The article reviews the history of Australian representations of Asia from the mid-19th century to the present. It argues that there are instructive continuities between recent references to ‘Asia literacy’ and to injunctions to know Asia that date from the late 19th century. It examines representations of Asia that stress fluidity and unpredictability, and argues that fluid Asia has been assigned characteristics not unlike those attributed to women and the crowd. The implications of this analysis for recent discussions of the threat posed by political Islam are also referred to. In such discussions ‘the proper treatment of women’ is commonly represented as both an established Australian value and one now under threat. The article ends by suggesting that the Howard government sought to marginalise ‘Asia literacy’, replacing it with ‘Australia literacy’.
Field of Research
210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)