A hybridised overseas Chinese community combining elements of Chinese, Malay and British culture, the Peranakan Chinese of the Straits Settlements were experts in navigating the complex socio-cultural environment of colonial-era British Malaya. Although occupying a liminal space between the three communities, a large subset of the Peranakan self-identified as the "KIng's Chinese" and professed loyalty to the Crown and the British Empire.
This paper examines the concept of imperial citizenship through the lens of one set of subjects in the British Empire and how they engaged with notions of belonging and identity. Expanding on Gorman's (2006) study of imperial citizenship in the British Empire, I argue that ideas of belonging in the empire extended beyond ideological debates conducted by British colonial officials. Specifically, I argue that Anglophile Peranakan Chinese held a multi-faceted vision of imperial citizenship predicated on a sense of belonging to a cosmopolitan ideal of the British Empire.
As Banerjee (2010) explicates in the case of colonial India, analysis of imperial citizenship has been limited in comparison to studies on the development of Indian nationalism. There exists a similar lacuna in British Malaya as studies have focused on the growth of either ethnic Malay nationalism or civic Malayan nationalism at the expense of imperial citizenship. By examining the Peranakan and their ideas of belonging in the British Empire, this paper not only contributes to the growing literature on imperial citizenship but also serves to introduce a new approach to exploring the history of British Malaya.