Industrial Sydney – A Snapshot from Philippa Barr

The shape and development of industrial cities like Sydney was not just driven by house prices and factory conditions, but by random occurrences such as the arrival of a bubonic plague epidemic in 1901, and government/citizen response to this plague. As noted by Philippa Barr, government planning and people-power shape cities, for better and worse.

In her SOC208 UOW lecture this week, Barr relates how the Sydney plague created contestation between migrant and Anglo-Australian groups over issues of pollution and sanitation. Despite a poor understanding of the epidemiology behind the spread of plague (i.e. from rats, not airborne vectors), Barr notes that the 1901 arrival lead to the widespread instigation of quarantine on many communities in and around the upper Sydney CBD and Darling Harbour, because of the perceived poor quality of the ‘infected’ air in these regions. Many people, including large groups of Chinese ethnic migrants, were removed to quarantine stations, whole streets were closed, washed, and many hundreds of ‘unsanitary’ houses were demolished. Suspected quarantine persons were subject to public avoidance on streets and public transport (i.e. trams), and ‘citizen vigilant committees’ were formed to go around and identify suspect practices of poor hygiene (often identifying great ‘failures’ along ethnic/racial lines).

Barr notes, channeling ideas from Foucault and Elias, how these instances can be viewed as an example of historical governments exercising greater control over where and how people lived, and of the citizenry at the time exercising greater control over the standards of personal hygiene of their fellow (often non-white) citizens.

#S208UOW17 #Tut4

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10 Comments

  1. The idea of ‘The Civilizing process’ was adopted by Norbert Elias, his theory was that since the middle ages until modern times there has been a prolonged process of structural change which has shaped how people have developed manners and habits that are considered socially acceptable. Elias states that this centered on changes within the division of labor, monopolization of physical power and consolidation of political authority. In a sense, it was seen as a way for western society to implement individual self –restraint and for governments to have control on individuals that was not there prior.
    This was seen in the arrival of a bubonic plague epidemic in Australia in the 1901. As noted “citizen vigilant committees’ were formed to go around and identify suspect practices of poor hygiene,” from here you see the social behaviours form with the policing of the people to have a certain state of hygiene. In this weeks lecture it was stated that people used to pretend to do hygiene practices just so other people thought they were clean. This shows that social restrictions, expectations and regulations were starting to emerge. As Elias et al (1994) states, “as more and more must attune their conduct to that of others, the web of actions must be organised more and more strictly and accurately, if each individual action is to fulfill its social function”. After learning more about the history of the bubonic plague epidemic in 1901 in Australia, the idea of governments capitalizing on this to take control of the public is more convincing and an eye opener to just how much control and hierarchy governments can have over individuals and communities. This stimulates curiosity of what other epidemics governments have used as a way to shape us as individuals, cities and communities.

    #S208UOW17 #Tut4 #Mon16:30

  2. 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. Certain racial groups were particularly watched for hygiene practices, such as the Chinese.

    #tut4 #mon1130

  3. #S208UOW17#Mon1130#Tut4

    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?

  4. The Government and citizenry responses are encapsulated within the readings as the arrival of the plague was highly anticipated and feared yet the mechanisms or epidemiology by which the plague spread was unknown to the citizens and government bodies. The outbreak brought emphasis to the living conditions of the area and forced quarantine was implemented for specific areas and unfortunately segregation and alienation of migrant populations who were deemed as “unclean” or their living condition not up to standard. Most, if not all areas around Sydney’s wharves were sectioned off and mass disinfection and demolition processes commenced soon after. Historically, the geographical structure of “The Rocks and Sydney’s unique historical beginnings with informal houses built on the uneven landforms of this area. The plague gave way to action by the government with political motivations for large scale improvement through resumption and mass demolition. Shaping or contributing greatly to the way Sydney is in present times.

    An important comment in Bar’s lecture was that – odour eradicates distance, as we smell we breath in the smell/odour is then inside you. The notion of distance is then created, its as if a warning or deterrent to what could invade ones body and in a time where hygiene was something which was performed, status and social change occurred due to cleanliness and smell. People were judged for their cleanliness as this equalled wellness and good health. Relating also historically to social class divisions and cultural segregations within Sydney and the city based communities.
    #S208UOW17 #Tut4-Wed1430 #WK5

  5. The Bubonic Plague that hit Sydney in 1901 is a perfect example of how individuals with power and authority can control and alter people in society and their ways of life. It’s incredibly insightful to see how Australia’s government reacted and dealt with this situation. During this time the Australian government were highly successful in creating this ‘culture of fear’ that linked Non Anglo-Australians (e.g. migrants) to poor hygiene, which thus lead to the quarantine of communities in and around upper Sydney CBD & Darling Harbour. It caused immense feelings of fear, anxiety and much hostility that not only became widespread but also shaped and altered perceptions of the communities and the individuals that made up those communities in the most negative ways possible. The manipulation and the exercise of ones’ power is remarkable in terms of dominating society and controlling people.

    #SOC208 #Tut4 #Wed1430

  6. As we learned in the lecture, the plague occurred in Sydney Australia in 1901. At that time, the spread of the plague might be resulted in spreading social unrest in Sydney. As Elias (p.458) explains that “the trend of the movement of civilization is everywhere the same.” “It always veered towards more or less automatic self-control.” Thus, self-control and process of civilizations seem to have strong relationship.

    #S208UOW17 #Tut4 #Wed1430

  7. The plague hit sydney in 1901, as a response the Australian government brought great control over the lives of everyday citizens. With the plague, it brought great notions of anxiety and panic in Sydney causing the government to take control over the human hygiene. Streets were closed and washed, and many houses were demolished due to being unsanitary. Persons were subject to public avoidance both on streets and public transport.
    Foucault’s bio power, is a source of power used for control over mass of people and of entire populations. It is the control of human bodies through societal disciplinary institutions. Foucault’s analysis of power suggests that human behaviour as the human subject encoded into social practices, regulations and expectations of the social order. These are essential to the emergence of the modern state, capitalism.
    Foucault’s concept of bio power can be compared to the governments response to the plague in 1901. Both are historical ideas of excising control over where and how people’s lives and greater control over the standards of personal hygiene.
    #S208UOW17 #Mon1630

  8. The plague epidemic in 1901 and the response but the Australian government gives a clear indication of class division and the power that can be utilised through it. Unfortunately due to a lack of education regarding the plague, the response by the government was essentially ineffective. The targeting of certain racial and ethnic groups such as the Chinese at the time was an example of just how ill-informed of the plague that the Australian government was. The whole handling of the situation by the government spread a culture of fear amongst citizens. We still see similar examples of this today an example would be governments responses to terrorism. The culture of fear that has been spread about Muslims due to terrorist attacks carried out by a small minority is one example of how the governments portrayal of one group of people can create a social divide and spread that culture of fear, similar to the fear of the Chinese with the bubonic plague.

  9. The plague epidemic in 1901 and the response but the Australian government gives a clear indication of class division and the power that can be utilised through it. Unfortunately due to a lack of education regarding the plague, the response by the government was essentially ineffective. The targeting of certain racial and ethnic groups such as the Chinese at the time was an example of just how ill-informed of the plague that the Australian government was. The whole handling of the situation by the government spread a culture of fear amongst citizens. We still see similar examples of this today an example would be governments responses to terrorism. The culture of fear that has been spread about Muslims due to terrorist attacks carried out by a small minority is one example of how the governments portrayal of one group of people can create a social divide and spread that culture of fear, similar to the fear of the Chinese with the bubonic plague.

    #S208UOW17 #Tut4 #MON1130

  10. The 1901 Bubonic Plague epidemic serves as a great example of how the government has a great amount of control over the people. This outbreak caused fear and havoc among the city which the government was then able to take and use to control the citizens of Sydney by labelling migrants as ‘unsanitary’ causing a disconnection between races and social and economic classes.
    Individuals living in this era had to be extremely wary of their hygiene practices as they were at risk of being sent off to quarantine which would then cause them to be discriminated against by the rest of the population.
    #S208UOW17 #Tut4 #Mon1130

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