Planting Empire, Cultivating Subjects examines the stories of ordinary people to explore the internal workings of colonial rule. Chinese, Indians, and Malays learned about being British through the plantations, towns, schools, and newspapers of a modernizing colony. Yet they got mixed messages from the harsh, racial hierarchies of sugar and rubber estates and cosmopolitan urban societies. Empire meant mobility, fluidity, and hybridity, as well as the enactment of racial privilege and rigid ethnic differences. Using sources ranging from administrative files, court transcripts and oral interviews to periodicals and material culture, Professor Lees explores the nature and development of colonial governance, and the ways in which Malayan residents experienced British rule in towns and plantations. This is an innovative study demonstrating how empire brought with it both oppression and economic opportunity, shedding new light on the shifting nature of colonial subjecthood and identity, as well as the memory and afterlife of empire.
Lynn Hollen Lees is co-director of the Joseph H. Lauder Institute of Management and International Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research centers on European cities, their social organization, and their welfare institutions, with recent publications including Global Society: The World since 1900 (2013), with Pamela K. Crossley and John W. Servos. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Rotary Foundation. She has also spent time as an exchange professor at University College London, Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, and the University of Diponegoro in Indonesia.