Settler colonialism is transcolonial as well as transnational: Briony Neilson, ‘Settling Scores in New Caledonia and Australia: French Convictism and Settler Legitimacy’, Australian Journal of Politics & History, 2018

10Oct18

Abstract: This article explores the entanglements of Australia and New Caledonia as settler colonies with convict histories. Existing historiography focuses on the importance of the Australian model in inspiring the French to transport convicts to settler colonies, and has explored the moral panic that erupted over the menace of escaped French convicts invading the Australian colonies after the abolition of British convict transportation. My analysis shifts the focus onto the construction of settler colonial authority, analysing the ways in which comparisons drawn by contemporary observers of New Caledonia and Australia served primarily to solidify the legitimacy of settler rule in Australia and increase its regional hegemony into the first few decades of the twentieth century. Drawing on original French and English‐language sources, including the writing of the obscure French convict poet Julien de Sanary, this article makes the case for understanding New Caledonia and its bagne not as unwanted reminders of Australia’s penal origins, but rather as useful sites of projection for settlers in Australia. Constant arguments about the archaic and authoritarian nature of French penal policy and colonialism helped erase the memory of convictism and strengthen settler authority and legitimacy in Australia and internationally. By considering the trans‐imperial entanglements of Australia and New Caledonia, we can further reveal the dynamics of settler colonialism and the processes of disavowal and disassociation that sustain it.



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