Ambivalent Mobilities in the Pacific

“Savagery” and “Civilization” in the Australian Interwar Imaginary

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  • 1 Australian National University nicholas.halter@usp.ac.fj
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Abstract

Australian travel writing of the interwar period expanded with the growth of tourism in the Pacific Islands and the development of publishing and literacy at home. This article focuses on how the Australian middlebrow imagination was shaped by the diverse travel accounts of Australian tourists, adventurers, executives, scientists, officials, and missionaries writing at this time. Many of their texts borrowed and blended multiple discourses, simultaneously promoting the islands as educational and exotic, and appealing to an Australian middlebrow readership. In this article I argue that not only was travel writing middlebrow in its content and style, but the islands themselves were a particularly middlebrow setting. This is evident in representations of the islander “savage” in the region of Melanesia, a prevalent theme in Australian travelogues. I argue that this middlebrow literature was characterized by ambivalent and often contradictory ideas about the civilized “self” and the savage “other.”

Contributor Notes

Nicholas Halter recently completed his PhD in Pacific history in the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University. He is currently a history lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at the University of the South Pacific. E-mail: nicholas.halter@usp.ac.fj

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Interdisciplinary Journal of Mobility Studies

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