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White tribe: echoes of the Anzac myth in Cronulla

Johns, Amelia 2008, White tribe: echoes of the Anzac myth in Cronulla, Continuum: journal of media and cultural studies, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 3-16, doi: 10.1080/10304310701627148.

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Title White tribe: echoes of the Anzac myth in Cronulla
Author(s) Johns, Amelia
Journal name Continuum: journal of media and cultural studies
Volume number 22
Issue number 1
Start page 3
End page 16
Total pages 14
Publisher Routledge Taylor & Francis Group
Place of publication Abingdon, England
Publication date 2008-02
ISSN 1030-4312
1469-3666
Keyword(s) national identity
anti-authoritarianism
surfers
surfie cultures
lifesavers
beach culture
Australian political culture
multicultural policies
Muslim groupings
Summary Since the publication of Fiske, Hodge and Turner’s Myths of Oz: Reading Australian Popular Culture (1987), Australian Cultural Studies has turned to the beach as a primary site for examining national identity and the myths of Australian culture. In the text the beach is read as a liminal site between ‘culture’ and ‘nature’, represented respectively by lifesaver and surfer. The meanings of anti-authoritarianism attached to the surfer are significant to the reading. And yet Fiske, Hodge and Turner also locate a heritage of authoritarianism, discipline and civic duty in the figure of the lifesaver: 

'Lifesavers have drills, march-pasts and patrol squads, while exercising a conservative pastoral 
interest in their members’ moral health. They are agents of social control. Further, they see themselves as servants of the community, sacrificing their weekends for others—a tradition of sacrifice dear to a nation which twice voted no to conscription in the Great War.' (Fiske et al. 1987, 64–65) 

The last sentence distils the bifocal meanings not only of the ‘culture’ of the beach but of 
Australian cultural identity more broadly, framed by contested norms of civic participation and moral values. This binary frame has been a productive starting point for analyses of national identity in Australian Cultural Studies since the 1980s. These have dropped off the radar in recent years owing to a shift away from the national field and the privileging of a transnational cultural agenda. And yet recent events in Australian politics and culture have unexpectedly re-centred national identity as an urgent issue for Cultural Studies, particularly in its use as a form of exclusion to targeted populations within the national community.

In light of these developments this article revisits Myths of Oz and its construction of surfer and lifesaver c.1987 to focus on the reordering and re-assemblage of these figures on Sydney’s beaches 20 years on. It also acknowledges that this is a process which cannot be understood in isolation from broader shifts in Australian political culture, and particularly the current obsession with national ‘values’ hinging on a strategic shift away from multicultural policies and the redefinition of the ‘fringe’ as an ethnic position.

Reflecting on these issues, this article locates a slippage between the binary framing of the surfer and lifesaver in Myths of Oz and their complex ‘relationality’ on the beach today. Specifically, it examines how the surfer has recently become co-opted into the Australian mainstream and imbued with a form of ‘governmental belonging’ (Hage 1998) once attributed to the lifesaver alone. This slippage has been enabled by the overlap betweenlocal surfie cultures and exclusivist national cultures assembled by State and federal governments; particularly as both draw upon a normative frame that opposes the meanings of white belonging to Muslim groupings within the nation.
Language eng
DOI 10.1080/10304310701627148
Field of Research 200209 Multicultural, Intercultural and Cross-cultural Studies
Socio Economic Objective 959999 Cultural Understanding not elsewhere classified
HERDC Research category C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2008, Taylor & Francis
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30056371

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