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  1. The Bubonic plague which hit Sydney during the early 20th century has been regarded controversial due to the governments use of the plague as a political tool. During this time, emotive language was used by the government and the media in order to evoke reactions of disgust in order to begin the quarantine process. This in turn created an atmosphere of fear and threats to safety amongst civilization which can be regarded as a leading cause of the individualization and dislocation in the city. Sennett (1977) argues that the inability to trust strangers has inhibited social interactions and the development of civilization. Also this altered the civilizing process by constraining self expression and emphasising the need for self control in order to be civil amongst others (Elias, 2000). Through the governments introduction of sanitation and hygiene laws, a sense of fear in the city amongst classes and races was due to the mass panic resulting from the epidemic.
    It was this reinforcement of hygiene and sanitation as a distinguishing factor between classes, race and those with or without the disease, which brought upon the need for hygienic products as commodities in a capitalistic society. As the civilizing process is a product of historical change, it can be argued that the governments successful focus on hygiene during the plague changed the way society viewed Sydney as a whole (Elias, 2000). It can’t be denied that the plague did reinforce the government’s power over society, especially with regards to land and property. Overall, the plague and the governments intervention, resulted in the creation of a hostile environment in Sydney during the 20th century.
    #S208UOW17 #Mon1130 #Tut4

  2. In her Week 4 SOC208 lecture on industrial Sydney, Philippa Nicole Barr illustrates the Governments exertion of social power through the regulation of people. This occurred as a response to the outbreak of the Sydney Plague that not only shaped industrial Sydney, but also impacted the interactions and relationship between residents.

    “Within every large human network there are some sectors which are more central than others. The functions of these central sectors, for example, the higher co-ordinating functions, impose more steady and strict self-control not only because of their central position and the large number of chains of action meeting in them; owing to the large number of actions depending on their incumbents, they carry major social power” – (Elias 1994, p. 459).

    Without a thorough understanding of the underlying issues of the contagious discourse, the city was shaped through segregation (quarantine) of both infected individuals and those who had made contact with them. This association of bodies and the plague not only led to condemn and demolish housing that shaped the city, but also furthered negative connotations towards suburbs as ‘clean’ and ‘dirty’. This created issues between class and race as each suburb attempted to disassociate with areas where disease (or even rumour of disease) occurred.

    In an attempt to uphold a disassociation with the plague, an increased focus toward hygiene appeared as a demonstration of citizenship – supported by the Citizen Vigilance Committee that aimed to identify potential threats. Hygiene and sanitation thus became a practice to perform one’s cleanliness and lack of worthiness for intervention. This performance, rather than for the benefits of cleanliness, acted as a defence mechanism between citizens.

    The social power of the Government that in turn flowed down to the residents of industrial Sydney illustrates the initial quote by Elias (1994), whereby major social power by central sectors are able to impose a strict-self control on where individuals live and go about their daily lives.

    I find it interesting how the extent of the plague had the ability to shape and influence more than just the immediate health of the residents within a specific locality. The impact this had on social relations, and opportunities for others to exert influence and power to transform a city further illustrates that “the highly differentiated social apparatus becomes so complex, and in some respects so vulnerable, that disturbances, at one point of the inter-dependency chains which pass through all social positions inevitably affect many others” (Elias 1994, p. 459).

    #S208UOW17 #Tut4 #Mon1130

  3. The extent that the bubonic plague had on the city of Sydney was a new piece of information that Barr introduced in this week’s lecture. The lecture was informative on the impact the plague had on Australia and particularly the city of Sydney. The impact of the bubonic plague is rarely heard of in Australia compared to the impact it had on Europe. However it clearly affected the way the city was planned and the way in which we now perceive odour. The bubonic plague was originally thought to have spread through bad air. This lead to an increase in the way that smell and the air of Sydney were considered. This lead them to create a much cleaner and less odourless Sydney, but also to quarantine places that were considered less then savoury. This lecture was educational on the way the city was planned around certain events.
    Two of the readings for this week talked about civilisation and civility. Sennett (1977) mentions civility as being a way for us to remove ourselves from other people, to protect us from other people e.g. mask of civility. During the bubonic plague in Sydney this idea of civility would have been particularly important, people were not interested in knowing other people unless they were already close to them. Elias (1994) discusses civilisation has being neither rational or irrational but rather it is blind process that it kept continuously moving by relationships, and by the way changes occur in the way people are guaranteed to live together. This is interesting because in Barr’s lecture she mentioned the ways in which people of an ethnic background were treated differently, this idea of civility and civilisation are particularly important because of the way these groups of people interacted differently and how it created the Sydney we know today.
    #S208UOW17 #Tut4 #Mon1130

    • I feel that given the industry surrounding Sydney at the time (a booming port) people would have been interested in getting to know (certain) others for the purpose of business. Sennett (1997, p. 264) defines civility as “the activity which protects people from each other and yet allows them to enjoy each other’s company”, continuing with “treating others as though they were strangers and forging a social bond upon that social distance”.

      In regards to interactions between citizens, could the ‘masks’ that Sennett (1997, p. 264) considers as the essence of civility (created “through a desire to live with others”) come into play given the plague epidemic. In my opinion these masks would have been prominent when considering the performance of hygiene – people would have been interested in being a civilised member of society, and did not want to risk association with disease and incivility (“burdening others with oneself”).

      #S208UOW17 #Tut4 #Mon1130

  4. In his book The Fall Of Public Man, Sennet argues that the crises of the past – “feelings of dislocation caused by capitalism and secular beliefs” (1977, p. 259) and peoples’ search for meaning in “stuff” and the narcissistic cult of personality have shaped the organisation of society; families, schools and neighbourhoods, because people are driven to engage with each other on an intimate, local level. Subsequently, Sennett argues, this has also led to the disorganisation of the city and the state because only people who with big personalities – those who use emotive techniques like politicians and actors – are elevated to prestigious levels, not necessarily those who should be there because they have the skills a public official should have.

    In this week’s lecture, Philippa Barr also described how the development of the city of Sydney was also shaped by a past crisis that encompassed another form of societal fabric eroding. The response of public officials to the bubonic plague at the turn of the century shaped the layout of the city as we know it today, and subsequently how neighbourhoods in the area and its surrounds evolved. Barr detailed the techniques government officials used at the time to justify interventions aimed at supposedly controlling the outbreak, by playing on speculation and people’s fears that the bacteria was transmitted by “noxious vapours”. The working class and ethnic minorities were easy targets because they were considered outsiders by the British colonialist majority of the time. They were depicted as being odourous, living in unsanitary slums and therefore the likely transmitters of disease. This led to a sense of “shared disgust” amongst those not in lower class and minority groups and their acceptance of authorities justifying the ways of preventing the spread of the plague, like tearing Chinese people’s houses down and forcing people to live in quarantined areas, even if they didn’t actually have the plague but were only suspected of having come into contact with someone who may be infected.

    The concept of a dominant racial group dictating societal standards is supported by Elias and Jephcott’s (1994, pp. 445-463) work, that shows how the more people there are in a group, the more complex codes there are to regulate behaviour, “to the point where it takes a lot of effort to behave ‘correctly’” and fear keeps people’s behaviour in check. People in lower classes fear “external powers” (the state) perceiving them as not adhering to what is expected, because of threats like being sent to prison or the justification of mechanisms that lead to poverty and hunger amongst the lower class. Upper classes fear penalties to their position and prestige, such as being stigmatised by others in the upper class”. These complexities cause issues with the reality of people trying to regulate their behaviour according to societal standards.

    Evidence of these issues is still seen in societal interactions and development today: Barr spoke of the correlation between government narrative then, and government narrative now – how fear and “shared disgust” is used as a tool of social control, to oppress ethnic and racial minorities, such as we are currently seeing in government justification of the Northern Territory intervention.

  5. As outlined by Phillipa Nicole Barr in the week 4 lecture, the outbreak of the bubonic plague Sydney at the start of 1901 influenced huge changes with regards to social interactions and perception of others during that period. The plague was used as a means by the government to introduce quarantines and cleansing of buildings. A mixture of fear mongering both by the government and print media had a major impact on the public perception of hygiene. Particularly with the notion of bad odor being associated with disease. The government and media bodies created the idea that unpleasant odor and unclean surroundings where offensive and threatening. Based on these ideas, there was a demand to pacify these ‘threats’ that where associated with bad odor in the air. This was then used by the government to exert its power and regulate the population. This included being able to remove and quarantine people and be able to close off residences and other buildings for cleaning. It is interesting to see how the government rationalized their decisions on quarantine and how they used the idea that unclean surroundings were seen as somehow dysfunctional and irresponsible. As Barr notes in her lecture quarantine relied on the idea that for a social space to function efficiently, particular bodies should be banished. The threats of uncleanliness and unpleasant odor were then used as a justification to pose the foreign population (particularly Chinese) as a threat, claiming them to be irresponsible and unhygienic. This resulted in them being isolated, refused access to certain public services and their businesses boycotted.

    What I found most of all intriguing about the lecture topic was how the decisions implemented by the government with regards to quarantine were justified.
    ‘Nothing in history indicates that this change was brought about ‘‘rationally’’, through any purposive education of individual people or groups’ (Elias, 1994 pg. 443)
    This quote from the reading is very telling because despite what some medical associations at the time were saying, the government went ahead with its plans. From a modern day perspective these plans come across as irrational, although they weren’t fully aware of what spread the plague, and racist due to the heavy targeting of ethnic minorities for quarantine.

    #S208UOW17#Mon1130#Tut4

  6. In last weeks lecture Barr introduced the effects of the Bubonic plague on the shaping of the city we know today as Sydney. With uninformed and unverified ideas surrounding this new unknown disease, city government, being one of the most central sectors carrying a “major social power” (Elias) took preventative measures based on these ideas.

    These ideas of “shared disgust” and fear largely surrounded the foreign immigrant population, considerably the Chinese, which were seen as unhygienic and unclean and most prone to spreading this disease. There was a huge sense of exclusion imposed on those believed to be carriers of the disease, those considered dirty or sick. As a result of these beliefs these individuals lives were rattled and disturbed with their houses being destroyed and being forced into quarantine. These beliefs and actions lead not only to a tangible physical separation imposed by the government on the layout of the city but even more so on the mentality of the individuals living in the city. This creation of group unity largely constructed on this shared fear and disgust shaped individuals interactions and the city.

    The example of the Bubonic plague and it’s shaping of Sydney as the city we know it to be today is a key example of how history (intentionally or not) shapes peoples interactions and in turn shapes the city itself. This strong bond created on shared fears, allowed for the smooth running of society as it was developing in circumstance and reaction to this newfound disease. These forces and drives created and maintained a bond much too strong for one single unlike minded individual to face or disrupt. This incapacity to break this chain of thinking and action allowed it to persist and only solidify over time which lead to things being as they are today. The constraints imposed on by society turned into restraints imposed on the individual to then assure the smooth running of society.“As more and more people must attune their conduct to that of others, the web of actions must be organized more and more strictly and accurately, if each individual is to fulfill its social function” (Elias)

    Based off of the readings, I’d like to make a connection based on the idea of interconnectedness. Individuals are controlled by this interdependency which forces them to suppress any immediate responses or desires with the fear of exclusion if not in accordance with common belief. With the arrival of the Bubonic plague, the fear imposed and brought on by the government then affected individuals behaviour , “Maintaining community become an end in itself; the purge of those who don’t really belong becomes the community’s business” (Sennett). This web of relationships and actions brought on by the historical changes in turn created, shaped and heavily influenced Sydney as we know it today and the way people live together and interact.

    #S208UOW17#Mon1130#Tut4

  7. The Bubonic Plague in Sydney in 1901, demonstrated the great power and control that the Austrian Government had over the lives or ordinary citizens.
    The plague caused panic and anxiety in Sydney, and this lead the government to take charge over the issue of pollution and sanitation.
    Streets were closed, barricaded, and cleaned. Houses considered unsanitary were knocked down, as well as slums and quarantine was also taken place.
    Citizens had to be very cautious of their hygienic practices, as they faced being sent to quarantine.
    This crisis showed a division between class, race and ethnicity, as certain racial groups were particularly watched for hygiene practices.
    I think if this kind of domination and power was shown by the government in todays society it would cause great chaos, as citizens today are used to having freedom on their lives and their actions, and wouldst be used to being controlled this forcefully.

    #mon1130 #tut4

  8. The Bubonic Plague in Sydney in 1901, demonstrated the great power and control that the Austrian Government had over the lives or ordinary citizens.
    The plague caused panic and anxiety in Sydney, and this lead the government to take charge over the issue of pollution and sanitation.
    Streets were closed, barricaded, and cleaned. Houses considered unsanitary were knocked down, as well as slums and quarantine was also taken place.
    Citizens had to be very cautious of their hygienic practices, as they faced being sent to quarantine.
    This crisis showed a division between class, race and ethnicity, as certain racial groups were particularly watched for hygiene practices.
    I think if this kind of domination and power was shown by the government in todays society it would cause great chaos, as citizens today are used to having freedom on their lives and their actions, and wouldst be used to being controlled this forcefully.

  9. In the lecture, events like plague leading to government interventions that can change and influence the nature of the city really struck me. The manner in which government control and propaganda have shaped, and continue to shape, cities and societies is profound. Not only did the plague hysteria move people from the cities into the suburbs through threat and fear, it was used to instil racism, social exclusion and repress cultural diversity and change. These control methods were enforced and further influenced within the White Australia policy, which barred immigration of people from non-European descent and labelled Austrailan furniture and goods ‘China made’, creating more segregation and social stigma. During the time of the plague, sanitation and hygiene was a social commodity and the Chinese people were considered uncivilised and unclean, which is referenced in Sennett’s (1977) thoughts on subcultures and civility, depicting a certain amount of increasing commercialisation in society leading to increasing disconnection.

    This kind of government control is still practiced today, though projected for the greater good. In class discussion, and mentioned in Jennifers’s blog response, current control measures including the Northern Territory Emergency Response Intervention and mandatory reporting for teachers in reference to child obesity https://education.nsw.gov.au/wellbeing-and-learning/media/documents/child-protection/cp-update16-fn11.pdf were highlighted. Another controversial and current government control measure, often causing heated argument, is vaccinations for children, in the context of social structure and financial control. Children who are not vaccinated are not always able to attend government schools and there are government benefits that are not accessible if you chose to not vaccinated your families. Taking choice away from people based on their personal beliefs can push families into the periphery of society and move groups to more affordable and less mandated areas further shaping the demographic of cities and suburbs. With government continuing to exercise control, crossing fine lines in relation to health, science, economics and society at large, at what point does the blurring become so complete that individual choices cease to truly exist?
    #S208UOW17 #Mon1130# Tut4

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