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Genocide and Settler Society

Genocide and Settler Society: Frontier Violence and Stolen Indigenous Children in Australian History

Edited by A. Dirk Moses
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Genocide and Settler Society
    Book Description:

    Colonial Genocide has been seen increasingly as a stepping-stone to the European genocides of the twentieth century, yet it remains an under-researched phenomenon. This volume reconstructs instances of Australian genocide and for the first time places them in a global context. Beginning with the arrival of the British in 1788 and extending to the 1960s, the authors identify the moments of radicalization and the escalation of British violence and ethnic engineering aimed at the Indigenous populations, while carefully distinguishing between local massacres, cultural genocide, and genocide itself. These essays reflect a growing concern with the nature of settler society in Australia and in particular with the fate of the tens of thousands of children who were forcibly taken away from their Aboriginal families by state agencies. Long considered a relatively peaceful settlement, Australian society contained many of the pathologies that led to the exterminatory and eugenic policies of twentieth century Europe.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-169-3
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Contributors
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Map
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Section I: Conceptual and Historical Determinants

    • Chapter 1 Genocide and Settler Society in Australian History
      (pp. 3-48)
      A. Dirk Moses

      The Gorgon were three mythical sisters, originally beautiful priestesses serving the goddess of wisdom and war, Athena. After the only mortal among them, Medusa, was raped by Poseidon, they vented their anger by torturing men passing Athena’s temple. Outraged by such transgressions, Athena turned the sisters into hideous creatures whose image of “Hate, Violence, and Onslaught … chills the blood.”¹ Ever since, the sight of the Gorgon has turned men to stone. Similarly, some have observed, the imagination and will of scholars freezes when they regard the Holocaust. Such is its enormity that conventional categories of analysis fail to apply,...

    • Chapter 2 Colonialism and the Holocaust. Towards an Archeology of Genocide
      (pp. 49-76)
      Jürgen Zimmerer

      The German war against Poland and the USSR was without doubt the largest colonial war of conquest in history. Never before were so many people and resources mobilized by a conqueror, and never before were war aims so expansive. Unprecedented, too, was the deliberately planned murder of such a large number of people, or at least the willing acceptance of their death. All of this served the goal of conquering “living space”(Lebensraum)in the East, a colonial empire to which the Germans were supposedly entitled and that reached far beyond the Ural Mountains.¹

      It was clear to those responsible...

    • Chapter 3 Genocide and Modernity in Colonial Australia, 1788-1850
      (pp. 77-102)
      Jan Kociumbas

      Could the invasions of the New World in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries have been the most genocidal? The very suggestion seems preposterous for, notwithstanding the influence of post-colonialism, modernity is still often associated with progressive forces of moral and scientific improvement, forged in some cases by war and revolution, but inexorably taking people all around the globe towards a happier, healthier, and more egalitarian future.

      Nowhere are such ideas more entrenched than in Australia. Claimed and settled in the wake of the Enlightenment, this land has long been painted by its historians as the “quiet continent,” its indigenes dreamily...

    • Chapter 4 “Pigmentia”: Racial Fears and White Australia
      (pp. 103-124)
      Raymond Evans

      White Australia” as both an ideal and a colonial project long preceded its implementation as national policy in 1901.¹ Its origins are obscure, yet arguably begin with the enfolding process of Aboriginal dispossession from 1788. Its first articulation, inter alia, was probably by James Stephen, permanent British Under Secretary for the Colonies, when he floated the intention in 1841 of preserving the Australian continent “as a place where the English race shall be spread from sea to sea unmixed by any lower caste.”² The sense of ethnic exclusivity embodied in this hope seems unambiguous, as does its explicit Anglo thrust....

  7. Section II: Frontier Violence

    • Chapter 5 Genocide in Tasmania?
      (pp. 127-149)
      Henry Reynolds

      Tasmania, or Van Diemen’s Land as it was called until 1855, was so remote from anywhere that mattered. It was the antipodes; an ideal place to get rid of criminals forever and to dispatch unwanted characters in novels and stage plays. Its isolation and dramatic scenery suggested that it could be the setting for violent and unusual behavior. Its role for the first fifty years of British settlement as a large open prison for tens of thousands of convicts confirmed its evil reputation. It seemed to be the sort of place where genocide could occur. Much of the literature on...

    • Chapter 6 “Plenty Shoot ’Em”: The Destruction of Aboriginal Societies along the Queensland Frontier
      (pp. 150-173)
      Raymond Evans

      Australian frontiers have remained uneasy sites of contestation. Long after the physical conflicts there had ended, interpretive and semantic struggle over the extent and meaning of their violence has persisted.¹ While serious academic consideration of Australian history was barely emerging in the 1930s, frontier relations in certain remote corners of the continent were coming to a painful close. Yet from the interwar years until the 1970s there existed a pervasive intellectual reticence about discussing such matters.² Of the few historians who broke ranks to examine the destructive interaction between Aborigines and colonists, one was G.V. Portus of Adelaide University, who...

    • Chapter 7 Passed Away? The Fate of the Karuwali
      (pp. 174-193)
      Pamela Lukin Watson

      Australians have always held conflicting and changeable views about the early contacts between British settlers and the indigenous population whose land they appropriated.² In the last decade, controversy has mounted over whether this settlement constituted a genocide or entailed genocidal moments. In this chapter, I contend that genocide undoubtedly destroyed some, perhaps many, Aboriginal societies, an argument I illustrate by examining the fate of theKaruwaliand neighboring societies whose “passing” is the subject of the introductory quotation. I use the United Nations Convention to define genocide and as a template to organize the evidence: the opinions of nineteenth century...

    • Chapter 8 Punitive Expeditions and Massacres: Gippsland, Colorado, and the Question of Genocide
      (pp. 194-214)
      Paul R. Bartrop

      In 1988, Leo Kuper, one of the pioneers of the academic study of genocide, provided an insight into why the destruction of native peoples hitherto had been so easily dismissed in discussions of genocidal phenomena:

      [M]uch colonization proceeded without genocidal conflict … But the effects of colonial settlement were quite variable, dependent on a variety of factors, such as the number of settlers, the forms of the colonizing economy and competition for productive resources, policies of the colonizing power, and attitudes to intermarriage or concubinage …

      [S]ome of the annihilations of indigenous peoples arose not so much by deliberate act,...

  8. Section III: Stolen Indigenous Children

    • Chapter 9 Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide, 1900–1940
      (pp. 217-243)
      Robert Manne

      Bringing Them Home, the findings of the federal government inquiry into the removal of thousands of Aboriginal children from their mothers, families, and communities in the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, was published in 1997. It argued that the Commonwealth government and the governments of several Australian states were guilty of the crime of genocide. The basic argument was straightforward. According to the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, ratified by Australia in 1949, genocide is defined as the intentional destruction of a racial, religious, national, or ethnic group. Not only does...

    • Chapter 10 “Until the Last Drop of Good Blood”: The Kidnapping of “Racially Valuable” Children and Nazi Racial Policy in Occupied Eastern Europe
      (pp. 244-266)
      Isabel Heinemann

      In 1943, Lucie Bergner, a twelve-year-old Polish girl, was forcefully removed from the house of her grandmother, who had brought her up in Posen, and taken to an SS children’s home in Kalisz in the Warthegau. There she learned German, and was prepared for her adoption by a German foster family. A year later, she became the foster daughter of a Baden-Würtemberg farming family whose two sons had been killed at war. After 1945, she decided to remain with her foster parents and did not return to Posen.¹

      Such stories of the removal and adoption of non-German children by German...

    • Chapter 11 “Clearing the Wheat Belt”: Erasing the Indigenous Presence in the Southwest of Western Australia
      (pp. 267-289)
      Anna Haebich

      The collaboration of white settlers and the state to erase the presence of Indigenous people from the southwest of Western Australia between 1900 and 1940 provides an especially interesting case study of what recent contributions to the theoretical literature have called “unintended genocide,” “societal genocide,” or “indigenocide” by a “genocidal society” and its “relations of genocide.”¹ By these accounts, mass Indigenous death and cultural effacement in colonial situations can be accounted for by the incremental and often unintended consequences of settler expansion and governmental neglect as much as by the explicit intention to kill as state policy. Adherents of the...

    • Chapter 12 Governance, Not Genocide: Aboriginal Assimilation in the Postwar Era
      (pp. 290-311)
      Russell McGregor

      This chapter contests recent characterizations of post–1945 Aboriginal assimilation policies as genocidal.¹ Far from seeking elimination of the Aborigines, these policies of sociocultural assimilation were the first in more than a century to seriously envisage Aboriginal survival, to seek to ensure survival, and to prescribe strategies predicated upon their survival. Precisely because it envisaged Aboriginal survival, the postwar state turned more resolutely to their governance. Of course, Aborigines had earlier been governed, but now their governance would be both normative and normalized. As part of the project of governance in a modern liberal national polity, Aborigines were expected, or...

  9. Epilogue

    • Chapter 13 Notes on the History of Aboriginal Population of Australia
      (pp. 312-328)
      Tim Rowse

      Nobody knows how many people lived on the territory now known as “Australia” in the late eighteenth century, when people from the British Isles began the process of colonization.¹ After reviewing all the estimates, and discussing their reasoning, John Mulvaney has recently suggested 750,000.² For many years (from 1930 to the mid 1980s), scholarly opinion had fixed on the figure of 300,000—the minimum estimated by anthropologist Radcliffe-Brown in 1930.³ This estimate did not take sufficient account of the impact of diseases that decimated Aborigines from the late eighteenth century until just after the First World War. Nor did the...