Discourses of western civilisation in the Australian Federal Parliament

Jordan Mcswiney, Eda Gunaydin, Henry Maher

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter explores the discourse of western civilisation as articulated in the Australian federal parliament. Despite claims that celebrating western civilisation is ‘not racist’, we demonstrate that the concept is rooted in the logics of white supremacy. We denaturalise the contemporary ‘post-racial’ construction of western civilisation via a genealogical account of the concept’s development through an analysis of Australian federal parliamentary transcripts from 1901 to 2019. We identify five distinct but overlapping periods, each characterised by a specific articulation of western civilisation, highlighting the progressive emptying out of the racial content from the term over time. The self of western civilisation moves through various phases, starting with the biologically superior white race and ending with the culturally superior Judeo-Christian, secular and (neo-)liberal individual. Western civilisation’s other, too, shifts from subhuman black and brown people to (still black and brown) societies whose difference is located instead in their values, which are constructed as different or opposed to the western (white) norm. We chart how each of these phases correspond to both domestic policy developments and broader geopolitical shifts. We argue that in the context of a ‘post-racial’ discourse of fascism and the far right, many Australian parliamentarians - consciously or not - do the work of fascists. By uncritically reproducing the civilisationist discourse, these speakers mainstream white supremacist ideology.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHistories of Fascism and Anti-Fascism in Australia
EditorsEvan Smith, Jayne Persian, Vashti Jane Fox
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781000816310
ISBN (Print)9780367638122
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2022


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