Colonial modernity: The example of Anglo Australian settlement through transportation

Merefield, Matt (2001). Colonial modernity: The example of Anglo Australian settlement through transportation PhD Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, The University of Queensland.

Attached Files (Some files may be inaccessible until you login with your UQ eSpace credentials)
Name Description MIMEType Size Downloads
Read with bookreader  the17492.pdf the17492.pdf application/pdf 54.10MB 275
Author Merefield, Matt
Thesis Title Colonial modernity: The example of Anglo Australian settlement through transportation
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2001
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor G. Turner
Total pages 101
Language eng
Subjects 750308 National identity
370103 Race and Ethnic Relations
Formatted abstract
The writing of this thesis was mobilised by the apparent shift to the political right across the Western European and other Western nation - states including Australia, where the rights of the citizen and the 'problem' of the immigrant population have become central issues. With the linkages operating between class, ethnicity, nation and race within this shift to the right in mind, the thesis is intended to offer a partial response to the their elaboration in English and Australian contexts of history, law, and culture.

In the Australian context, issues of race and immigration have played a significant role in the electoral success of the conservative Liberal Party, which has enacted legislation producing the construction of a 'Fortress Australia. The European discourse and govemmentality of both renewed forms of nationalism and the creation of a 'Fortress Europe' have played a similar role in enabling the shift to the right throughout the 1990's and the first years of this century. While in England, the Blair Labour government is avowedly centre-left, its positioning of the immigrant as threatening to the national community has been no less stringent than that adhered to by the Australian centre-right government.

In Liz Fekete's terms, this shift manifests the rise of a pervasive form of xenoracism, where the form of exclusion operating in the construction of a 'Fortress Europe' is not simply racist in the sense of biological, or 'scientific' racism. Nor is xenoracism merely cultural, operating on the basis of constructed cultural and social difference amongst different national, racial, or ethnic groups. Cultural difference is mobilised in terms of incommensurability within xenoracism, but is inseparable from issues of poverty and criminality, where the other figures through a correlation of criminality, immigration, and ethnicity.

In both Australian and the European Union nation-states, the 'problem' of asylum seekers, refugees, and migration has become volatile. Western governments argue that the conditions of globalization have produced a situation in which migrants whose motives are primarily economic increasingly seek recourse in the appeal to asylum status. Across, Europe, a post-war period of relative openess towards immigrants was followed by a period of restriction after the economic downturn caused by the 1973 oil crisis. England was an exception to this shift to the extent that restrictions were enacted earlier, and have continued to be stronger than those imposed across the other EU states. Australia, under the Hawke - Keating Labour governments (1983-96), pursued a policy of multiculturalism, and engaged in a process of reconciliation with Aboriginal people. Like the European states, the Australian government in the 1990's has acted to restrict the immigration of asylum seekers in the contemporary period, and the Howard Liberal government (1996 onwards) has overturned the previous policies of multiculturalism and reconciliation. British and Australian government officials have kept abreast of policy developments in their respective domains; an Australian parliamentary research paper arguing for the relinquishing of the protocol of the Geneva Convention for a quota system more appropriate to the conditions and dilemmas of globalization resonates with current British policy, and the Home Office in Britain has advised that 'Howard's Way' would be appropriate for the British situation. Moreover, at the turn of the 20th century, British and Australian policies regarding sovereignty, subjects and aliens, bore remarkable consistency: the first Act of the Australian parliament was to legislate the White Australia policy (1901), while in 1905 the British parliament passed the Aliens Act. Both of these legislations were designed to 'protect' a white national community firom the imagined threat of racialised and pauperised immigrants. Both policies thus demonstrate the configuration that Fekete names xenoracism. This form of communitarian protectionism continued throughout the 20th century. Throughout the contemporary period England, Australia, and most of the Western European nation - states have acted to criminalise economic migration that presents itself as being in need of the political protection offered by the 1951 Geneva Convention.

For the migration theorist James Hollifield, the rise of the modem nation state is correlate with the emergence of the liberal paradox, which he formulates as the phenomenon in which European states have been observed to have opened their borders to processes of globalization while maintaining a closure against immigration. States become trapped in the paradox where economic forces push towards greater openess while 'the international state system and powerful (domestic) political forces push states towards greater closure.' Migration policy becomes marked by the contradiction lying between 'tolerant' and 'economic' liberalism. Hollifield writes that 'this is a liberal paradox because it highlights some of the contradictions inherent in liberalism, which is the quintessentially modern political and economic philosophy and a defining feature of globalization.'

In this thesis, the sense of liberalism being employed takes Hollifield's account one step further, so that the liberalism that is marked by this paradox under globalization was equally 'contradicted' in colonial times. Moreover, while agreeing with the premise that liberalism is inseparable from the development of the nation-state system, rather than reading liberalism as paradoxical or as contradicted, the thesis operates with a conception of a liberal consistency, where the 'tolerant' space of liberalism is both dependent upon and supportive of the border-less economic sphere.

For Jurgen Habermas, liberalism, democracy, and the rise of the nation-state are assumed to be co-dependant. Habermas argues that the nation-state and democracy emerged in a circular relationship, and these relays are part of the progress of modernity and the Enlightenment project. For Habermas, modernity had found its manifestation in the political form of the nation-state, which, up until the point of globalization, has given the best form for the constitution and maintenance of a public sphere. Crucially, for the argument of this thesis, Habermas's argument for the development of the public sphere qua enlightened modernity was framed primarily in terms of the development of the British political system in the 17th and 18th centuries, the period in which 'Australia' developed as a fragment of the British political system.

If globalization brings the contradictions belonging to the liberalism to a crisis point, these contradictions can be considered to trouble the status of the model of the modem nation-state. On one level, this crisis is considered to have troubled both the sovereignty and security of the nation-state. Global flows of information, capital, goods and labour trouble the ability of the nation-state to maintain its borders, territorial authority, and sovereignty. On another level, the re-nationalisation that states enact as a response to globalization effects the public sphere of liberal democratic politics. For Etienne Balibar, the responses that nation-states make to their globalization fall into the categories of communitarianism, neo-republicanism, and, in the work of Jurgen Habermas, humanitarian cosmopolitanism.

In Habermas's recent work the contradictions inherent to the nation-state that Hollifield names the liberal paradox requires a renewal of the project of modernity. This renewal is to proceed by transcending the limits of the nation-state, and thus, will produce a renewal of the nation-state itself, in the form of its re-placement in an emergent transnational public sphere. For Habermas, globalization shouldn't lead to a negation of the nation-state, but merely its reformulation through the formation of a transnational public sphere, where a new democratic institution grounded in public debate would enable 'a concrete set of practices oriented towards communication, the mediation of particular interests, the rise of a legitimacy and the formation of a constitutional patriotism (Verassungspatriotismus)'. This is to be a sphere that will be more than the nation-state system, but both less than the post-nationalism argued for by Yasemin Soysal, and more than the fransnational globalization indicated in the works of Saskia Sassen.

The troubling of the nation-state started, however, at a much earlier period than the contemporary period of globalization. The rise of the European nation-state was dependant on the process of colonisation. In England, colonisation provided the finance necessary to the Industrial Revolution. Colonisation was the correlating power that held together the development of the national form as the typically bourgeois way of instituting citizenship, with the dominance of emerging nation-states in the world economic system.

The public sphere that Habermas identifies first, in the political space of the European nation state, and secondly in the transnational space of the European Union is supposed to depend upon the inscription of norms that have universal and rational legitimacy. Habermas, in describing the rise of the European 'way of life' as having been dependent, in part, upon a glistening material infrastructure', doesn't relate this to the critique of 'our aggressive colonial and Eurocentric past.' The rise of the public sphere that Habermas identifies in The Transformation of the Public Sphere isn't given as dependent on the exclusion of the colonial world, whereas Etienne Balibar argues that the universal form of the nation-state was, and is, dependent on just such an exclusion. The civil society that Habermas advocates is European, but Habermas attempts to defend his argument for the renewal of modernity and the values of the Enlightenment from charges of ethno-centricism by basing the values of such a civil society in universal rational norms achievable through the discourse ethics that have developed in the nation-state form. In addition, the social democracy that he advocates, while based upon the relays operating between liberalism, the nation-state, and democracy, is positioned against the instrumentality belonging to neo-liberalism. A post-colonial perspective would, however, go some way towards demonstrating some of the difficulties inhering to the separation of the humanitarian-cosmopolitan public sphere from the both the instrumental neo-liberalism it is defined against, and the alternative statist responses to the challenges arising in globalization. Regardless of whether these responses are communitarianism, or neorepublicanism, they share a grounding with the Habermassain public sphere in the closures belonging to the legitimating correlation of ethnicity, liberalism, and the nationstate as modem.
Keyword Nationalism
Ethnic relations -- Political aspects
Additional Notes The University of Queensland acknowledges that the copyright owner of a thesis is its author, not the University. The University has made best endeavours to obtain author permissions to include theses in this collection, however we have been unable to trace and contact all authors. If you are the author of a thesis included in this collection and we have been unable to contact you, please email

Version Filter Type
Citation counts: Google Scholar Search Google Scholar
Created: Tue, 15 Dec 2009, 12:46:10 EST by Ms Natalie Hull on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service