Yellow(s) (im)peril(ed): reinventing the colonial nightmare

Lisa Ford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper argues that Australian cartoonists of the Japanese in World War Two used and transformed racist images from the turn of the century in order to make Japanese enmity less threatening. The Yellow Peril nightmare and more horrific elements of popular Orientalism ill-fitted inter-war tropes of Australian masculinity. While World War Two cartoons were replete with references to Asian hostility, cunning and overpopulation - key aspects of the colonial nightmare - Japanese caricatures were almost always containable or contained by the indomitable Digger. Artists in the self-censoring media supported the war effort by emphasizing Oriental unmanliness and incapacity in the face of Australian race-strength. And yet, cartoonists could not empty Oriental stereotypes completely of their threatening potential. The colonial nightmare was muted rather than erased - transformed into a manageable peril.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-114
Number of pages48
JournalAustralian studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • Japanese
  • caricature
  • World War II
  • Australian homefront
  • digger
  • Bulletin


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