Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

Fat Man v. ‘The People’: Labour Intellectuals and the Making of Oppositional Identities, 1890-1901

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2007), 92, (1), 31–56.

Abstract

Scholarly interest in the role of labour movement intellectuals and institutions in the formation of social and political identities is currently high. Yet the dominant historiography has not considered the role of labour intellectuals in narrating and manipulating the symbolic forms of oppositional identities. This article considers the origins, purpose and effect of perhaps the most famous labour villain, the capitalist ‘Fat Man’. A key symbolic tool in the making of a more homogeneous and assertive working class, ‘Fat’ was repeatedly painted as the enemy of ‘the People’; itself a collective identity drawn upon and moulded to the practical and ideological purposes of antipodean class mobilisation. Fat embodied the conscious opposite of the identity which labour intellectuals were constructing for the ideal masculine Australian ‘worker’, and threatened not only ‘the People’s’ material well-being, but the gender and racial social orders in which they typically located their identities.

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Details

Author details

Dyrenfurth, Nick

Quartly, Marian

Table of Contents

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