Culture and media

David Carter, Bridget Griffen-Foley

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


The dynamics shaping culture and media in Australia across the twentieth century emerged in a context defined by both urban concentration and widely dispersed regions: tensions between localism and national integration of production and markets; persistent calls for a national culture or cultural industries; domination by a few large national or multinational operators; and intervention by public institutions in the commercial marketplace. Underpinning all are the complexities of Australia’s place in transnational cultural networks. The domestic market was not large enough to sustain major production industries but it was sufficiently large to be a target for cultural exports such as Hollywood movies and British books. In the early twentieth century, as in the early twenty-first, Australian culture was inevitably a hybridisation of local and external influences, prompting recurrent debates over national values, modernity and ‘Americanisation’. Modernity and nationhood had arrived together, generating anxieties that the nation was both too modern, with no deep traditions of its own, and not modern enough, always lagging behind the great metropolitan centres. Yet even as the ‘true Australia’ was located in the image of a pre-modern bush landscape, Australians were busily engaging with the new modern cultures. The British imperial connection was not merely a conservative force but a means of accessing the new. Modernity at home. In April 1922 the Sydney <italic>Triad</italic> announced its latest issue as ‘a Mary Pickford number’. The Hollywood star featured on the magazine’s cover and in an adoring article. In a published letter to the editors, Pickford claimed she never missed an issue. This episode could be taken as evidence of the lack of a vigorous, independent Australian culture in the decades after Federation. For the pioneering cultural historian Geoffrey Serle, the 1920s were ‘a scurvy period, when Australians seemed content to accept second-rateness’. Following the ‘nationalist surge’ of the 1880s and 1890s, the early twentieth century was marked by ‘a perpetuation of colonial dependence and a curious hesitation in development towards nationhood’.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Commonwealth of Australia
EditorsAlison Bashford, Stuart Macintyre
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781107445758
ISBN (Print)9781107011557
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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