Am I Black Enough For You? By Anita Heiss [Milatovic Review]

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Oceania on 2014-10-09 17:36Z by Steven

Am I Black Enough For You? By Anita Heiss [Milatovic Review]

Transnational Literature
Volume 6, Number 2, May 2014
3 pages

Maja Milatovic
University of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Anita Heiss: Am I Black Enough for You? (Random House: Sydney, 2012)

Anita Heiss’ Am I Black Enough for You? is a compelling and deeply affective memoir on community, family, alliances and the complexities of identity. This work contributes to Heiss’s prolific oeuvre as a proud Wiradjuri woman, writer, educator, public speaker and literary critic. Heiss is the author of historical fiction, non-fiction, social commentary, poetry and travel pieces and the creator of an innovative genre of commercial women’s fiction named ‘Koori chick-lit’, or ‘choc-lit’, featuring urban Aboriginal women

The thought-provoking title of the memoir, Am I Black Enough for You?, reflects its preoccupation with identity. Posing the question, Heiss invites readers to reflect, consider and reconsider stereotypical and received notions about Aboriginal identity. The memoir begins with an act of self-defining, attesting to its importance and necessity, as Heiss embraces her diverse selves, firmly rooted in her identity as a Wiradjuri woman: ‘I am an urban, beachside Blackfella, a concrete Koori with Westfield Dreaming, and I apologise to no one’ (1). Throughout her introductory chapter, Heiss challenges stereotypical notions of Aboriginal identity, asserting her connection to her land and community. Analysing terms such as ‘Aborigines’, Heiss reveals the problematic constructedness of such terminology connected to the history of invasion and dispossession, emphasising once again the importance of self-expression and self-representation.

Following the introduction, Heiss references her much-publicised suit against conservative columnist Andrew Bolt and his article which targeted Heiss and several others, claiming they have chosen their ‘Aboriginal identity’ for personal and professional gain. Along with eight other plaintiffs, Heiss took Bolt to court for breaching the Racial Discrimination Act and won the case. She reflects on Bolt’s discriminatory and inaccurate assumptions and challenges prescriptive notions about Aboriginal identity emerging from colonialist imagination. Winning the case against Bolt, Heiss significantly contributes to countering problematic representations of Indigenous people in the media and encourages dialogue on equality and accountability…

Read the entire review here.

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Am I Black Enough For You?

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Oceania on 2014-10-06 19:10Z by Steven

Am I Black Enough For You?

Random House Books Australia (Available in the United States via University of Hawai‘i Press)
352 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9781742751924
eBook ISBN: 9781742751931

Anita Heiss

Winner of the Vic Premier’s Award for Indigenous Writing.The story of an urban-based high achieving Aboriginal woman working to break down stereotypes and build bridges between black and white Australia.

I’m Aboriginal. I’m just not the Aboriginal person a lot of people want or expect me to be.

What does it mean to be Aboriginal? Why is Australia so obsessed with notions of identity? Anita Heiss, successful author and passionate campaigner for Aboriginal literacy, was born a member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales, but was raised in the suburbs of Sydney and educated at the local Catholic school. She is Aboriginal – however, this does not mean she likes to go barefoot and, please, don’t ask her to camp in the desert.

After years of stereotyping Aboriginal Australians as either settlement dwellers or rioters in Redfern, the Australian media have discovered a new crime to charge them with: being too ‘fair-skinned’ to be an Australian Aboriginal. Such accusations led to Anita’s involvement in one of the most important and sensational Australian legal decisions of the 21st-century when she joined others in charging a newspaper columnist with breaching the Racial Discrimination Act. He was found guilty, and the repercussions continue.

In this deeply personal memoir, told in her distinctive, wry style, Anita Heiss gives a first-hand account of her experiences as a woman with an Aboriginal mother and Austrian father, and explains the development of her activist consciousness.

Read her story and ask: what does it take for someone to be black enough for you?

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Intervening in the racial imaginary: ‘mixed race’ and resistance in contemporary Australian Literature

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Oceania on 2014-08-18 18:37Z by Steven

Intervening in the racial imaginary: ‘mixed race’ and resistance in contemporary Australian Literature

University of Sydney
243 pages

Lyn Sue Dickens

A thesis submitted in fulfilment of requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

This thesis examines the extent to which three contemporary Australian novels can be regarded as interventions in “the modern racial imaginary” (Mignolo 2011a, p. 277). In order to analyse the novels as interventions, this thesis looks in particular at depictions and conceptualisations of mixed race subjectivity and experience in the texts. The novels, The World Waiting to be Made by Simone Lazaroo (1994), Shanghai Dancing by Brian Castro (2003) and The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser (2007) all explore mixed subjectivities and experiences in the Asia-Pacific region. Throughout this thesis I examine the complexity and disruptive potential of the concept of ‘mixed race’. I argue that through the depiction of people of mixed race and their traumatic experiences of racialisation, the novels critique, resist and disrupt concepts of race and colonial worldviews.

I further explore the ways in which the novels both promote and exemplify alternative ways of perceiving and interacting with other human beings that do not rely on racial categories or the humanitas/anthropos divide (Mignolo 2011b, p. 90). In order to do this I draw on Walter Mignolo’s concepts of border thinking/sensing and delinking, and Édouard Glissant’s work in The Poetics of Relation. I argue that critical examination of mixed race subjectivity and representation, in conjunction with transcultural concepts such as Relation and border thinking, provide a means of both challenging traditional concepts of race and essentialised cultures, and thinking beyond their boundaries. Furthermore, the novels themselves open up a transcultural space with transformative potential, which encourages the imagination of alternative, more equal worlds of Relation.

Read the entire thesis here.

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JS-44.12: A Global Look at Mixed Marriage

Posted in Africa, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Live Events, Media Archive, Oceania, Social Science, South Africa on 2014-06-08 22:21Z by Steven

JS-44.12: A Global Look at Mixed Marriage

XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology: Facing an Unequal Word: Challenges for Global Sociology
International Sociological Association
Yokohama, Japan
2014-07-13 through 2014-07-19

Wednesday, 2014-07-16, 18:00 JST (Local Time)
Room: 315

Erica Chito Childs, Sociology
Hunter College, City University of New York

Mapping attitudes toward intermarriage—who is and who is not an acceptable mate—offers an incisive means through which imaginings of belonging—race, ethnicity, nationhood, citizenship and culture—can be critically evaluated.  In particular, social constructions of race and difference involve discussions of purity, race identity and taboos against interracial sex and marriage. Drawing from qualitative interviews and ethnographic research in six countries on attitudes toward intermarriage, this paper explores these issues of intermarriage in a global context.  Through a comparison of qualitative data I collected in Australia, Brazil, Ecuador, Portugal, South Africa and the United States, I offer a theoretical framework and provide an empirical basis, to understand the concept of intermarriage and what it tells us about racial boundaries in a global context. For example, in the United States, the issue of intermarriage is discussed as interracial with less attention paid to inter-religious or inter-ethnic, to the point that those concepts are rarely used.  Similarly in South Africa, despite the end of apartheid decades ago, marriage across racial categories is still highly problematized and uncommon.  Yet globally there is less consensus of what constitutes intermarriage—sometimes intercultural, interethnic, or any number of words with localized meanings.  In South America and Australia, the debate seems to revolve more around indigenous status, citizenship and national identity such as who is Australian or who is Ecuadoran?  As indigenous populations rally for rights and representation how does this change the discourse on what intermarriage mean?  Looking globally, what differences matter? What boundaries are most salient in determining the attitudes of different groups toward intermarriage?  How are various communities responding to intermarriage, particularly if there are a growing number of “mixed” families? This research on attitudes toward intermarriage adds to our understanding of constructions of race, racism and racialized, gendered and sexualized beliefs and practices globally.

For more information, click here.

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5 Nations That Imported Europeans to Whiten The Population

Posted in Africa, Articles, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Media Archive, South Africa on 2014-04-11 21:10Z by Steven

5 Nations That Imported Europeans to Whiten The Population

Atlanta Black Star

Andre Moore

After the trans-Atlantic slave trade was officially abolished toward the end of the 19th century, many whites felt threatened and feared free Blacks would become a menacing element in society. The elites spent a great dealing of time mulling over how best to solve the so-called Negro problem. A popular solution that emerged during this period was the ideology of racial whitening or “whitening.”

Supporters of the “whitening” ideology believed that if a “superior” white population was encouraged to mix with an “inferior” Black population, Blacks would advance culturally, genetically or even disappear totally, within several generations. Some also believed that an influx of immigrants from Europe would be necessary to successfully carry out the process.

Although both ideologies were driven by racism and White supremacy, whitening was in contrast to some countries that opted for segregation rather than miscegenation, ultimately outlawing the mixing of the races. This, however, was just a different means to the same end as these nations also imported more Europeans while slaughtering and oppressing the Black population.

Here are 5 of the several counties that adopted a whitening policy and what happened as a result…

Read the entire article here.

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Quiting India: the Anglo-Indian Culture of Migration

Posted in Anthropology, Articles, Asian Diaspora, Media Archive, Oceania on 2013-07-08 04:25Z by Steven

Quiting India: the Anglo-Indian Culture of Migration

sites: a Journal of Social Anthropology and Cultural Studies
Volume 4, Number 2 (2007)
pages 32-56
DOI: 10.11157/sites-vol4iss2id73

Robyn Andrews, Lecturer, Social Anthropology Programme
Massey University

In my work with the Anglo-Indians in Calcutta I was reminded of Caplan’s (1995) comment that Anglo-Indians had a ‘culture of emigration’, as I observed a steady stream of Anglo-Indians leaving India. Even though destination opportunities are being eroded, the Anglo-Indians I spoke with regularly referred to relatives living abroad, and in the main wanted to emulate this pattern of migration.

In this paper I draw particularly on case study material collected in India and Australia over the past five years. I explore the nexus between Anglo-Indian identity, which they often regarded as more Western than Indian, and their migration patterns. Concentrating on their reasons for leaving, I contribute to the ‘culture of migration’ literature through this analysis of the migration culture of an ethnic group which exhibits variations on the set of reasonably distinct characteristics associated with groups having a ‘culture of migration’.

Read the entire article here.

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The Outsiders Within: Telling Australia’s Indigenous-Asian Story

Posted in Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Oceania on 2013-05-11 01:42Z by Steven

The Outsiders Within: Telling Australia’s Indigenous-Asian Story

University of New South Wales Press
June 2007
256 pages
234 x 153mm
Paperback ISBN: 9780868408361

Peta Stephenson, Honorary Fellow
Asia Institute, University of Melbourne

An engaging account of the ways in which over hundreds of years Indigenous and Southeast Asian people across Australia have traded, intermarried and built hybrid communities. It is also a disturbing exposé of the persistent—sometimes paranoid—efforts of successive national governments to police, marginalise and outlaw these encounters.


  • Introduction
  • 1. Trading places
  • 2. Makassan meetings
  • 3. Dangerous liaisons
  • 4. Colonial encounters
  • 5. Paranoid nation
  • 6. Invasion narratives
  • 7. Where are you from?
  • 8. Detoxifying Australia
  • 9. Old roots, new routes
  • Bibliography
  • Interviews
  • Index


With a gun in hand Ah Hong, a Chinese cook and market gardener, shouted these words at the police: ‘you sleep with black women too. My woman’s got my kids.’ It was Alice Springs in the early 20th century and Ah Hong had committed the ‘crime’ of fathering three ‘mixed-race’ children. Ah Hong met Ranjika, a Western Arrernte woman, after the white man who stole her from her tribal husband abandoned her. Government officials targeted Ranjika and Ah Hong’s children for removal because they were of mixed Aboriginal-Asian descent. Reminding local officials that they also had sexual relationships with Aboriginal women. Ah Hong underlined the hypocrisy of fining or deporting Chinese and other Asian men because of their relationships with women or Aboriginal descent.

Around the same time, more than 2000 kilometres east in Queensland, another triangular relationship between Aboriginal, Chinese and white Australians was being played out. White authorities had seized Princy Carlo and her family (like many other ‘fringe-dwelling’ Aborigines) from their home country and packed them off to a government reserve more than 200 kilometres south-east. Princy Carlo was a mixed-race woman of Chinese and Wakka Wakka descent (from the Eidsvold district of southern Queensland, about 430 kilometres north-west of Brisbane). She did not yield to the assimilationist intent of government policy. Instead, she and her family established a camp they called ‘Chinatown’ at the Aboriginal settlement of Barambah (now Cherbourg).

The longstanding attempt to legislate Indigenous-Asian relations out of existence continues to cast its shadow today. Cathy Freeman is identified as Australia’s most famous Indigenous sportswoman, but she is also of Chinese descent. In the late 19th century, her great-great grandfather moved from China to northern Queensland, where he worked on sugarcane farms. In 2001 Freeman supported Beijing’s bid for the 2008 Olympic Games because of her Chinese heritage, but the English-language Australian media has entirely overlooked it. By contrast, in Chinese-language media inside and outside Australia, Freeman’s multicultural heritage is celebrated; many Chinese-Australians even hoped Freeman would win gold in the Sydney Olympics because of her Chinese descent. Is the suppression of Freeman’s heritage a sign that white Australia still wants to keep Asians and Aborigines apart?

The Outsiders Within is the story of the triangular relationship between Asians, Aborigines and white Australia. The three anecdotes just recounted are the tip of an historical iceberg. A unique and fascinating tradition of cross-cultural alliances between Indigenous and Asian Australian people exists in Australia, but it is largely unknown. In Broome, Western Australia, by the 1940s, cross-cultural unions between Indigenous and Asian people had become so commonplace that a majority of the Aboriginal population had some Asian ancestry. And, while Broome is an exceptionally multicultural society, an Indigenous-Asian heritage is a feature of most communities across northern Australia. Nor is it confined to the north: as this study shows, it stretches south to the metropolitan centres and, more recently, in the work of artists, film-makers and writers it has become part of a vigorously pursued project to understand Australia’s past and present differently. For the story we have to tell is both troubled and troubling. It obliges us to confront a legacy of discrimination, and to ask why the social, political and geographical legitimisation of Australia as a nation-state depended so profoundly on declaring Indigenous-Asian alliances illegitimate…

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Mixed Relations: Asian-Aboriginal Contact in North Australia

Posted in Anthropology, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Oceania on 2013-05-06 20:16Z by Steven

Mixed Relations: Asian-Aboriginal Contact in North Australia

University of Western Australia Publishing
March 2006
384 pages
250 x 170 mm
Hardcover ISBN: 9781920694418

Regina Ganter, Professor, School of Humanities
Griffith University, Queensland, Australia


  • Won – 2007 NSW Premier’s Awards (Community and Regional History Prize)
  • Won – 2007 Ernest Scott History Prize

Australian histories too often imply that the nation’s history began in Botany Bay in 1788. But Australia was not an isolated continent, and long before white settlement, Macassan trepangers had made contact with Aboriginal people along the Northern Coastline, weaving trading networks that extended from China to the Kimberley and Torres Strait. It was this Asian–Aboriginal link that gave rise to the northern pearling industry, a subsequent driver of regional economic development.

Mixed Relations explores successive waves of contact in northern Australia and the impact of circumstances—political, legal and economic—on members of the polyethnic communities. Based on extensive fieldwork, including hundreds of interviews, it provides a fresh insight into the national narrative and poses challenging questions about the Australian identity in the twenty-first century.

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White Without Soap [Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Media Archive, Oceania on 2013-05-05 02:12Z by Steven

White Without Soap [Review]

Australian Womens Book Review
Volume 23.1&2 (2011)
pages 16-18

Jean Taylor

Marguerita Stephens. White Without Soap: Philanthropy, Caste and Exclusion in Colonial Victoria 1835–1888, A Political Economy of Race. Melbourne: Melbourne University Custom Book Centre, 2010.

As it says on the frontispiece, White Without Soap was a PhD thesis in the Department of History at the University of Melbourne in November 2003. Usually, if a PhD thesis is to be published, the writer works on the thesis to make it more accessible for the general public to read. Jennifer Kelly’s Zest For Life, which gives a positive view of lesbians’ experiences of menopause, springs to mind as an example of a rewritten PhD thesis that was published by Spinifex Press in Melbourne in 2005.

However, I read Marg’s thesis not long after she had received her PhD and was mightily impressed. Not only with the academic language and the rigorous intellectual enquiry she brought to bear on this important subject and the research she did into this brutal aspect of Victoria’s past, but also as a reminder of the despicable treatment of Aboriginal people, and the ways in which we non-Aboriginal people still have a lot to learn in terms of our interaction with and our understanding of the Indigenous people of this country.

As Marg puts it in the Abstract:

The thesis explores the connections between nineteenth century imperial anthropology, racial ‘science’, and the imposition of colonising governance on the Aborigines of Port Phillip/Victoria between 1835 and 1888.

These supposedly scientific facts included the observation by a Polish traveller, Count Paul Strzelecki, that after an Aboriginal woman had a child by a European, she was then unable to bear children by an Aboriginal man. This is a plainly ludicrous suggestion, but one that Marg uses to point out just how assiduously and insidiously science was used to discredit Aborigines as a race-women in particular-and to justify the annihilation of the Aboriginal people and the confiscation of their land by the so-called superior European invaders…

…The Kulin Nation people-comprised of five language groups, Woiwurrung, Boonwurrung, Daungwurrung, Wathawurrung and Dja Dja Wurrung-had survived in Central Victoria for tens of thousands of years before the European invasion in 1835. It went without saying that they were more than capable of conducting their own affairs. By 1859 Aboriginal people were in despair about their land being stolen, so that they had nowhere to hunt and gather food, and, therefore, no way to feed themselves as they had been doing since time immemorial. They petitioned the government of the time for some land they could call their own, where they could grow crops to support themselves, raise their children, and be relatively safe from murderous settlers.

Marg tells us that the government of the time had another agenda:

By the 1860s children of mixed decent, and girls in particular, had become the principal objects through which the colonial government justified the round up of the Victorian clans, and their concentration on “mission stations”.

Read the entire review here.

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White Without Soap: Philanthropy, Caste and Exclusion in Colonial Victoria 1835-1888, A Political Economy of Race

Posted in Anthropology, Books, History, Media Archive, Monographs, Oceania on 2013-04-29 03:39Z by Steven

White Without Soap: Philanthropy, Caste and Exclusion in Colonial Victoria 1835-1888, A Political Economy of Race

University of Melbourne Custom Book Centre
318 pages
Paperback ISBN: 0980759420, 9780980759426

Marguerita Stephens

Explores the connections between nineteenth century imperial anthropology, racial ‘science’ and the imposition of colonising governance on the Aborigines of Port Phillip/Victoria between 1835 and 1888. Based on the dissertation of the same name.

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgements
  • The View from Coranderrk
  • Note on Language
  • Map
  • Introduction: Imperial Economies of Race
  • Chapter One: From Philanthropy to Race 1835-1848
  • Chapter Two: Colonising the Body: Infanticide and Governance
  • Chapter Three: Colonising the Body: A Species Apart
  • Chapter Four: Citizens, Rebels and Ambiguous Identities in the Ethno-Zoo
  • Chapter Five: The Coranderrk Dormitory: Gender, Caste and Extinction
  • Chapter Six: ‘You can make them white here without soap’
  • Conclusion: ‘Yarra, my father’s country’
  • Bibliography

INTRODUCTION: Imperial Economies of Race

In the expansionary movements of the European nation stales in the nineteenth century, race and empire were mutually constituted. ‘It was’, wrote Catherine Hall, ‘colonial encounters which produced a new category, race’.1 The idea of race raised colonialism to a biological imperative. The idea of race, and the ability of individuals to perceive the marks and differentials of race, have a history of their own. What follows is a history of how Europeans in one colonial encounter came to think that race mattered and how they produced specific categories of race that gave scientific and moral warrant to their rapacious colonising. It is a political economy of race.

This study is concerned with the multilateral connections between developments in the science of race across the European imperial domain and the operations of colonial policy in one location, that of Port Phillip, later Victoria, in south-eastern Australia in the middle and late nineteenth century. Specifically, it is concerned with the interactions between anthropology and the practical management of the Victorian government’s Aboriginal station Coranderrk, onto which the Kulin people, on whose land the colonial settlement of Melbourne was established in 1835, were gathered in 1863. It is concerned with the prominence of the Australians, particularly those from the south-eastern comer of the continent, in the formulation of European concepts of race, and with the daily lives of those on whom the ethnological gaze fell so heavily. It is concerned with the circularities of colonial theory and colonizing practice which produced the extinguishing Aboriginal body and the imperial fantasy of terra nullius. Colonialism and anthropology formed an hermetic ideological coupling of power and knowledge in which European desire, be it sexual or territorial, was projected onto the colonised with such force and effect that it delivered them up as objects who entreated their own colonization. It is with the twists and turns in this multidirectional relationship between theories of race and the practical expressions of colonial power through the categories of race that this study is concerned.

In the following chapters I explore how anthropology projected imminent Aboriginal extinction as an effect of biology and culture, rather than as an effect, and an animating ambition, of colonial practice. I also explore the complicity of humanitarian philanthropists in the production of the ‘ideological dissimulations’ encapsulated in Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s provocative formula: ‘white men are saving brown women from brown men’ with its slippery and readily mutable verb. In south-eastern Australia, white men produced and reinforced colonizing power through the purported rescue of brown women, whose cthnologically-predicated ill-treatment by brown men provided the singular event that permitted the suspension of the letter of the law in order to impose ‘not only a civil but a good society’.

From the generalised rape, abuse and exploitation of the sexual labour of Aboriginal women and girls by colonists on the frontier in the late 1830s, to the emphasis laid by the Victorian Board for the Protection of Aborigines (BPA) on the seizure of Aboriginal girls from their kin in the 1860s and 1870s, to the Board’s determination in the 1880s to bring ‘finality’ to the Aboriginal ‘problem’ by steering young Aboriginal women into marriages with white men, the exercise of power over Aboriginal women was the most crucial vector of colonial power. In Victoria, as in so many other colonial sites, the control of female sexuality and reproduction was, as Anne McClintock argues, crucial to the ‘transmission of white, male power’.

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