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

Warren, J.F. (2003) Ah Ku and Karayuki-san: Prostitution in Singapore, 1870 - 1940. NUS Press, Singapore.

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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, personal 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.

Publication Type: Book
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: NUS Press
Copyright: 2003 Singapore University press
Notes: First Edition was published by Oxford University Press, 1993
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