Settlers settling elsewhere: Jason Rudy, Aaron Bartlett, Lindsey O’Neil, Justin Thompson, ‘Australia to Paraguay: Race, class, and poetry in a South American colony’, in Sarah Comyn, Porscha Fermanis (eds), Worlding the south: Nineteenth-century literary culture and the southern settler colonies, Manchester University Press, 2021


Abstract: In 1893, Queenslander William Lane embarked with 234 white Australian immigrants for Paraguay, where they were to establish a utopian socialist community. Hundreds more Australians would follow, drawn to what was promised as a worker’s paradise in South America. According to the New Australia, a newspaper published in New South Wales prior to the emigrants’ departure, in Paraguay ‘the means of working, including land and capital, should belong to the workers, who, by co-operative working, could then produce to supply all their wants, and need not produce for the profit of anybody else’.1 Lane was a notorious racist, and his motivation for the Paraguayan colony was in part a response to the influx of Asian immigrants to Australia in the later decades of the nineteenth century. Our interest in Colonia Cosme, the town eventually established and maintained in the Paraguayan jungle, centres around its newspaper, the Cosme Monthly, and its accounting of minstrel performances there. We read Cosme’s poetry and song, and its engagement with the form of minstrelsy, as part of a larger effort by Lane and his fellow émigrés to situate the colony in relation to Australia, the United States, and Great Britain, specifically in racialised terms. Our chapter begins with an overview of Australia’s late-century labour crisis, which precipitated Lane’s migration scheme. We turn then to the Cosme Monthly and its complex negotiations of race and class via poetry and song.

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