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A “Mongrel Race” or Respectable “Europeans”? Portuguese Colonial Culture and Middle-Class Luso-Asians in Early Nineteenth-Century Macau

Catherine S. Chan

Pages 303 - 323


While derogatory perceptions of Macau's Luso-Asians are not rare in historical writings, a careful examination of diaries and journals published between the 18th and 19th centuries reveal two distinctively different understandings of the “Macanese”. The first referred to the population as “half-caste”, “lazy” and “quite dark”, whereas the second pointed to an admirable group of “locals” who were “pure”, “European” and embraced by British residents and American visitors. This study explores ambiguous racial perceptions of the Macanese as seen in foreign writings about Macau, in specific relation to wealth and “class”. It argues that the city's middle-class Macanese successfully created an arena of power in Macau that drew in ambitious metropolitan Portuguese subjects, who eventually forfeited their European identities in exchange for social status, business networks, and colonial privileges.

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