Debra McDougall, Engaging with Strangers: Love and Violence in Rural Solomon Islands
When a boat left the shores of Australia to return hundreds of Melanesian laborers to their homes in the South Sea Islands, deportees were heard to shout from the deck ‘Good-bye Queensland, good-bye white Australia, good-bye Christians’ (‘The deportation of Kanakas’, Wagga Wagga Express, 29 August 1907, p. 2). It is hard to say whether this was a final protest over the laborers’ near slavery in Queensland or a lament over their forced deportation, which in fact, many laborers opposed. Since then, and for over a century now, Western society and the indigenous peoples of Melanesia have regarded each other as strangers. It is easy to forget that once they stood in a very different, although equally fraught, relationship in the plantations of Queensland, and that it was only when this kind of relationship was severed that a new colonialism, one based on the governmentality of cultural difference, could be built.