The Chinese of Europe and Pioneer Legends: race, labour and Italians in White Australia, 1888 to 1940

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Copyright: Vitale, Luke
This thesis presents a new history of Italian immigration to Australia that roughly covers the period between the Intercolonial Conference on the Chinese Question held in 1888 and the beginning of World War II in 1940. It argues that the presence of Italian migrants in Australia, as workers and settlers, was tied to White Australia’s three main agendas: creating a racially homogenous white population, securing British/Australian possession of the continent, and developing a modern industrial capitalist economy. While contributing positively towards the achievement of these goals, their presence also represented a contradiction for White Australia. As a result, despite being acceptable and sometimes even desirable within the co-ordinates of White Australia, their presence was contested and always needed to be re-affirmed by supporters of Italian immigration and by Italians themselves. From these contestations over Italians’ desirability in White Australia, emerged a number of constructions such as pioneer, settler, citizen and defender that highlighted certain characteristics such as race, class, labour practices and respectability. Through an analysis of newspaper articles in both English and Italian, the parliamentary Hansard and a variety of government archives, this thesis examines how these constructions emerged out of the political and class conflicts of White Australia. It also examines the role Italians played in the creation and propagation of these constructions and how this was informed by their own ideas about race and labour that were influenced by a variety of political ideologies and class positions that divided the body of Italian migrants in Australia during this period.
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PhD Doctorate
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