Video Recording: From Anxious Nation to Stranded Nation: Identity and Sense of Belonging

Live Q&A of Professor David Walker with Professor Stephen FitzGerald

Professor Walker’s two books, Anxious Nation: Australia and the Rise of Asia 1850 – 1939 and Stranded Nation: White Australia in an Asian Region examine Australian responses to Asia from the 1850s to the 1970s. Together they argue that the response to Asia has played a central role in the formation of the Australian nation.

The central argument of Anxious Nation is that Australia came to nationhood at a time when Asia was ‘awakening’. This created contradictory responses. Some saw ‘Rising Asia’ as Australia’s golden opportunity to find new markets and exciting travel destinations; a larger number feared Asian invasion and racial annihilation. How did Australians imagine Asia at this time? Was Asia seductively feminine and largely passive or was it aggressive and masculine? What qualities would Australia need to survive in an Asian world?

Stranded Nation addresses Australia’s progressive shift towards Asia from the late 1930s to the 1970s. How could a nation that had so strongly identified itself as ‘white’ adapted to the decolonised Asian world? What image did Australia wish to project into the region? How were ideas of ‘yellow peril’ replaced by ideas of an Asia-friendly, neighbourly Australia? Could Australia ever be accepted as ‘part of Asia?’ What role did the increasing number of Asian students and Asian visitors play in undermining the ‘White Australia Policy’?

Together with Professor FitzGerald, one of the earliest China specialists, advisor to Whitlam and Australia’s first ambassador to PR China, Professor Walker will unwrap some of these questions.