Consorting With Half-Castes

First things first - I missed my February blog! Oh well, I had thought I might do a longer one to make up for it, but I am going to try and keep this one short and on point. 

I want to share an idea/direction with my research that I have been playing with lately, and the title that I am basically using for my PhD now - that is 'Consorting With Half-Castes' - and if my supervisors are reading - don't panic - it's all good!

'Alleged Idle and Disorderly Person' from the  Narandera Argus and Reverina Advertiser,  NSW, Friday 17 August 1934.  'charged with being an  idle and disorderly  person having  insufficient visible means of support .'

'Alleged Idle and Disorderly Person' from the Narandera Argus and Reverina Advertiser, NSW, Friday 17 August 1934.

'charged with being an idle and disorderly person having insufficient visible means of support.'

DEGENERATE HALF-CASTES 

Anyone familiar with Australian history will know about the fears and anxieties around miscegenation and the different and broad socio-legal practices that were used to deter/prohibit the mixing of Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples - especially those around what many termed the 'degenerate half-castes'.

'cautioned defendant  about mixing with aborigines and convicted men .'

'cautioned defendant about mixing with aborigines and convicted men.'

Similar to other colonial and racial histories (such as the US) the history and practice of miscegenation laws in Australia make for quite a confronting realisation of the affects and realities of the pursuit of the biological and sociological racism that informed public/private attitudes and policies toward Indigenous peoples. Searching the phrase 'Consorting With Half-Castes' or similar phrases such as 'Consorting With Natives/Gins/Blacks' on Trove alone reveals thousands of news paper articles reporting on the crime and punishment of miscegenation, especially during the early 1900s but right up until the 1960s. 

LAWS OF ACCEPTABILITY 

'brought a  white woman to the district and left her destitute with some aborigines .'   The worst possible thing to do to a white woman...

'brought a white woman to the district and left her destitute with some aborigines.'

The worst possible thing to do to a white woman...

The lived reality and experience of these laws is something that doesn't necessarily align with 'intent' nor the retrospective expectation/reading when looking back. I am interested in these histories however for their heuristic quality in understanding the law and its application in the everyday lives of those affected, contrasted with the explicit/implicit intent/desire to extend sovereignty, law and authority over peoples and communities.

'married to a  half-caste woman.  They had no means of support.'

'married to a half-caste woman. They had no means of support.'

Something like Foucault's emphasis on the regulative regimes that discipline, punish and produce subjects and non-subjects through exclusion and violence, such as the similar history with laws related to vagrancy, being idle and disorderly, using indecent language, but also the contingent and ineffable realities of those affected by those laws, but those that aren't necessarily visible, heard or understood.

Something like how miscegenation - buried deep in settler colonial preoccupations, fears and anxieties with sex, gender and power/authority - affects and fails to affect those it is aimed at, the failure of law to be law, somehting beyond 'laws' control and affect, but also the institutions - people, actors, values, ideals, police, courts, judgement, welfare and so on - that support these successes and failures, ensuring their everyday experience and reproduction.

THE EVERYDAY EXPERIENCE

'associated with convicted men rendered a man  liable to arrest... To live an knock about with half castes was an offence .'

'associated with convicted men rendered a man liable to arrest... To live an knock about with half castes was an offence.'

Much more can be said about these issues, but I am especially interested in the how these laws become woven with the experience of their enforcement - by all involved - and the affects of this weaving; how the prohibition, not necessarily always written into the black letter law but practiced in its assumption and implication through enforcement, affects and fails to affect; how Indigenous peoples survived and lived day-to-day despite prohibitions against their love, life, survival and being.

'Consorting With Half-Castes' also has value to me through a developing reading as a heuristic tool to not only understand sovereign authority and law, but especially to understand the constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians. Because, without going too much into it - even though I need to - isn't 'Consorting With Half-Castes' what 'we' actually do, but what 'we' deny and fail to do in our failure and refusal to address the structural inequality and implications of the current constitutional regime?  I know, what? It needs a lot more unpacking to communicate what I am actually getting at here - and some pretty abstract discussion on 'recognition' which makes most peoples eyes roll into the back of the heads - but hey, I'll do that later. 

'It was not the practice of police to give relief [work] to men convicted of drunkenness... gave him the relief is they considered that by  doing so they would help him to be a decent citizen... The reason for refusing him work was to break him away from his associates [aborigines].'

'It was not the practice of police to give relief [work] to men convicted of drunkenness... gave him the relief is they considered that by doing so they would help him to be a decent citizen... The reason for refusing him work was to break him away from his associates [aborigines].'

BEING BEFORE THE LAW: IDLE, DISORDERLY AND CONSORTING 

So to finish, I draw your attention to the snippets down the right hand side of this blog from an article titled 'Alleged Idle and Disorderly Person' from the Narandera Argus and Reverina Advertiser, NSW, Friday 17 August 1934.

For the most part, this article is about my non-Indigenous relatives, specifically my great-grandfather's brother Victor Thomas. Yet it is Victor and Ernest's (my great-grandfather) relationship with Indigenous people - 'half-castes' - and their breaching of not only miscegenation laws, but the broader socio-legal expectations and determinants of Australian society - those acceptability laws - that hammer through.

In this article it is clear that not only were sociological and biological determinants used to classify the race and societal position of Indigenous people, but also those non-Indigenous peoples that were involved with them to varying degrees of intimacy.

The insights read from these snippets for me are those symptomatic themselves of the settler colonial obsession, fear and anxiety with power, land, authority, race, gender and sex where Indigeneity and femininity are always read as lacking and degenerate, and can be created and produced as such if needed, while white is literally right, erected all too well upon that phallic explicit/implicit intent and desire inherent in settler colonialism.