Immigration, the “Chinese Question”, and Ontological Insecurity in Colonial Australia

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Existing ontological security studies literature has viewed ontological insecurity as when an actor experiences fear and anxiety, as situationally subjective, and defined by the actor. Drawing from Ronald Laing's categories of anxiety, implosion, engulfment, and petrification and depersonalisation, I argue that these can be applied to actors within international relations. I demonstrate this by exploring how colonial Australia's immigration policies and identity narratives during the late nineteenth century was a response to changes in regional power and the development of ontological insecurity within the politics of colonial Australia. Focussing on how Australia's colonial governments responded to the destabilising potential of a rising China, Australia's colonial governments sought to exercise immigration control within their borders and alleviate ontological insecurity which had been caused by Chinese immigrants. The way that the Australian colonial governments did this was through the implementation of immigration control mechanisms.




Cherry-Smith, B. (2021). Immigration, the “Chinese Question”, and Ontological Insecurity in Colonial Australia. Australian Journal of Politics and History, 67(2), 208–225.

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