'A small, bespectacled man with impressive moustaches and a devastating way with words, William Lane was at first delighted with the pliant disposition of the society he found emerging in the colonies of Australia. The nascent nation was awash with radical ideas and inherited bigotries, but also obsessed with itself and uneasy about its own place and composition. To this combustible atmosphere, Lane contributed all the excesses of his blistering rhetoric and seductive hyperbole; he mesmerised his audience with all the things it feared.
'Colonial Psychosocial traverses the ‘darkness’ of colonial cities, descriptions of opium dens and Fan Tan gambling rooms, tales of race-war and the morbid textual dissections of alien interlopers; it delves into vicious narratives of invasion and expulsion, inscrutable crowds and rioting mobs. Through the focus provided by Lane’s life and writing, the book traces phantasmagorias of deformity, disease and degenerative decline; it considers the fate of the ‘workingman’s paradise’, a miscellanea of socialist, nationalist and utopian delusion, and the disorienting appearance of modernity in the colonial laboratory. It follows the dictatorship and demise of ‘New Australia’, a settlement in Paraguay based on purity of blood, and closes with the violence and idealism of a transnational twilight in New Zealand.
'Lane helped shape a lexis of exclusion and denial that suffused the colonies. His divisive social commentary fed a fantasy of Australia that became the persistent rationale for aggressive assertions of identity. Through Lane, this study develops a way of approaching the historically situated and discursively shaped anxieties that were invigorated by the uncertainties bred at the edges of empire, distilled in a pervasive lexicon of ‘race thinking’, and made part of far wider technologies of social control.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.