Anti-Chinese Prejudice in Australia circa 1900: Content Analysis of Newspaper Articles

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Feng, Jimmy
Content analysis (Communication) , Chinese diaspora , Chinese--Australia--History--20th century , Prejudices in the press , Australia--History--1788-1900
This paper examines the history of anti-Chinese prejudice in Australia between the mid-nineteenth century and the early-twentieth century through analysis of news items. Trove, an online database aggregator created by the National Library of Australia, allows for a comprehensive survey of slurs and negative stereotypes characteristic of white Australia's image of the Chinese, their world, and their perceived shortcomings. In particular, jargon, slang and their context reveal the shifting scale, chronology and place-specific dimensions of prejudice between 1850 and 1919. References to fines imposed, gambling, and opium addiction were especially common, as was the label "savagery." Australia's five principal cities were quite similar in their overall incidence of negative references, whereas small towns were even more prejudiced. Anti-Chinese sentiment in print peaked between 1860 and 1889 and had substantially diminished by the second decade of the twentieth century. An element of Australia's rich and complicated history, a revealed narrative of bias against the Chinese surfaces that sheds light on the struggles and circumstances of a mostly impoverished and uneducated minority population looking to establish itself in a land of opportunity.