Passing Time

Kelly Menzel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterResearchpeer-review


American author Nella Larson (1929) wrote the acclaimed novel Passing. The novel’s protagonist, Irene Redfield, is a light-skinned black woman, hiding her true identity while ‘passing’ as a white woman. The novel explores the social and economic advantages and disadvantages associated with racial passing. Passing is a process by which a person can move from one cultural or racial group to another undetected. For Australia’s Indigenous people, this was different as passing was the policy. The government undertook a form of biological genocide to ‘breed out’ dark skin, to dilute by cross breeding and force people to separate from Indigenous language, culture and family. The policy meant death by integration and assimilation, and while there were segregation policies as well, these were stop-gaps for the ‘final solution’ of passing and the total annihilation of the Indigenous population. The shame of ancestors being forced to pass, as well as the threat of fake Aboriginality labels, or ‘Johnny come lately’ status, has prevented any study of passing as a phenomenon from an Indigenous perspective. It shapes our lives, but none of us want to see it. In this chapter, I explore my grandfather’s story of racial identity denial and how this legacy of cultural genocide, through alternative means, has been passed down in my family
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIndigenous Knowledges: Privileging Our Voices
EditorsTarquam McKenna, Donna Moodie, Pat Onesta
Place of PublicationLeiden, The Netherlands
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-04-46164-2
ISBN (Print)978-90-04-46163-5
Publication statusPublished - 25 Feb 2021


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