This introductory chapter provides an overview of the book's main themes. This book takes on the difficult task of unraveling the penal history of a plural society, focusing on the manner in which definitions of pluralism shifted during the first five decades of British rule in the Straits Settlements, before it became a crown colony. The location of a minority in a racially divided city provides fresh insights into colonialism and its political formations, whereby ideas of proper subjecthood appear to be conceptualized at the margins. The study of the colonial city through a prison system devised for a racial minority offers a different history of Singapore and the Straits Settlements. The primary concern, therefore, is in physical and social divisions.
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