8 Carnal Knowledge and Imperial Power: Gender, Race, and Morality in Colonial Asia

Ann Laura Stoler

Over the last fifteen years the anthropology of women has fundamentally altered our understanding of colonial expansion and its consequences for the colonized. In identifying how European conquest affected valuations of women's work and redefined their proper domains, we have sought to explain how changes in household organization, the sexual division of labour, and the gender-specific control of resources within it have modified and shaped how colonial appropriations of land, labour, and resources were obtained. 1 Much of this research has focused on indigenous gendered patterns of economic activity, political participation, and social knowledge, on the agency of those confronted with European rule--but less on the distinct agency of those women and men who carried it out.

More recent attention to the structures of colonial authority has placed new emphasis on the quotidian assertion of European dominance in the colonies, on imperial interventions in domestic life, and thus on the cultural prescriptions by which European women and men lived ( Callan and Ardener 1984; Knibiehler and Goutalier

____________________
© 1991 The Regents of the University of California. The research for this paper was supported by an NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship for the International Exchange of Scientists (Grant No. IN-8701561), by a NATO Postdoctoral Fellowship in Science (Grant No. RCD-8751159), and by funding from the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France. The Center for Asian Studies Amsterdam (CASA) and the Centre d'Etudes Africaines in Paris generously extended their facilities and collegial support. I owe particular thanks to the following people who have read various versions of this text and whose comments I have tried to take into special account here: Julia Adams, Etienne Balibar, Pierre Bourdieu, Robert Connell, Frederick Cooper, Linda Gordon, Lawrence Hirschfeld, Micaela di Leonardo, Gerda Lerner, George Mosse. A much shorter version of this paper has appeared under the title "'Making Empire Respectable: The Politics of Race and Sexual Morality in 20th Century Colonial Cultures'", American Ethnologist 16/4: 634-60. The present paper is reprinted with permission from Micaela di Leonardo (ed.), Gender at the Crossroad of Knowledge, 51-101).

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