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Violence and Colonial Dialogue

Violence and Colonial Dialogue: The Australian-Pacific Indentured Labor Trade

Tracey Banivanua-Mar
Copyright Date: 2007
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  • Book Info
    Violence and Colonial Dialogue
    Book Description:

    During the post-abolition period a trade in cheap and often cost-neutral labor flourished in the western Pacific. For more than forty years, it supplied tens of thousands of indentured laborers to the sugar industry of northeastern Australia. Violence and Colonial Dialogue tells the story of its impact on the people who were traded. From the beaches and shallows of the Pacific’s frontiers to the plantations and settlements of Queensland and beyond, a collective tale of the pioneers of today’s Australian South Sea Island community is told through an abundant and effective use of materials that characterize the colonial record, including police registers, court records, prison censuses, administrative reports, legislative debates, and oral histories. With a thematic focus on the physical violence that was central to the experience of people who were voluntarily or involuntarily recruited, the history that emerges is a powerful tale that is at once both tragic and triumphant. Violence and Colonial Dialogue also tells a more universal story of colonization. Set mostly in the British settler-colony of Queensland during the last forty years of the nineteenth century, it explores the brutality embedded in the structures of a colonial state, while attempting to recover the stories that such processes obscured.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6546-7
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. [Map]
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Violence, Language, and Colonial Dialogue
    (pp. 1-19)

    FROM 1863 AROUND sixty thousand men, women, and children from diverse islands in the southwestern Pacific labored for bonded periods of at least three years in the burgeoning sugar industry of the young British colony of Queensland. In the aftermath of the abolition of slavery, these laborers provided the essential cost-neutral, coercible, and colored labor that was deemed essential to the economic viability of white settlement in the tropical belt of Britain’s Australian colonies. As such the trade continued for forty-odd years until, at the turn of the twentieth century, amidst the determined and defensive efforts of the Australian colonies...

  6. 1. The Frontiers: Savages, Going Native, and the Rightness of Might
    (pp. 20-42)

    ON 13 SEPTEMBER 1871, an unknown number of Buka Islanders who had been recruited for service in the Pacific’s indentured labor trade on plantations in Fiji were massacred on board the labor vesselCarlin the northwest Pacific. The massacre would become an infamous indictment on the worst atrocities of the labor trade. It would stand as testament to what was seen as the notoriously savage and decivilizing nature of the frontiers of colonial incursions, and as such confirmed the western Pacific’s status as a vulnerable and permeable border between civilization’s morality and law and the well-known realms of savagery...

  7. 2. Survival, Arrival, and Growth: The World Islanders Built
    (pp. 43-69)

    THE TESTIMONY ABOVE was delivered by Dayanammo in the trial of Bernard Williams of theHopefulfor murders committed during the 1885 massacre discussed in chapter 1.¹ His testimony reminds us that incidents of frontier violence were survived by those who often went on to undertake contracted labor on Queensland plantations before being returned home. In the case of those who survived theCarlmassacre, many ended up laboring on cotton plantations in Fiji for over twelve months before being returned. Others did not survive, having died soon after their arrival from what the British consul for Fiji, Edward March,...

  8. 3. The Settler Colony: Kanakas, Blacks, and Racial Borderlands
    (pp. 70-100)

    DURING THE 1889 sitting of Queensland’s legislative assembly, Samuel Grimes, the member for the district of Oxley, which covered the region bordering Queensland’s capital town of Brisbane and what was then known as Bunyah Mountain, brought to the assembly the question of the “Bunyah Black”. Deriving his name from the area, the Bunyah Black was “at large” in Mount Bunyah and was suspected of “committing atrocities” such as stealing “not only fowls, but flour, provisions, and tools for a tent” and other, more serious offenses like “frighten[ing] children”. Although twenty of Queensland’s regular police had been dispatched, the Bunyah Black...

  9. 4. South Sea Islanders Resisting Kanakas: Identity, Consciousness, and Community to 1906
    (pp. 101-120)

    WHEN THE ANTI-ISLANDER sentiments that predominated in Queensland culminated at the turn of the nineteenth century in abolition and the compulsory deportation of Islanders, it was widely assumed that this simply meant a disconnected and temporary population would be returned to their homes. But for the bulk of the Islander population, deportation meant uprooting settled communities that had had a presence in Queensland for upwards of twenty years. From 1901 these communities protested hard and emphasized, in doing so, their distinct identities as neither Pacific Islanders nor Australians, but as Queensland South Sea Islanders. Their protest occurred amidst a wider...

  10. 5. The State: Inside Colonial Violence, Law, and Order
    (pp. 121-148)

    IF WE PAUSE at the outset of this chapter to take stock of the image that has emerged so far of Queensland’s sugar districts during the nineteenth century, we see a world where Islanders were increasingly exercising a level of autonomy and developing honed skills in manipulating their situation to their advantage. We have also seen the responding efforts of planters, colonial administrators, and the settler-public to define and categorize in order to control any sign of independence on the part of Islanders. This ordering played a crucial role in the deployment of violence. On the frontiers and the borderlands...

  11. 6. Bulimen, Hardwork, and Muscular Tension
    (pp. 149-174)

    FROM THE COLLECTION of stories in preceding chapters, many of which were fleeting registers in the colonial record with no ending or conclusion, we have seen communities of Islanders emerging on the plantations and in surrounding sugar districts of Queensland. These were communities fractured by displacement but galvanized by their context. Our concentration to date has been on developing the material signs of survival, adjustment, and growth amongst these communities. So, too, we have observed the less tangible political, linguistic, and historical lines of affinity that threaded together a sense of unity amongst the constantly moving and dynamic population of...

  12. Conclusion: Structural Continuity and the Violence of Forgetting
    (pp. 175-186)

    IF, IN THIS STUDY, we have been following any kind of chronological direction, we come to an end with the arrival of the twentieth century. This is not because of the arrival of a new century, but because it ushered in a new era when Islanders would face deportation and, as the culmination of their time in Queensland, be forgotten. The engineered forgetting of their presence, service, and treatment during the nineteenth century was contested, but the campaign to be remembered would take another hundred years before being formally successful. It therefore seems appropriate that we bring together the themes...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 187-230)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-260)
  15. Index
    (pp. 261-270)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 271-271)