Masculinity on Trial: A Creative History of Masculinities of German Internment at Trial Bay, New South Wales, 1915–1918
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Between August 1915 and May 1918, over five hundred and eighty men were interned at Trial Bay Gaol on the mid-north coast of New South Wales. The group comprised both German-Australians of many years standing and German nationals, such as those detained from German ships in Australian ports or expats from the British and German colonies in Asia-Pacific. Although in many respects heterogeneous, the group had certain defining characteristics: they were generally white men from middle~ and upper classes and professional, moneyed and/or educated backgrounds. Their enforced mobility and homosociality occurred in the context of German imperialism as Kaiser Wilhelm II sought territorial and military expansion. The Wilhelmine ideology of 𝘋𝘦𝘶𝘵𝘴𝘤𝘩𝘵𝘶𝘮 [pride in being German] pushed other social and cultural expressions of Germanness across the globe including expectations of masculine behaviour. These, both conventional and counter, caused pride and resistance in equal measures, both inside and outside the German diaspora. ‘Masculinity on Trial’ contributes to two fields of scholarly inquiry: the first, and principal contribution, is a 𝘤𝘶𝘭𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘢𝘭 𝘩𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘺 of the masculinities of the Trial Bay cohort. While the conditions and politics of internment have been examined elsewhere, interrogation through a prism of masculinity has not been previously considered. These men—at this place and time—provide an intriguing cohort for such a study. The project examines photographs (particularly those of the internee Paul Dubotzki), letters, diaries and secondary archival material to identify masculinities performed in four key sites of expression: Home; Work; Theatre; and Body and Mind. I am particularly interested in tracing counter-hegemonic expressions of masculinity—such as effeminacy and homosexuality—to understand the emerging sexual discourse and proto-queer identity. The second area of inquiry is 𝘮𝘦𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘥𝘰𝘭𝘰𝘨𝘪𝘤𝘢𝘭. My entry to the project is as both an historian and a creative writer, two positions that are often in historiographical tension. The creative component of my thesis straddles these connected fields. I argue the merits of a hybrid form where each of the four ‘pillars’ (chapters) of empirical research is supported by a ‘buttress’ of illustrative fiction (a short story). By presenting my thesis in this form, I contribute to debates on the role of fiction in the writing of creative histories and disrupt the unhelpful polarity between the two historiographical forms. Ultimately, ‘Masculinity on Trial’ questions enduring narratives of masculinity to allow for greater complexity in the way Australia writes its social and sexual histories.
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