesia, 93; and feminization of Colombo (Sri Lanka), 68; of food preparers in Thailand, 156, 164; as Other, 233, 247, 278, 288 nn.4, 5 Fabian, Johannes, 6, 268 Family: architecture’s impact on, 190; children, 129–31, 217–19, 226, 228–29, 230 n.5, 241, 283; conflict in South Asian diaspora, 245–46; and exploitation of domestic workers, 289–90, 292–95, 300, 301; father-daughter relations, 237, 239–43; in Gulf States, 216–18, 219, 226, 228, 230 n.5; Jews and, 250, 255, 259, 262; men’s responsibility toward, 152, 153–54, 206; migration and, 178, 182–84, 185, 242; Neo-Confucianism and, 110; reproductive technologies, 236–40, 242–43, 248 n.4; send-home pay from urban relatives to, 157–58, 160, 163, 178, 179, 181–82, 297; in Singapore, 16, 190, 191, 194, 200–204; in Vietnam, 110–12, 119; village households, 168, 170–71; violence in, 18, 239–40, 297; women and, 16, 151, 172, 200–201, 203,

204. See also Marriage; Men and masculinity; Patriarchalism; Women Feminism: and control of women’s bodies, 14, 179, 236, 237–41, 242–44; feminist alliances, 273, 284, 285; men and feminist social change, 25–26; reproductive technologies, 236–40, 242–43, 248 n.4; transnational consciousness, 305. See also Gender; Men and masculinity; Sexuality; Women Filipinos, 200–201, 230 nn.2, 3, 231 n.12 Film: City under the Fist (Dang), 125 n.1; Dang Nhat Minh, 12, 24, 25, 109, 112; as escapism, 253; Girl on the River (Dang), 112–20, 124; Hanoi, Winter 1946 (Dang), 123, 125 n.1; Nostalgia for the Countryland (Dang), 123, 125 n.1; The Return, 120– 22, 124; Twelve Storeys (Khoo), 16, 189, 192, 195–202; Vietnam and, 12, 109–15, 125 n.2; When the Tenth Month Comes (Dang), 125 nn.1, 2; women’s images in, 108–15, 120–23, 125 n.2, 254 Foodways: food and acculturation, 77, 254; international brand items, 147, 158–59, 165; Kosher (Jewish dietary laws), 255, 261; men as food vendors, 164; and national identity in Indonesia, 95; nurturance (liang), 148, 152, 158; in The Return (film), 122; Singapore and, 199; Thai eating habits, 155–56 t.1, 158; women food sellers in Bangkok, 16, 20, 147–65, 185 Formoso, Bernard, 170, 171, 172 Foucault, Michel, 109, 122, 190, 191, 238 Friedman, Susan, 20, 26 n.1, 27 n.5 Gaddis, 138, 139, 143, 144 Gandhi, Mahatma, 274 Gaonkar, Dilip, 10, 23, 269 Garber, Judith, 69, 72 Gaul, Karen, 14, 15–16, 141 Gender: architecture and, 189–92, 195– 96; automobile ownership, 222–23; colonialism and, 42–49, 52–53, 68–69, 79; food sellers in Bangkok, 16, 20, 147– 65, 185; gendered space in Ceylon/Sri Lanka, 82–83; gender norms in Gulf States, 215, 216, 219; inequality in India,

Index ⭈ 337

Gender: (cont.) 132–33, 145 n.4; and land ownership, 13, 75, 161–62, 274; in Lee Tzu Pheng’s poetry, 208–9; and nurturance, 148–49, 152, 200–201, 297; poverty, 16, 27 n.8; race and, 31, 34, 43; space and, 69–70, 79, 82–83, 171–72, 233, 248 n.2; and status in Singapore, 194, 199, 201–2, 205– 6; violence and, 18, 26, 239–40, 297, 306. See also Feminism; Men and masculinity; Prostitution; Sexuality; Women Giddens, Anthony, 4, 69, 146 n.5 Gilroy, Paul, 280 Girl on the River (film), 112–20, 124 Goodwin, Jan, 214, 224 Great Britain: blackness in, 280–81, 283; and Brunei, 37, 38, 39; in Ceylon/Sri Lanka, 11, 80, 81–82; China-India shipping routes, 36–38; India and, 36–37, 81, 252, 258–59, 267, 273, 282; Indian community in, 269, 275, 278–79, 282– 85, 288 nn.4, 5; Jewish community in, 249, 258, 259, 260–61; Labuan (island), 37–38; in Malaya, 33, 35–36; in North Borneo, 34–49; Pakistanis in, 280, 281; political activism in, 281, 287 n.1; Sarawak (state) and, 38, 40, 41, 44–45 Grewal, Inderpal, 25, 27 n.5 Grossholtz, Jean, 69, 75, 76 Gujjars, 138, 139, 143, 144 Gulf States: children of expatriates in, 217– 18, 219, 226, 228, 230 n.5; elections in, 215; as West Asia, 218, 228; women in, 216–17, 219, 220, 222, 224–25, 227 Gulf States Cooperation Council (gcc), 215 Gulf War, 217, 228 Gynechronologies, 269, 270, 274, 275, 284, 285, 286 Habermas, Jürgen, 149 Hall, Stuart, 11, 267 Haraway, Donna, 9, 22 Harris, Nigel, 26 n.2, 290, 299 Harvey, David, 4, 68, 215 Helweg, Arthur Wesley, 282, 288 n.5 Himalayas: education and literacy in, 135, 140; labor and employment in, 141, 143– 44; land ownership in, 143–44; Paharis,

338 ⭈ Index

129–31; social status, 133, 143; transhumance, 132, 144–45, 146 n.5; women in, 140, 143–44 Hinduism, 18, 217, 220, 229, 275 Hirsch, Philip, 171, 174, 178, 179 Households and housing: and capital accumulation, 17, 193–94; food preparation in, 157, 159, 164; in Gulf States, 218, 229; matrilocality in Thai residences, 151, 171; in Singapore, 193, 195–96; weaving as home work, 176 Identity: of domestic workers, 292–93; gender and, 26, 46, 180–81, 206–9; and Himalayan hill people’s mobility, 133; Indian identity and assimilation in Britain, 269, 275, 282–83, 285, 288 nn.4, 5; of Jews, 250, 255–57, 259–63; national identity, 23, 31–35, 93–95, 228–29, 256; as Other, 233, 247, 278, 288 nn.4, 5 Imperialism, 34–38, 41–49, 53 India: arranged marriages in, 245; Bengal, 19, 23, 272, 274; and education, 218, 256; exoticism of, 282–83; Great Britain and, 36–37, 81, 252, 258–59, 267, 273, 282; Gulf States migrations from, 213, 216, 218, 219, 224–26, 231 n.9; HinduMuslim riots (1990), 229; Indians and racial discrimination in Great Britain, 278–79, 284, 285, 288 nn.4, 5; Jewish community in, 250–60, 264; women in, 9, 129–30, 132, 145 n.4, 165, 166 n.13, 216, 219, 224–26, 256, 266 n.4, 271–78 Indian-Americans, 19, 233–35 India Recalled (Sorabji), 268, 274, 275–77 Indonesia: agrarian reform in, 98–99, 98–101; anti-Chinese violence in, 104, 106 n.17; community in, 88–92, 94; Dutch colonialism in, 93; East Timor and, 5; ethnic mythology in, 89–91, 93, 105 n.3; marriage in, 96; monetary crisis in, 103–4, 106 nn.16, 18; national identity, 93–95; urban development in, 94– 96; villages in, 94–99; women’s rights in (mother right/moederrecht), 13, 99, 101, 106 n.13 Industry and industrialization: factory workers, 97, 103, 105 n.11, 106 n.12; and

land expropriation, 102–4; and rural-tourban migrations, 96, 160, 178–79; tin mining in North Borneo, 35; women and, 13, 97, 105 n.11, 176 Islam, 217, 219, 220, 224, 275 Israel, State of, 259–61, 262–63 Jameson, Fredric, 202 Jayawardena, Kumari, 69, 75, 76, 81, 83, 85 Jews and Judaism: Baghdadi Jewish community in Calcutta, 250–60, 264; cultural boundaries of, 255, 257–58, 261, 266 n.4; diasporas, 18–19, 249, 258–59; in Great Britain, 249, 258, 259, 260–61; in India, 250–60, 264; Israel and, 259– 61, 262–63; Kosher (Jewish dietary laws), 255, 261; marriages, 254; political participation by Jews, 255–56, 258; prostitution, 61; Sephardic Jews, 251 Kaplan, Caren, 8, 13, 22, 23, 27 n.5 Katrak, Ketu, 18, 19, 21, 25 Khamsing Srinawk (Dark Glasses), 179–80 Khoo, Eric (Twelve Storeys), 16, 189, 192, 194–202 King, Anthony, 67, 81 Kirby, Kathleen, 25, 154 Knowing Her Place (film), 233, 245–47 Knowledge: agriculture and local knowledge, 175; on diasporas and traveling knowledges (Appadurai), 233–34; local knowledge of transhumant groups in Himalayas, 132, 144–45, 146 n.5; privilege of, 190; statistics, 175 Krishnan, Indu, 19, 233, 245–47 Kristeva, Julia, 269 Kuwait: alcohol consumption in, 220; automobiles in, 222–23; citizenship, 214; employment in, 216, 225, 231 n.9; expatriate schools in, 230 n.5; gender norms in, 219; Gulf War, 228; marriage, 224; religious practice in, 220; standard of living in, 218, 229; urban development in, 219; women in, 213, 219, 222– 23, 226, 231 n.7 Labor and employment: child caretakers, 78, 200–201, 221–22, 227; community

labor in villages, 171; competition in Gulf States workforce, 229; development’s commodification of, 178; of domestic workers, 200–201, 216, 217, 221–22, 227, 230 nn.2, 3, 231 n.12, 289–95; factory workers, 97, 103, 105 n.11, 106 n.12; government employment, 141–42, 197– 98; Great Britain and labor migrations, 279; in Gulf States, 216, 218, 220–22, 230 n.2, 231 n.7; and Indonesian monetary crisis, 103–4, 106 nn.16, 18; labor activism, 97; labor disruptions during Gulf War, 228; sedentary v. mobile labor values in Himalayas, 143–44; Self Employed Women’s Association (sewa), 9, 165, 166 n.13; for Singapore, 192; teachers, 252–53; United States labor migrations, 296–97; village-city migrations and, 14, 96, 104, 160, 178–79, 182–84, 185; of women food sellers in Bangkok, Thailand, 16, 20, 147–65, 185; women in industry, 13, 97, 105 n.11, 176. See also Wages Land: Bangkok real estate, 161–62; British empire building in nineteenth century, 31–33; economics of development, 174; in Himalayas, 143–44; industry and land expropriation, 102–4; land reform in Indonesia, 94–99; and private property, 99, 101, 175; villages and, 100–103, 171; women’s property rights, 13, 75, 161–62, 224, 274. See also Spaces Lee Kuan Yew, 193, 194, 202–3 Lee Tzu Pheng, 16, 189, 207–8 Lefebvre, Henri, 6, 131, 170, 175, 190 Leisure, 48, 57, 215, 221, 225, 253–54, 255, 274 Levine, Philippa, 11, 12, 23 Lim, Catherine, 16, 189, 192, 202–5 Literature: of Indian-American writers, 232–47; Thai villages in, 176–86 Malaysia, 33, 35–37, 42, 45–46, 192, 195 Mani, Lata, 145 n.4, 245 Marriage: apartheid and, 79, 80–81; arranged marriages, 223–24, 245, 254; Asian traditions and, 204–7; assimila-

Index ⭈ 339

Marriage: (cont.) tion by marriage in Great Britain, 283; in Buddhism, 84–85; in Ceylon/Sri Lanka, 71, 76, 78, 79, 81; dowry, 75–76; of Indian Muslim women to Gulf Arabs, 224–25; in Indonesia, 96; in villages, 171. See also Women Massey, Doreen, 7, 267 Materialism, 150, 192, 199, 200, 203–4 McMahon, Kathryn, 13, 14, 18, 23, 25 McRae, Andrew, 14, 16, 19 Men and masculinity: adaptability of Portuguese women in Sri Lanka, 76–77; in colonial populations, 53, 67, 71–72, 81; and control of women’s bodies, 14, 179, 236, 237–41, 242–44; in A Decade in Borneo (Pryer), 44–46; of economic development, 175; emergence of masculinist nation-state, 112; and family responsibility, 152, 153–54; fathers’ authority in diaspora, 236, 237–41, 242–43; in Gulf expatriate population, 214; masculine culture as tradition, 204; masculine identities and modernity, 180–81; men and feminist social change, 25–26; monetary power, 120, 122; and myth of adventure, 41–42, 45, 47, 48; and nurturance, 148–49; patriarchalism, 11, 179, 206–9, 245–46; projections of male shortcomings on women, 76–78; social space construction and, 190; social status of urban men, 176–77, 199; in Thai culture, 150, 152, 153–54, 171; violence and, 18, 26, 239–40, 297, 306. See also Family; Prostitution; Sexuality; Women Mies, Maria, 152, 166 n.5 Migrations: diasporas and transmigrations, 245–47; and food preparation in Bangkok, 151–52, 156, 160, 163–64; forced migrations of ethnic groups in Indonesia, 104, 106 n.20; of government employees, 141–42; Gulf States and, 216, 228; to Israel (aliyah), 259–61, 262–63; of Jews, 249–51, 259–61, 262–63; to North Borneo, 45–49; Paharis, 15–16; of prostitution, 53, 61, 178–79; and racial discrimination in Great Britain, 278–79, 284, 285, 288 nn.4, 5; Singapore’s limits

340 ⭈ Index

on, 194, 210 n.2; of South Asian expatriates to the West, 229; tourism, 142, 194, 220–21; transhumance, 131, 132, 138– 39, 142; United States and, 296–300; village-city migrations, 14, 96, 104, 178– 79, 182–84, 185; White Australia policy and, 258; of women, 71, 73–74, 76, 86, 177–78, 182–85, 216–17, 219, 242. See also Mobility; Spaces Military, 15, 53, 58, 61–62, 74 Missionaries, 82–83, 271, 272 Moallem, Minoo, 8, 13, 23 Mobility: automobile ownership, 222–23; capital accumulation, 17, 193–94; citizenship, 18–19, 20, 215; diasporas and transmigrations, 245–47; economics, 6, 23, 165 n.2; expatriate children’s national identity, 228–29; and gender in Thailand, 149, 168, 171; of Himalayan hill people, 133, 135–37, 143–44; and identity, 270; of Jewish occupations, 249–51, 264–65; job status and travel, 141–42; of knowledge, 233–34; leisure travel, 137– 38; and national identity, 93–95; political participation and, 256; of prostitutes, 16, 27 n.8; religious pilgrimages, 137; and social status, 143–44; in South Asian community, 163, 166 n.12, 297– 302; tourism, 142, 194, 220–21; of women in Gulf States, 216–17, 219, 222, 226; and women in isolation, 19, 23, 165 n.2, 226, 272, 275, 276 Modernity: and Asian traditions in marriage, 204–7; British colonialism and, 267; Chinese women and, 199–202; and control of women’s bodies, 14, 179, 236, 237–41, 242–44; and economic development, 173, 174–75, 186–87; and expatriate women’s lifestyle in Dubai, 226–27; feminization of, 46–48; Indian women and, 272–78; masculine identities and, 180–81; materialism and, 150, 192, 199, 200, 203; reproductive technologies, 236, 237–41, 242–43, 248 n.4; in Singapore, 16, 190–91, 192, 197–98; upper-class Ceylonese women and, 85; Westernization and, 12, 55, 196, 198, 200, 206, 218, 228, 229, 253–54

Mohanty, Chandra, 24, 26 n.2, 31, 53, 140, 247, 269, 285 Mohanty, Satya, 22 Mukherjee, Bharati, 19, 238–39 Myths and mythology: of adventure, 41– 42, 45, 47, 48; Indonesian ethnic mythology, 89–91, 93, 105 n.3; Orientalism and myths of sexuality, 53, 54, 63; of women in Vietnamese nationalism, 110 Nationalism, 23, 31–35, 93–95, 110–15, 228–29, 256 Nation-states, 13, 93–95, 102–3, 122 Nehru, Jawaharial, 7, 8, 21 Neo-Confucianism, 110, 111, 190, 194 The Netherlands, 11, 12, 32, 37, 71–80, 93, 102 North Borneo: A Decade in Borneo (Pryer), 34–35, 42–47; economic development in, 36–39; Great Britain in, 34–40 Nurturance (liang), 148–49, 152–53, 200– 201, 297 Obeyesekere, Gananath, 76, 83 Ong, Aihwa, 2, 14, 154 Orientalism: English language and colonialism, 203; and myths of sexuality, 5, 53, 54, 63; national identities and, 7, 27 nn.4, 7; and portrayals of Indian women, 273–74; Singapore and, 194; stereotypes of, 5, 53 Paharis, 15–16, 129–31 Pakistan, 165 n.2, 213, 216, 218–19, 226, 230 n.2, 280–81 Pasuk, Phongpaichit, 151–52 Patriarchalism: and control of women’s bodies, 14, 179, 236, 237–41, 242–44; and exploitation of domestic workers, 292–94, 301; Indian patriarchal family, 242, 245–46; and women’s selfdetermination in Singapore, 206–9. See also Gender; Men and masculinity; Women People’s Action Party (pap), 193, 194 Perera, Nihal, 11, 12, 68, 84 Philippines, 192, 200–201, 230 nn.2, 3, 231 n.12

Pira Sudham, 169, 181, 184–86 Placetimes, 20–21, 22, 23, 24, 49 Political activism: in Ceylon, 84, 86; elections in Gulf States, 215; of food vendors, 165, 166 n.13; in Great Britain, 281, 287 n.1; of Jews in India, 255–56, 258; of women, 84, 86, 106 n.15, 111, 166 n.13, 256 Portugal, 11, 12, 71, 72, 76–77 Potter, Jack, 150–51 Poverty, 12, 16, 27 n.8, 98, 140, 176, 297, 300 Powell, Enoch, 279 Prajaub Thirabutana (Little Things), 176 Prostitution: brothels, 12, 52, 53, 54–57, 60–61, 64–65; class, 60–62; colonialism, 56–58, 63–65; commodification of, 180, 181; concubines and mistresses, 59–60, 72, 81; domesticity and, 54–55, 58, 64; domestic workers in Gulf States and, 217; in ‘‘The Fifth Train Trip’’ (Ussiri Dhammachoti), 180; in Girl on the River (film), 112–16; hygiene and, 52, 57–59; Japanese women and, 60–61; migrations of 53, 61, 178–79, 180; and the military, 15, 53, 58, 61–62; mobility of prostitutes, 16, 27 n.8; United States war with Vietnam and, 113–14; visibility, 51–56, 58–59, 63–64. See also Sexuality; Women Pryer, Ada (A Decade in Borneo), 34–35, 42–47 Pryer, William, 39, 42–43, 44–46, 48 Race and racism: blackness in, 280–81, 283; in Ceylon/Sri Lanka, 68, 75, 76, 79–81; and concept of homeland, 244; concubines and mistresses, 59–60, 72, 81; gender and, 31, 34, 43, 74; and housing in Singapore, 193, 195–96; and marriage, 78–80, 79–80; native indolence as stereotype, 5; and prostitution, 52–53, 56–58, 59, 60–63, 64–65; racial ambiguity and mobility, 261; racial discrimination in Great Britain, 278–79, 284, 285, 288 nn.4, 5; segregation, 79–81, 149, 190–91, 219; and settlement/colonization in Borneo, 49; women in colonial populations, 67, 71–79

Index ⭈ 341

Rahim, Ismeth, 69, 72, 76, 79, 80, 81 Randhawa, Ravinder, 19, 24, 278–86 The Return (film), 120–24 Rice, 89–90, 105 n.4, 148, 155, 156 t.1, 170, 172 Roberts, Michael, 69, 72, 76, 79, 80, 81 Romanticism, 41–42, 45, 47, 48, 136, 177, 202 Romero, Mary, 294, 295 Rosaldo, Michelle, 72–73, 132, 149 Rose, Gillian: on development and local knowledge, 175; on paradoxical space, 108–9, 186, 286; on women’s geographies, 7, 34, 69, 72–73, 131, 132, 247, 267 Said, Edward, 26 n.2, 241 Sandoval, Chela, 26, 285 Sarawak (state), 38, 40, 41, 44–45 Sarawok (‘‘Nu Waen and Tui’’), 172 Sarker, Sonita: on placetimes, 21, 23, 24; trans-border solidarities, 249; transstatus subjects, 8, 46, 70, 253; women and individual choice, 19 Schiller, Nina Glick, 26 n.2 Schrieke, Bertram, 101, 106 n.13 Scott, James, 90, 102 Self Employed Women’s Association (sewa), 9, 165, 166 n.13 Seri Phongphit, 170, 175 The Serpent’s Tooth (Kim), 203–4 Sexuality: and car culture in Gulf States, 223; and colonialism, 63–65; in films, 109, 197–200; reproduction and, 198, 200, 235–37, 240, 242–43, 248 n.4. See also Prostitution; Women Showalter, Elaine, 269 Silliman, Jael, 18–19, 20 Singapore: architecture of, 189–92, 195– 96; Asian family values in, 191, 200– 202; business culture of, 47, 55–56; Chinese influence in, 190, 192, 195; class in, 192, 196, 200–201, 209; community development in, 193–94, 201–4, 207–8; families in, 16, 191, 200–204; immigration controls, 194, 210 n.2; labor supply for, 192, 200–201; Lee Kuan Yew, 193, 194, 202–3; in literature, 16, 189, 192,

342 ⭈ Index

202–5, 207–8; modernity in, 16, 190– 91, 192, 197–98; patriarchalism in, 194, 206–9; People’s Action Party (pap), 193, 194; prostitution in, 12, 60; public v. private space in, 55–56, 192; racial quotas in housing, 193, 195–96; status and gender in, 194, 199, 201–2, 205–6; tradition in, 16, 27 n.7, 190–91, 197, 200– 201, 203–4; Twelve Storeys (film), 189, 192, 195–202; women in, 16, 199–209 Soja, Edward, 7, 21, 186, 213, 229 Sorabji, Cornelia: and alliances, 19; as Bengali women’s advocate, 274; on feminists, 273, 274, 275; gynechronology of, 274, 275, 286; on modernity in India, 270, 271, 272; and zenana women, 272, 275, 276 South Asia/South Asians: in diaspora, 24, 245–46; Gulf States and, 215–16, 218– 19, 220, 225; marriage and, 204–7, 224–25; national identities in, 7, 27 nn.4, 7; the Netherlands in, 11, 12, 37, 73–74, 76, 78–80, 93, 102; in the United States, 18, 289–92 Spaces: architecture and, 93–95, 171, 189– 96; British colonial space in North Borneo, 12, 34–39; brothels, 12, 52, 53, 54–59, 64–65; Ceylon and gendered space, 82–83; commercial spaces, 16, 20, 55–56, 147–65, 162, 166 n.13, 185; of domestic workers, 292–93; in films, 119–20, 120–23; gender and, 69–72, 79, 148–49, 171–72, 233, 248 n.2; geographies and, 132–33, 245–47; indigenous knowledge and perception of space, 175; Israel as sacred space, 259– 63; Lefebvre on, 170, 190, 197; marital home as private space, 292–93; for nurturance, 148–49; public v. private space, 12, 55–57, 64–65, 192, 222; spatial orientation in Indonesian lore, 89–91, 105 n.3; women in isolation, 19, 23, 165 n.2, 226, 272, 275, 276; women’s third spaces, 12, 70, 76, 78, 79, 82–83, 86, 186, 265 Spirituality, 89–90, 105 n.4, 170–72, 201, 239, 255–57 Spivak, Gayatri, 27 n.5, 268, 305

Sri Lanka: colonialism in, 11; expatriates in Gulf States, 213, 230 n.2; independence movement in, 84; population in, 75, 76, 78, 80; women in, 11, 71–74, 76–77, 80–86 Stasiulis, Daiva, 296, 299 Stoakes, Frank, 214, 219, 223 Storytelling, 90–91, 243–44 Sujit Wongchai (‘‘Second Nature’’), 176–77 Tarling, Nicholas, 37, 39, 43 Thailand, 16, 20, 147–65, 173–75, 185–87 Thongchai Winichakul, 170, 174, 175 Tourism, 142, 194, 220–21 Traditions: architecture’s impact on, 190– 91; of Jews, 251, 252, 255, 261; and globalization, 242–43; of Indian patriarchal families, 245–46; in Indonesia, 89–90, 104, 105 n.3, 106 n.19; marriage and Asian traditions, 204–7; rice rituals, 89–90, 105 n.4, 170, 172; in Singapore, 16, 27 n.7, 190–91, 197, 200–201, 203– 4; and the village, 168–71, 176, 186 Transportation, 175, 198, 222–23 Trinh T. Minn-ha, 109, 112, 115, 124 Twelve Storeys (film), 16, 189, 192, 194–202 United Arab Emirates (uae), 214, 216, 222, 230 n.2, 231 n.7 United States, 18, 113–14, 173–74, 178–79, 289–92, 296–300 Urbanism, 96, 102–4, 140, 143–44, 152, 193–94, 203–4 Ussiri Dhammachoti, 179, 180, 181–84 Van Esterik, Penny, 151, 152–53, 154, 157 Vietnam, 12, 24, 109–25 n.2, 178–79 Villages: cash transactions in, 99–101; community labor in, 171; and economic development, 172–74, 176; indigenous knowledge and perception of space, 175; in Indonesia, 94–99; and the Indonesian monetary crisis, 104; land and, 100– 101, 171, 177; migrations and, 14, 96, 104, 178–79, 182–84, 185; send-home pay from urban relatives to, 157–58, 160, 163, 178, 179, 181–82; sexual exploitation of girls in, 179–80; status of townspeople v.

hill people, 143–44; subsistence agriculture in, 187; technology’s impact on, 175; Thai villages in literature, 176–86; traditions of, 168–71, 176, 186 Violence, 18, 26, 239–40, 297, 306 Visibility: concubines and mistresses, 59– 60, 72, 81; of domestic workers, 298– 99; dress and, 77, 205, 219, 222, 226, 254; of Himalayan hill people, 133, 136; Indian identity and assimilation in Britain, 269, 275, 282–83, 285, 288 nn.4, 5; and Pahari women’s mobility, 143–44; prostitution, 51–56, 58–59, 63–64; skin color, race and prostitution, 60–63 Wages: of domestic workers, 217, 291, 307 n.5; food sellers income, 159–60; in Gulf States, 216, 222, 231 n.7; prostitution and, 59; racial discrimination in Great Britain and, 278; of rural women migrants, 178; send-home pay, 157–58, 160, 163, 178, 179, 181–82, 297. See also Labor and employment Wallerstein, Immanuel, 4 White Rajahs, 40–41, 44–45 A Wicked Old Woman (Randhawa), 24, 268, 281–86 Wilson, Amrit, 235, 243–44 Wilson, Rob, 9, 26 n.2 Wiradisastra, U.S., 91, 102 Women: automobile ownership, 222–23; Bengali women, 19, 23, 274; in Buddhism, 75, 83–85, 148, 151, 154, 172; child caretakers and, 78, 200–201, 221– 22, 227; Chinese women and modernity, 199–202; and class, 16, 18, 84–86, 157– 58, 235, 305; colonialism and, 45–48, 46–48, 67, 71–79, 81; and control of women’s bodies, 14, 179, 236, 237–41, 242–44; and domestic workers, 290– 91, 300–305; dress, 77, 205, 219, 222, 226, 254; and education, 11, 82–85, 140, 221, 222, 252–53, 260, 271–75; and family, 16, 151, 172, 200–201, 203, 204; film images of, 108–15, 120–23, 125 n.2, 254; as food sellers in Bangkok, Thailand, 16, 20, 147–65, 185; in Gulf States, 214–17, 219, 220, 222, 224–27; gynechronol-

Index ⭈ 343

Women: (cont.) ogies, 269, 270, 275, 284, 285, 286; in Himalayas, 140, 143–44; and household income, 151, 154; in India, 9, 129–30, 132, 145 n.4, 165, 166 n.13, 216, 219, 224–26, 256, 266 n.4, 271–78; in industry, 13, 97, 105 n.11, 176; in isolation, 19, 23, 165 n.2, 226, 272, 275, 276; Jewish women, 18–19, 249–65; labor and employment of, 9, 16, 20, 147–65, 166 n.13, 176, 178, 185, 222; land ownership, 13, 75, 161–62, 224, 274; and language, 78, 79, 80; materialism and, 150, 192, 199, 200, 203–4; migrations of, 73–74, 86, 177–78, 182–85, 216–17, 219; mobility and, 79, 149, 163, 166 n.12, 168, 171– 72, 216–17, 219, 220, 222, 226; moederrecht (mother law), 13, 99, 101, 106 n.13;

344 ⭈ Index

oral histories of, 243–45; Pahari women, 15–16, 129–32, 142–44; political activism of, 84, 86, 106 n.15, 111, 166 n.13, 256; reproductive technologies and, 236–37, 240, 242–43, 248 n.4; in Singapore, 16, 199–209; in Sri Lanka, 11, 71–74, 76–77, 80–86; third spaces of, 12, 70, 76, 78, 79, 82–83, 86, 186, 265; in Vietnam, 109–15, 125 n.2; violence and, 18, 26, 239–40, 291–94, 297, 306; wages of, 178, 222, 231 n.7; women’s associations, 9, 165, 166 n.13, 225, 256, 266 n.4, 274, 281 Woolf, Virginia, 267, 271 World Bank, 5, 173, 174, 175, 176, 178 Yasmeen, Giséle, 14, 16, 20, 185 Yeoh, Brenda, 55, 69, 193, 194

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Trans-status subjects : gender in the globalization of South and Southeast Asia / edited by Sonita Sarker and Esha Niyogi De. Includes bibliographical references and index. isbn 0-8223-2955-7 (cloth : alk. paper) isbn 0-8223-2992-1 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Sex role—South Asia. 2. Sex role—Asia, Southeastern. 3. Globalization. I. Sarker, Sonita. II. De, Esha Niyogi. hq1075.5.s64 t73 2002 305.3%0954—dc21 2002006948