The making of the White New Zealand policy: Nationalism, citizenship and the exclusion of the Chinese, 1880-1920
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)
In the last two decades of the nineteenth century and first two of the twentieth century NZ passed a series of increasingly restrictive Acts directed primarily at the Chinese. By the early 1900s this exclusionist policy was specifically referred to as constituting a 'White New Zealand' policy. To this day, not one book, or even thesis, has been written covering this 40-year period. A range of postgraduate work deals instead with particular pieces of legislation or, at most, covers segments of the period. Moreover, existing analyses tend heavily towards the descriptive and narrative. This thesis adds to knowledge, then, in several ways. Firstly, it provides an account of the whole period in which the exclusionary legislation is enacted and intensified, until it becomes a coherent racial and nationalist policy aimed at securing a 'White New Zealand'. Secondly, while existing explanations for the White New Zealand policy are both rather scanty and tend to fall between explaining it as a result of either economic competition or racism, this thesis suggests neither of these explanations is adequate. Instead this thesis draws upon historical and sociological theories to suggest a framework for analysis, rooting the development of the policy in a combination of social, political, economic and ideological factors. In particular it sees the development of the New Zealand nation state and the emergence of nationalism and concepts of citizenship as critically important. Nationalism and citizenship defined idealised types and sought to exclude those who were not, or could not be made into, such types. This in turn showed the impact of racialised thinking, eugenics, moral reform and other inter-related ideologies and social movements on the development of nationalism and citizenship. The thesis also investigates how and why, among the disapproved of types, the Chinese became the particular focus of attention and exclusion. Thirdly, rather than seeing the development of the policy as being merely cumulative, with early hostility to the Chinese naturally expanding until they were the object of a rigorous racially exclusive policy, the thesis suggests two rather different periods. The first, from the arrival of the Chinese until the 1881 legislation, sees periodic, localised and unsuccessful anti-Chinese campaigns which are incidental to the political life of the new country. The period from the early 1890s onwards sees a clearly identifiable politics of White New Zealand coming into existence as a national and hegemonic ideology and set of legislation. The 1880s is the decade of transition between the two. Material from the labour movement, middle class groups, the upper class represented in the Legislative Council, the parliamentary debates, major intellectual figures (Reeves, Macmillan Brown and Stout), newspapers of the period, and a wide range of secondary sources are drawn upon.