This article explores concerns over Maltese men and the organization of prostitution in interwar Cardiff and reveals the central role of masculinity in shaping both perceptions and the social experiences of this marginalized group. Maltese cafés became connected to prostitution as a result of a shipping downturn, the exemption of the Maltese from “aliens” restrictions, and heavy policing of street prostitution that encouraged more clandestine methods. However, links between some Maltese and prostitution were extended to Maltese men as a whole. Drawing on imperialistic discourses of sexual behavior and “race,” this connection was used by Cardiff’s chief constable to denote racial difference for the Maltese. The chief constable’s rhetoric—amplified by the local and national press, and the actions of his force—had a lasting impact on Maltese seafarers and how they were perceived, and drew international attention from the Maltese Imperial Government, which became concerned over the impact the narratives had on the ability of Maltese sailors to obtain work on ships. This case study, which sheds light on an overlooked minority group in twentieth-century Britain, demonstrates that racialization is an active process, formed in specific contexts in response to localized concerns. As such, it also reveals that historians need to pay close attention to local and regional settings in order to pick apart the complexities, continuities, and contradictions of the production of racial difference.


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pp. 928-958
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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