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CCH Seminar Series 2023 – Wed 15th March, 11am – Claire Lowrie

11am, 15th March 2023
Burwood: C2.05.01
Waurn Ponds: IC2.108
Zoom link here

Moving Images: Analysing Photographs of Chinese Amahs

Chinese nursemaid with Lockhart Smith children, 1921. Banister Family collection, © 2008 Peter Lockhart Smith. hpcbristol.net

This paper will reflect on some of the findings from a current ARC Discovery Project on “Ayahs and Amahs: Transcolonial Servants in Australia and Britain 1780-1945”. “Ayahs and Amahs” studies the female domestic care workers from India and China who travelled to Australia and elsewhere during the period of British colonialism. Our project seeks to trace not only how ayahs and amahs travelled across the world but also how images of these women circulated. Pictures of ayahs and amahs travelled as illustrations in books, photographs enclosed in letters, ethnographic postcards exchanged as curiosities, and as paintings purchased for display in homes and galleries. Today these images continue to travel and be exchanged, including in an online exhibition launched as part of this research project. This paper analyses photographs of Chinese amahs from colonial Malaya and Australia, considering what the images can tell us about the social, material, and mobile working-lives of Chinese amahs.

Claire Lowrie is an Associate Professor in History and History Discipline Leader at the University of Wollongong. Her research focuses on the history colonialism and labour in tropical northern Australia and Southeast Asia. She is a Chief Investigator on two current Australian Research Council Discovery Projects that explore those themes. In 2022 she was part of a team that won the New South Wales History Council’s ‘Addi Road Award for Multicultural History’ for a digital exhibition on Ayahs and Amahs: Transcolonial Journeys.