Migrant Incorporation and Political Memories: Transformations of Civic and Communal Belonging in Australia since 1949

  • J. Olaf Kleist
Part of the Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies book series (PMMS)


Throughout Australia’s modern history, memories have been highly political. The modes of belonging that memories epitomised have represented controversial political interests as well as historically evolving conceptions of the organisation of society. In particular, because Australia was founded as a settler society, notions of belonging that have been expressed through memories have always been controversial in regard to the original inhabitants of the continent as well as in relation to new arrivals. The polarising potential of memories was especially apparent during the 1980s and 1990s when Australian society was engaged in the so-called History Wars. What appeared to be an academic controversy about the interpretation of Aboriginal and colonial history on the surface was a very public and much analysed debate that challenged conventional imaginings of Australian belonging. It fuelled social, political and legal conflicts about indigenous/non-indig- enous relations, historical justice and traditional land rights.1 Despite obvious intersections, memories of Australia’s ambivalent migration past, from settler colonialism through racist exclusions to mass immigration, were regarded as peripheral concerns in the History Wars. Yet, notions of Australian belonging have been constructed vis a vis immigrants and with references to the migration past from since the early nineteenth century.


Australian Society Cultural Memory Australian Citizenship Settler Colonialism Citizenship Test 
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© J. Olaf Kleist 2012

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