At the outbreak of the Second World War, Gerhard Neumann, a German-Jewish refugee living in Hong Kong, remarked at the rather genteel process surrounding his internment at La Salle College. Despite falling under the new category of ‘Enemy Alien’, Neumann recalled how the arresting policemen were “profusely [apologetic] for the inconvenience.” Similar events occurred across the British Empire as German nationals found themselves turned into a suspect population overnight, and immediately interned or restricted pending a tribunal. My work-in-progress centers on this epistemological tension as British colonial officials and local British nationals grappled between the demands of colonial security and the ‘proper treatment’ of Europeans in the colonies. Who were these enemy aliens? What did ‘proper treatment’ mean within a colonial context? And how was it influenced by assumptions of Race and Other-ness?
Ryan Cheuk Him Sun is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at The University of British Columbia.
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