The Malayan Emergency (1948-1960) is perhaps most famous for Sir Gerald Walter Robert Templer’s famous phrase about the need to win the “hearts and minds” of civilians to defeat a communist insurgency. Less examined is how gender was a central prism through which military officials hoped to achieve their aims. For example, British officials produced one Chinese-language propaganda cartoon that warned communist women of the dangers of giving birth in the jungle. It depicted a pregnant woman laying on bamboo in pain, surrounded by angry-faced men in uniform. Once the men informed a British official about their position, she got airlifted out by helicopter and enjoyed a comfortable hospital bed under the attentive care of a smiling woman. This optimistic depiction of becoming a British informant hints at the central and contested role of women and gender during the anti-communist “emergency,” and during British decolonization more broadly. The Malayan Emergency relied not only military occupation, but also on the reconfiguration of gender expectations following the Japanaese occupation. This, they believed, was central to bringing peace and stability back to Malaya.
is a historian of war and empire in the 20th-century British imperial world. She is currently an Assistant Professor of History at the University of North Texas, having completed her PhD at Rutgers. Her first book, Faithful Fighters: Identity and Power in the British Indian Army
(Stanford University Press, 2019), won the NACBS Stansky prize and an award from the American Historical Association. She has conducted research and presented in Australia, India, Nepal, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom. Her next book project, “Losing Hearts and Minds: Race, War, and Empire in Singapore and Malaya, 1915-1960,” is the focus of her Lee Kong Chian NUS-Stanford Fellowship on Southeast Asia.