Publication Details

Clarsen, G. W. (2015). Mobile encounters: Bicycles, cars and Australian settler colonialism. History Australia, 12 (1), 165-186.


At the turn of the twentieth century bicycles and motorcars constituted a significant break from organic modes of mobility, such as walking, horses and camels. In Australia, such mechanical modes of personal transport were settler imports that generated local meanings and practices as they were integrated into the material, cultural and political conditions of the settler nation-in-the-making. For settlers, new technologies confirmed their racial superiority and reinforced a collective sense of their own modernity. Aboriginal people frequently expressed fear and epistemological confusion when they first encountered the strange vehicles. Contrary to settler investments in Aboriginal people as outside of the contemporary world, however, they soon incorporated bicycles and automobiles into their lives. Aboriginal people complicated that imagined divide between primitivism and modernity as they devised new pleasures, accommodations, resistances and collaborations through those new technologies.



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