Contested Histories, Unsettled Futures: CASS & FoRC Research Showcase 12 April (a hyrbid event)

Contested Histories, Unsettled Futures

The Centre for Colonial and Settler Studies (CASS) and the Future of Rights Centre (FoRC) will host this joint event to showcase research being undertaken across both Research Centres based within the School of Humanities and Social Inquiry (HSI) around the themes of past, present, and emerging historical, political, and social contentions and insecurities.

 

The event will take place on:

Tuesday 12th April from 09:45am to 3:00pm

Building 24-G02 and on Zoom

(link provided with Registration)

 

Register here:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/contested-histories-unsettled-futures-tickets-302445471547

 

Event Organisers/Contacts:

A/Prof Claire Lowrie, CASS Director: clowrie@uow.edu.au

A/Prof Phil Orchard, FoRC Co-director: orchardp@uow.edu.au

A/Prof Susan Engel, FoRC Co-director: sengel@uow.edu.au

A/Prof Roger Patulny, Research Leader HSI: rpatulny@uow.edu.au

 

‘Contested Histories, Unsettled Futures’ Program
School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, ASSH, UOW, April 12, 2022

9:45 am Welcome to Country

Time Title Presenter
PART I – Contesting Colonialism: Past Present and Future (CASS)
10.00am – 10.20am Learning to Stand with Gyack A/Prof Lisa Slater, Associate Professor of Cultural Studies, HSI
10.20am – 10.40am Yaangarra: Building Digital Capacity for
the Teaching of Indigenous Literature
Dr Michael R. Griffiths, Senior Lecturer in Literary Studies, TAEM
10.40am – 11.00am Morning Tea
11.00am – 11.20am James Thornton Beckett, the First Chief Inspector of Aborigines and Settler
Colonialism in the Northern Territory
Leonie Tan, PhD Candidate in History, HSI
11.20am – 11.40am ‘Break the monotony of meat’: vegetarian messaging in the Australian Women’s
Weekly, 1933-1982
Dr Lauren Samuelsson, Honorary Fellow, History, HSI
11.40am – 12.00pm Chinese Amahs in White Australia: Domestic Workers and the Second World War A/Prof Claire Lowrie, Associate Professor History, HSI, with Charmaine Lam

12.00pm –

1.00pm

Lunch
PART II – Contested Climates and Emerging Insecurities (FoRC)
1.00pm – 1.20pm Tony Wrigley, Kenneth Pomeranz, Vaclav Smil and the missing ‘motive powers’: minimizing the contribution of wind- and water-power in the Industrial Revolution

Dr Adam Lucas, Senior Lecturer in Science and Technology Studies, HSI

 

1.20pm – 1.40pm Leading from the Pacific: Norms, Contestation, and the Issue of Climate Mobilities Protection Mr Liam Moore, HDR Candidate International Relations, HSI
1.40 – 2pm Afternoon Tea
2.00pm – 2.20pm More Debtfare than Healthcare: Business as Usual in the Multilateral Development Banks’ COVID-19 response in India A/Prof Susan Engel, Associate Professor of Politics and International Studies, HSI, with David Pedersen, HSI
2.20pm – 2.40pm Do Australians think they have a right to Universal Basic Income? Presenting evidence from the 2019-2020 Australian Social Attitudes Survey A/Prof Roger Patulny, Associate Professor of Sociology, HSI, with A/Prof Ben Spies-Butcher (Macquarie University) & Ms Maiy Azize, Anglicare Australia
2.40pm – 3.00pm Resonance and/or the Slow Apocalypse Dr Jordan McKenzie, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, HSI
3.00pm Close

 

PART I – Contesting Colonialism: Past Present and Future

Centre for Colonial and Settler Studies (CASS)

The first part of ‘Contested Histories, Unsettled Futures’ showcases presentations from the Centre for Colonial and Settler Studies (CASS), which is part of the Faculty of Arts Social Sciences and Humanities, based within the School of Humanities and Social Inquiry (HSI). The centre promotes critical inquiry into the history, theoretical framing, and contemporary legacies of colonialism on a global scale. CASS is an interdisciplinary centre bringing together researchers in history, political science, cultural studies and literary criticism. Our members include academic staff, honorary academics, and PhD students as well as external affiliates from Australia and overseas. We run a regular work-in-progress sessions as well as seminars and conferences. The focus of Part I is on bringing together the diverse work of CASS members around the theme of ‘Contesting Colonialism’, including looking at Indigenous connections to land, animals and literature, and historical accounts of colonial government figures, migrant labour, and consumption practices.

CASS Website and Twitter:

https://www.uowblogs.com/cass/

https://twitter.com/cass_uow

 

PART I – ABSTRACTS

Learning to Stand with Gyack

A/Prof Lisa Slater, Associate Professor of Cultural Studies, HSI

The project that I want to discuss is, what is affectionately called, the Corroboree Frog project. It began as a collaboration with Wolgalu and Wiradjuri First Nations community members, Brungle Tumut Local Land Council, scientists from the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) and academics from UOW.[1] Initially the aim was to revitalise the Wolgalu/Wiradjuri community’s connection to a critically endangered and culturally and ecologically significant species: the corroboree frog (Pseudophryne pengilleyi). Whom the Wolgalu nation call Gyack.[2] Over the past 18 months, the project has developed and deepened, and in the words of my Wolgalu/Wiradjuri colleague Shane Herrington, the Corroboree frog is just one (important) piece of the puzzle to revitalise Wolgalu/Wiradjuri knowledges and work to put culture at the centre of land management practices. In this paper, I want to trace the journey of the project, and where we might be heading and why. I also want to take the opportunity to reflect upon my role, but more so my place in the project, and trying to be a useful academic.

[1] I wish to acknowledge and thank the project team: Country, Gyack, Brungle-Tumut Wolgalu/Wiradjuri, Aunty Sue Bulger, Shane Herrington, Vanessa Cavanagh, Geoff Simpson, Kat Haynes, Mal Ridges & Dave Hunter.

[2] In Wolgalu there are two names that describe frogs. Gyack – because of its call – best describes the corroboree frog (Shane Herrington, pers. comm. 21st Sept 2021).

 

Yaangarra: Building Digital Capacity for the Teaching of Indigenous Literature

Dr Michael R. Griffiths, Senior Lecturer in Literary Studies, School of Arts, English and Media (TAEM)

Yaangarra Team: Evelyn Araluen Corr, Luke Patterson, Jade Kennedy, Michael Griffiths, Chrissy Howe, Ika Willis, Pascal Perez, Mehrdad Amirghasemi

Yaangarra, the Dharawal word for paperbark, is the name of a database and interactive teaching tool for working with Indigenous Literatures from Australia, designed and produced on Dharawal Country at the University of Wollongong. Our team is comprised of literary and Indigenous studies scholars Evelyn Araluen Corr (Bundjalung, Goorie/Koorie) and Luke Patterson (Kaamilaaraay); educator Jade Kennedy (Yuin); literary studies scholar Michael Griffiths; creative writer Chrissy Howe; reception studies scholar Ika Willis; and our partners in the SMART Infrastructure Facility, with the leadership of Pascal Perez and the expertise of IT Architect Mehrdad Amirghasemi. Yaangarra connects knowledge about Indigenous writers to Country, literary genre, time and story.

 

James Thornton Beckett, the First Chief Inspector of Aborigines and Settler Colonialism in the Northern Territory

Leonie Tan, PhD Candidate in History, HSI

In 1904, JT Beckett wrote an article in the Age to decry the exploitive practice of indenture in Western Australia, describing it as being akin to slavery. He argued that Aboriginal people were ‘born to a life as free and untrammelled as that of any other’ and that their protection and livelihood could not simply be ‘ordained by an act of Parliament’. Beckett was later appointed the first Chief Inspector of Aborigines in the Northern Territory and played a foundational role in the Territory’s transition to Commonwealth rule. This paper will present one of the first scholarly accounts of his life, from his early experience as an ‘overlander’ journeying across the top end and his work as a journalist in Western Australia, to understand how his experiences with Aboriginal people influenced his later work. Contextualising Beckett’s ‘expertise’ helps illuminate this early period of Aboriginal governance under Commonwealth rule in the Northern Territory

 

‘Break the monotony of meat’: vegetarian messaging in the Australian Women’s Weekly, 1933-1982

Dr Lauren Samuelsson, Honorary Fellow, History, HSI

Australia has a long history of excessive meat consumption. Colonists were once tempted to Australian shores by the promise of being able to eat meat ‘three times a day’, and commentators in the late 19th century reflected that Australians’ ‘consumption of…meat…is enormously in excess of any commonsense requirements’. Vegetarianism and veganism have been rising in popularity in Australia with around 12 per cent of the population abstaining from meat consumption. The mainstream popularity of these diets is relatively recent, however there have long been segments of the Australian population who have pushed for the uptake of a vegetarian diet, for a wide variety of reasons. As the preeminent women’s magazine of the twentieth century, the Australian Women’s Weekly (the Weekly) had an immense influence on mainstream Australian food culture. This paper seeks to investigate vegetarian messaging in the magazine between 1933 and 1982. In examining these messages, I will aim to discover the ways in which vegetarianism was integrated with the wider food culture communicated to the magazine’s readers and the underlying entanglements between vegetarianism, gender and class throughout the twentieth century. In doing so, I hope to shed light on the complex historical relationship between Australian food culture and meat eating to understand cultural barriers to the uptake of vegetarianism in Australia.

 

Chinese Amahs in White Australia: Domestic Workers and the Second World War

A/Prof Claire Lowrie, Associate Professor History, HSI, with Charmaine Lam

Between 1940 and 1942 thousands of British women and children were evacuated from Malaya and Hong Kong and sent to Australia in the context of Japanese wartime expansionism. Though it contravened the terms of the Commonwealth government’s Immigration Restriction Act (1901), some of those women were granted permission to bring their Chinese amahs (nursemaids) with them to care for their children. This paper explores the little-known story of Chinese amahs in Australia during the Second World War and their attempts to remain in the country at the conclusion of the war. It is part of an ARC Discovery Project on Ayahs and Amahs Transcolonial Servants in Australia and Britain 1780-1945 with Victoria Haskins and Swapna Banerjee.

 

PART II – Contested Climates and Emerging Insecurities 

Future of Rights Centre (FoRC)

The second part of ‘Contested Histories, Unsettled Futures’ showcases presentations from the Future of Rights Centre (FoRC), which is part of the Faculty of Arts Social Sciences and Humanities, based within the School of Humanities and Social Inquiry (HSI). FoRC brings together humanities and social science researchers interested in exploring how past and present understandings of human rights at the global, Asia-Pacific, and local levels will help to inform the future. The focus of Part II is on looking back to contest historical accounts of ‘industrial progress’ by reframing the industrial revolution around sustainable energy use, and gazing forward with optimism – looking at attitudes and possibilities for the introduction of Universal Basic Income – and pessimism – or the arrival of the ‘slow apocalypse’ …

FoRC Website and Twitter:

https://www.uow.edu.au/the-arts-social-sciences-humanities/research/future-of-rights-centre/

https://twitter.com/futureofrights

 

PART II – ABSTRACTS

Tony Wrigley, Kenneth Pomeranz, Vaclav Smil and the missing ‘motive powers’: minimizing the contribution of wind- and water-power in the Industrial Revolution

Dr Adam Lucas, Senior Lecturer in Science and Technology Studies, HSI

Neo-Malthusian demographers, economic historians and historians of technology have written copiously on the origins of the Industrial Revolution and argued that the transition to a mineral-based energy economy as a result of the extensive adoption and development of mining-based technologies in the early modern period led to socioeconomic ‘breakthroughs’ in overcoming the ‘natural limitations’ of an organic economy. Emphasizing the role of coal and steam-power in generating the economic and technological momentum to achieve this breakthrough, they have minimized, and sometimes inexplicably ignored, the contribution of wind- and water-power to the Industrial Revolution and to the development of agriculture and industry more generally. This paper presents preliminary research relating to Britain which questions these scholarly practices based on the Leverhulme Trust Project Grant, a collaboration between Dr Lucas and colleagues at the University of Glasgow

 

Leading from the Pacific: Norms, Contestation, and the Issue of Climate Mobilities Protection

Mr Liam Moore, HDR Candidate International Relations, HSI

Climate mobilities is a complex and contested area, with several overlapping and intersecting norm regimes governing it. During the Trump administration, the United States retreated from its traditional position of leadership on climate change and forced migration. This created opportunities for other actors to contest existing normative agendas. Fiji’s presidency of COP23 meant they were well placed to fill the space left by the US retreat. They offered an alternative way forward based on both their domestic policies on climate relocation and displacement, and their practices in physically relocating communities and creating innovative climate financing models. Fiji used these experiences to put forward a new arrangement of international norms. A key question, however, is whether target audiences will accept this new arrangement as legitimate. Within the Pacific, the ideas are gaining traction – Vanuatu has similar policies on climate mobilities, while New Zealand has endorsed Fiji’s climate trust fund financing model. Internationally, while Fiji has received praise from figures such as the UN Secretary General, the next test is whether their language and ideas are adopted in the forthcoming reports on climate displacement requested by President Biden’s recent executive order. If they are, it suggests that Fiji’s contestations have been successful.

 

More Debtfare than Healthcare: Business as Usual in the Multilateral Development Banks’ COVID-19 response in India

A/Prof Susan Engel, Associate Professor of Politics and International Studies, HSI, with David Pedersen, HSI

Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) have been a vital source of funds for the Global South in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the healthcare sector. Prior to the pandemic, the big MDBs’ approach to healthcare reflected the post-Washington Consensus, that is a largely neoliberal agenda perpetuating the expansion of private healthcare markets through financialization mechanisms, though with some emphasis on a minimal level of universal healthcare. We studied the MDBs’ approaches to healthcare in India to evaluate whether the pandemic resulted in: (a) a critical reassessment of their healthcare models; (b) a business-as-usual approach; or (c) a disaster capitalism response exploiting the current socio-economic milieu to further propagate neoliberal reform. We found first, that the MDBs adopted an inadequate business-as-usual approach which is thickening the financialization of healthcare. They do this in projects that operate from the macro through to the micro level, in other words, the MDBs are promoting the multi-scalar financialization of healthcare in India that will have long-term implications for the sector. Secondly and relatedly, MDB lending is deepening debtfare which Susanne Soederberg (2014, 3) conceived as a term to describe the way neoliberal states “mediate, normalise and discipline the monetised relations that inhabit the poverty industry.”

 

Do Australians think they have a right to Universal Basic Income? Presenting evidence from the 2019-2020 Australian Social Attitudes Survey

A/Prof Roger Patulny, Associate Professor of Sociology, HSI, with A/Prof Ben Spies-Butcher (Macquarie University) & Ms Maiy Azize, Anglicare Australia

Rising inequality and insecurity have fuelled interest in basic income schemes and experiments around the world. Internationally, surveys such as the European Social Survey (ESS), have explored public attitudes to basic income, and found significant differences within and between countries based on the organisation of welfare and work. We add to this literature by presenting novel Australian data from the 2019-20 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes designed to mirror the ESS UBI question. We find that Australian attitudes are broadly in the middle of European opinion, with 51% in support of UBI, and that Australians registered a slight increase in support for UBI during the COVID-19 pandemic (consistent with other emerging evidence). We also find general support for UBI amongst young people, those not currently working (excluding retired people), those more highly educated, renters, and a range of attitudes and identifications associated with the political left. The main opposition is amongst older, less educated, retired, homeowners with more right-wing attitudes and identifications. The paper concludes with a discussion of how material versus post-material motivations intersect with political attitudes to shape perceptions that Australians have a right to Universal Basic Income.

 

Resonance and/or the Slow Apocalypse. 

Dr Jordan McKenzie, Senior Lecturer in Sociology, HSI

The ‘slow apocalypse’ (McMurry 1996) challenges Hollywood deceptions of the end of the world as a series of sudden and dramatic events that constitute a collapse of social, political and economic structures. Rather than understanding the ‘beginning of the end’ as the result of an asteroid, a nuclear bomb or a financial collapse, the concept of a slow apocalypse suggests that the deterioration of society is slow, boring and likely already underway. It also challenges the nation-centred depictions of crisis that assume a disastrous ‘end of the world’ event would happen globally and with equal impact. This is as dark as it is relatable and it calls for a new way of thinking about crisis. Traditional ideas about the apocalypse inspire heroic political or military acts that can save the day, and resourceful preppers undertaking adventures in a dangerous and exciting new landscape. But the slow apocalypse is boring, bureaucratic and dull. It is a death by a thousand cuts and it is easy to get accustomed to all the bleeding.  This is all somewhat speculative and open to interpretation, so my question here is something like ‘to what extent can a future-oriented and seemingly optimistic theory of happiness – like Hartmut Rosa’s Resonance – co-exist with a slow apocalypse?’ Is it too much to ask for a theory like Rosa’s to address a global collapse? Almost certainly. While there is much about Resonance that is agreeable and effective, what is the place for a theory of happiness in a time of real and everyday crisis? Is it an irresponsible distraction from the reality of a time where happiness has no place. Or, if this is a new normal, is it an essential component of learning to live in an apocalyptic new age?

Film Premiere: Cultural Burning for Resilience 

CASS member, Lisa Slater, is part of a UOW Global Challenges Grant team  exploring  Cultural Burning for Resilience. This film is a major project outcome. Don’t miss it!

Wednesday 8 December 2022
2PM-3PM AEDT

Link to register: https://uow-au.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_83mBZv02SZq_EPuZKVUIAw

Cultural Burning for Resilience is an Aboriginal-led community project, supported by the University of Wollongong’s Global Challenges Program and Treading Lightly Inc.  The action research project brings together Aboriginal high school students with Yuin Elders and cultural land management practitioners from the South Coast to learn about good fire, bad fire, and connection to Country. 

This beautifully edited and compelling short film demonstrates the power of hands on enquiry-based learning that celebrates cultural fire knowledge.

 “I’m pretty sure this is the best thing I’ve watched all year! God I loved it!” 
– Jaymee Beveridge, Woolyungah Indigenous Centre 

Many students involved in the project experienced the 2019/2020 bushfires firsthand. In response to the bushfires, and followed by COVID, the Cultural Burning for Resilience project was supported by the UOW Global Challenges program as part of its ‘Disaster and Crisis’ initiative, dedicating funding for interdisciplinary projects addressing disaster response in our region. Matched funding was also provided by the South Coast based NGO Treading Lightly Inc., who fund projects that build resilient communities and make positive changes for a sustainable future.

The project was a collaboration between Yuin Indigenous Elders and community – Ulladulla Local Aboriginal Land Council and local Yuin cultural fire practitioners; students from Nowra, Bomaderry, Ulladulla and Batemans High Schools; researchers from the University of Wollongong, Treading Lightly Inc.; and Mane Collective Video Production.

The project team invite you to join us for the first live screening of the film.

Claire Lowrie part of a stella line-up for a public lecture on Child Labour & Slavery

On the 25 of November, Claire Lowrie will present her research on the mui tsai controversy for the final Making Public Histories seminar for 2021. The seminar series is open to the public and organised by Monash University History Program and the History Council of Victoria. Claire will be presented alongside Professor Jane Lydon (UWA) and Associate Professor Susie Protschky (Deakin).

PhD research on food history featured on the ABC

Lauren Samuelsson submitted her PhD thesis, titled ‘A Matter of Taste: The Australian Women’s Weekly and the Birth of a Modern Australian Food Culture’, on the 25th of June. We were very fortunate to be able to toast her success just days before Greater Sydney went into lockdown. Lauren’s work is generating a high level of public interest. Following the submission of her thesis she was interviewed by Wendy Harmer and Robby Buck on ABC Radio Sydney and an article on her thesis was published on the ABC’s website. Lauren was also interviewed by Indira Naidoo for ABC Radio’s ‘Nightlife’ program. You can listen to the full forty-minute interview here.

André Brett wins the Max Crawford Medal

Congratulations to André Brett, UOW historian and member of the Centre for Colonial and Settler Studies (CASS), who won the Max Crawford Medal. The medal is Australia’s most prestigious award for achievement and promise in the humanities. André won the award for his work on the environmental history of railways. You can find out more about André’s award here.

CASS Newsletter, May to July

It has been a memorable three months for CASS researchers. A number of our members and affiliates have completed major research projects. Their work has been recognised at public events, through the award of prestigious prizes, and via various public engagement activities.

Award Honours

On the 7th of July André Brett won the Max Crawford Medal – Australia’s most prestigious award for achievement and promise in the humanities. André won the award for his work on the environmental history of railways. He was described by his nominator, Professor Sean Scalmer, as ‘among the best of his generation of historians working in and on the history of Australia and New Zealand at present’. You can find out more about André’s award here.

André was also recognised for his work on the history of the colonial separation movements in Australasia with an invitation to present as part of the NSW Parliament ‘House Talks’ on the 27th of July. His presentation, titled ‘A Colonial Divorce: Drawing the Boundaries of New South Wales’,  can be viewed online.

Historicising Australian Foodways

Lauren Samuelsson submitted her PhD thesis, titled ‘A Matter of Taste: The Australian Women’s Weekly and the Birth of a Modern Australian Food Culture’, on the 25th of June. We were very fortunate to be able to toast her success just days before Greater Sydney went into lockdown. Lauren’s work is generating a high level of public interest. Following the submission of her thesis she was interviewed by Wendy Harmer and Robby Buck on ABC Radio Sydney and an article on her thesis was published on the ABC’s website. Lauren was also interviewed by Indira Naidoo for ABC Radio’s ‘Nightlife’ program. You can listen to the full forty-minute interview here.

New histories of Chinese Australian Women

On June 11th, CASS joined forces with the Centre for Critical Human Rights Research (CCHRR) to host a launch for three new UOW books. Professor Vera Mackie chaired the event which included new books by Adrian Robert Bazbauers and Susan Engel; Charles T. Hunt and Phil Orchard; and our own Kate Bagnall and Julia T. Martínez. Kate and Julia’s collection is the first book length history of Chinese women in Australia. Claire Lowrie launched the book. The full text of her launch presentation is up on the CASS website.

New Research Project on the Cultural Determinants of Health

In May, Lisa Slater began a new project with the Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre (KALACC) and Dr Melissa Marshall (Notre Dame University, Broome). The project explores the relationship between the KALACC festival and cultural determinants of health in the Kimberly. It is funded by an Australia Council for the Arts Industry Collaboration grant (2021-2024).

CASS members review major works in colonial history and the history of Aboriginal activism

Jodie Stewart’s review of Johanna Perheentupa’s Redfern: Aboriginal Activism in the 1970s (Aboriginal Studies Press) was published online in History Australia in June. You can read it here. The same issue of History Australia included Sharon Crozier De Rosa’s review Imperial Emotions: The Politics of Empathy across the British Empire (Cambridge University Press) by Jane Lydon.

If you are a CASS member or affiliate and you have news on your research that you would like to publicise, contact Claire clowrie@uow.edu.au

 

 

Book Launch Report – Kate Bagnall and Julia Martínez (eds) Locating Chinese Women: Historical Mobility between China and Australia, Hong Kong University Press, 2021

On June 11, The Centre for Critical Human Rights Research (CCHRR) and the Centre for Colonial and Settler Studies (CASS) hosted a launch for three new UOW books. Professor Vera Mackie was chaired the event which included new books by Adrian Robert Bazbauers and Susan Engel; Charles T. Hunt and Phil Orchard; and Kate Bagnall and Julia T. Martínez.

Claire, Susan, Julia, Vera and Phil at the Unibar launch

Claire Lowrie launched the book of Kate and Julia who are long time CASS members. The text of her speech is provided below for those of you interested in finding out more about this important book.

Claire Lowrie on Kate Bagnall and Julia Martínez (eds) Locating Chinese Women

“I want to begin by acknowledging that the University of Wollongong spreads across many interrelated Aboriginal Countries that are bound by this sacred landscape. I acknowledge the Custodianship of the Aboriginal peoples of this place and space that has kept alive the relationships between all living things. I also acknowledge the real and devastating impact of colonisation on Aboriginal Countries and peoples and further commit myself to truth-telling, healing and education.

Thank you to Susan, Phil, and Julia for making this event happen. As an academic it is easy to get stuck on the unrelenting conveyor belt of productivity – always moving on to the next thing – usually an article or chapter that is already overdue. I think it is important to acknowledge and reflect on the completion of project – to bask in the glory of the moment for a little while and to do that with a community of kindred scholars, friends and family members. So that is my goal for the next 10 minutes in discussing Kate Bagnall and Julia Martinez’ Locating Chinese Women: Historical Mobility between China and Australia published by Hong Kong University Press.

My thanks to Julia for inviting me to launch Locating Chinese Women which is an absolute honour – especially because I received a free copy of this beautiful book. The rest of you should definitely go and buy a copy of your own. https://hkupress.hku.hk/pro/1811.php

This is an exciting collection – the first book length history of Chinese women in Australia. By bringing to light diverse experiences of Chinese women, this book will have a significant impact on the Australian historiographical landscape. While there has been work on Chinese men in Australia, who arrived in significant numbers particularly during the gold rush era of 1850s, histories of Chinese women are much less developed. This has been justified by historians as a consequence of the small numbers of women who came into the country. But as Kate and Julia put it in the introduction, ‘that women were a numerical minority does not make their lives less worthy of scholarly attention’ (2). Indeed, the stories of Chinese women covered in this book does very important work. The micro biographies of women that the contributors detail overturn stubborn stereotypes of Chinese women as silent, submissive and passive – stereotypes based on historically contingent conceptions of race and gender. Instead of silent figures in the background we see women as actors and agents of historical change, albeit within deeply asymmetrical relations of power.

The contributors highlight diverse experiences, including Chinese women that engaged in politics and journalism covered in Paul McGregor’s chapter on Alice Lim Kee. As well as business women in the northern frontier town of Darwin, forging and taking advantage of the trading links between northern Australia and China, as Natalie Fong demonstrates in her chapter. The book includes stories of gifted scholars such as Gwen Fong who graduated from the University of Melbourne with a degree in medicine in the 1940s and was an active member of the University branch of the communist party (despite her elite family background). She was one of a tiny minority of Chinese women – and women in general- that gained entry into Australian universities between the 1920s and the 1950s.

The presence of Chinese women in the public spheres of business, community activism and politics is a theme of this book. Chapters trace, for example, the lives of women like Ham Hop who – with her husband Poon Gooey – launched a challenge to the White Australia Policy, arguing for her right to stay in Australia. Her campaign, which took place between 1910 and 1913, ultimately failed and she was forced to return to China. As Kate puts it in that chapter, she ‘hoped to be made an exemption to this discriminatory policy, she was instead made an example’ (132). Stories of women and children used as ‘an example’ to send a message about Commonwealth government immigration policy seem to me to have particular resonance today. And there are other tragic stories in this book that remain highly relevant today. For example, the account of Perth women Ruby Yen – a victim of domestic violence. We know her name and a good deal about her home and family life, her physical and material experiences, because she died and thus left an archival trail in the form of a coronial inquest that historian Antonia Finnane analyses.

While acknowledging how the racist context of the White Australia Policy and systems of oppression based on patriarchy shaped Chinese women’s lives in Australia, the overall narrative of this volume is not a story of what was done to these women but how they lived. The contributors work with the limited historical sources available to ‘locate’ Chinese women – to reconstruct their lives and experiences as far as possible. This is kind of history that I love! The kind that does the hard work of seeking out people whose voices and perspectives are not easy found in the archives – whose lives were not necessarily considered worth recording and who appear only in moments when they make into contact with government authorities or did something remarkable.

The tradition of writing history from below requires that the contributors sometimes use less orthodox historical sources and approach traditional source material in a creative manner. Mei-fen Kuo, for example, taps into changing ideas about gender by analysing accounts of Chinese womanhood penned by Chinese men in Australia’s early Chinese language newspapers. Alana Kamp draws on oral histories to plot Chinese women’s experiences of migration and mobility in their own words. For me, the standout source material used in this book is the extensive collection of photographs. The photos come from public archives and private family collections. The cover image is particularly beautiful and carefully choregraphed. Note how perfect the women look after a long sea journey from Hong Kong to Sydney arriving in 1938 – the Kwok women in matching cheongsam. They epitomize a modern and progressive of conception of Chinese womanhood cultivated among the economic elite of Chinese Australian society – another theme that comes through in a number of the chapters.

Photographs not only illustrate the pages if this volume but inform the analysis within it. They are used to bring these women to life and highlight their agency. To give one example, the chapter by Sophie Couchman which centres on wedding photos. Couchman explores the depiction of Chinese women in white western wedding gowns from the late nineteenth century to the 1930s. Rather than a chapter about Chinese women simply taking on western traditions, Couchman plots the role Chinese Australians played in facilitating the global adoption of the white wedding by different cultural groups.

In addition to contributing to Australian history the book also shapes the international field of research of Chinese diaspora – Chinese overseas. It situates the stories of Chinese Australian women within a larger narrative of Chinese emigration from Southern China to other white settler countries like the US, Canada and New Zealand– the story of what Henry Yu has termed the Cantonese Pacific. It also highlights the particularities of the Australian experience, including the surprising degree of mobility of Chinese women even at the height of the restrictive immigration policies that characterized White Australia. For example, the experience of Daisy Kwok, whose life between Sydney and Shanghai is explored in the last chapter by Sophie Loy-Wilson.

To conclude with more of a local reflection … this book reflects the research strength on Chinese Australian history at UOW. A specialization which has in large part been fostered by Julia’s work in that area and her success in bringing researchers of Chinese Australian history to UOW. This includes her co-editor Kate Bagnall, who came to UOW as a DECRA, and three PhD students in recent years working in related topics, including her current student Renzhe Zhang, co-supervised with Jason Lim.

The book is an outcome of two UOW events that brought leading international scholars of Chinese diaspora here. The first was the 2013 Dragon Tails conference convened by Julia, Jason, and Paul Macgregor. The second was a 2014 workshop on Chinese Women in the Southern Disaspora co-convened by Julia and Kate. I had just started my job at UOW in mid-2014 and attended that workshop. It was really exciting to be at a University that was leading the field in terms of historicizing connections between China and Australia. It was clear to me what a rich collection of papers Julia and Kate had assembled and it is fantastic to see it come to fruition.

The chapters in this book are authored by nine contributors ranging from early career researchers to professors, all of whom bring a deep knowledge of the topic drawing on Chinese and English language sources. They include University based historians and geographers, public history practitioners and those working in the museum sector. This combination of voices and expertise results in distinctive and compelling chapters which use sources in different sorts of ways. Congratulations on this wonderful book.”

 

CASS Newsletter – April 2021

Centre for Colonial and Settler Studies

Newsletter, April 2021

CASS Work in Progress Meeting

This month we held our first CASS WIP for the year. Marcelo Svirsky circulated his article on ‘The reproduction of settler colonialism in Palestine’. Julia Martinez and Renzhe Zhang shared their chapter on ‘Chinese business in colonial Samoa before 1949.’ It was in a significant WIP, marking the first time we have reviewed work co-authored with one of our PhD students (Renzhe). It was also the first time in a while that we engaged with work outside of the discipline of History. We had a really stimulating discussion around issues of colonialism and settler colonialism in the past and present.

Amanda, Mike, Marcelo, Renzhe and Julia at the CASS WIP

A PhD Milestone 

Congratulations to Leonie Tan who passed her Research Proposal Review this month! Leonie’s thesis will be the first detailed study of the career of James Thornton Beckett, the first Chief Inspector of Aborigines in the Northern Territory. She is applying a Settler Colonial Studies approach to analysing his working life. Leonie is supervised by Jane Carey, Julia Martinez, and Ben Silverstein (Ben is based at the ANU).

Leonie at her UOW Honours Graduation 

Harvard Calls

In other exciting news, Simon Ville has been appointed the 2022-23 Whitlam-Fraser Visiting Professor in Australian Studies at Harvard University. The Visiting Professorship aims to foster teaching, research and publications that will help to promote awareness and understanding of Australia in the US. Congratulations Simon!

Research Outcomes and Outreach

CASS members and affiliates have been busy with a variety of research activities this month.

On the 21st of April, Rohan Howitt gave a paper at the University Sydney’s History seminar series titled, ‘The Company-Microstate: Corporate Colonisation and the Auckland Islands, 1849-52’.

 Sharon Crozier De Rosa’s review of Australasian women and the international struggle for the vote, 1880-1914 (by James Keating) was published in Women’s History Review. Sharon was also interviewed about her work on Irish migration and revolutionary women for the ABC Illawarra Drive show (27 April).

Kate Bagnall and Julia Martinez published an article in The Conversation. The article explores the hidden history of Chinese Australian women – a topic that Kate and Julia explore in their recent edited collection on Locating Chinese Women (HKU Press, 2021).

Claire Lowrie presented a paper titled ‘“a hill station for whom?”: Hill Stations and the racialized politics of coping with heat in colonial Malaya and the Philippines, 1920s-1930s’ at the Heat in Urban Asia conference 21-23 April, 2021, Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore.  She is hoping to get feedback on the paper from CASS members at a WIP in the future.

If you are a CASS member or affiliate and you have news on your research that you would like to publicise, contact Claire clowrie@uow.edu.au

If you would like to receive our newsletter via email or become a member of CASS, you should also email Claire.