White Closets, Jangling Nerves and the Biopolitics of the Public Secret Issue Details: First known date: 2011... 2011
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'This essay attempts to outline the relationship between the 'raw nerves' that Denis Byrne describes in the epigraph above, and the cultivation of 'indifference' that Stanner identifies as being characteristic of 'European life' in Australia. Here I situate indifference as numbing the 'jangling' of 'raw nerves' and as cultivated, disseminated and feeding specific forms of public secrecy. How did the white men who enforces segregation by day and pursued Aboriginal women by night manage their 'jangling nerves, if indeed they did jangle? How did they manage to be seen and known and have their secrets kept for them, as much as by them. How did this contradiction of segregation and sexual intimacy, if indeed it is a contradiction, work, My hope is that if we can understand how the white men (and those around them), regulated these jangling nerves, then we might be able to understand the relationship between indifference, public secrecy and the biopolitical forms that Australian whiteness took in the twentieth century, and specifically in the period of assimilation, extending from the 1930s to, roughly, the end of the 1960s.' (Author's introduction p. 57)


  • Epigraph:
    Some of the white men in country towns who would specially discriminate against Aborigines by day, under the cover of darkness would slip out to the Aboriginal Reserve or fringe camp looking for sex with Aboriginal women...This ambivalence, the jangling of coexistence with the same individuals of Aversion and attraction, desire and repulsion, itself constitutes one of the raw nerves of race relations. (Byrne 185)

    [O]ne cannot make full human sense of the development of European life in Australia without reference to the structure of racial relations and the persistent indifference to the fate of Aborigines. (Stanner 118)

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Last amended 2 Mar 2012 12:47:11
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