Travelling Ayahs and Amahs: Navigating Victimhood and Agency
17 Mar 2017, 17:15 to 17 Mar 2017, 19:15
IHR Pollard Seminar Room, N301, Third Floor, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Olivia Robinson , University of Oxford
In the early twentieth century, ayahs and amahs were a familiar sight on board ships, employed to care for the children of British families as they travelled to and from ‘home’. The literature, however, only interprets their experiences once on British soil, positioning them as victims of an inequitable colonial system, abandoned by their employers and in need of rescue. This paper moves the focus away from the metropole towards an ayah-centred understanding of the entire journey between sites of empire. This shift in perspective enables a richer understanding of the ayahs’ experiences both as racial and gendered ‘others’ and as agents who turned their situations to their own advantage.
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