The long reach of the Riots: denying racism, forgetting Cronulla

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Sydney’s 2005 Cronulla Riots marked a watershed moment in race relations between White and Arabic-speaking Australians. In this essay, I reflect on how the riots now sit in the public imagination and explore how certain narratives on the riots have produced a series of problematic silences, disownings, and forgettings. I elaborate six modes of denial and disavowal – modes of sidestepping and disowning the racism that underpinned the riot and more contemporary attitudes towards Muslim Australians. The paper is framed around six ‘modes’ of silence: (1) Always Elsewheres, Always Someone Else; (2) The Spectacular; (3) The Narrative of ‘Past-ness’; (4) Twisted Tolerance; (5) Slippery Humour; (6) Interpolation of Non-Arab Subjects into the White Project. Some claim that the Cronulla Riots were an aberration and many in the ‘Shire’ wish that attention would move on. After all, the riots were a decade ago and the ‘kids’ who participated have all grown up. There has been no trouble on the beach since. I suggest, however, that the riots have a much longer reach – culturally, geographically, and temporally – than is generally understood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)255-270
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Intercultural Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


  • race relations
  • racism
  • multiculturalism
  • race riots
  • masculinity
  • whiteness
  • class
  • Cronulla Riots


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