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Mixed-race populations provide a challenging and fascinating subject for historical enquiry as they blend multiple cultures and, in the process, give rise to unique social and political forces. This thesis focuses on the Eurasians of Singapore, a distinct and disparate social group which arose from Singapore's strategic location as an entreport that attracted Europeans from diverse backgrounds. As an ethnic group, the Eurasians were perhaps one of the earliest among the domiciled communities to look upon Singapore as their home and to develop a stake in the Colony, which had essentially been a place for travellers, transients and sojourners. This study focuses on the Eurasians and the complex relationships they forged with their two colonial overlords, the British and the Japanese, in the period prior to 1946.
Under the British the Eurasians played a 'middleman' role vis-a-vis other Asiatic communities and, by doing so, obtained unique privileges. However, in the 1870s a point was reached when owing to changing circumstances and attitudes, the British began to adopt a less than favourable stance towards the Eurasians. While the British needed their support for political and economic reasons in order to run the administration of the Colony, they adopted a policy that vacillated between patronage and prejudice. This left the Eurasians in a difficult position as they were staunchly pro-British yet, confused at the disinterest displayed by their patrons. Without much success, the Eurasians tried to redefine privilege to mean rights, and to have a voice in running the affairs of a place they regarded as their home.
The onset of the Japanese Occupation during the Second World War deepened the Eurasian predicament. They were singled out by the Japanese authorities for political indoctrination and subjected to measures which combined chastisement and encouragement. The Japanese forced the Eurasians to re-examine and re-orientate their ethnic identity. Without doubt, they were now encouraged to see themselves as 'Asiatics'.
In retrospect, the Eurasians were subjected by their British and Japanese overlords to inconsistent policies which often left them confused and helpless. As a consequence, their self-definitions of identity underwent marked changes over time. Post-war developments in Singapore brought about a torrent of political changes that particularly affected the Eurasians. They emerged as a people who sometimes felt displaced and marginalised. The strengths and unique traits which the community once possessed -- domicility, education and social privilege -- were no longer their preserve in a nation that aimed to make egalitarianism and merit the cornerstones of its polity. This thesis argues that circumstantialism has been a dominant force in powerfully shaping the Eurasian identity. This identity was not given in a primordialist sense but was constructed from historical configurations and social circumstances, in which the relationship between the 'Rulers' and the 'Ruled' played an extraordinarily potent part.
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