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

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

David home update


Date: Wednesday, 29 July, 2020

Time: 4.00 - 5.30 pm AEST

Live webinar via ZOOM

RSVP Essential. Please RSVP HERE (opens in a new window) to receive your webinar link.

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?

During the influx of Chinese workers into the Australian goldfields, what characteristics made them feared and targeted? What characteristics made them accepted?

Asian invasion narratives often suggested that what Australians had done to Aboriginal people would soon be done to them by invasive Asia. How did this fear influence strategic concerns at federation?

One of the best known fictional embodiments of ‘yellow power’ was the evil doctor, Fu Manchu. Although created by a British author, he was a household name in Australia from the 1920s to the 1960s. Who is Dr Fu Manchu? What is his appeal?

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 as well as taking questions from you.

Books available:

Anxious Nation: an e-book (opens in a new window)

Stranded Nation (opens in a new window)


Professor David Walker AMDavid walker

David Walker was the inaugural BHP Chair of Australian Studies at Peking University (2013-2016). He has written extensively. Apart from Stranded Nation: White Australia in an Asian Region (UWA Publishing 2019) and Anxious Nation: Australia and the Rise of Asia1850 to 1939 (UQP 1999), he is the co-editor with Agnieszka Sobocinska of Australia’s Asia: From Yellow Peril to Asian Century (UWA Publishing, 2012). His Asia-related essays have appeared as Encountering Turbulence: Asia in the Australian Imaginary (Readworthy, 2013). In a different vein he has written a ‘personal history’, Not Dark Yet (Giramondo, 2011) exploring family, memory and his experience of becoming ‘legally blind’. A Chinese translation (光明行) by Li Yao was published in 2014. David Walker is an Alfred Deakin Professor, Deakin University and an Honorary Professorial Fellow at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne. He is a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia and the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He received an AM in 2018.

Professor Stephen FitzGerald AO (opens in a new window)Steve F bio

Stephen FitzGerald is the Adjunct Professor of ACIAC. He was China advisor to Gough Whitlam in opposition and as Prime Minister, Australia’s first ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, and later, at the beginning of China’s opening to the outside world, established the first private consultancy for Australians dealing with China. He chaired the 1980s committee of the Asian Studies Association of Australia and later became the chair of the Asian Studies Council which developed a strategy for Asia in Australian education. He then founded the Asia-Australia Institute, dedicated to making Australia part of the Asian region. He chaired the government’s Committee to Advise on Australia’s Immigration Policies which produced the landmark report, Immigration - A Commitment to Australia. He has been advisor to the Federal and Northern Territory governments, and the governments of Britain, Denmark and others on governance-related aid in China and Southeast Asia. He is the Distinguished Fellow of the Whitlam Institute at Western Sydney University, a Board Member of China Matters and Vice President of the organizing committee for Museum of Chinese in Australia.