This paper looks at the fictional works of Hugh Clifford, and focuses on one particular theme that recurs again and again in several of his works, which is the notion that the aboriginal and other Asiatic communities of the Malay Peninsula were living under the overlordship of the Malays. That a British colonial functionary like Clifford could have foregrounded such a theme while being seemingly unaware of his own role and subject-position as a functionary of the British Empire then is telling in many respects. In many ways the fictional works of Clifford can be read as a systematic and sustained effort to deny and deflect the racism that was at the heart of racialised colonial capitalism then, which served as the basis of British imperial rule across Asia and Africa.
Professor Farish A. Noor is a political historian who works on the discourses and texts of 19th century colonial Southeast Asia. He is currently Visiting Professor at the SDAC Standards of Decision Making Across Cultures Program, Friedrich-Alexander University FAU, Erlangen-Nuremberg.
Tom Hoogervorst is a senior researcher at KITLV and adjunct professor at the Department of Indonesian at the State University of Malang (UM). He is interested in the histories and languages of Indonesia.
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Photo postcard from the collection of Farish A. Noor: ‘Malay warriors, Malay Peninsula’.