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December 02nd 2008 print

Michael Connor

So this is cultural studies

The beach remains the rallying ground of Anglo-Australia, the preserve of decent, wholesome white bodies, policed in a variety of ways against any contaminating whiff of “dirty wog” – and, by implication, even dirtier black – bodies.” Suvendrini Perera

I was thinking of taking the dogs for a walk on the beach. Then I read these comments in (so it says) “an agenda setting book” – an anthology of essays by scholars writing on contemporary Australia. We stayed home. I read Quadrant Online, they dreamed of dinner.

Coming to Australia has always involved a kind of death.

It is no wonder, then, that in today’s multi-racialised Australia the chosen site to assert white racial privilege should be the beach. As Suvendrini Perera writes about the race riots at Cronulla beach in Sydney in December 2005: ‘The beach remains the rallying ground of Anglo-Australia, the preserve of decent, wholesome white bodies, policed in a variety of ways against any contaminating whiff of “dirty wog” – and, by implication, even dirtier black – bodies.’ The beach, the border of white Australia, has become the site from which those who continue to be designated as non-white within Australia should be kept away.

Jon Stratton, Professor of Cultural Studies at Curtin University of Technology, “Dying to Come to Australia” in Our Patch, Enacting Australian Sovereignty Post-2001 (Australian Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology, 2007)