CANCELLED History Programme Seminar: Everyday life for Chinese workers on Nauru, 1920-1952
This paper explores the living conditions of Chinese immigrants working on Nauru from 1920-1952 during the period of Australian administration. Drawing on archival records including war compensation files and United Nations’ investigations, it considers how everyday life played out for men who were employed up to 1952 under strict indentured contracts. Much of what is known about phosphate mining on Nauru suggests that this was a difficult life. Workers were locked up in compounds, working under threat of penal sanctions, their lives strictly controlled by Australian authorities. But there are also glimpses in the archives of a richer life, at least for some Chinese men, with items listed among their possessions including a motor car, a gramophone and a white summer suit.
Julia Martínez is an historian at University of Wollongong, researching on Asia Pacific labour migration. Her book, Pearl Frontier (University of Hawai’i Press) with Adrian Vickers won the 2016 QLD History Award. Her recent book is Colonialism and Male Domestic Service (Bloomsbury 2019) with Claire Lowrie, Frances Steel and Victoria Haskins. Her current project is a history of Chinese indentured labour after 1919 funded by the Australian Research Council (with Lowrie and Benton).
For more information, please contact: Dr Alexander Maxwell (firstname.lastname@example.org; 04 463 6753) History Programme Seminar Convenor.