Author(s): David Walker
For well over a century Australias place in Asia has been at the forefront of public discussion and controversy. Stranded Nation is a searching examination of how a white nation, harbouring deep anxieties about rising Asia, sought to convince both itself and its neighbours that it belonged within the Asian region. This is the strange story of Australias momentous turn to the East. Stranded Nation draws on a wide range of sources from archival records in Australia, the US, the UK, India and New Zealand to the personal stories of Asian visitors. It introduces a surprisingly varied cast of historical actors with opinions on Australias place in Asia writers, journalists, politicians, policy-makers, students and diplomats from within Australia and across the region. To that list we must add culturally illuminating fictional figures such as James Bigglesworth (airman, orientalist and hero to many young Australians). This is a history of race, white prestige and belonging in a world shaken and transformed by decolonisation. These changes thrust the perplexing mind of Asia to the fore. The psychology of Asia was often seen as the elusive key to understanding the region, rather than social and economic circumstances. With Britains withdrawal to Europe came a greater need for accommodation with Asia, leading to insistent calls for a better understanding of Asia and a new, more courteous racial etiquette. In response to these challenges, new image-building programs were created to make Australians appear an Asia-friendly people and not, as some critics in Asia claimed, arrogant white intruders.