Charity begins at home? Philanthropy, compassion, and magic lantern slide performances in Australasia, 1891–1892

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The biblical maxim ‘charity begins at home’ was given very different meanings by magic lantern slide performances touring the Australasian colonies during the early 1890s. The London-based Barnardo’s orphanages competed with the Australian missionary John Brown Gribble, in aiming to divert public sympathy towards their very different social causes: Barnardo worked to relieve the metropolitan white waif, while Gribble sought funds to ameliorate the impact of invasion upon Indigenous Australians on the remote Queensland frontier. Central to both Barnardo’s and Gribble’s magic lantern slide campaigns was a visual and emotional ‘before and after’ narrative of uplift and transformation. These performances defined ideas and social categories that circulated across the empire, seeking to arouse concern for different, and competing, objects of compassion. This mirroring point towards a process of defining cultural categories of class, race and gender across empire, shaping both British and colonial identities. Where Barnardo’s campaign was tremendously successful in raising funds and attracting support across Australia and New Zealand, the missionary Gribble was challenged by white colonists who denigrated Aboriginal people and ridiculed humanitarianism. These responses reveal how compassion was deployed in the colonies to affirm racial solidarity with the distant white child, and to exclude Indigenous people. This dynamic shows the diverse and politicised effects of these emotive performances, and how emotional narratives worked to construct imperial hierarchies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalEarly Popular Visual Culture
Volume15
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017

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philanthropy
missionary
campaign
performance
humanitarianism
narrative
sympathy
invasion
solidarity
New Zealand
cause
gender
Philanthropy
Colonies
Australasia
Compassion
Magic Lantern
Lantern Slides
Emotion
Missionaries

Cite this

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title = "Charity begins at home?: Philanthropy, compassion, and magic lantern slide performances in Australasia, 1891–1892",
abstract = "The biblical maxim ‘charity begins at home’ was given very different meanings by magic lantern slide performances touring the Australasian colonies during the early 1890s. The London-based Barnardo’s orphanages competed with the Australian missionary John Brown Gribble, in aiming to divert public sympathy towards their very different social causes: Barnardo worked to relieve the metropolitan white waif, while Gribble sought funds to ameliorate the impact of invasion upon Indigenous Australians on the remote Queensland frontier. Central to both Barnardo’s and Gribble’s magic lantern slide campaigns was a visual and emotional ‘before and after’ narrative of uplift and transformation. These performances defined ideas and social categories that circulated across the empire, seeking to arouse concern for different, and competing, objects of compassion. This mirroring point towards a process of defining cultural categories of class, race and gender across empire, shaping both British and colonial identities. Where Barnardo’s campaign was tremendously successful in raising funds and attracting support across Australia and New Zealand, the missionary Gribble was challenged by white colonists who denigrated Aboriginal people and ridiculed humanitarianism. These responses reveal how compassion was deployed in the colonies to affirm racial solidarity with the distant white child, and to exclude Indigenous people. This dynamic shows the diverse and politicised effects of these emotive performances, and how emotional narratives worked to construct imperial hierarchies.",
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