chapter  6
20 Pages

Gender, Empire, Global Capitalism: Colonial and Corporate Expatriate Wives

ByAnne-Meike Fechter

This paper takes as a starting-point the striking disjunct between the wealth of historical

studies on ‘gender and empire’, and a comparative lack of work that examines

corresponding issues in the present. I suggest that discussions of gender and global

capitalism are shaped by a focus on poor women, producing limited perspectives. The

paper asks if analyses of colonial women could be used to elucidate the positions of a

group that shares some of their characteristics, namely corporate expatriate wives. This is

illustrated through the pejorative discourses surrounding colonial and contemporary

expatriate wives. I argue that such discourse serves to both downplay and legitimise

women’s incorporation into imperial and commercial enterprises. While it has been

demonstrated that women perform substantial emotional labour, I argue that their

ideological labour within these projects tends to be overlooked. Expatriate women can

thus become the embodiment of their exploitative nature, which problematises the

tendency to conceptualise, for example, global capitalism as an inherently masculine

enterprise. Recognising expatriate wives as postcolonial subjects also significantly

broadens the concept, in the sense that they live in the context of imperial legacies

which have been much less examined.