Race around Cairns: representations, perceptions and realities of race in the Trinity Bay district 1876-1908

Richards, Matthew Daniel McCormack (2010) Race around Cairns: representations, perceptions and realities of race in the Trinity Bay district 1876-1908. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

With the colonisation of the Trinity Bay district in the late nineteenth century, people arrived from many points of the compass. Not only Europeans, but also Pacific Islanders and East and South-east Asians imposed themselves on the numerous Aboriginal groups who inhabited Cairns and its vicinity. European Cairnsites perceived their world in strongly racialised terms, in which innate biological and cultural inequalities were assumed to exist between and among the diverse peoples of the area. They built a society based on racial hierarchy with themselves – white Australians – at the apex, the other races ranging down through varying degrees of inferiority. Despite the racial stratification and despite the significant – sometimes murderous – intercultural tensions, this was an interdependent colonial society characterised, to a large extent, by peaceable accommodations and productive inter-racial relationships. Europeans understood themselves to be out of place in the tropics, so when they imagined the district's future they typically saw non-whites continuing to play an important part – a vision not shared by the Australian mainstream around the time of federation. This thesis scrutinises words and images from early Cairns, to recover the ways in which racial representions were used across a range of social and cultural contexts and how they were transformed over time. It shows that European Cairnsites constructed a local racial vernacular, in some ways discordant with the white Australia ideal, in other ways consistent with it, but always serving the interests of white dominance.

Item ID: 19031
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: race, white Australia, immigration history, settlement history, Indigenous Australian history, Cairns, history, race relations, settlement, Chinese immigrants, Chinese Australians, Japanese immigrants, Japanese Australians
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2012 05:14
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History @ 33%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210302 Asian History @ 33%
21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History) @ 34%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 34%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950599 Understanding Past Societies not elsewhere classified @ 33%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology @ 33%
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