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Narrating the other: cultural constructions of the European in the Australian press : a qualitative analysis of the 1920s and 1960s

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posted on 2022-03-28, 22:22 authored by Mandy Kretzschmar
This thesis examines the evolution, functionality and versatility of constructions of the 'European' and to a lesser extent, of 'Europe, as an integral element of the larger vocabulary of Australian identity formation in press discourses of the 1920s and 1960s. Knowledge of the Other(s) and oneself as Australian was (and still is) generated through the processes of minority representation and categorisation. This knowledge germinated within, and was disseminated by, the Australian printed press that served as a preliminary arena within which boundaries of inclusion and exclusion to the imagined national community were drawn. Assessing the press correspondents' deployment of the 'European' and the labels' underpinning attributions, this thesis reveals that the 'European' did not fit neatly into a Manichean divide where representation is constructed through opposition. In contrast to other classifications - 'white' and 'British', in particular - the 'European' stood out as an anomalous category that offered more flexibility in that it allowed for levelling over a range of national, ethnic and cultural cleavages of those subsumed under this label. The thesis shows that it was precisely this malleability that made the 'European' a valuable means to create social cohesion. -- This thesis is essentially an investigation into how press correspondents and readers consolidated representations of the 'European' in diverse media contexts to suit contemporary political imperatives. The analysis is sectioned between two decisive periods of radical social and cultural change in Australia that are characterised by intensified nation building. The first section examines the media debates on the settlement of tropical Australia, Southern European immigration and the administration of Australia's territorial dependencies Papua and New Guinea. In each debate, the 'European' emerges as a discursive tool to alternatively describe the multi-ethnic community residing in the north, members of the expatriate community, or dissecting the term along geographical (and assumed racial) lines, as migrants from Northern or Southern Europe. The second section draws comparisons with the first by focusing on the label's deployment and attributions during Australia's transfer of power to its mandated territory of Papua New Guinea, the broadening of the national immigration policy to include European and Asian newcomers and Britain's decision to apply for entry into the European Economic Community that forced Australia to seek new economic partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region. By considering how the 'European' has been conceptualised, this thesis demonstrates the label's decisive role in creating a framework in which Australian self-understandings could be forged.


Alternative Title

Cultural constructions of the European in the Australian press: a qualitative analysis of the 1920s and 1960s

Table of Contents

Introduction -- Conceptual and methodological framework - news and national imagining -- The 1920s - 'White', 'British' and 'Culturally Superior' -- The 'European' in the Australian North - questioning the exclusivity of 'White Australia' -- Friend or enemy? - racialising 'southern Europeans' -- Australians as 'Europeans': colonising Papua and New Guinea -- The 1960s - Expatriates, Immigrants and Continentals -- Still Europeans? - Australia's administration of Papua New Guinea -- Moulding new Australians: 'European' and 'Non-European' immigrants -- Britain turns to Europe: Australia between imperial sentiment and national self-interest -- Conclusion.


Bibliography: p. 299-322

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Dept. of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Department, Centre or School

Dept. of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Michelle Arrow

Additional Supervisor 1

Alison Holland


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Mandy Kretzschmar 2011. Complete version suppressed due to copyright restrictions. However, on receipt of a Document Supply Request, placed with Macquarie University Library by another library, we will consider supplying a copy of this thesis. For more information on Macquarie University’s Document Supply, please contact






329 p. ill. (some col.)

Former Identifiers

mq:22180 1708039