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  • Writer's pictureAydin Quach

From Chinese Men to Chinese “Boys” : Unearthing Masculinities and Intimate Labour in Singapore


This thesis explores constructions of masculinity within colonial Singapore through the lens of intimate labour circa 1850-1950. Within the broad category of intimate labour, I focus on domestic labour and sex work done by Chinese men and the relationship between the White colonial elite and Chinese male servants. Intimate labour, as I discuss, is a viable arena to observe how the boundaries between race, gender, and class are blurred to uphold the colonial system to which colonial masculinity is generative. I offer a structural analysis of the colonial system through three illustrations: (1) the relationship between White men and Chinese male servants infantilized as “boys,” (2) the household dynamics between White women and their Chinese male servants, and (3) Chinese men who became sex workers and catered their services to men. Through this analysis, I notion that colonial masculinity enables the creation of the “unmemorable body.” The body that performed and was performative is relegated to simply being a cog within the colonial machine. The “unmemorable body” thus is not a body that does not exist but a body in an active state of being unremembered.


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