Ayahs and Amahs: Transcolonial Servants in Australia and Britain 1780-1945

Claire Lowrie

Australian Research Council Discovery Project, 2020-2022

In December 2019, Victoria Haskins (University of Newcastle), Claire Lowrie (University of Wollongong) and Swapna Banerjee (City University of New York) were awarded an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant for a project titled ‘Ayahs and Amahs’. The project will explore the history of female domestic care workers from India and China who travelled to Australia, the UK and Europe during the period of British colonialism. Accompanying colonial families along circuits of empire between Australia, Asia, and the UK over two centuries, these were extraordinarily mobile women. By investigating the ayahs’ and amahs’ journeys, experiences, and cultural representations across colonial India and the Asia Pacific as well as through colonial metropoles in Britain and Europe, the project aims to articulate the historical connections between colonialism, carework, and labour mobility. As well as contributing to historical scholarship, the project aims to illuminate the continuing resonances of this history of mobile domesticities for present-day debates in Australia, Britain and Asia on the legacies of empire.