• No results found

becoming modern.87 While Alatas’s work is a study of official discourses, he did not examine discourses of women and work, nor has he employed a Foucauldian perspective. It is only by moving to this type of research that it will be possible to see how the official structure of women and work is supported across various disciplines.88

about the essential or biological or socially constructed female body in order to explore how it is represented through knowledge. It is important, from a Foucauldian perspective, to trace the history of women and work in both the colonial and post-colonial periods in order to document the state’s role in constructing knowledge that has significance for the ways women and work are viewed, because as Stivens has suggested, the problem of understanding women’s work lies not so much in the way women have been silenced, as in the ways women are represented in anthropology and historical works.89 Historians can benefit by moving to a post-structuralist perspective, because the examination of representations of women and work enables us to be sharper observers of the fractures and

‘fantasies’ in the discourses of women, past and present. 90 Chapter two begins this process by questioning the place of women in the colonial archive.

89 Stivens, Matriliny and Modernity: Sexual Politics and Social Change in Rural Malaysia.

90 There are, however, feminist historians working in other contexts who have moved beyond an examination of the documents in the archives to an examination of the ways the working classes are represented within a discursive field across various institutions and communities. An example of this is Lynette Finch’s work on Australia. Lynette Finch, The Classing Gaze (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1993).

Chapter 2: Women and Work in the Colonial Archive

In colonial Malaya women played a role in both the family and as waged labour but were largely silenced or fantasised about in the colonial archive. After Malaya was colonised in 1874, tin and rubber became the country’s primary exports. Malays predominantly worked in the agricultural sector, mainly farming rice, and immigrant Chinese, Indian and Javanese labour was brought on contract (and then after 1914 as free labour) to work in the tin mines and on the rubber estates.32 Numbers of women workers accompanied the largely male workforce but women’s work was not represented in the same ways as men’s work. This mostly invisible workforce was defined by their roles as wives and mothers rather than as workers. The level of invisibility, however, was determined by the women workers’ ethnicity, because Malay workers, male or female, were not included in the colonial labour reports.

This chapter highlights the marginality of women’s work in the formal colonial archives.

The term ‘archive’ refers to a series of documents relating to labour in colonial Malaya stored in the National Archives Malaysia (Akib Negara) and the Public Records Office in London.33 The first section of the chapter argues that Malay women workers were rarely

32 The Labour Ordinance outlawed indentured Chinese labour in 1914. Indian indentured labour was also freed around 1910-1914, but on many rubber estates Indian labour under contract continued until the Labour Ordiinance in 1923, and in some estates until much later. Javanese labour remained on contract throughout the colonial period. During British colonisation there were also large numbers of workers among all groups that immigrated to Malaya as free labour.

33 The archives in Malaysia and England hold documents relating to the Straits Settlements and British Malaya. The documents relating to labour in Malaya do not start until well after the colonisation of Perak in 1874. Perak was the first state outside Penang, Malacca and Singapore to be colonised by the British.

Selangor, Pahang, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis and Trengannu followed and Johore was the last state to accept a British Resident in 1914. The first documents relating to Malaya include the colonial Resident’s journal recordings of their day-to-day activities. (These journals have also been revised by ex-colonial officers and historians and include Frank Swettenham, Hugh Low and Hugh Clifford’s journals which will be examined in the following chapter). P L Burns and C D Cowan, eds., The Malayan Journals of Sir Frank Swettenham (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1975). Emily Sakda, ed., The Journal of Sir Hugh Low, Perak, 1877 (Kuala Lumpur: MBRAS, 1954). Hugh Clifford, An Expedition to Trengganu & Kelantan 1895 (Kuala Lumpur: MBRAS, 1992). Formal labour documents for the Federated Malay States (FMS) and the Unfederated Malay States (UMS) were not compiled until after immigrant labour started to enter Malaya to work the plantations, rubber plantations in particular, and the Chinese Protectorate established in Perak and Selangor after 1874 also compiled reports. From then on, annual reports were compiled and sent to London. There were also a series of Colonial Office Reports (CO) which

mentioned in the records because Malays in general were represented as ‘lazy natives’

and ignored in the reports, and because non-waged work in the subsistence economy was not documented in the same manner as waged work in the capitalist economy was. In colonial records pertaining to labour, Malay women are either invisible or regarded as part of the working family rather than as individual workers. The second section of the chapter examines the representation of non-Malay women workers in the Chinese Secretariat and Labour Reports for the years 1892-1948. In these documents, there is little reference to women’s work except to note the difference in wages paid to men and women under the Labour Code. According to the reports, Chinese women worked in the wage labour sector in the tin mines, but they were only employed as dulang panners.

Indian women working in the rubber plantations were listed in the labour reports, in the immigration and emigration statistics against male workers, and to distinguish the variations in the wages paid to male and female workers. However they were generally represented as part of the family rather than individual waged workers. The third section of the chapter examines two reports: one conducted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the other on trade unionism in Malaya written under the auspices of the Colonial Office.34 The first is important here because it shows that, even though the ILO was an independent institution inaugurated in Geneva in 1919 to support labour rights for all levels of workers and introduce regulations which would benefit both employer and employee, and was responsible for ending recruited indentured systems of labour in Malaya, it continued to represent women workers in the same ways as the Chinese Protector and the Controller of Labour. Likewise, the trade union report is included because it shows that although the report was compiled by government officials who did not normally reside in Malaya, they also represented women and work in similar ways.

include or refer to labour statistics under the CO 717 and 273 series. The series of reports examined include the Chinese Secretariat Reports and the Labour Reports. See Appendix 2 for a full list of documents examined.

34 "Labour Conditions in British Malaya," (Geneva: International Labour Organisation, 1927). S S Awbery and F W Dalley, "Labour and Trade Union Organisation in the Federation of Malaya and Singapore,"

(London: Colonial Office, 1948).