colonialism, empire, sex work, biopower, racism


This paper explores how female sexuality became a primary site for the exercise of British biopolitical regulation as illustrated both in colonial Hong Kong and Singapore and in domestic practice. The application of biopolitical regulation on the subject of female sexuality was based on a discursive production making indissociable the success of the imperial project and the survival of the imperial race and the control of the female body. This discursive production mobilized intersections of race, class, gender and sexuality through the Victorian cult of domesticity, resulting in a racialization of female sexuality with implications transcending the permeable frontier between the metropolis and the colonies. Making “the prostitute” the exemplar of deviant, dangerous and immoral sexuality had discursive repercussions for female sexuality more broadly; explained in contrast to “the prostitute”, the construction of sexual deviance had implications for understandings of sexual conformity and acceptability both in Victorian society and abroad.

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