Guo-Quan Seng's "Strangers in the Family: Gender, Patriliny, and the Chinese in Colonial Indonesia" Book Talk

When and Where

Tuesday, March 19, 2024 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Room 208N
North House
1 Devonshire Place, Toronto, ON, M5S 3K7


Guo-Quan Seng



Strangers in the Family is a gendered history of settler Chinese community formation in Indonesia during the Dutch colonial period (1816–1942). Departing from male-centered narratives of Overseas Chinese communities, the book tells the history of community-formation from the perspective of women who were subordinate to, and alienated from, full Chinese selfhood. From native concubines and mothers, creole Chinese daughters, and wives and matriarchs, to the first generation of colonial-educated feminists, Strangers in the Family  showcases women’s moral agency as they negotiated, manipulated, and debated men in positions of authority over their rights in marriage formation and dissolution. In dialogue with critical studies of colonial Eurasian intimacies, this book explores Asian-centered inter-ethnic patterns of intimate encounters. It shows how contestations over women’s place in marriage and in society were formative of a Chinese racial identity in colonial Indonesia.



Guo-Quan Seng is an Assistant Professor of History at the National University of Singapore. He is a historian of Chinese societies in Southeast Asia, with a special interest in race, gender, and sexuality formations in the region, and how they have been shaped by empires, migration, and global capitalism. Published in November 2023 by Cornell University Press, Strangers in the Family is his first single-authored monograph. He is now working on a second book project tentatively titled, “A Diaspora of Shopkeepers: Empire, Race and Chinese Commercial Expansion in Southeast Asia, 1870-1970".



(Discussant) Su Yen Chong  is a PhD student in The Department of Art History at the University of Toronto.

(Moderator) Elizabeth Wijaya is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Visual Studies and in the Cinema Studies Insititute, University of Toronto. She is the Director of the Southeas Asia Seminar Series and the Interim-Director of the Dr David Chu Speaker Series, Asian Insitute. Wijaya works at the intersection of cinema, philosophy, and area studies. She is especially interested in the material and symbolic entanglements between East Asia and Southeast Asia cinema. Her work emphasizes a multimethodological approach, which is attentive to media forms, ethnographic detail, material realities, archival practices, international networks, and interdisciplinary modes of theorization. She received her PhD from the Department of Comparative Literature at Cornell University, where she was affiliated with the East and Southeast Asian  Programs.

Sponsor: Dr. David Chu Program in Asia Pacific Studies, Asian Institute



1 Devonshire Place, Toronto, ON, M5S 3K7