Darwin and the Japanese
: enigma or anathema? (1876-1994)

  • Mella Hedwig Parshen-Kempfer

    Student thesis: Other thesis - CDU


    This dissertation critically examines the characteristics of Northern Territorian and Japanese relations, from a Darwin perspective. It is not a chronological historiography of the Japanese in the Territory, although it provides an historical outline as a discussion base. It is argued that since 1876 - after the Meiji Restoration had reversed Japan's xenophobic political stance - Japanese contact has played a distinctive, yet enigmatic role in NT history. The dissertation attempts to demystify some of the enigma.

    The argument and analysis is based on the hypothesis that the role of the Japanese within Darwin's multiethnic context, has always been been distinctive and different to that of other Asian residents. Darwin Chinese experienced a role reversal after World War II and maximised new opportunities. By contrast the reticence of the Japanese was exacerbated by the fact that Japan had turned from ally to foe through the events of World War II. Some of these changes are contrasted against the background of Australia's still restrictive immigration policies, but which now encompass the concept of multiculturalism.

    Recurrent themes in Darwin's history, such as its gateway role and its exposure to traumatic events - cyclones, bombings, evacuations - are discussed and analysed. The distinctive role of the Japanese within the context of Darwin's history is assessed and contrasted with that of other ethnic groups, particularly the Chinese. Current views of Darwinites on the Japanese are investigated. Cultural differences between Australia and Japan are pointed out and events such as the bombing of Darwin brought into a wider context. Differences between Australian and Japanese attitudes and perceptions in war and peace are critically examined, including the effect of internment of 'enemy aliens'. While the attitudes of Darwinites are of the essence in this thesis, the writer acknowledges the peculiar situation of the interaction of the non-sovereign NT Government versus the Government of the nation state, Japan. This phenomenon is discussed in depth by J. Federer in his thesis on the Nt Government's paradiplomacy in Southeast Asia. With the current focus on fiftieth commemorations of WWll events, the difficulty in presenting material in the realm of public history is considered, as is the way in which the NT chose to commemorate the bombing of Darwin. The thesis concludes that current views in Darwin presume or desire a reconciliation with the former enemy, although some Darwinites still do not feel quite at ease with Japan and the Japanese. The thesis notes an absence of suitable teaching material on Japan's culture and history in the NT as well as a reluctance on all sides to enter into open and mutually beneficial dialogue. While the Japanese are no longer anathema in Darwin, they are still viewed as enigmatic.
    Date of Award1994
    Original languageEnglish

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