The Chinese Invasion: Settler Colonialism and the metaphoric construction of race

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Abstract

The arrival of Chinese immigrants during the Australian goldrushes of the 1850s precipitated a vehement backlash, culminating in legislation to restrict their immigration. Contemporary Australian press discourse focused on Chinese racial difference, with immigrants metaphorically constructed as invaders, influxes and hordes of barbarians. This article argues that Chinese immigrants were racialised through pre-existing metaphoric language of deviance and threat, while the metaphors became simultaneously codified as signifiers of racial difference. It further argues that this characterisation resulted from settler-colonial anxieties about legitimacy, which intensified due to Chinese immigration. The consequent racialisation of Chinese immigrants functioned as a means to displace both the violence of settler-colonial invasion and lower-class white deviance, facilitating the construction of the egalitarian white Australian subject.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-559
JournalJournal of Australian Studies
Volume45
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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