Permeability and persistence of physical and social boundaries in the context of incarceration in nineteenth century Western Australia

Thomas Whitley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

© 2015 Oceania Publications. Identifying the documentary and archaeological indications of torture, punishment, discipline and imprisonment are key factors in addressing the ways in which society exerts its control over the individual; particularly the non-conformist, the criminal, the indentured and the enslaved. Expressions of forced labour control are quite common in the archaeological record, at places such as large institutions, plantations, mining towns and industrial sites. But there are distinct differences between criminal imprisonment and racial enslavement, which become evident when one examines the permeability and persistence of physical and social boundaries. The ways in which Euro-Australian and Aboriginal prisoners were treated in nineteenth century Western Australia gave rise to a system in which physical boundaries were more or less permeable for one group, but not the other. Although it was outlawed by the British Parliament just a few years after the Swan River Colony was established, both formal and informal types of incipient slavery seem to have persisted in the guise of forced incarceration, indentured servitude and illicit abductions. This was, in a way, reminiscent of the enslavement of native North Americans in the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. Several examples are provided to illustrate these ideas.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-129
JournalArchaeology in Oceania
Volume50
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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