CFP: Seeking Additional Panelist & Chair for Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies panel (UC Riverside, March 2023)

Jarett Henderson's picture


We seek a third panelist to join us for a session at the Pacific Coast Conference on British Studies at UC Riverside on March 24-26, 2023.

Jarett is working on a project that examines cases of unnatural sex alongside the debates over settler self-governance in the British North American colonies that became Canada in 1867 (the period 1790 to 1860). Kristen is working on Hector MacDonald, who was accused of sodomitical practices with young boys and men in Ceylon in 1902/3 and was a military celebrity. Our intent is to focus on how these matters were recorded (or not) in official colonial correspondence and legislation - whether that be the War Office, the Colonial Office, or the Indian Office. We are pretty flexible with our overall temporal and geographic focus. Our full abstracts are below. 

Please email Jarett Henderson - - by Wednesday, 14 December 2022, if interested. Final proposals of a one-page CV and 200-word abstract are due 16 December 2022. 

Thank you!! 


Deciphering Professional Interpersonal Relationships and Archival Practices through an Imperial Scandal | Kristen Thomas-McGill

In early 1903, allegations arose that Hector Macdonald, a military celebrity then serving as General Officer Commanding the Troops of Ceylon, had been sexually abusing adolescent boys in the colony. The War Office, the Colonial Office, and the Governor of Ceylon immediately fell into a frenzy of correspondence. In letters, enciphered telegrams, and internal memoranda, they grappled with the plausibility of the accusations, the threat of media exposure, and the murky legal status of Macdonald’s alleged actions under civil and military codes at home and in Ceylon. Though the scandal prompted a swift reaction from even the highest levels of government (including Edward VII), this robust response left a suspiciously small footprint in the official archive; the National Archives at Kew hold just one folder with fifteen pages of material, mostly short telegrams. In contrast, Joseph Chamberlain’s personal papers hold one folder with sixty-two dense pages of material, including several long and emotional narrative letters. In this paper, I consider the differing logics underpinning these two archival groups, attending to the professional relationships of the individual officials who responded to the scandal.


Corresponding Queerly: Despatches on Infamous Crime and Unnatural Sex in Early Canada | Jarett Henderson

How the British ought to govern their empire was the object of significant public and private debate for much of the nineteenth century. Recent critical histories of empire have shown that sex and gender were often at the heart of these trans-imperial debates. Work on the Cape Colony illustrates that accusations of unnatural sex were entwined with state business in the 1820s and colonial rulers in the North-Western Provinces of India embarked upon efforts to exterminate hijras in the 1880s. This paper links sex and settler self-government to interrogate the contours of the settler colonial order in the five British colonies that became Canada in 1867. It asks how colonial officials documented (or did not) instances of same-gender sexual encounters and gender transing in private, confidential, and secret state correspondence amongst colonial officials, and between colonial administrators and metropolitan politicians in state communications about settler-colonial rule. By zeroing in on colonial despatches and other official colonial records that archive the changing nature of settler colonial rule alongside explicit and subtle references to same-gender sexual encounters, this paper identifies evidence of queer histories in the structures of representative colonial rule, colonial criminal law reform, and official  Colonial Office correspondence. Questions of sex and settler colonial rule in British North America, then, were part and parcel of trans-imperials discussions of the power of metropolitan and colonial administrations and administrators, of how responsible settler self-government ought to work, and of what sexual and gendered practices qualified settler men as fit to rule.