Queer 1950s pp 94-114 | Cite as

Moral Panic or Critical Mass? The Queer Contradictions of 1950s New Zealand

  • Chris Brickell
Part of the Genders and Sexualities in History book series (GSX)


The New Zealand of the 1950s, we are usually told, was no dynamic place. These complacent and conservative years epitomised everything that was static and settled about the postwar world. Although the Second World War temporarily disturbed the social order, some historians suggest it ultimately changed little.1 Michael King argues that ‘the 1950s were dull, grey, conformist years in New Zealand — the calm before the storm that was the 1960s’, while Paul Millar laments the period’s ‘unforgiving puritanism’.2 Indeed, King goes as far as claiming that ‘stodginess permeated national life’, ‘clothes were drab’, ‘there was little variety in food’, citizens looked to ‘material comfort, suburban lifestyle and conformity’, and ‘there was still little tolerance of diversity’.3 Matthew Wright in turn suggests that this 1950s New Zealand was ‘a quintessentially white, blokeish and conservative society’.4 Back in 1960, visiting American scholar David Ausubel was even more condemnatory. He claimed that New Zealanders’ ‘apparently mild exterior’ barely disguised a ‘strong undercurrent of repressed hostility’ and a ‘punitive attitude toward personal inadequacy’.5


Oral History Department Store Moral Panic Holiday House Punitive Attitude 
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  4. 4.
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  6. 6.
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  8. 9.
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    Tony Stanley, ‘The Life and Times of Derrick Hancock’, Sociology Research Essay, University of Canterbury, Christchurch (1996) 28.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Heike Bauer and Matt Cook 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chris Brickell

There are no affiliations available

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