Publication of the Month: November 2023

Strangers in the Family: Gender, Patriliny, and the Chinese in Colonial Indonesia

Seng Guo Quan
Cornell University Press

In Strangers in the Family Guo-Quan Seng provides a gendered history of settler Chinese community formation in Indonesia during the Dutch colonial period (1816–1942). At the heart of this story lies the creolization of patrilineal Confucian marital and familial norms to the colonial legal, moral and sexual conditions of urban Java.
Departing from male-centered narratives of Overseas Chinese communities, Strangers in the Family tells the history of community-formation from the perspective of women who were subordinate to, and alienated from, full Chinese selfhood. From native concubines and mothers, creole Chinese daughters, wives and matriarchs, to the first generation of colonial-educated feminists, Seng showcases women’s moral agency as they negotiated, manipulated and debated men in positions of authority over their rights in marriage formation and dissolution. In dialogue with critical studies of colonial Eurasian intimacies, this book explores Asian-centered inter-ethnic patterns of intimate encounters. It shows how contestations over women’s place in marriage and in society were formative of a Chinese racial identity in colonial Indonesia.

Seng, G-Q. Strangers in the Family: Gender, Patriliny, and the Chinese in Colonial Indonesia. Cornell University Press. 2023.
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