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The Yellow Peril: The Chinese Scapegoat on the Goldfields as Ideological Safety Valve

mongolian-octopus.jpgThis is the text of a paper I presented at the Australian History Association annual conference ‘Boom to Bust,’ organized in conjunction with Federation University, in Ballarat, Victoria, in July 2016.

Abstract. This paper will look at moral panics over the presence of Chinese diggers on the Victorian goldfields and examine the commonalities between anti-Chinese sentiment and popular attitudes towards the local indigenous population. It will consider both in terms of the politics of land usage in the colonial context and the function of associated assumptions about the supremacy of Anglo-Saxon culture and institutions.

To that end this paper will examine the development of fears of the Yellow Peril, especially in the aftermath of the Eureka Rebellion of 1854. It will consider the extent to which the repressive behaviour of the colonial administration further negative outcomes in the spread of popular racism. It will look at at how racism functioned then as an outlet or ‘safety valve’ for tensions produced by the colonial style of administration that were otherwise not permitted expression.

Ultimately then this paper will explore racism as a means of facilitating blame-shifting and avoiding accountability for institutional injustices stemming from colonialism more broadly. It will consider the meaning of ‘whiteness’ and the tendency to perceive the world through the prisms of class and the dominant ethnicity in these terms, and examine the extent to which such were the motivating force behind the development of the White Australia policy.



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