Depraved and Disorderly: Female Convicts, Sexuality and Gender in Colonial Australia
1 Jan 1997
Cambridge University Press
This innovative book marks a new way of looking at convict women. It tells their stories in a powerful and evocative way, drawing out broader themes of gender and sexual disorder and race and class dynamics in a colonial context. It considers the convict past in light of contemporary concerns, looking at the cultural meanings of aspects of life in the colony: on ships, in the factories and in orphanages. Using startlingly original research, Joy Damousi considers such varied topics as headshaving as punishment in the prisons and the subversive nature of laughter and play, as well as analysing the language of pollution, purity and abandonment. She also dicusses the nature of sexual relationships, including evidence of lesbianism. The book shows how understanding about sexual and racial difference was crucial for both the maintenance and disturbance of colonial society, and became a focus for cultural anxiety.