Half-caste is a term for a category of people of mixed race or ethnicity. It is derived from the term caste, which comes from the Latin castus, meaning pure, and the derivative Portuguese and Spanish casta, meaning race. It can sometimes be used in an offensive manner but not universally (particularly in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands and parts of Asia).
The terms half-caste, caste, quarter-caste, "mix-breed" etc. were widely used by ethnographers in British colonies to try to classify natives. In Latin America, the equivalent term for half-castes was Cholo and Zambo.
In Australia, the term half-caste was widely used in the 19th- and early-20th-century British commonwealth laws to refer to the offspring of White colonists and the Aboriginal natives of the continent. For example, the Aborigines Protection Act of 1886 mentioned half-castes habitually associating with or living with an Aboriginal; while the Aborigines Amendments between 1934 and 1937 refers to it in various terms, including as a person with less than quadroon blood. Later literature, such as by Tindale, refers to it in terms of half, quadroon, octoroon and other hybrids.
The term half-caste was not merely a term of legal convenience. It became a term of common cultural discourse and appeared even in religious records. For example, John Harper notes. from records of Woolmington Christian mission, that half-castes and anyone with any aborigine connection were considered 'degraded as to divine things, almost on a level with a brute, in a state of moral unfitness for heaven'.
The term was immortalized in the Half-Caste Act in what the Australian government could seize such children and forcibly remove them from their parents, theoretically to provide them with better homes than those afforded by typical Aborigines, where they can grow up to work as domestic servants and for social engineering. The removed children are known as Stolen Generations. Other British commonwealth Acts on half-castes and Aborigines enacted between 1909 and 1943, were also, in theory, called Welfare Acts, in statutes passed deprived these people of basic civil, political and economic rights and made it illegal to enter public places such as pubs and government institutions, marry or meet relatives.
The term half-caste to classify people based on their birth and ancestry became popular in New Zealand from the early 19th century. Terms such as Anglo-New Zealander suggested by John Polack in 1838, Utu Pihikete and Huipaiana were alternatively but less used.
In Burma, a half-caste (or Kabya) was anyone with mixed ethnicity from Burmese and British, or Burmese and Indian. During the British colonial rule, half-caste people were ostracized and criticized in literary and political media. For example, a local publication in 1938 published the following:
"You Burmese women who fail to safeguard your own race, after you have married an Indian, your daughter whom you have begotten by such a tie takes an Indian as her husband. As for your son, he becomes a half-caste and tries to get a pure Burmese woman. Not only you but your future generation also is those who are responsible for the ruination of the race."— An editorial in Burmese Press, 27 November 1938
Similarly, Pu Gale in 1939 wrote Kabya Pyatthana (literally: The Half-Caste Problem), censured Burmese women for enabling half-caste phenomenon, with the claim, "a Burmese woman’s degenerative intercourse with an Indian threatened a spiraling destruction of Burmese society." Such criticism was not limited to a few isolated instances, or just against Burmese girls (thet khit thami), Indians and British husbands. Starting in early 1930s through 1950s, there was an explosion of publications, newspaper articles and cartoons with such social censorship. Included in the criticism were Chinese-Burmese half-castes.
Prior to the explosion in censorship of half-castes in early-20th-century Burma, Thant claims inter-cultural couples such as Burmese-Indian marriages were encouraged by the local population. The situation began to change as colonial developments, allocation of land, rice mills and socio-economic privileges were given to European colonial officials and to Indians brought in Burma by the British with economic incentives. In the late 19th century, the British colonial administration viewed intermarriage as a socio-cultural problem. The colonial administration issued circulars prohibiting European officials from conjugal liaisons with indigenous women. In Burma, as in other colonies in Southeast Asia, intimate relations between colonized women and colonizing men, and the half-caste progeny of such unions were considered harmful to white minority rule founded upon carefully maintained racial hierarchies.
Half-caste in Malaysia referred to Eurasians and other people of mixed descents. They were also commonly referred to as hybrids, and in certain sociological literature the term hybridity is common.
With Malaysia experiencing a wave of immigrations from China, the Middle East, India, and southeast Asia, and a wave of different colonial powers (Portuguese, Dutch, English), many other terms have been used for half-castes. Some of these include cap-ceng, half-breed, mesticos. These terms are considered pejorative.
Half-castes of Malaya and other British colonies in Asia have been part of non-fiction and fictional works. Brigitte Glaser notes that the half-caste characters in literary works of the 18th through 20th century were predominantly structured with prejudice, as degenerate, low, inferior, deviant or barbaric. Ashcroft in his review considers the literary work structure as consistent with morals and values of colonial era where the colonial powers considered people from different ethnic groups as unequal by birth in their abilities, character and potential, where laws were enacted that made sexual relations and marriage between ethnic groups as illegal.
Fijian people of mixed descent were called half-caste, kailoma or vasu. This started with British colonialism, and over time developed into a race conscious, segregated system of society. The colonial government viewed this as a “race problem.” It created a privileged underclass of semi-Europeans who lived on the social fringes in the colonial ordering of Fiji. This legacy continues to affect the ethnic and racial discourse in Fiji.
Kailomas or vasus were children born to a Fijian native and European or indentured laborers brought in by the colonial government to work on sugarcane plantations over a century ago. Over the generations, these half-caste people experienced a harsh, shunned and a bizarre social treatment from the colonial obsession with herding citizens into separate, tidy, racial boxes, which led to the separation of Fijian mixed-bloods from their natural families.
Sociological literature on South Africa, in pre-British, British colonial and Apartheid era refers to half-caste as anyone born from admixing of White and people of color. An alternate, less common term, for half-caste was Mestizzo (conceptually similar to Mestizo in Latin American colonies).
People of mixed descent, the half-caste, were considered inferior and slaves by birth in the 19th-century hierarchically arranged, closed colonial social stratification system of South Africa. This was the case even if the father or mother of half-caste person was a European.
British Central Africa
British Central Africa, now part Malawi and part Zimbabwe, referred to people of mixed descent as half-castes. These unions were considered improper, mixed couples segregated and shunned, and the colonial courts ruled against mixed marriages.
In today's United Kingdom, the term primarily applies to those of mixed Black and White parentage, but such was not always the case. In just about any area that fell under the crown's dominion, the term was made use of, and anyone of mixed Caucasian and conquered races could be properly described as being half-caste. For some, the term half-caste is more offensive than mixed-race, even if the latter is suggestive of tainting and dilution of ethnicity.
Ruth Landes notes that half-castes born in Britain of colonial fathers felt rootless in the society in which they lived.
Sociologist Peter J. Aspinall argues that the term's origins lie in 19th-century British colonial administrations, with it evolving into a descriptor of people of mixed race or ethnicity, "usually encompassing 'White'", in the 20th century. From the 1920s to 1960s, he argues it was "used in Britain as a derogatory racial category associated with the moral condemnation of 'miscegenation'".
While the term half-caste tends to evoke the understanding of it referring to the offspring of two persons of two different pure bloods or near pure bloods, in other languages, such as Mandarin Chinese, the words half-caste and mixed ethnicity or multi-ethnic are the same word, hun-xue (混血).
Half-caste in other languages
The term half-caste was common in British colonies, however not exclusive. Other colonial governments such as Spain devised terms for the mixed-race children. The Spanish colonies devised a complex system of castas, consisting of Mulattoes, Mestizos, and many others. The French colonies used terms such as Métis, while the Portuguese used the term Mestiço. French colonies in the Caribbean referred to half-caste people as Chabine (female) and Chabin (male). Before the American Civil War, the term mestee was common for certain people of mixed descent.
Other terms in use in colonial era for half-castes included - creole, casco, cafuso, caburet, cattalo, citrange, griffe, half blood, half-bred, half-breed, high yellow, hinny, hybrid, ladino, liger, mamaluco, mixblood, mixed-blood, mongrel, mule, mustee, octoroon, plumcot, quadroon, quintroon, sambo, tangelo, xibaro. The difference between these terms of various European colonies usually was the race, ethnicity or caste of the father and the mother.
Ann Laura Stoler has published a series of reviews of half-caste people and ethnic intermixing during the colonial era of human history. She states that colonial control was predicated on identifying who was white and who was native, which children could become citizens of the empire while who remained the subjects of the empire, who had hereditary rights of a progeny and who did not. This was debated by colonial administrators, then triggered regulations by the authorities. At the start of colonial empires, mostly males from Europe and then males of indentured laborers from India, China and southeast Asia went on these distant trips; in these early times, intermixing was accepted, approved and encouraged. Over time, differences were emphasized, and the colonial authorities proceeded to restrict, then disapprove and finally forbid sexual relationships between groups of people to maintain so-called purity of blood and limit inheritable rights.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
Historical applications of the mixed-caste concept
- Between white/European and black/African:
- Between white/European and Native American / American Indian:
- Métis, a term derived from modern French (as opposed to Middle French in the case of mestee) and frequently used in the French-speaking world to refer to any person described by prevailing racial-identity standards as being of mixed race
- Between white and Indian:
- In literature:
-  Memidex/WordNet
- Michael Dodson (1994). "The Wentworth Lecture: The end in the beginning" (PDF). Australian Aboriginal Studies (3).
- Julian Pitt-Rivers (Spring 1967). "Race, Color, and Class in Central America and the Andes". Daedalus. The MIT Press. 96 (2): 542–559. JSTOR 20027052.
- A.O. Neville (September 1951). Mankind. 4 (7): 274–290. doi:10.1111/j.1835-9310.1951.tb00251.x. Missing or empty
- "Aborigines Protection Act of 1886". Museum Victoria, Australia.
- "Aboriginal timeline (1900 - 1969)". Creative Spirits NGO.
- John Harper (1973). "Notes on a mission station at Batemans Bay, Woolmington".
- Jeremy Beckett (December 1958). "Marginal Men: A Study of Two Half Caste Aborigines". Oceania. 29 (2): 91–108.
- Robert van Krieken (June 1999). "The barbarism of civilization: cultural genocide and the 'stolen generations'". The British Journal of Sociology. 50 (2): 297–315. doi:10.1080/000713199358752.
- John Hutnyk (2005). "Hybridity" (PDF). Ethnic and Racial Studies. 28 (1): 79–102. doi:10.1080/0141987042000280021.
- Paul Meredith (2001). "A Half-Caste on the Half-Caste in the Cultural Politics of New Zealand" (PDF).
- "Burmese Language Dictionary & Translation (search for caste)".
- "Burmese women who took Indians". Burma Press Abstract. Seq-than Journal. 5 December 1940 (IOR L/R/5/207). Check date values in:
- Chie Ikeya (2006). GENDER, HISTORY AND MODERNITY: REPRESENTING WOMEN IN TWENTIETH CENTURY COLONIAL BURMA (PDF). Cornell University.
- Laura Stoler (1983). Carnal knowledge and imperial power: Race and the intimate in colonial rule. University of California Press, Berkeley. ISBN 978-0520231115.
- Jean Taylor (1983). The social world of Batavia: European and Eurasian in Dutch Asia. University of Wisconsin Press.
- Penny Edwards (2002). "Half Caste - staging race in British Burma". Postcolonial Studies. 5 (3): 279–295. doi:10.1080/1368879022000032793.
- J Lo (2002). "Miscegenation's 'dusky human consequences'". Postcolonial Studies. 5 (3): 297–307. doi:10.1080/1368879022000032801.
- T Wignesan (March 1984). "Writing in Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei". The Journal of Commonwealth Literature. 19 (1): 149–152. doi:10.1177/002198948401900116.
- Young, Robert J C (1995). Colonial desire: hybridity in theory, culture, and race. Routledge. p. 236. ISBN 0-415-05374-9.
- Gerard Fernandis (2003). "THE PORTUGUESE COMMUNITY AT THE PERIPHERY: A MINORITY REPORT ON THE PORTUGUESE QUEST FOR BUMIPUTERA STATUS". Kajian Malaysia. XXI (1&2).
- A.J. Stockwell (1982). "The White Man's Burden and Brown Humanity: Colonialism and Ethnicity in British Malaya". Southeast Asian Journal of Social Science. 10 (1): 44–68. doi:10.1163/156853182X00047.
- Brigitte Glaser. Racism, Slavery, and Literature (Editor: Wolfgang Zach, Ulrich Pallua). Peter Lang GmbH. pp. 209–232. ISBN 978-3631590454.
- Ashcroft, Griffiths, Tiffin (2007). Post-Colonial Studies: The Key Concepts (2 ed.). ISBN 978-0415428552.
- Lucy Bruce (2007). "Histories of Diversity: Kailoma Testimonies and 'Part-European' Tales from Colonial Fiji". Journal of Intercultural Studies. 28 (1): 113–127. doi:10.1080/07256860601082970.
- Vicky de Bruce (Editors: Vicki Luker, Brij Lal) (2005). Telling Pacific Lives (see: Section 2 of Chapter 7. A Tartan Clan in Fiji: Narrating the Coloniser ‘Within’ the Colonised) (PDF). Australian National University. pp. 94–105. ISBN 9781921313813.
- Pierre van den Berghe (1967). South Africa: A Study in Conflict. University of California Press. pp. 13–25. ISBN 978-0520012943.
- Atmore & Marks (1974). "The imperial factor in South Africa in the nineteenth century: Towards a reassessment". The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History (Special Issue: The Partition of Africa). 3 (1): 105–139. doi:10.1080/03086537408582423.
- Robert Percival (1804). An account of the Cape of Good Hope. Baldwin. ISBN 978-0217773904.
- O.F. Mentzel (1944). "A description of the African Cape of Good Hope - 1787 (See volume II; also see other Mentzel records and books". The Van Riebeeck Society.
- "The Half Caste". Boston News. February 17, 1904.
- C. JOON-HAI LEE (2005). "THE 'NATIVE' UNDEFINED: COLONIAL CATEGORIES, ANGLO-AFRICAN STATUS AND THE POLITICS OF KINSHIP IN BRITISH CENTRAL AFRICA". The Journal of African History. 46: 455–478. doi:10.1017/S0021853705000861.
- J. Hill (2010). "Half-Caste, Bi-racial, Mixed-Race or Black?".
- Paul Rich (1984). "Philanthropic racism in Britain: The Liverpool university settlement, the anti‐slavery society and the issue of 'half‐caste' children". Immigrants & Minorities. 3 (1). doi:10.1080/02619288.1984.9974570.
- RUTH LANDES (December 1955). "Biracialism in American Society: A Comparative View". American Anthropologist. 57 (6): 1253–1263. doi:10.1525/aa.1955.57.6.02a00150.
- Aspinall, Peter J. (2013). "The Social Evolution of the Term 'Half-Caste' in Britain: The Paradox of its Use as Both Derogatory Racial Category and Self-Descriptor". Journal of Historical Sociology. 26 (4): 503–526. doi:10.1111/johs.12033.
- Wallace Gesner (Jan 1998). "Habitants, Half-Breeds and Homeless Children: Transformations in Metis and Yankee-Yorker Relations in Early Michigan". Michigan Historical Review'. 24 (1): 23–47.
- Jennifer M. Wilks. "Race, Gender, & Comparative Black Modernism". Louisiana State University Press. ISBN 978-0-8071-3364-4.
- Aubrey Wyatt Tilby (1912). The English people overseas. Houghton Mifflin.
- Ann Stoler (1989). "Rethinking colonial categories: European communities and the boundaries of rule". Comparative Studies in Society and History. 31 (1): 134–61. doi:10.1017/s0010417500015693.
- Ann Stoler (1989). "Making Empire respectable: The politics of race and morality in 20th century colonial cultures". American Ethnologist. 16 (4): 634–660. doi:10.1525/ae.1989.16.4.02a00030.
- PAUL SHANKMAN (June 2001). "INTERETHNIC UNIONS AND THE REGULATION OF SEX IN COLONIAL SAMOA, 1830-1945". The Journal of the Polynesian Society. 110 (2): 119–147. JSTOR 20706988.
- Ann Stoler (1992). "Sexual affronts and racial frontiers: European identities and the cultural politics of exclusion in colonial Southeast Asia". Comparative Studies in Society and History. 34 (3): 514–551. doi:10.1017/s001041750001793x.