The development of the discourses of mateship in Australia with special reference to the period 1885-1925

Reardon, Judith (2003) The development of the discourses of mateship in Australia with special reference to the period 1885-1925. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

Mateship is widely considered to be an Australian convention that embodies egalitarianism in Australian culture. It is commonly thought of as a unitive convention that is most obvious in times of adversity. Yet while many Australians describe mateship thus, others call it a men’s creed. These two opposing descriptions – egalitarian and masculinist – are difficult to reconcile, and give mateship a paradoxical nature that is difficult to explain. Most studies of mateship do not attempt to explain this paradox, and merely reproduce the assumption that that while mateship is a significant Australian convention, it is exclusive to men. This study differs from others in that here, mateship is defined as a discourse that has two major discursive forms: one inclusive and representative of the egalitarian component of mateship; and one exclusive and representative of the masculinist component of mateship. These discourses are traced to their origins in the period 1788-1850 as a re-reading of “the label of difference” that held the convict population subordinated to the upper class. The discourses of mateship evolved as the means of self-help that supported people in their quest to reverse the subjection by “difference” and thereby to survive and prosper. It is argued that exclusive mateship gained its ascendancy over inclusive mateship during the nineteenth century when mateship became a surrogate religion for many Australians. The mateship discourse melded with Christianity, and when it did, it caused mateship to be an inclusive discourse with a masculinist nature in the same way that Christianity is inclusive, though women are subordinated to males through its central masculine god. Exclusive mateship is shown to have consolidated its dominance over inclusive mateship during the period 1885-1925 with the assistance of the men’s press, particularly The Bulletin under the editorial leadership of J. F. Archibald. Mateship, as it is commonly understood, is shown to be divided in itself, and while inclusive mateship is unitive, exclusive mateship is divisive. Exclusive mateship’s divisiveness causes social problems, and its impact upon the lives of women is explored. It is argued that exclusive mateship is maintained in its dominant cultural position by reading practices which, over the years, have become dominant, making mateship appear to be a convention that is important to Australianness, but nonetheless restricted to men.

Item ID: 17558
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: mateship, Australian culture, men, women, language, egalitarianism, masculinism, discourse, exclusivity, inclusivity, patriarchy, language, texts, poststructuralism, reading practices
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2011 23:22
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2004 Linguistics > 200405 Language in Culture and Society (Sociolinguistics) @ 25%
20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2002 Cultural Studies > 200205 Culture, Gender, Sexuality @ 50%
20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2005 Literary Studies > 200502 Australian Literature (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature) @ 25%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970120 Expanding Knowledge in Language, Communication and Culture @ 100%
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