Sleeping Dictionaries and Mobile Metropoles: Female (A)Sexuality in the Silberrad Scandal of 1908
2023. "Sleeping Dictionaries and Mobile Metropoles: Female (A)Sexuality in the Silberrad Scandal of 1908", Primitive Normativity: Race, Sexuality, and Temporality in Colonial Kenya, Elizabeth W. Williams
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This chapter tells the story of Hubert Silberrad, a colonial administrator who sparked a major controversy in Britain by taking three adolescent African girls as mistresses. Silberrad offered an interesting defense: he argued that he had not acted immorally since he had followed local protocol by “purchasing” the girls from prominent African men. While the Silberrad case has previously been discussed as the impetus for the Crewe Circular, which sought to crack down on the practice of “concubinage” in the colonies, this chapter focuses on how the scandal imagined the sexuality of both white and African women. Arguing that Africans viewed women as mere “chattel,” colonial authorities suggested that their consent was immaterial. Meanwhile, white women were presented as necessary outlets for the sexual desires of colonial men whose presence in the colonies would enforce sexual and racial boundaries.