Race and Nation: Aboriginal Whiteness and Settler Belonging
In the dry season of 1889 on the coast of Western Australia, a station manager went in search of a white man rumored to be living deep in the desert. This chapter explores episodes in the history of Indigenous whiteness, often a settler fantasy but occasionally real. It focused on the “archaic Caucasian” hypothesis, popular until the mid-twentieth century. It predicted that the darkness of Indigenous Australians was only shallow and could easily erode when mixed with white blood. This theory posited Indigenous people as a kind of ancestor to European settlers, a narrative that particularly appealed during the heightened white nationalism of the 1930s. Spilling out into the policy and public spheres, the archaic Caucasian theory provided scientific hope for coherent racial narratives to support settler belonging and quiet colonial ghosts.