Race and the Modern Exotic focuses on three internationally successful 'Australian' performers from the first half of the 20th century who created newly-modern, racially-ambiguous, Australian femininities: Annette Kellerman, Rose Quong, and Merle Oberon. Annette Kellerman was a swimmer, diver, lecturer, and silent-film star. Through her international vaudeville performances and film roles, she played with the quasi-racial identity of a South Sea Islander. Rose Quong was an actor, lecturer, and writer who forged a career in London and New York. She built a career based on her own body through a careful appropriation of Orientalism. Quong's body was the signifier of her Chinese authenticity, the essentialist foundation for her constructed, diasporic, Chinese identity. Merle Oberon was one of the most celebrated film stars of the 1930s and 1940s, first in London and then Hollywood. The official story of Oberon's origins was that she was Tasmanian. However, this was a publicity story concocted at the beginning of her film career to mask her lower-class, Anglo-Indian birth. Despite anxious undercurrents about her exoticism, Australians were thrilled to claim a true Hollywood star as one of their own. Racial thinking was at the core of white Australian culture. Far from being oblivious to racial hierarchies and constructions, Australians engaged with them on an everyday basis. Around the world, 'Australian' stars represented a white-settler nation, a culture in which white privilege was entrenched during a period replete with legal forms of discrimination based on race. The complex meanings attached to three successful 'Australian' performers in this period of highly-articulated racism has thus become a popular cultural archive that can be investigated to learn more about contemporary connections between race, exoticism, and gender on the global stage and screen. *** ..".these biographies are immaculately researched, stand as exemplary models of biography in context, and complicate existing understandings about race, gender, and popular culture. And best of all, the style is engaging and highly readable - I couldn't put the book down." - Richard Waterhouse, Biography Journal, Vol. 35, Issue 2, Spring 2012
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