Prevailing paradigms: enforced settlement, control and fear in Australian national discourse

Babacan, Hurriyet, and Gopalkrishnan, Narayan (2017) Prevailing paradigms: enforced settlement, control and fear in Australian national discourse. In: Fischer-Tahir, Andrea, and Wagenhofer, Sophie, (eds.) Disciplinary Spaces: spatial control, forced assimilation and narratives of progress since the 19th century. Sozial und Kulturgeographie, 14 . Transcript Verlag, Blelefeld, Germany, pp. 189-219.

[img] PDF (Published Version) - Published Version
Restricted to Repository staff only

View at Publisher Website:


Modern capitalism controls and redefines spatial arrangements through control of production, consumption, regulation of labour mobility and residential arrangements. These large economic frameworks are strongly linked to personal, cultural and political identity formation (Holt, 2002; Babacan et al., 2009). Processes of colonisation by European countries, from the sixteenth century onwards, has enabled these countries to reap enormous rewards in the form of raw materials, slave or free labour, military power and trade in processes that are closely linked to identity formation in these nation states (Hollinworth, 2006; Winant, 2001). At the heart of colonialism were racism and the definition of the ‘other’ who could be dominated and subjugated (Winant, 2001; Babacan et al., 2009). Winant (2001:30) posits that “modernity itself was a worldwide racial project, an evolving and flexible process of racial formation”. In the context of Australia, forms of racism and depiction of the Aboriginal people and ethnic minorities as sub-human enabled justification for policies of annihilation and assimilation. As aptly stated by Stoler:

[T]here is good evidence that discourses of race did not have to await mid-nineteenth century science for their verification. Distinctions of color joined with those of religion and culture to distinguish the rulers from the ruled, invoked in varied measures in the governing strategies of colonial states. In the nineteenth century, on the other hand, race becomes the organizing grammar of an imperial order in which modernity, the civilizing mission and the “measure of man” were framed. And with it, “culture” was harnessed to do more specific political work; not only to mark difference, but to rationalize the hierarchies of privilege and profit, to consolidate the labor regimes of expanding capitalism, to provide the psychological scaffolding for the exploitative structures of colonial rule (Stoler, 1995: 27).

The construction of social spaces involves the materiality of places as they are constructed, and the recursive shaping of people’s identities, actions, and interactions with their physical environment. As Neely and Samura (2011:1939) point out, “political struggles over space play out through structures of difference and inequality that define and organise spaces according to dominant interests”. The nation state in Australia is a product of spatial strategies that controlled peoples’ movements both internally and at the borders (Damousi, 2013; Dudgeon, Wright, Paradies, Garvey, & Walker 2010; Griffiths, 2012). It is shaped through historical patterns of colonisation, built on settler conflicts with Indigenous populations, and emerges amid contestation (Mullings, 2005). The attempts to build a common, often homogenous, national identity were constructed from existing British cultural repertoires as well as new ideas and existing conflicts. These developed out of myths, images, symbols and ideas from the past and interpreted into the ideas of a common homeland and nationhood (Mann, 2013). The nation building process established which identities were recognised and accepted, drawing the boundaries of exclusion. The political and institutional approach by the state towards culture, language, identity and history are crucial elements in the discourse and reproduction of national identities (Gutmann, 2003). Hollinsworth (2006) asserts that racial thinking, beliefs about racial differences, and the false science that was used to justify the dissemination of beliefs and practices against Indigenous peoples, Social Darwinism, were all used to state that Europeans (‘white races’) were destined to rule. These philosophies are enacted through spatial performance as the colonisers aimed to dispossess Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders from their lands and enforce policies of exclusion and discrimination against various waves of immigrants (Bottoms, 2013; Harris, 2003).

This chapter will provide a critical analysis of the enforced European settlement of Australia and the construction of Australian nation building through spatial control. We argue that Australian nation building embodies the use of fear as a tool to build cohesion in the face of imagined fears (Diken, 2002; Babacan, 2010; Gopalkrishnan, 2006, 2011). We further point to the use of spatial control in Australia as characterised by violence, racism and discrimination that continues to be used to create and reproduce social hierarchies and inequalities, reinforce or undermine ideologies, and enable or promote some practices over others (Tickamyer, 2000). We examine the policy developments of the nation state in the 19th and 20th century and posit that forced settlement, control and fear have been the prevailing paradigms in Australian nation building. We explore the ways in which different actors offered resistance and agency and the complex ways in which emancipatory struggles took place in the context of building the Australian nation state.

Item ID: 49144
Item Type: Book Chapter (Research - B1)
Keywords: migration; settlement; colonisation; fear
ISBN: 978-3-8376-3487-7
Date Deposited: 10 Aug 2017 03:01
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1607 Social Work > 160799 Social Work not elsewhere classified @ 50%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160803 Race and Ethnic Relations @ 50%
SEO Codes: 94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9499 Other Law, Politics and Community Services > 949999 Law, Politics and Community Services not elsewhere classified @ 100%
Downloads: Total: 3
Last 12 Months: 3
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page