Eugenics in Postcolonial Southeast Asia

Sunil S. Amrith

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Eugenics

Published in print September 2010 | ISBN: 9780195373141
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Eugenics in Postcolonial Southeast Asia


The rich vein of writing on race and racial thought in the region provides an essential point of entry to eugenics in Southeast Asia. This article focuses on the experience of postcolonial Malaysia and Singapore and suggests that traces of eugenic thought and practice have played a role in shaping strategies of state-directed development from the 1950s. The “science of racial improvement” exerts a powerful influence on the political elite of both countries, providing a rationale and a model for many attempts to understand, differentiate, and improve the population. This article focuses on close connections between race and racial aptitudes, and the politics of immigration control and colonial reservations. It further discusses the focus of eugenic policies in Southeast Asia on using state power to rebalance the plural society, and signification of racial improvement in the identification and exclusion of particular peoples.

Keywords: race; eugenics; Southeast Asia; postcolonial; immigration

Article.  6406 words. 

Subjects: History ; Asian History

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