Ah Ku and Karayuki-san: Prostitution in Singapore, 1870-1940

$38.00 SGD

By James F. Warren

Among the many groups of workers whose labor built Singapore in the 20th century, there may be none as marginalized in memory as the women who travelled from China and Japan to work in Singapore as prostitutes. This study sketches in the trade in women and children in Asia, and - making innovative use of Coroner's Inquests and other records - hones in on the details of the prostitutes' lives in the colonial city: the daily brothel routine, crises and violence, social relations, leisure, mobility, disease and death.

The result is a powerful historical account of human nature, of human relationships, of pride, prejudice, struggle and spirit. Ordinary people tumble from the pages of the records: they talk about choice of partners, love and betrayal, desperation and alienation, drawing us into their lives. This social history is a powerful corrective to the romantic image of colonial Singapore as a city of excitement, sophistication, exotic charm and easy sex. In the years since its original publication in 1992, this book, and its companion Rickshaw Coolie, have become an inspiration to those seeking to come to grips with Singapore's past.

James F. WARREN is Professor of History and Southeast Asian Studies at Murdoch University and has taught at Australian National Univeristy, Yale and Kyoto University. He is the author of Sulu Zone, 1768-1898(1981) and Iranun and Balangingi: Globalization, Maritime Raiding, and the Birth of Ethnicity (2002).


Singapore Studies in Society & History
Publication Year: 2003
249 pages, 247mm x 155mm
ISBN: 978-9971-69-267-4, Paperback

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