‘Going native’ with the suburbanites

This essay on middle-class life in Sydney foregrounds the crucial role that Ross’s family played for his observational reporting.

Having arrived in Sydney on June 25, 1929, Ross, his wife, and two children stayed there for a number of months before traveling north in the Australian spring. He rented a house in the suburb Bondi and sent his children to the local school. In this text, he describes his observations of Australia’s middle-class life with incredulous fascination. Markers of the new affluent, but socially homogeneous middle-class—single-family homes, cars, the absence of servants, and weekends that already begin on Friday evening—feel exotic to the German visitor. General statements about Australia’s population distribution are mixed with first-hand accounts. The text begins  in medias res, with the author taking out the trash in the morning: “Eight o’clock! My goodness! Today is Tuesday, and we missed the garbageman last week, too.” [p. 55]

The juxtaposition between descriptions of lived (family) experience and rather abstract, big-picture argumentation was a crucial component of Ross’s brand of travel writing. It may well have been the reason that this very section from Ross’s Australia book Der unvollendete Kontinent (1930) was chosen for inclusion in this 1930 anthology of travel writing. In other segments of Der unvollendete Kontinent, Ross draws on the experiences described here to make a case for Australian city life as a future model of European civilization. He feels highly ambiguous about this model, which strikes him as even more advanced than the USA yet.

Joachim Schätz

Colin Ross. Unser australisches Heim. In: Jes Petersen (ed.). Spiegel der Welt. Ein Buch von der Erde, ihren Landschaften und ihren Bewohnern mit Texten, Bildern und Karten, wie man sie gerne sieht und liest. Beiträge aus Werken von Colin Ross, Gerhard Venzmer, Bernatzik, Hearn, Holitscher u.a. 1. Aufl. Berlin-Lichterfelde: Columbus; 1930; 55–7.

Topic: The Ross Family
Case: Oceania-Asia trip 1928-30

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