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Chinese indentured labourers in British Guiana (1838-1900) : an exploration of colonial text Ali, Alicia Alison 2001

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CHINESE INDENTURED LABOURERS IN BRITISH GUIANA (1838 - 1900): AN EXPLORATION OF COLONIAL TEXT by ALICIA ALISON ALI B.A., York University, 1996 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS In THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Department of History) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA August 2001 © Alicia Alison Ali , 2001 JBL. Special Collections - 1 hesis Authorisation horm http://www.library.ubc.ca/spcoll/thesauth.htn: I n p r e s e n t i n g t h i s t h e s i s i n p a r t i a l f u l f i l m e n t o f t h e r e q u i r e m e n t s f o r an advanced degree a t t h e U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h C o lumbia, I ag r e e t h a t t h e L i b r a r y s h a l l make i t f r e e l y a v a i l a b l e f o r r e f e r e n c e and s t u d y . I f u r t h e r a g r e e t h a t p e r m i s s i o n f o r e x t e n s i v e c o p y i n g o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r s c h o l a r l y p u r p o s e s may be g r a n t e d by t h e head o f my department o r by h i s o r h e r r e p r e s e n t a t i v e s . I t i s u n d e r s t o o d t h a t c o p y i n g o r p u b l i c a t i o n o f t h i s t h e s i s f o r f i n a n c i a l g a i n s h a l l n o t be a l l o w e d w i t h o u t my w r i t t e n p e r m i s s i o n . Department o f £J- f£fpr The U n i v e r s i t y o f B r i t i s h C o l u m b i a Vancouver, Canada of 1 7/6/01 7:44 PN ii A B S T R A C T D u r i n g the post-emancipation period of Brit ish G u i a n a (1838-1900) Chinese indentured servants were imported into the colony for the purpose of working on sugar plantations. It is argued in this paper that colonial literature constructed two competing themes regarding Chinese identity in Bri t ish Guiana . U s i n g colonial discourse analysis, specifically Foucault , Said and Bhabha, this thesis explores how d e m e n t i ' s narrative represented the Chinese immigrant as an "ideal immigrant" who embraced the sugar plantation of Brit ish Guiana , while K i r k e ' s memoirs portray an "exotic immigrant" in need o f constant vigilance. A l t h o u g h the writings of Clement i and K i r k e attempt to organize, order and assert power over the colonized space of Bri t ish Guiana , these two authors reveal tension and ambivalence between the colonized Chinese subject and the dominant colonial discourse. iii T A B L E O F C O N T E N T S Abstract i i Table of Contents i i i Acknowledgements i v Overview 1 M e t h o d o l o g y 2 Exis t ing Approaches to the Study of Slavery and the Plantation System 4 T h e Social Structure of Plantation Brit ish G u i a n a Before Emancipat ion 13 T h e Emancipat ion M o v e m e n t in Britain 17 T h e Pul l o f Bri t ish G u i a n a -T h e Emergence of Indentured Immigrants 18 Chinese Indentured Labourers 19 T h e Push in Q i n g C h i n a , 20 T h e Chinese C o o l i e Trade to British G u i a n a 21 Indentureship W i t h i n Bri t ish G u i a n a 23 C e c i l d e m e n t i ' s Chinese in British G u i a n a 23 Henry Kirke's T w e n t y - F i v e Years in Bri t ish G u i a n a 31 C o n c l u s i o n • 34 Bibl iography 36 iv A C K N O W L E D G E M E N T S T h i s thesis has benefited f rom the help and support of a number of people. I 'd particularly like to thank m y advisor D r . G l e n Peterson for his patience, encouragement and constructive insights. I must also thank D r . D i a n a L a r y for her guidance and initial enthusiasm for the project. I w o u l d also like to thank m y family and friends including Steven Clarke , K e l l y Curtis , and Susan and Jeremy G a r m a n for all of their love and support. T h i s paper is dedicated to A m a n d a and A n d r e w Lat i f f and the memory of m y m o m . 1 Overview T h i s paper explores how colonial narrative constructed identity during the post-emancipation period in British Guiana (1833-1900)'. Specifical ly , it seeks to compare and contrast C e c i l Clementi 's The Chinese in British Guiana2 and H e n r y Kirke's Twenty-five Years in British Guiana, 1872-1897s. M y purpose in this paper is: 1) to examine how the above colonial authors " imagined" the Chinese immigrant community 2) to explore how notions o f inclusions and exclusions within colonial discourse classified and subjugated the Chinese community 3) to demonstrate how the construction of a Chinese identity within Bri t ish G u i a n a assisted in redefining the colonizer /colonized relationship. T h e thesis, thus, employs colonial discourse theory to enhance understanding of how colonial writings constructed both the colonizers and the colonized subjects. It is argued in the thesis that colonial literature constructed two competing themes regarding Chinese identity in British Guiana . T h e first theme was created around the notions of the "Chinese as respectable". T h i s theme, most developed in Clementi 's The Chinese in British Guiana, portrays the Chinese immigrants as having achieved respectability because of their en mass adoption of colonial behaviour, manners and values, as demonstrated by their conversion to Christianity and the pursuit of Brit ish education for children. Clementi 's account depicts the Chinese indentured labourers as representing a 'model minority' cultivated within the new plantation society. O n the other hand, Clementi 's model minority is undermined by Kirke 's account of the Chinese community, which reveals the limitations of colonial authority. Kirke's narrative develops the theme of the "Chinese as exotic" through issues of body, food, and language. A c c o r d i n g to K i r k e , although the Chinese had attained "respectability", they were still ' For purposes of this paper, "British Guiana" refers to the historical period between 1831 and 1966. 2 Clementi, Cec i l . The Chinese in British Guiana. Georgetown: Argosy, 1915. 3 Kirke, Henry. Twenty-five Years in British Guiana. London: Sampson L o w , Marston & Company, 1898. 2 "exotic". Clementi and Kirke's ambivalence towards the Chinese community reveals the process by which the Chinese community was portrayed as "almost the same, but not quite" 4 . In short, the Brit ish G u i a n a colonial office was caught in an irreconcilable conflict between representing itself as nurturing, while seeking to maintain the exploitative system of indentured immigration. Clementi and K i r k e illustrate how colonial officials within the colony struggled to redefine both the moral mission of the plantation and their positions of power within the system during the post-emancipation period. Methodology T h e study is divided into ten sections. Section one through seven provides the reader with a historical overview as to when, w h y and how Chinese labourers entered post-slavery Brit ish Guiana . Sections eight, nine and ten delineate the writings of Clementi and K i r k e to expose their deep implication in imperial ism and the colonial process. T h e first section critiques four competing paradigms that have evolved to explain colonial society in anglophone Caribbean. T h e paper explores debates that concern the f o l l o w i n g theoretical frameworks: 1) the Plantation Model 2) Marxism 3) Cultural Pluralism 4) Social Stratification. T h e above models attempt to describe how colonial ism ordered relationships in Caribbean society. However , this paper seeks to approach this problem by first addressing the issue of sources. T h e author employs colonial discourse theory to first ask how colonial texts/sources constructed the world of Brit ish Guiana . D r a w i n g upon the works o f Foucault and Bhabha , the paper explores the power and subtleties of representation in colonial Bri t ish Guiana . 4 H o m i Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994) 86. 3 T h e second section is an account of slavery in Bri t ish Guiana . Best described in terms of an isosceles triangle, the apex of plantation society consisted of European/Whites , fol lowed by a small middle section, composed of people of colour, and, at the base, the A f r i c a n and A m e r i n d i a n slaves. A s an institution of European colonial ism, slavery sought to organize and control the economic, political, social, and cultural structures of Bri t ish Guiana . T h e thesis examines the various strategies employed by imperial discourse to construct the colonized subject as inferior to the European colonizer. T h e author argues that, although imperial discourse insisted that the master ruled over the slave, both were ultimately entangled in each other's lives. A l t h o u g h the plantation system depended on imported slave labour, by the late eighteenth century, the slave trade and the institution of slavery came under intense scrutiny. T h e thesis briefly describes the rise of anti-slavery sentiments in Britain and the emergence of an abolition movement. T h e paper also explores emancipation as a process i n v o l v i n g slaves, abolitionists, and the imperial government. T h e section " T h e Pul l of Brit ish G u i a n a " identifies the various changes that created an immigration demand in the colony during the immediate post-emancipation period. T h e abolition of slavery raised fundamental questions about what system of economic organization and set of social relations would replace those that previously existed. T h e study traces the conditions that enabled the planters of Brit ish G u i a n a , confronted with the loss of subservient labour, to persuade the imperial authorities to sanction the importation of indentured servants. W h i l e the West Indies experienced a " p u l l " for labourers, foreign and domestic turmoil during the m i d - Q i n g dynasty created an emigration "push" away f r o m C h i n a . Events, such as the o p i u m wars and internal rebellions created conditions of poverty that prompted many Chinese men and some Chinese women to leave Q i n g C h i n a for far away plantations. 4 A s in the case of slave trade, abuse and exploitation were predominant in the coolie trade. F o r the purpose of this paper, the coolie trade is understood as the traffic of indentured/cheap Chinese labour to Bri t ish colonies. Part eight locates the coolie trade to Brit ish G u i a n a within the context of the international trade. It discusses how many Chinese indentured servants were transported to Brit ish Guiana , when they were shipped, and under what conditions. F inal ly , the thesis describes why the coolie trade to Brit ish G u i a n a ceased. It is intended that the above sections w i l l provide the reader with an understanding of the complex circumstances that culminated in the importation of Chinese labourers to Brit ish Guiana . T h e final part of the thesis investigates the specific writings of Clement i and K i r k e . After situating the authors within the context of the colonial agenda, the thesis draws attention to the ways in which Clementi and K i r k e think, speak, and write about the Chinese in Brit ish Guiana . U s i n g colonial discourse theory, it is argued that Clementi 's and Kirke's construction o f Chinese identity highlights the inherent vulnerability of colonial discourse in the post-emancipation period of the colony. Existing Approaches to the Study of Slavery and the Plantation System In his essay, "Plantation-America" , Charles W a g l e y situates the Caribbean within a wider culture sphere, which he calls Plantation-America, which represents both a spatial region and a type of society, and moves beyond political , linguistic, or geographically defined units. However , as a point of reference, W a g l e y describes Plantation-America as extending spatially from about midway up the coast of Brazil into the Guianas, along the Caribbean coast, throughout the Caribbean itself, and into the United States. It is characteristically coastal: not until the nineteenth century did the way of life of the Plantation culture sphere penetrate far into the mainland interior, and then only in Brazil and the United States. This area has an environment which is characteristically tropical (except in the southern United States) and lowland 5 . 5 Charles Wagley, "Plantation America: A Culture Sphere" In Vera Rubin, E d . , Caribbean Studies: A Symposium (Seattle: University of Washington Press, I960) 5. 5 A c c o r d i n g to W a g l e y , plantation-American culture is woven together by five features that include monocrop cultivation under the plantation system, r igid class lines, multi-racial societies, weak community cohesion, small peasant properties involved in subsistence and cash-crop production, and a matrifocal type family f o r m 6 . Sugar production predominated, and was maintained through the institution of the system of slavery and indentureship and through socio-economic divisions between landowner and slave. A l t h o u g h immigration, through the slave trade and indentureship, created a multi-racial society, "Caucasoid features", held the highest value . Thompson's " T h e Plantation as a Social System" argues that the plantation acts to systematize entire social orders. A s a settlement institution, the plantation system imports a new labouring population when the local native societies cannot be coerced into participating in it. E v e r y institution in the society is involved in the support of the plantation system, which both "demands and dictates". Individual members acquire particular beliefs and follow prescribed ways of participating; the authority of the planter is paramount, expressed through rules and punitive measures. Because of its orientation towards the metropolitan market, the colonial state o power is crucial to its maintenance . " T h e Plantation as a Socio-cultural T y p e " by M i n t z also advances the idea of c o m m o n developmental characteristics. B o t h M i n t z and W o l f describe the plantation system in terms of four conditions: general, initiating, operational, and cultural. General conditions are the preconditions o f plantation development. Initiating conditions are the specific conditions that permit the establishment of a plantation, operational conditions permit the continued operation of 6 Wagley, 9. 7 Wagley, 7. 8 Edgar Thompson, "The Plantation as a Social System" In The Research Institute for the Study of M a n and the Pan American Union , Plantation Systems of the New World (Joint Publication, Washington 1959) 27. 6 the plantation system, and cultural conditions are "the cultural practices and behavioural patterns which incarnate the plantation in its operation" 9 . B e c k f o r d and Best, who view Caribbean societies as underdeveloped dependencies of Western capitalism, develop the plantation model of W a g l e y and M i n t z . Beckford's plantation system "refers to the totality of institutional arrangements surrounding the production and marketing of plantation c r o p s " 1 0 . A s colonial fragments dedicated to wealth extraction, the plantations represented a type of settlement institution, which imported labour into a new territory for the production of a staple export crop. Ultimately, the plantation was an instrument of colonization and regarded as a source of wealth for the colonizing power. In the post-emancipation period, ex-slaves attempted to achieve mobili ty within the institution through independent peasant cultivation, and through education. However , the educational system itself was the creation of colonial power and culture, and former slaves who assimilated metropolitan culture became essentially "black E u r o p e a n s " " . T h u s , the plantation fostered a society with a psychological dependence on the outside world and on the mother country. Critics of the plantation model , such as Denis B e r n , question the notion of the plantation acting as a total system during slavery. T h e y argue that the idea of "black Europeans" denies the colonial subject agency and power, and the model fails to explain the relationship between the multiracial character of plantation societies in the post-emancipation period and the plantation . A second theoretical perspective draws upon Marxis t notions of class, race, and culture. W i l l i a m s ' Capitalism and Slavery questioned the economic forces that led to the abandonment of slavery in the nineteenth century, arguing that the plantation system provided a significant 9 Sidney Mintz , "The Plantation as a Socio-cultural Type" In The Research Institute for the Study of M a n and the Pan American Union (1959) 46. 1 0 George Beckford, Persistent Poverty: Underdevelopment in Plantation Economies of the Third World (London: Oxford University Press, 1972) 6. 1 1 Beckford, 39. 1 2 Denis Benn, "The theory of Plantation Economy and Society: A Methodological Critique," Journal of Commonwealth Comparative Politics, xii 3 (1974): 256-258. \ 7 amount of surplus, which allowed E n g l a n d a self-sustained industrialism during the eighteenth century, but that the rise of industrial capital over merchant capital in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries reduced the economic significance of the West Indian plantation sys tem 1 3 . H e contended that the racial distinction between European and A f r i c a n before emancipation or between European and A s i a n after emancipation was fundamentally an economic distinction between those who owned property and those who did n o t 1 4 . In A History of the Guyanese Working People, 1881-1905, R o d n e y developed the Marxist tradition, arguing that, after emancipation, ex-slaves d id not become "peasants", but rather "plantation-workers" 1 5 , thus marking the rise of a conscious working class. W h i l e estate owners desired indentured labourers, former slaves formed task gangs that m o v e d f rom estate to estate and "negotiated with management to have some control over wages, conditions, and duration of w o r k " 1 6 . However , as Rodney reports, while the white-dominated plantation society reluctantly agreed to accommodate some Indian demands for land, this was at the expense of Creole Africans Politically, the planter class succeeded in interposing another set of landowners between itself and its traditional villagized African antagonists of the post-emancipation era 1 7 . Thus , former slaves perceived their interest as different f rom those of the indentured labourers. T h e dominant colonial classes, not only demarcated themselves f r o m the subordinate classes, but also maintained their hegemony over them through ensuring their exclusion f r o m positions of power and privilege, and also through their use of vocabularies that accentuated distinctions. T h e theses of W i l l i a m s and R o d n e y have generated criticism. Engerman and T h o m a s argue that West Indian plantations d id not provide the critical surplus capital that propelled England into self-sustained industrialism in the eighteenth century, and that, in fact, the colonies 1 3 Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (Chapel H i l l : University of North Carolina Press, 1944). 1 4 Eric Williams, "Race Relations in Caribbean Society" In Vera Rubin E d . , Caribbean Studies: A Symposium. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1960) 54. 1 5 Walter Rodney, A History of the Guyanese Working People, 1881-1905 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1981): 218. 1 6 Rodney (1981)43. 1 7 Rodney (1981) 182. 8 18 were a net loss to the Britain . A l s o , critics of Marxist scholarship oppose the notion that human behavior, is determined by economic interest alone. T a n n e b a u m argues that W i l l i a m s ' analysis of Caribbean race relations seeks to keep the categories of "black" and "white" static" 1 9 . Dupuy's critique of Rodney's A History of the Guyanese Working People, 1881-1905 also takes issue with the categories of "white" and "black", arguing that the designation of "white" denied "class and cultural differences among the Europeans" , and "black" deprived the various A f r i c a n ethnic groups of their i n d i v i d u a l i s m 2 0 . A third model of Caribbean society emerged from the 1956 writings of Furnival l . Furnivall 's Colonial Policy and Practice: A Comparative Study of Burma and the Netherlands India, asserted that, although colonial domination imposed a forced union on the colonized people, the society lacked a c o m m o n social life and that groups were held together by the "market place, in buying and s e l l i n g " 2 1 : . . .There is a plural society, with different sections of the community living side by side, but separately, within the same political unit 2 2 . In The Plural Society in the British West Indies M . G . Smith revised Furnivall 's plural society thesis, introducing the idea of cultural pluralism. T h i s stressed that members of colonial societies were internally distinct, due to fundamental differences in their institutional practices, w h i c h included "kinship, education, property, economy, recreation, and class sodalities" . Despres also advocates the use of the plural model , as it "avoids reducing the phenomena of Stanley Engerman, "The Slave Trade and British capital formation in the eighteenth century: A comment on the Williams Thesis," Business History Review 46 (1972): 441-442. 1 9 Tannenbaum, 61. 2 0 Alex Dupuy, "Race and Class in the Postcolonial Caribbean: The Views of Walter Rodney," Latin American Perspectives 89:23 (1996): 114. 2 ! Furnivall, 304. 2 2 J.S. Furnivall. Colonial Policy and Practice: A Comparative Study of Burma and Netherlands India (New York: N e w York University Press, 1956) 304. 2 3 M . G . Smith, The Plural Society in the British West Indies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1965) 82. 9 culture to the analytical level of a constant", and pointed to the political polarization and violence that emerged in G u y a n a along racial lines after 1955 2 4 . L l o y d Braithwaite and R a y m o n d Smith criticize the theory o f cultural pluralism, stating that both Furnival l and M . G . Smith obscure the important fact that " n o society can exist without a m i n i m u m sharing of c o m m o n values 2 5 . Instead, Braithwaite proposes a model of social stratification. A c c o r d i n g to Braithwaite the idea of "institutions" requires that both the European and subordinate cultures are essentially homogeneous. T h i s thesis treats differences of culture among the ethnic sections as subcultures co-existing within a society integrated around a c o m m o n system of shared values. T h i s process of integration is based on E d w a r d Brathwaite's idea of creolization, The notion of an historically affected socio-cultural continuum within which (as in the case of Jamaica) there are four inter-related and sometimes overlapping orientations...These four orientations may be designated as European, Euro-Creole, Afro-Creole (or folk), and creo-Creole or West Indian26. R a y m o n d Smith argues that the Negro, White and Coloured groups were bound together through their common participation in the social, economic, and political life of the country and through a sharing of certain values and cultural forms, notably the evolution of 'English' Christianity27. T h e stratification model proposes that segments o f Bri t ish G u i a n a shared certain institutions but each subgroup interpreted these institutions differently. Ultimately, the subcultures of the subordinate groups were devalued because of European cultural hegemony. R e x ' s Race and Ethnicity proposes reintroducing the role of race relations within models to explain the nature o f colonial societies. H e points to institutions of booty capitalism, such as slave plantations, as providing the basic framework within which one ethnic group exploits Leo Despres, "Anthropological Theory, Cultural Pluralism, and the Study of Complex Societies," Current Anthropology 9:1 (1968): 15. 2 5 L l o y d Braithwaite, "Social Stratification and Cultural Pluralism" In Michael Horowitz E d . , Peoples and Cultures of the Caribbean: An Anthropological Reader (New York: The Natural History Press, 1971) 99. 2 6 Edward Brathwaite, Contradictory Omens: Cultural Diversity and Integration in the Caribbean (Mona: Savacou Publications, 1974) 25. 2 7 Raymond Smith, British Guiana (London: Oxford University Press, 1962) 105. 10 another 2 8 . Cultural differences become boundary markers between those who have and those who do not have social, legal, and political r ights 2 9 . M o o r e and L a i have attempted to reconstruct the daily nineteenth-century Chinese immigrant life. In Race, Power and Social Segmentation in Colonial Society and Cultural Power, Resistance and Pluralism M o o r e argues that "composite colonial societies cannot realistically be grouped together as plural or class stratified", but represent two points along the 30 same line . T h e European planter class used several methods, including the system of laws, designed to regulate the system of indenture to maintain control and subjugate the non-white subordinate m a j o r i t y " 3 1 . Moore 's Cultural Power, Resistance and Pluralism examines the manner in w h i c h elite classes tried to create a consensus of values through culture, arguing that the Bri t ish colonials in Brit ish G u i a n a attempted to recreate and impose Victorian metropolitan culture. What emerged was a E u r o - W e s t Indian Creole culture that borrowed institutional structures f r o m the metropolitan and also evolved to meet specific needs of the colony. T h i s was held up as superior to the A f r i c a n and A m e r i n d i a n cultures 3 2 . A c c o r d i n g to M o o r e , the Chinese immigrants were unable to preserve their traditional culture in Bri t ish G u i a n a because of their small numbers, scattered around the coastal belts, their infrequent arrival that prevented strong cultural links with C h i n a , and the shortage of female Chinese w o m e n 3 3 . In his view, the Chinese made the most significant cultural accommodation to "the host society", and their conversion to Christianity was due to the intense elite cultural pressure 3 4 . 2 8 John Rex, Race and Ethnicity (England: Open University Press, 1986) 35. 2 9 John Rex, "The Role of Class Analysis" In John Rex and David Mason eds., Theories of Race and Ethnic Relations (Cambridge University Press, 1986) 70. 3 0 Brian Moore , Race, Power and Social Segmentation in Colonial Society_(New York : Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, 1987)27-29. 3 1 Moore (1987) 215. 3 2 Brian Moore , Cultural Power, Resistance and Pluralism (Montreal & Kingston: M c G i l l - Q u e e n ' s University Press, 1995)304. 3 3 Moore (1995) 293. 3 4 Moore (1995), 277-304. 11 L a i ' s Indentured Labor, Caribbean Sugar argues that the system of indenture sought to introduce inexpensive and servile labour into the colony to frustrate former slaves in their attempts to establish wages, such that the plantocracy viewed indentured servants as "a weapon in the class struggle against the newly freed B l a c k s " 3 5 . Indeed, before 1870, the system was designed to reduce indentured servants "to mere objects, abstract units of production, rather than to groom them for citizenship and assimilation into a new society" 3 6 . Y e t by the 1890s, the Chinese community , in comparison to the East Indian community , had experienced'a more complete process of creolization accelerated by adoption of Christianity and interracial l ia i sons 3 7 . U n l i k e M o o r e who explored Chinese cultural assimilation/accommodation based upon the emulation of Brit ish culture, L a i argues that the Chinese community adopted a creole culture, which includes both A f r i c a n and European traditions. T h i s paper asks why accommodation/assimilation is important, and whether questions of identity are part of a culturally determined mode of imperialist discourse. T h e question the paper asks is whether, when the issue of social relationship is explored using the above methodologies along with colonial texts, one uncovers Chinese identity in the post-emancipation period, or Chinese identity through the gaze of the colonizer. T h e paper seeks to rethink the post-emancipation period through active reading of colonial narratives. M y reading of colonial discourse builds upon Foucault's notion o f discourse as a system of statements imposed by dominant groups within which the "real" wor ld is determined. Discourse shapes how individuals come to " k n o w " themselves and each other. Therefore, those Walton Look Lai , Indentured Labor, Caribbean Sugar (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993) xviii . Lai 52. Lai 204-221. 12 who maintain control over k n o w i n g have power over those who do not. F o r Foucault, subjectivity is constructed within a specific historical, social and cultural system of k n o w l e d g e 3 8 . E d w a r d Said has extensively elaborated the relationship between knowledge and power in his discussions of Orientalism. Said's Orientalism argues that Orientalism, as a discourse, is based "upon an ontological and epistemological distinction between 'the Orient' and (most of the time) 'the Occident'"" . Orientalism serves as a "Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the O r i e n t " 4 0 . T h u s , those who write about the 'Orient' control what is k n o w n and how it is k n o w n . W i t h i n the colonial agenda, the colonizers seek control over the colonized by imposing specific values and knowledge upon the colonial space. C o l o n i a l discourse theory seeks to understand colonial ism, both as a set of political and economic relations as well as a s ignifying system. Through acts of inclusion and exclusion, colonial discourse constructs a reality which represents the superiority of the colonizer and the inferiority o f the colonized. -The duty of the imperial power is to reproduce itself in the colony and bring civil ization to the colony. Bhabha questions Said's assumption that the identities and positioning o f colonizer and colonized exist in stable terms, w h i c h are absolutely distinct f rom, and necessarily in conflict with each other. Instead, B h a b h a asserts that the colonial relationship is structured (on both sides) by forms of multiple and contradictory beliefs. A s B h a b h a argues, the m i m i c k i n g of the colonizer's cultural habits, assumptions, institutions, and values, by the colonized creates ambivalence within colonial discourse. A m b i v a l e n c e refers to the idea that the colonizers never truly want their colonized subjects to be exactly like themselves, because m i m i c r y by the colonized can lead to mockery, which is threatening to colonial authority 4 1 . 3 8 Michel Foucault, "Orders of Discourse: Inaugural Lecture Delivered at the College de France," Social Science Information 10:2 (1971): 7-30. 3 9 Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979) 2. 4 0 Said, 3. 4 1 Bhabha, 86-88. 13 T h i s paper seeks to review the works of two colonial writers, Clementi and K i r k e , with a view to exploring how the two authors perceived the Chinese community . It seeks to identify criteria used by Clementi and K i r k e to determine Chinese identity in post-emancipation Guiana , and to understand how inclusion and exclusion reveal the limitations of colonial authority. The Social Structure of Plantation British Guiana Before Emancipation In search of the mythical city of E l Dorado, D u t c h , French and Bri t ish explorers arrived in the Guianas in the late 1550s and early 1600s. E v e n though the D u t c h founded the settlement in what is now G u y a n a in 1581, the three D u t c h colonies of Essequibo, Berbice, and Demerara were in 1803 annexed by the Brit ish. T h e y were placed under one government, under the name of Brit ish Guiana , in 1831. Al though coffee and cotton grew alongside sugar between 1817 and 1825, after 1831 focus was placed solely on sugar product ion 4 2 . Before emancipation, the plantocracy, mainly E n g l i s h , Scottish, and Irish immigrants, believed that the success of sugar estates was dependent upon the slave trade, which provided a secure supply of labour. W i t h i n this system, the planters controlled the political , economic, and judicial institutions of the colony, while slaves fashioned lifestyles based on patterns of accommodation and resistance. B y the late eighteenth century Bri t ish G u i a n a slave society was a complex social organization, with cleavages of race, colour, and gender corresponding with economic, judic ia l , political , and social power within the colony. T h e social structure involved mutually interdependent groups of A f r i c a n and European peoples. Slaves represented the largest Alan Adamson, Sugar Without Slaves: the Political Economy of British Guiana, 1838-1904 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972) 26. 14 proportion of the plantation p o p u l a t i o n 4 3 , with the colonies of Demerara and Essequibo consisting of 69,467 slaves, 6,360 free coloured and free blacks, and 3,006 whites in 1829 4 4 . Planters restricted slave mobility, controlled their labour and subjected them to constant and extreme coercion. T h e slaves were not a homogeneous group, and life experiences depended on plantation versus town, male-female, A f r i c a n versus Creole , and age. Slave category was based on occupation, w h i c h was determined by intelligence, reliability, and physical dexterity 4 5 . Distinctions were made between domestic slaves, skilled slaves, and field slaves. T h i s occupational hierarchy accorded status and authority among the slaves. Plantation slaves l ived in their masters' homes, under direct control of the white mistress of the h o u s e 4 6 . Slaves with European ancestry formed the bulk of household s laves 4 7 , who included butlers, coachmen, stable crew, cooks, storekeepers, maids, cleaning and 48 washerwomen, and childcare attendants . T h e y received better food, and luxury items, such as candles and sugar 4 9 , but gave up some of the independence of field slaves who l ived in small cramped quarters adjacent to the sugar f i e l d s 5 0 . U r b a n domestic slaves were often hired out as seamstresses, washerwomen, or housemaids 5 1 , or were sent by their owners to sell goods. Others During the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, the word "servant" and "slave" were often used to describe both servile European and African labourers. However, with the expansion of sugar economy in the British West Indies and the slave trade, slave labour was narrowed in meaning and applied only to those individuals of African origin and menial occupation. Stanely Engerman, "Servants to slaves to servants: Contract Labour and European Expansion", Colonialism and Migration: Indentured Labour Before and After Slavery. P . C . Emmer E d . , (Netherlands: Martinus Ni jof f Publishers, 1986) 264. 4 4 Wi l l iam Green, British Slave Emancipation: The Sugar Colonies and the Great Experiment 1830-1865 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976) 13. 4 5 Green, 22. 4 6 Orlando Patterson, The Sociology of Slavery: An Analysis of the Origins, Development and Structure of Negro Slavery Society in Jamaica (Great Britain: M a c G i b b o n & Kee, 1967) 58. 4 7 Green, 23. 4 8 Patterson (1967) 62. 4 9 Green, 23. 5 0 Barbara Bush, "Toward Emancipation: Slave W o m e n and Resistance to Coercive Labour Regimes in the British West Indian Colonies, 1790-1838" In David Richardson E d . , Abolition and its Aftermath: The Historical Context, 1790-1916 (Great Britain: Frank Cass, 1985) 31. 5 1 Higman, 230. 15 worked under the system of self-hire, whereby they made fixed periodic payments to their owners 5 2 . Slave hucksters sold their goods on the main streets or public markets 5 3 . O n the plantation, field slaves (male and female) were organized into regimented work gangs, and worked on average of 280 days per year, under the supervision of a 'slave driver'. Those slaves unable to work in the fields did a variety of chores, such as carrying water and supervising young labourers 5 4 . Slaves with certain skills such as carpentry or r u m distilling were valued more than others, because the sugar business was more dependent on t h e m 5 5 . Slaves formed many family types 5 6 , and continued to maintain networks, which were formed during the voyage to the c o l o n y 5 7 . T h e y were granted plots of land on which to grow subsistence crops, and some of this produce was sold in Sunday markets 5 8 . Attempts to recreate A f r i c a n cultural traditions formed an integral part of slave identity, even though notions of European-Afr ican superiority-inferiority prevented the retention of ful l A f r i c a n cultures. T h e process o f intermixture changed both European and A f r i c a n cultural traditions 5 9 . F o r example, the Creole language, used for communication within the slave community , was English-based, but fol lowed A f r i c a n language grammar and rules 6 0 . "Free people of colour" occupied a position between the dominant whites and the black slaves 6 1 . These were ex-slaves who were granted legal freedom (manumission) either by deed granted by a slaveowner as a "gift" ; through self-purchase, or through a slaveowner's death 5 2 Higman, 237. 5 3 Higman, 240. 5 4 Bush, 28. 5 5 B . W . Higman, Slave Populations of the British Caribbean, 1807-1834 (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1984) 170. 5 6 Marietta Morrissey, Slave Women in the New World: Gender Stratification in the Caribbean (Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 1989) 88. 5 7 Michael Craton, Empire, Enslavement, and Freedom in the Caribbean (Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 1997) 150. 5 8 Craton, 155. 5 9 E . K . Braithwaite, The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, 1770-1820 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971) 11. 6 0 Craton, 151. 6 1 Green, 11. 16 w i l l 6 2 . T h e category of free person also included children from interracial relationships. These children were generally the product of European men and A f r i c a n or Creole women. Miscegenation violated colonial notions of racial slavery, which depended on the maintenance of racial and cultural purity between colonizer and colonized. Concerned with preserving racial differences, E n g l i s h colonial officials employed a complicated and rigid racial code to /TO accommodate the various combinations of racial mixture . In spite of their insistence of racial differences, interracial children reminded their colonial white fathers of the many ways in which colonizer and colonized were both alike and different. Free people of colour "occupied an insecure middle ground between the dominant whites and the servile b l a c k s " 6 4 . A l l persons of colour were subjected to a variety of c i v i l and political restrictions. T h e y were excluded f rom juries, they were not al lowed to vote for assemblymen, nor could they be elected to the colonial assemblies 6 5 . In the plantation-dominated Brit ish Guiana , power rested in the hands of European colonists who represented a small m i n o r i t y 6 6 . In the colony, high government officials, planters and attorneys held the most power. Administrators, such as the Governor , were imperial government appointees and, consequently, they were usually temporary residents of the colony. Resident managers and overseers, who were in charge of the daily operations of the plantation and the management of slaves, were only slightly less influential. T h e last segment of the white colonial group consisted of the merchants, professionals, clergy and junior government o f f i c i a l s 6 7 . A l t h o u g h they were diverse in origin, wealth and occupation, white colonists shared a c o m m o n desire to return "home" to Britain to l ive on revenues f r o m their plantations. T h e ideal 6 2 Higman, 383. 6 3 Green, 11. 6 4 Green, 11. 6 5 Green, 17. 6 6 Moore (1987), 52-61. 17 of being a temporary resident influenced the internal structure of the European community in two ways. First, Brit ish born colonists enjoyed greater prestige within Brit ish G u i a n a than local born E u r o p e a n s 6 8 . Secondly, a Euro-West Indian Creole culture emerged as colonial agents struggled to replicate the dominant metropolitan culture, but was forced to alter the culture in order to meet the specific needs of the c o l o n y 6 9 . T h i s Euro-West Indian Creole culture became part of a colonial discourse, w h i c h privileged the colonizer's assumptions, beliefs and attitudes within the colony. In order to maintain power, colonial discourse and practices actively perpetuated a violent binary hierarchy of colonizer over the colonized, whites over blacks, c iv i l ized over barbarian, and the metropolis over the colony. But the social relations were not static. Revolts , such as the Demerara Slave Revolts in 1823, demonstrated slaves' ability to plan and protest against imperial authority 7 0 . C o l o n i a l dichotomies, such as ruler/ruled, white/black, civilized/savage, were, indeed, continually subverted and reformulated. A l t h o u g h slavery defined slaves as property, daily contact and dependence upon slaves compelled slaveowners to acknowledge slaves as human beings, and the plantation system remained "fragile" and "contradictory" 7 1 . The Emancipation Movement in Britain A l t h o u g h John L o k introduced the first group of Afr icans to E n g l a n d in 1555, the earliest recorded bi l l of sale of slaves in E n g l a n d occurred in 1621. F r o m 1650s onwards, as the slave trade flourished the importation of slaves into E n g l a n d steadily increased . In the latter m i d eighteenth century, however, theological considerations and new arguments concerning 6 7 Moore (1987), 52-61. 6 8 Moore (1987), 52. 6 9 Orlando Patterson, "Context and Choice in Ethnic Allegiance: A Theoretical Framework and Caribbean Case Study" In N . Glazer and D . P . Moynihan, eds., Ethnicity: Theory and Experience (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1974) 305-349. 7 0 Michael Craton, Testing the Chains: Resistance to Slavery in the British West Indies (Ithaca: Cornel University Press, 1982) 267-290. 7 1 Franklin W . Knight. The Caribbean: The Genesis of a Fragmented Nationalism (New York : Oxford University Press, 1990) 154. benevolence and the fundamental rights of man resulted in anti-slavery sentiments ' and condemnation of slavery as an e v i l 7 4 that went against liberty and f r e e d o m 7 5 . Narratives by black slaves such as Equiano challenged the moral and philosophical reasons underpinning slavery, and Philosophers, including Montesquieu, denounced slavery as incompatible with Christian doctrine . Despite pressure put on Parliament by planters, the slave trade was finally abolished. T h e A c t granting complete emancipation in the British West Indies was passed on August 1, 183 8 7 7 . The Pull of British Guiana - The Emergence of Indentured Immigrants/Labourers T h e abolition of slavery was a crisis for the plantation owners, and had a bearing on the indentured labour system that emerged in British G u i a n a during the post emancipation period that was central to the discourse among colonial authors regarding the Chinese immigrant community . T h e notions of inclusions and exclusions and the construction of a Chinese identity within Bri t ish Guiana , which assisted in redefining the colonizer /colonized relationship, is related to this period. M a n y newly freed slaves in Brit ish Guiana attempted to remove themselves f rom the plantations to establish households and form free villages. However , drained land was scarce and expensive and, due to the need for money, former slaves had no alternative but to accept to work daily on the sugar estates for low wages, while paying high rent 7 8 . A l t h o u g h planters prevented slaves f rom completely divorcing themselves f rom the estates, they complained that 7 2 Peter Fryer, Staying Power: Black People in Britain Since 1504 (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1984) 4-32. 7 3 Roger Anstey, The Atlantic Slave Trade and British Abolition, 1760-1810 (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1975) 96-97. 7 4 David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in Western Culture (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1966) 295. 7 5 James Walvin , England, Slaves and Freedom, 1776-1838 (London: The Macmillan Press Ltd . , 1986) 44-45. 7 6 Davis, 394. 7 7 Adamson, 31. 7 8 Douglas Hal l , "Flight from the Estate Reconsidered: The British West Indies, 1838-1842," Journal of Caribbean StudiesVoL 10/11 (1978): 16-24. 19 former slave labourers were unreliable, inefficient, and insufficient, and turned to the idea of indentured immigrants as replacement labourers. Between 1834 and 1867, Brit ish G u i a n a received an additional 14,060 indentured labourers primarily f rom West A f r i c a (Sierra L e o n e and Liberia) . Besides A f r i c a n labour, planters experimented with various kinds of European immigration schemes. Between 1834-1838, Bri t ish G u i a n a planters were able to attract over 1,000 contract labourers f rom the Brit ish Isles, France, Ger m any , Mal ta , and M a d e i r a into the colony. In search of labourers, planters also turned to India and C h i n a . East Indian indentured labourers constituted the largest group of migrants introduced into nineteenth-century Brit ish Guiana . F r o m 1839 to 1918, Bri t ish G u i a n a 7Q received an official 239, 909 indentured servants f r o m India . Chinese Indentured Labourers In comparison to other migrants introduced during the post-slavery period, the Chinese formed a small minority. Between 1853 and 1879, thirty-nine ships transported a total of 13,533 O A Chinese labourers to the colony . A s a result of various immigration schemes, Bri t ish G u i a n a emerged as a multi-racial multi-ethnic plantation society. In addition to abolition of slavery, the Sugar Duties A c t passed by the Bri t ish Parliament in 1846 created a second source of crisis for the West India sugar industry, as it reduced preferential duties on sugar, such that, by 1874, all sugar was entering Britain free of duty. T h i s y ended protection for the West Indian unrefined sugar k n o w n as m u s c o v a d o 8 1 . D u r i n g this period of economic dislocation, a series of amalgamations among West Indian merchant houses replaced small individual planters, and, in Bri t ish Guiana , the number of J Moore (1987) 42-45. 0 Moore (1987) 42-45. ' Phillip Curtin, "Sugar Duties and West Indian Prosperity," Journal of Economic History (Spring 1954): 159. 20 all estates declined f rom 404 in 1838 to 135 in 1870 8 2 . T h e establishment of large estates and sugar factories such as those by M c C o n n e l l and C o . , brought more acreage under cultivation and altered the character of the plantation system, and the consolidation of estates under non-resident merchant ownership after 1846 introduced commercial approach to estate p r o d u c t i o n 8 3 . W i t h the introduction of the steam engine, and with improved capital and technological innovation, Brit ish OA G u i a n a emerged as the premier sugar-producing county in the Bri t ish West Indies . T h u s , introduction of indentured servants, combined with capital investments in the sugar industry, enabled the plantations of Brit ish G u i a n a to, not only survive, but also to thrive. It is the way the Chinese labourers during this post emancipation period were characterized by colonial writers such as C e c i l Clementi and Henry K i r k e that this paper explores. The Push in Qing China A l t h o u g h official Q i n g pol icy forbade the emigration of its subjects, the region's ports, O f such as W e n z h o u , and C h a o z h o u continued to support interregional and overseas trade ' . Primarily a male activity, emigrants leaving to trade or to supplement the family income, expected to return to their families and natal villages to perform rites and rituals . However , the arrival at various southern Chinese ports of European traders, intent on establishing trade relations, led to the emergence of a new pattern of long-distance out-migration away f rom the region. T h e Portuguese arrived in 1514, the Spanish in 1575, the D u t c h in 1604, and the Bri t ish in 1635. T h e Q i n g dynasty (1644-1911) attempted to restrict Europeans to designated areas. D u r i n g E m p e r o r Qianlong's reign (1736-95), the Canton System (1760-1842), whereby 8 2 Richard Lobell , "Patterns of Investment and Sources of Credit in the British West Indian Sugar Industry, 1838-1897," Journal of Caribbean History V o l . 4 (1972): 32. 8 3 Lobell , 32. 8 4 Lobell , 33. 8 5 Susan Naquin and Evelyn Rawski, Chinese Society in the Eighteenth Century (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1987) 168. 21 Europeans were only permitted to trade on a temporary basis in a designated area was 87 implemented . H o w e v e r overseas trade, especially Brit ish demand for Chinese silks, porcelain oo and tea proved extraordinary . W i t h the Chinese loss of the o p i u m wars and the subsequent Treaty of N a n k i n g (1842), that ceded the island of H o n g K o n g to Britain, Western traders were finally permitted to trade and reside the ports of Guangzhou, X i a m e n , F u z h o u , N i n g b o , and S h a n g h a i 8 9 . In the meantime, domestic unrest due to long-term domestic economic and political problems, including a population explosion between 1800 and 1850, led to socio-economic tensions that acted as a " P u s h " factor to the Chinese people to opt for long distance migration. Between 1847 and 1874 approximately 1.5 mi l l ion Chinese emigrated, of which 17,185 went to the Bri t ish C a r i b b e a n 9 0 . It can be seen f rom the above that, while coolie trade and the need for indentured labourers in Brit ish G u i a n a acted as the " P u l l " factor, the socio-economic circumstances in Q i n g C h i n a acted as the " P u s h " factor. The Chinese Coolie Trade to British Guiana T h e Chinese coolie trade, which occurred between 1845 and 1874, was intended to replace the A f r i c a n slave trade with contract Chinese labourers 9 1 , and the newly opened treaty ports allowed foreign merchants to operate the coolie agency system. Foreign merchants paid Wang Gungwu, The Chinese Overseas: From Earthbound China to the Quest for Autonomy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000) 39-64. 8 7 Jonathan Spence, The Search for Modern China (New York: W . W . Norton & Company, 1990) 120. 8 8 L l o y d Eastman, Family, Fields, and Ancestors: Constancy and Change in China's Social and Economic History, 1550-1949 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988) 128. 8 9 Spence, 159-160. 9 0 P . C . Emmer, "Immigration into the Caribbean: The Introduction of Chinese and East Indian Indentured Labourers Between 1839-1917" In P . C . Emmer, E d . Colonialism and Migration: Indentured Labour Before and After Slavery (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 1986) 67. 9 1 Robert Irick, Ch'ing Policy Toward the Coolie Trade 1847-1878 (San Francisco: Chinese Material Center, 1982) pp.2-3. 22 brokers commission on the number of labourers supplied, set up receiving stations, and arranged for overseas shipment 9 2 . A s a result of competition among European interests for labourers and the profits to be made, many subordinate brokers used force to procure individuals for the trade. T h e y often used deceptive information about contracts and work conditions to lure emigrants to the barracoons and to make them agree to contracts. U n e m p l o y e d labourers were often deceived about job opportunities in the coastal areas and lured to receiving stations, confined, and shipped abroad against their w i l l . G a m b l i n g games designed to encourage individuals to wager their freedom also proved effective. S o m e labourers were sold to agents referred to as 'crimps' by family members and/or f r i e n d s 9 3 . A t the receiving stations, labourers were locked away in poorly ventilated and cramped conditions until embarkment, and were required to pay for their o w n r o o m and board f rom the advancement they received f rom the broker after their contracts were signed. V i o l e n c e was also used to ensure that labourers responded "yes" to working abroad, i f questioned by any o f f i c i a l s 9 4 . D u r i n g the passage, labourers were overcrowded and confined below decks, and many were flogged, k icked , or struck arbitrarily. M u t i n y and drowning in shipwrecks also resulted in death en route . Despite attempts to regulate the abuses, the coolie system persisted. Between the years 1868 and 1872, news about the conditions/treatment of labourers succeeded in arousing international public opinion against the coolie trade. Parallels were drawn between the coolie trade and the slave trade, as stories of abuse, brutality and death before and during the voyages Wang Sing-Wu, The Organization of Chinese Emigration 1848-1888 (San Francisco: Chinese Material Center, Inc., 1978), pp.47-56. 9 3 Wang, 56-64. 9 4 Yen, 59-60. 9 5 Wang, 165-208. 23 reached the international press % . Concerned about growing anti-coolie trade sentiments within their own countries, Britain and the United States also feared that anger directed towards the coolie trade could erupt into anti-foreign sentiments within the Q i n g E m p i r e . A w a r e of the anti-coolie trade climate, the Q i n g government renewed anti-coolie measures in several provinces, and local Q i n g authorities used all available methods to punish coolie brokers, and to cut off the supply of coolies. U n a b l e to procure labourers the abolition of the coolie trade ban came into effect on M a r c h 27, 1874 9 7 . T h e British West India Emigrat ion A g e n c y was finally closed d o w n on June 4, 1875, in the wake of growing public opinion against abuses occurring within the international coolie trade. Indentureship Within British Guiana Between 1852 and 1884, fifty coolie ships landed a total of 17,904 Chinese labourers into the Bri t ish West Indies. Thirty-nine ships brought 13,633 indentured labourers into Brit ish G u i a n a 9 8 . Encouraged by the practice of providing emigrants with a stipend for any accompanying wives, between 1853 and 1879, approximately 1,998 females entered the c o l o n y 9 9 . U p o n their arrival in the colony, Chinese labourers were assigned to various plantations to fulf i l l their terms of the contract. T h e actual contracts of indenture varied. In 1853, all labourers were required to complete five years o f indentureship. In 1859, the contracts were amended to allow labourers to buy themselves out of indenture after three years of service. In 1860, the period of indenture was reduced to only one year. H o w e v e r in 1862, all contracts returned to the full f ive years of w o r k 1 0 0 . 96 Y e n , 116-117. ' Y e n , 120-122. ! L a i , 18-40. ' La i , 69. 2 4 How Colonial Narrative Constructed Identity During Post-Emancipation British Guiana (1833-1900): A Comparison of Cecil Clementi's The Chinese in British Guiana and Henry Kirke's Twenty-five Years in British Guiana, 1872-1897 Cecil Clementi's The Chinese in British Guiana B o r n on September 1, 1875, C e c i l Clementi was the eldest son of Captain M o n t a g u Clementi and Isabel C o l l a r d . H e belonged to the First Bengal Calvary and later served as C o l o n e l and Judge Advocate -General in India, and distinguished himself as a colonial administrator and traveler. Clementi was posted to H o n g K o n g in 1899, where he served as land and police magistrate between 1903-1906. In 1907, he journeyed f r o m A n d i j i a n to K o w l o o n , and published a Summary of Geographical Observations (1911). H e was appointed C o l o n i a l Secretary of British G u i a n a f rom 1913 until 1922. In 1915, he made an exploratory journey into the colony's interior, mapping a route f rom Kaieteur Falls to the summit of M o u n t Roraima, near the B r a z i l - V e n e z u e l a border. H i s account was published in Geographical Journal, and recorded in M r s . Clementi 's Through British Guiana to the Summit of Roraima (1920). A s colonial secretary, Clementi published one of the few studies concerned with recording the early Chinese immigrant experience. The Chinese in British Guiana (1915) was written to encourage the growth of Bri t ish sponsored emigration f r o m C h i n a into the colony. C e c i l Clementi 's The Chinese in British Guiana offers a unique point of entry into the process of constructing identity during the post-slavery period. A c t i n g as the C o l o n i a l Secretary of Brit ish G u i a n a and writing on behalf of the empire, Clementi's account represents a system of statements within which the colonial world of Brit ish G u i a n a was imagined and re-imagined. A s part of a larger post-emancipation imperial discourse, certain unarticulated rules, proscriptions, and assumptions dictated what statements Clementi could include or exclude concerning the 100 Lai , 60. 25 Chinese immigrants. T h i s thesis draws deliberate attention to the manner in which rules, proscriptions, and assumptions organized social reproduction within the colonial relationship. T h i s thesis argues that Clementi's The Chinese in British Guiana contributed to a larger imperial discourse that sought to: 1) distance itself f rom the horrors of the slave trade and slavery 2) continue the commercial exploitation of nineteenth-century West Indian society 3) define and justify indentureship as both a moral and c i v i l i z i n g mission 4) re-assert the colonizer/colonized relationship (Clementi's narrative constructed the Chinese immigrant as an " ideal" immigrant who embraced the sugar plantation of Bri t ish Guiana) . In The Chinese in British Guiana, which was submitted to the Brit ish C o l o n i a l O f f i c e , Clement i argued that, as labourers and settlers, the Chinese immigrants had an innate ability to prosper: One of the most striking features of Chinese immigration into British Guiana is the success which has attended some of the immigrants, who are now among the prominent residents in the Colony. All of them are self-made men and owe the positions they have achieved to the industry, shrewdness, pertinacity and audacity in business enterprise, which are the common heritage of their race...[I'm able] to give an account of a half-a-dozen of the most notable of these Chinese families, whose record is ...valuable as showing the rewards, which in this Colony await those who know how to make the most of their opportunities101. T h e image of sugar plantations being cultivated by "successful" Chinese labourers, who were industrious, by nature, was not a new theme in colonial literature. Indeed, W i l l i a m L a y m a n , a captain of the R o y a l N a v y who had served in both the East and West Indies, submitted a plan to the C o l o n i a l O f f i c e in 1802 to substitute Chinese labourers for A f r i c a n slaves . L a y m e n argued that the Chinese w o u l d be superior workers because they were "inured to a hot climate, and were habitually industrious, sober, peaceable, frugal, and eminently skilled in the culture and preparation of every article of tropical p r o d u c e " 1 0 3 . L a y m a n calculated that 1 0 1 Clementi, 333. 1 0 2 The Fortitude arrived in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, on October 12, 1806 with 192 Chinese labourers. B y 1807, only twenty-four individuals lived on the plantation, seven had died, and the rest were housed in special settlements. In July of the same year, sixty-one Chinese labourers returned to Bengal or China. Between 1809 and 1820, official accounts record that no more than thirty emigrants remained on the island. B . W . Higman. "The Chinese in Trinidad, 1806-1838", Caribbean Studies 12:3 (1972): 21-44. 1 0 3 Higman (1972), 22. 26 100 Chinese workers could easily produce the same quantity of sugar as 250 A f r i c a n slaves. Proponents of the substitution plan argued that the Chinese labourer w o u l d thrive in the tropics, unlike the A f r i c a n slave w h o was lazy by nature. It was further argued that, as the Chinese community developed, the industrious among them w o u l d " form a material part of the population, distinct f r o m the slaves, and f r o m their general character of subordination. T h e y w o u l d always be disposed to resist and discourage attempts at insurrec t ion" 1 0 4 . Apart f rom acting as replacement labourers, they w o u l d also act as a barrier between the local white colonial elite and their former slaves. However , due to the continuation of the slave trade, the idea of importing more Chinese labourers was not actively pursued. T h e anticipated end of the slave trade, however, led West India planters to review the subject of Chinese coolie-emigration. In 1811, a Committee of the Brit ish H o u s e of C o m m o n s , appointed to consider "the practicability and expedience of supplying our West India colonies with free labourers f r o m the East," reported: (1) that there prevailed amongst the male population of C h i n a a great disposition to emigrate; but that they almost universally emigrated with the intention of returning to their o w n country, and that a considerable number did actually return (2) that the Chinese Emigrants had uniformly conducted themselves with greatest propriety and order, and had been peculiarly instrumental in promoting the improvement of those countries to w h i c h they had emigrated (3) that such emigration, however, was contrary to the laws of C h i n a ; although its existence impl ied that those laws were not strictly e n f o r c e d 1 0 5 . T h e Committee agreed that the West Indies w o u l d benefit f rom "the introduction of a class o f free people so distinguished by their orderly and industrious h a b i t s " 1 0 6 . T h e above sentiments were later reiterated by James White , the emigration agent for Bri t ish G u i a n a in Calcutta, who traveled to G u a n g d o n g and Fujian to investigate the feasibility 1 0 4 Higman (1972), 22-23. 1 0 5 Clementi, 2. 1 0 6 Clementi, 3. 27 of importing labourers to the British West Indies. Whi te reported that the Chinese were "strong, active and intelligent, disposed to work and to make m o n e y " 1 0 7 . Reconceptualized within the context of nineteenth-century colonial relations, Clementi continued to portray the Chinese labourer as a "successful" immigrant. Specifically , The Chinese in British Guiana connected "success" with the degree of "respectability" achieved by the Chinese immigrant. After the abolition of slavery rendered all peoples in the colony legally free, the concept of "respectability" emerged as a salient marker that ordered colonial relations. 108 Respectability built upon the notion that "whites were, by definition, respectable" . T o be considered respectable, immigrants needed to emulate Brit ish culture, behavior, manners and values. T h u s , A white person, excluding the Portuguese who were not 'sociologically white' in this period, would have to do something very shocking to lose his respectable status. With non-whites, on the other hand, the onus was on them to prove their respectability109. T o be considered respectable, all non-Brit ish peoples needed to demonstrate a c o m m a n d of European manners and culture. F o r Clementi , "to make the most of their opportunities," meant that the Chinese indentured servants both accepted and adopted Bri t ish culture and mannerisms as part of their personal belief s y s t e m 1 1 0 . A s an example of immigrant success, Clementi records the life o f John H o - A - S h o o who entered the colony in 1875 as an indentured immigrant. Ho Shau...was born at San-wui in the province of Kuangtung in or about the year 1852, and landed in Georgetown from the Corona on the 23rd February, 1874, as an indentured immigrant. He was sent to Plantation Bel Air to serve the term of his contract; and while there, he not only embraced Christianity, but became so earnest a believer that he went abroad with the Reverend Lau Fuk, a minister sent to this Colony by an American Society of Plymouth Brethren, endeavouring to make converts...he was instrumental in inducing many of his countrymen to become Christians. After completing his term of indenture, Ho A-Shoo went to Hyde Park...where he served as a shopman. He was thus engaged for several years; and having accumulated a small sum of money, he went to Plantation Versailles on the left bank of the river, 1 0 7 Clementi, 24. 1 0 8 Bridget Bereton, Race Relations in Colonial Trinidad 1870-1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979)211. 1 0 9 Bereton, 211. 1 1 0 Clementi, 333. 28 and there started a small shop of his own, which must have done well, for next we find him at Plantation Dunoon on the Demerara River, then the sugar estate. Under his able management the business prospered and Ho A-Shoo was on the high road to success. He had a full measure of Chinese enterprise: and it was therefore, without much difficulty that the manager of the Barima Gold Mines persuaded him to open another business at Arakaka in the year 1894...the business once started, turned out to be a veritable gold mine; and, encouraged by this success, Ho A-shoo immediately set about opening shops in other gold-bearing districts, and, being almost the first in the field, he reaped a rich harvest111 . H o A - s h o o represents an " ideal" immigrant who not only completed the required term of indenture, but also remained involved in the sugar plantations and converted to Christianity. Clementi upheld H o A-shoo's active participation in converting other Chinese immigrants as further proof that the colony of Brit ish G u i a n a was both economically and spiritually rich. In Clementi 's portrayal of the plantation, the estate is tied to a moral and c i v i l i z i n g mission, w h i c h the immigrant readily accepts. In addition, H o A - s h o o demonstrated allegiance to the local elite culture by practicing a monogamous marriage and encouraging his children to obtain a Brit ish education: He had while a young man, married Miss Wong Fung-kiu, who bore him eight children. The eldest, A-sin, a daughter, was bom in 1886 at Plantation Dunoon. At the age of ten she became a pupil at Trinity School, where, she remained for two years, after which she attended the Ursuline Convent from 1898 to 1905, when having passed the Cambridge senior examination, she accompanied her father to England and became a student at Nuneham College, Cambridge...In 1911, she became a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians, and a year later a Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons. She also obtained the Dublin University's diploma for public health and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons'12. Clementi also writes about a brother H u n g - y a n who was at the time also studying at the University of E d i n b u r g h as an agricultural student 1 1 3 . T h e education of both sons and daughters brought equal praise in Clementi 's work. Another aspect of the colonial conception of "successful" Chinese is illustrated by Clementi 's history of the Chinese village k n o w n as the Hopetown Settlement (1865-1914), w h i c h was started by W u T a i - k a m , a Chinese, born in Singapore. F r o m E n g l a n d , the C h u r c h of Miss ionary Society paid for his passage to Brit ish G u i a n a to serve as the first missionary among 1 1 1 Clementi, 333-334. 1 1 2 Clementi, 335. 29 the Chinese. Shortly after his arrival, in July 1864, W u T a i - k a m succeeded in forming a small congregation of Chinese Christians, and quickly gained a reputation among the colonial elite as a man deeply devoted to the mission of creating a Christian community and as the unofficial leader of the Chinese community . Impressed by W u T a i - K a m ' s efforts in the Chinese community , Governor H i n c k s encouraged h i m to petition the Court of Pol icy for a grant of C r o w n L a n d in order to establish a permanent Chinese community , arguing that the settlement w o u l d encourage immigrants who had completed their indenture to remain in the colony. Despite planter class opposition, in 1865 the Brit ish Guiana's Court of Pol icy adopted the proposal to establish a village of Chinese Christians on a suitable tract of crown l a n d " 4 . A c c o r d i n g to Clement i the Hopetown settlement exceeded initial expectations: By December 1865, about 170 persons had settled there, all actively employed . . .These settlers were selected from among an unusually fine set of Chinese immigrants...who were indentured originally to Plantation Skeldon. They were mostly Christian converts. A store was opened at Hopetown and a shop at Georgetown at the former of which at the latter, charcoal, singles, and the various products of the industry settlers were sold...Governor Hincks reported to the Colonial Office on the 18th December, 1865, that the project...was an "acknowledged success"" 5 . T h e settlement eventually disintegrated due to a sex scandal and sudden departure of W u T a i -kam, and as a result of f looding that made cultivation d i f f i c u l t 1 1 6 . The Chinese in British Guiana represents an attempt to organize, order and assert power over the colonized space of British Guiana . W r i t i n g about H o A - s h o o and the H o p e t o w n Settlement, Clementi becomes the authority over the Chinese experience in the colony. T h r o u g h his gaze, both the individual and the community is defined. Clementi as author is able to conceal and exclude knowledge about the Chinese community that contradicted or challenged imperial hegemony. In this manner, colonial discourse operates as an instrument o f colonial power. 1 1 3 Clementi, 335-336. 1 1 4 Clementi, 287. 1 1 5 Clementi, 290-291. 1 1 6 Clementi, 195. 30 One of Clementi 's concealment is his lack of detail regarding the system of indenture. The Chinese in British Guiana claims that the Chinese in the colony were excellent plantation workers, however, his report secrets the oppressive labour practices built into the system. A l t h o u g h the term "indentured servant" suggests a contractual arrangement (a c i v i l contract), in reality, any violations of the terms of contract were subject to penal sanctions (either fine or imprisonment by local magistrates). A s in the times of slavery, the partiality of the magistrates towards the planter class made justice difficult to obtain for the indentured servant. In light of these conditions, most labourers were forced to endure long and arduous hours of plantation work. T u r n i n g specifically to the theme of "Chinese as respectable", Clementi denies all evidence, which might discount the moral and c i v i l i z i n g mission of the plantation. A l t h o u g h Clementi argued that the Chinese community embraced Christianity, he assumes that the adoption of Christianity meant the complete abandonment of Chinese cosmology. Clementi 's work is silent on how the immigrants accommodated Christianity to their o w n culture. A l t h o u g h many Chinese labourers adopted the A n g l i c a n faith, religious activities and texts were conducted in a Chinese dialect. T h e lack of Chinese sources makes it difficult to ascertain how many viewed the A n g l i c a n faith as necessary for improved l iving conditions. H o w the community might have maintained their Chinese traditions and practices remains concealed. W h i l e Clementi demonstrated how the Chinese community adopted the local Vic tor ian culture, the text excludes issues concerning cultural accommodation with other immigrant groups. F o r example, in Clementi 's account, all Chinese men married Chinese women. However , the colony experienced a shortage of Chinese women. U n l i k e areas of Southeast A s i a , the distance and cost of travel d id not allow for the importation of young w o m e n by the community . T h i s w o u l d leave Chinese men with the choice of bachelorhood or marrying/co-habiting with non-Chinese women. 3 1 In fact, Clementi 's work omits all references of Chinese labourers interacting with former slaves, Amerindians , Portuguese, or East Indians. T h e only relationship that holds importance is that of the colonizer and colonized. Implicit in this binary relationship is isolation. Clementi 's writings reflect the colonial desire to keep all colonized subjects alienated f rom one another. However , the demise of Hopetown and the fall of W u T a i K a m , who had an affair with a colored woman, locate the underlying weakness within the pol icy of isolation. A s part of a colonial discourse, The Chinese in British Guiana is never as consistent and confident as Clementi implies. H i s assertions of an ideal Chinese community prospering within a moral plantation society are ultimately revealed as false by Clement i ' s o w n conclusions. Clementi is forced to admit Why then, have the attempts so far to introduce Chinese immigrants into this colony failed of success? For, although there is little doubt that from the point of view of the planters the Chinese immigration into British Guiana was not a failure, and that the estates' authorities were well repaid in the work done on sugar plantations for the cost of importing Chinese labourers, nevertheless an experiment, which during the course of twenty-seven years introduces 14,000 immigrants with the results that thirty-two years later no less than 3,000 remain, must from the point of view of colonization be pronounced to have failed'17 If the plantation was indeed a place in w h i c h an individual could make the "most of an opportunity" where had all the Chinese indentured servants gone? Henry Kirke's Twenty-five Years in British Guiana Henry Kirke 's Twenty-five Years in British Guiana constructs an alternative narrative about the early Chinese community in the colony. B o r n in 1842. Kirke 's recollections of Brit ish Guiana draw f rom his experiences as Sheriff of Demerara f rom 1872 to 1897. Intended for popular consumption in Britain, Kirke's memoirs record the life and habits of peoples l i v i n g in the colony of Brit ish Guiana . L i k e Clementi , Kirke's account about the early Chinese 1 1 7 C l e m e n t i , 3 5 6 - 3 5 7 . 32 community reveals tension and ambivalence between the colonized Chinese subject and the dominant discourse. Contrary to Clementi 's assertions of "good Chinese agricultural labourers," K i r k e wrote, owing to the duplicity of the Chinese government and the rascality of the native sub-agents, instead of agricultural labourers, the emigrant ships were in many cases filled up with the off scouring of Canton-gaol-birds, sturdy beggars, loafers, and vagabonds"8. Moreover , K i r k e reveals that many Chinese immigrants deserted the plantations. In contrast to Clementi 's "Chinese as model minority" , Kirke's illustrates how some labourers attempted to resist the controls of the planter class: Some joined...their countrymen, who had settled on one of the numerous creeks...others took to peddling, rum smuggling, illicit distillation, keeping gambling houses and brothels; whilst the worst among them returned to their former occupations of burglary, robbery, and petty larceny"9. K i r k e connects the high rated of desertion among the Chinese to their lack of moral character. A s opposed to Clementi 's account, whereby group cohesion is built on the A n g l i c a n faith and the absorption of Brit ish culture and manners, Kirke's description suggests a Chinese community united in defiance of the plantation regime. T h e community's lawless behavior suggests that the Chinese immigrants may ultimately be beyond the control of colonial authority. Kirke's Twenty-Five Years in British Guiana is also instructive because colonial notions of race, class, colour, and caste informs his stories. H i s colonial discourse represents the Chinese as "exotic", a theme that included the body, food, and language. F o r instance K i r k e states, The Chinese are so much alike in features that it is difficult to distinguish one man from another; so when they deserted from the estates it was difficult to identify and address them120. Kirke's insistence that all Chinese looked alike, but were indistinguishable to the European eye, emphasized the biological difference between the colonized and the colonizer. B y constructing the "Chinese as exotic", the reader is never allowed to forget that, although the colonized subjects behaved as "proper E n g l i s h m e n " , they were still biological ly "Chinese E n g l i s h m e n " . 1 1 8 Henry Kirke, Twenty-five Years in British Guiana (London: Sampson L o w , Marston & Company, 1898) 207. 1 1 9 Kirke, 207 1 2 0 Kirke, 216. 33 Consequently, the construction of the "Chinese as exotic" always threatened the degree of European civilization that a Chinese might have achieved. F o r example, I dined and slept at the house of a Chinese gentleman...He was a pleasant, jovial person, and as he understood some English we were able to converse together. He gave me an excellent dinner-tannia soup, roast capon, cold tea, and excellent brandy (Hennessy's X X X ) . His wife was a jolly, moon-faced woman, with enormous jade earrings, and his children were fat as butter. Thanking him for his hospitality, I expressed as a wish that the next time I dined with him young roast dog might be one of the dishes. He seemed rather angry at the suggestions. "No good Chinee eat bow-wow; bad Chineeman, he eat bow-wow" 1 2 1 . A l t h o u g h the Chinese man served acceptable soup accompanied by an appropriate drink, K i r k e ensures that the reader never feels that he and the Chinese family are equals. After sharing a meal with the unnamed Chinese family , Kirke's reference to eating dog on his next visit was an attempt to return the Chinese host back to the inferior position of a colonized subject. Hence , Kirke's construction of the "Chinese as exotic" re-inserts the fundamental binary structure of colonized/colonizer back into the imperial discourse. T h e hierarchical relationship between K i r k e and the unnamed Chinese man is also reinforced through language and text. " N o good Chinee eat b o w - w o w , bad Chinee , he eat b o w - w o w " is the only place in which the Chinese immigrant speaks in Kirke's narrative. A l t h o u g h the Chinese man is attempting to demonstrate his mastery of the imperial culture, within the text he is subjected to ridicule because he is unable to express himself in the Queen's/Kirke's E n g l i s h . F o r K i r k e , there is a desire to maintain the separation between white c iv i l ized and non-white savage. T o K i r k e , the idea that a non-white is capable of adopting Bri t ish markers of respectability is ridiculous: One of the most touching incidents of colonial life is the universal use of the word "home" amongst all classes of the community, when speaking of England. A colonist ...always says he is "going home". In his conversations he always talks of "home" "When I was last at home." "They do these things differently at home." "What's the news from home?"...This assumes a somewhat ludicrous aspect when you hear these phrases from the mouths of black and coloured people, who, in many cases, have never even visited any parts of Europe 1 2 2 . Desperate, K i r k e feels the need to justify to himself and his readers back home w h y he is eating in the home of a wealthy colonized subject. In other words, in Kirke's narrative, there is an 1 2 1 Kirke, 216. 34 urgent need to mask the inevitable dependence of the colonizer upon the existence of the colonial other. In spite of his o w n misgivings about the Chinese community in Bri t ish Guiana , K i r k e anxiously amends his observations by stating, I think it is only fair to say that the present Chinese inhabitants of British Guiana are most worthy, law-abiding people, giving little trouble to police or magistrate; industrious, truthful, and honest, they make most excellent citizens. A Chinaman will try to overreach you in a bargain, but once the bargain is made he will always stick to it with the utmost fidelity. Many of the Chinese have become Christians, and excellent converts they are. They have built and maintain churches of their own in Georgetown and New Amsterdam, pay their catechists, and are always ready to subscribe to any Christian charity. I am no great believer in missionary enterprise; I am sure every honest Christian in the colony will confess that the attempt to convert the Hindoo and Mahommedan immigrants to Christianity has been an utter failure. But although a captious critic, I am bound to confess that the Chinese converts, in my opinion, are earnest, believing Christians 1 2 3 . Consider ing his other comments about the Chinese labourer, how can K i r k e reach the above conclusions? F o r K i r k e , the Chinese labourer in comparison to the East Indian indentured servant is far more accepting of colonial rule, manners, and social conventions. Conclusion It can be concluded that, in order to justify the importation of Chinese indentured servants for the plantations, after emancipation, colonial narratives masked the underlying exploitation of the immigrants with projections of the plantation as a colonial space ideal for c i v i l i z i n g the colonized subject. W h i l e Clementi constructed an idealized indentured labourer who not only survived, but also thrived within the plantation society, Kirke 's narrative reveals uncertainty about the Chinese immigrant. K i r k e remains suspicious of all attempts made b y the Chinese labourer to emulate the coloniz ing culture. F o r K i r k e , the exotic Chinese worker must Kirke, 52. Kirke, 212. 35 always be carefully policed and watched. A s in the times of slavery, the interdependence between colonizer/colonized during colonial encounters created many ambiguous spaces. What can we conclude about the early Chinese community l iv ing in Bri t ish Guiana? I initially began this project with this simple question. But like all simple questions, the answer proved to be m u c h more complex. Without source materials f rom the Chinese labourers themselves (which I have found none to date), the academic task of revisiting and interrogating the colonial past relies solely on colonial archives. A s Said suggest, imperial textuality itself is deeply involved in the project of imagining, translating, containing and managing the colonial "other". T h u s , colonial textuality produces "the other/ the Chinese/ the colony of Bri t ish G u i a n a " as colonials. Nevertheless, this project uncovers a discourse uncertain about the colonial project. F o r Bhabha, the above ambivalence reveals the degree to which the colonizers ' identity is in fact fractured and destabilized by the colonized other. Clementi and K i r k e ' s mi x e d modes of representation concerning the Chinese in Brit ish Guiana expose the colonial project as one fraught by anxieties and fears. 36 BIBLIOGRAPHY A d a m s o n , A l a n . Sugar Without Slaves: The Political Economy of British Guiana, 1838-1904. N e w H a v e n : Y a l e University Press, 1972. Anstey, Roger. The Atlantic Slave Trade and British Abolition, 1760-1810. N e w Jersey: Humanities Press, 1975. B e c k f o r d , George. Persistent Poverty: Underdevelopment in Plantation Economies of the Third World. L o n d o n : O x f o r d University Press, 1972. 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