Sunday, March 23, 2008

The 'de Souza'-isation of Eurasians

The drama 'Lifeline', starring Gurmit Singh, was featured on TV Mobile on the bus while I was on my way to dinner. In the show, Gurmit is a Daniel de Souza.

In 'Triple Nine', a police drama series some time ago, which starred James Lye and Lim Yu Beng, Mark Richmond played Inspector de Souza. In 'A War Diary', Keagan Kang played prisoner-of-war Simon de Souza.

I am sure there are more Eurasians out there who do not have "de Souza" for a surname.

I am a bit puzzled about the racial categorisation here. Here's a scenario:
Indian man marries Chinese woman: Child is Indian (along paternal line)
Chinese man marries Malay woman: Child is Chinese (along paternal line)
Chinese man marries Caucasian woman: Child is Eurasian (WAIT A MINUTE!)

What about a Caucasian man and a Chinese woman? Is the child a "Caucasian" or "Eurasian"? Pardon my ignorance, is there "Caucasian" on the identity card? I think so.

In essence, so long as you are Singaporean, your racial/ethnic identity is sanctioned and determined by the state. - a good read.

The policy on racial segmentation has to play catch-up with globalisation and intermarriages. Some people no longer fit the categories created by the state. If the government is so encouraging of people keeping their heritage alive, it should do something about dividing its herd according to "race" based on patrilineage, and at the same time remove the symbolic oppression of women in society.

I don't think Singaporeans need to be continually reminded of their state-designated "racial" identities. And neither do Singaporeans today deserve to be continually indoctrinated and reminded about the race riots in the 1960s, for it becomes a justification and legitimising reason for certain governmental policies and controls on civil society. History, in this case, is used as chains to shackle the feet of Singaporeans and tie them down to the agenda of the state.

How are Eurasians "formed"/"created" any way? Yes, of half-Caucasian half-Asian parentage. The state acknowledges both halves. But what about a child of a Chinese man and an Indian woman? Does the state recognise the ethnicities of both individuals? Does the racial identity of the woman become symbolically annihilated?

I guess we are still entrenched in this colonialist mentality, wherein we have an imbalanced perspective on Caucasians and Asians.

As we know by, race in Singapore is manufactured by the state. And reading deeper into that, this manufacturing is done with a certain world view and mindset. This is "engineered diversity", all in the name of the economic imperative. I wonder what then will happen to our economy if we did away with the suffocating CMIO classification.


Galven Lee said...

Actually, things are much simpler. I read in the papers before that there are no new 'Eurasians' created post-independence. All 'new' Eurasians must be children and descendants of those who were branded Eurasians at independence. The Eurasian community did constitute a discernible and significant group for a long time in Singapore's history, especially pre-independence.

sweetheart said...

As a child to a Finnish father and a Malay mother, my race as dictated by my student card during primary school was "Others". This was then changed to "Caucasian" when I received my IC at 15.

However I believe to call us "halfies" (which a whole community of other half asian-half caucasian children call ourselves informally) Eurasian OR Caucasian is just a matter of categorization. One can vouch that Caucasians need to be purely of the Aryan race, but goodness knows how many "Caucasians" are purely Caucasian anyways. On the other hand, today's Eurasians call themselves that based on the premise that they are a race that stands on their own, and not merely a result of any Tom, Dick or Harry's impregnation of an Asian woman or any other mixed race child. Then we also have that whole ambiguous Pan-Asian classification, but perhaps that is another debate best saved for another time.

Personally, as a halfie, I don't see what the purpose is in branding someone with a race and perhaps asking/expecting them to conform to the traditions and set notions that one may have of them. While I was in Singapore I was stared at, talked about as the Mat Saleh or the Ang Moh and in some cases taken for a tourist. Now that I have moved to my birth country, people tell me I look nothing like a Caucasian nor do I have the mannerisms or traditions that they have.

At the end of the day, I think we shouldn't be so affected by how other people choose to categorize us, or if we are of a bi-cultural background, how people expect as to act because we "fall into that set classification". I call myself a third culture kid/rainbow child like some of the mixed South Africans do and let it be. It is human nature to try and categorize and rationalize, and for those who can't fit in, we just have to grin and bear it as best we can.

Don't know if my comment betrayed my ignorance or the scattered nature of my thoughts that I struggle to put together sometimes. If it did, I humbly apologize and I'd like to say I really enjoy your blog. Wonderful to read, so keep up the good work :)

Lauren said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Poppy said...

It also depends on how you define Eurasian. The Eurasian community pre-independence can trace its heritage back to Dutch and Portuguese colonialisation of Malaya. So these Eurasians have been in Malaysia since the 15th and 16th centuries. So, for example, my mother is Eurasian and her father is a sixth generation Eurasian and her mother is a fifth generation Eurasian.
There have been various names for them over the years (such as Serani) and the meaning of Eurasian today for people born since independence is different from the Eurasian I am.
Popppy de Souza