‘A Frivolous Prosecution’: Allegations of Physical and Sexual Abuse of Domestic Servants and the Defence of Colonial Patriarchy in Darwin and Singapore, 1880s–1930s
This chapter explores the relationship between domestic service, violence, and colonial masculinities in the settler colony of Darwin and the exploitation colony of Singapore. The chapter analyses representations of assault and abuse of domestic servants by their British, white Australian, and Chinese masters in order to illuminate the ways in which violence could challenge or sustain colonial patriarchy. The central argument is that the ways in which violence towards Chinese and Aboriginal servants was either justified or ignored by the press, colonial officials, and ordinary colonists reflected an underlying agenda to protect the reputation of ruling-class men and the colonial venture as a whole. By comparing Darwin and Singapore, this chapter aims to illuminate the shared and particular preoccupations that underpinned settler and non-settler colonial projects.