In 1952 an Australian journalist cabled from Johannesburg ‘Apartheid is the trigger that has fired racial explosions in South Africa and sent echoes rumbling around the world’. In the outposts of Europe’s unstable empires, entrenched racism came under unprecedented assault. ’White Australia’, especially, was challenged as opposition to racial oppression under a white minority regime in South Africa hardened. In both countries the politics of anti-racism were unleashed – albeit in different ways and with very different consequences.
In South Africa entrenched systems of white supremacy were brutally enforced under Apartheid. In Australia, ideologies of race and white privilege were disrupted and, slowly, walls of discrimination cracked. Race politics in post-war Australia was deeply affected by the fractious international struggle over apartheid.
The movement against apartheid obliged white Australia to grapple with moral and political issues embedded in its own racialised history and sense of nation. Contests provoked by apartheid were played out on the world stage and, as Indigenous activists emphasised, in Australia’s own backyard.
This pioneering book explores these struggles as white Australia was hesitantly rejected and the nation negotiated its place in a post-colonial world.
‘This book is full of important historical insights. [T]his is a beautifully written deeply researched and powerfully argued book. [A] highly significant study of both Australian, international, and national history … Bell forces us again to rethink the golden era of Australia’s long post-war boom, which was not simply a period of sprawling suburbs, sunshine, beaches, and growing prosperity, but also a time when many Australians and their governments turned a blind eye to racial discrimination here and overseas and left unfinished the business of eliminating it.’ – Christopher Waters, Deakin University in Labour History
‘[An] outstanding contribution to scholarship and historiography…. Raises crucial questions about Australia: its mores, its sense of itself , its relationships with other nations and the nature of post-war world affairs… Bell examines how Australia wrenched itself from its racist past and…redefined its role in the world – not that the battle against racism is over. His book will be a standard on the move away from the White Australia Policy for many years to come.’ – Braham Dabscheck, University of Melbourne, in NRB
‘… well researched and compelling … provides a valuable context for considering Australia’s mid-century domestic and international history and should be widely read.’ – Ben Silverstein, ANU, in Australian Historical Studies
‘Finally we have the authoritative study of Australia’s myriad entanglements with South African racial politics in the early Apartheid era. Roger Bell does not flinch in documenting the instinctive warmth Australians routinely extended to white South Africans during a time of unprecedented global change. But he also offers a judicious assessment of the key individuals and interest groups that strove to distance Australia from its erstwhile “Sister of the South” – and the ambivalent emotions this engendered. At all times, Australian attitudes doubled as a species of self-reflection as Australia contended with its own record of racial injustice, past and present. In Apartheid’s Shadow traverses Australian-South African relations across the entire spectrum of political, diplomatic, cultural and sporting life, serving as unique testimony to Australia’s fitful engagement with a decolonizing world.‘ – Stuart Ward, University of Copenhagen.
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