A shameful history: Nowhere People: How International Race Thinking Shaped Australia’s Identity [Book Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Oceania, Politics/Public Policy on 2011-01-21 02:04Z by Steven

A shameful history: Nowhere People: How International Race Thinking Shaped Australia’s Identity [Book Review]

The Lancet
Volume 366, Issue 9495 (October 2005)
page 1428
DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67586

Caroline de Costa, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology; Director of the Clinical School
James Cook University School of Medicine, Cairns Campus, North Queensland, Australia

Nowhere People: How International Race Thinking Shaped Australia’s Identity
Henry Reynolds
Viking, 2005
Pp 204. ISBN-0-670-04118-1

A few years ago my daughter, a poised young woman, found herself in a large rural Australian town she did not know well. She sought directions from an older white woman who, glancing briefly at her appearance, gave the required information, but in the slow and careful tones one might use for the mentally impaired. This incident annoyed but did not surprise my daughter; my husband is of Sri Lankan origin, and all of our six children, of varying hues and facial features, have at times been taken to be of mixed Aboriginal descent in rural Australia, and know something of the experience that can go with this.

So it was with great personal interest that I opened Henry Reynolds’ impressive study of the history of people of “mixed-race” in the 19th and 20th centuries in all those countries where colonists confronted people of different colour and physiognomy. As a 21st-century medical practitioner well aware that we are all one species, I was dismayed to find how much medical practitioners and scientists had contributed to repressive legislation and social engineering, both in Australia and elsewhere…

Read the entire article here.

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Nowhere People

Posted in Anthropology, Autobiography, Books, History, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Monographs, Oceania, Politics/Public Policy on 2011-01-19 03:56Z by Steven

Nowhere People

Penguin Books Australia
January 2005
300 pages
Paperback ISBN-13:9780143001911

Henry Reynolds, Emeritus Associate Professor of History and Politics
James Cook University, Australia

‘That’s how at six at night on 11 May 1928 I stopped being a Yanyuwa child and became a nowhere person… Motherless, cultureless and stuck in a government institution because my mother was Aboriginal and my father was not. I ceased to be an Aboriginal but I would never be white. I was not something bad, shameful, called a half-caste.’—Hilda Jarman Muir

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, people of mixed Aboriginal and European ancestry—half-castes—were commonly assumed to be morally and physically defective, unstable and degenerate. They bore the brunt of society’s contempt, and the remobal of their children created Australia’s stolen generations.

Nowhere People is a history of beliefs about people of mixed race, both in Australia and overseas. It explores the concept of racial purity, eugenics, and the threat posed by miscegenation. Award-winning author Henry Reynolds also tells for the first time of his own family’s search for the truth about his father’s ancestry, and gives a poignant account of the contemporary predicament facing people of mixed heritage.

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