La Trobe
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Ideologies of Difference: Racism in the Making of Multiculturalism in North Queensland

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posted on 2023-01-19, 10:15 authored by Janice Reta Elder
This thesis is an empirical study of the changing relations between culturally and 'racially' defined social groups. It explores h o w structural factors in the economy, and political discourse, enframe local inter-group relations, and provide the concepts and imagery used in the construction and reproduction of local 'ideologies of difference'. The study analyses the w a y in which contradictions arising from the incompatibility of economic development imperatives, liberal values and racism are reflected in political strategies of inclusion and exclusion, and h o w these change, forming and transforming 'cultural communities'. The study is located in a small sugar growing district in north Queensland which is a microcosm of Australian society in several important ways. The history of relations between Aboriginal and immigrant Australians, and the cultural diversity of the latter group, provide a social context which enables a close examination of the development of the important contemporary notions of racism and multiculturalism. It is argued that the two issues are closely related, with images of Aborigines shaping attitudes to incoming groups and, in turn, the immigrant experience influencing perceptions of Aborigines. The fortunes of the sugar industry, its employment policies and labour markets dominated the local economy from the first years of European settlement. Relations within the industry and the work culture, combined with the northern 'frontier' location shaped experience in the district and local responses to national discourse. Attitudes to cultural and 'racial' difference were more extreme than in other parts of Australia, but not unique. Issues are more sharply defined revealing the linkage between racism, ethnocentrism and cultural identity and gender. The study explores the delicate balance between tolerance and intolerance. Rather than simply demonstrating the existence of racism and cultural dominance, the aim is to provide insights into the contemporary situation and the possibilities for change.

Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to the School Sociology and Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora.


Center or Department

Faculty of Social Sciences. School Sociology and Anthropology.

Thesis type

  • Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


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