Imperial Relations: Histories of family in the British Empire

TitleImperial Relations: Histories of family in the British Empire
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsCleall, E, Ishiguro, L, Manktelow, EJ
JournalJournal of Colonialism and Colonial History
Type of ArticleIntroduction
ISBN Number1532-5768
KeywordsEmotions, Interracial relationships, Postcolonialism, Postpartum period, Sexuality

This special issue examines the place of “relations” in colonial life, interrogating their forms, meanings and significance in a range of contexts across the British Empire from the late eighteenth century to the present. We are concerned with exploring both “family” and “empire” as contested categories, with particular attention to rethinking the configurations of “blood, contract, and intimacy”3 that might be seen as constituting imperial families. To this end, the articles consider a diverse range of ways in which family—broadly defined—operated as a key site of imperial processes, a social and economic unit at the heart of colonial life, and a building block for imperial relationships and identities. The histories of ministers and missionaries (Rhonda Semple and Sarah Duff), servants and employers (Fae Dussart), sexual relationships that crossed “racial” and cultural boundaries (Chie Ikeya), and orphans and institutions (Andrew May) provoke new considerations of who and what “colonial relations” were, how they operated and why they were significant. Individually and collectively, these articles push the scholarship on imperial family in new directions, questioning the conceptual boundaries of family and rethinking its connections to empire.