From ‘Dagoes’ to ‘Wogs’: a transnational history of racial slurs

Historic photo of Italian migrants standing in line to board the Castel Verde ship to come to Australia
(Wikipedia Commons: Australian National Maritime Museum)

Andonis Piperoglou, Griffith University

From ‘Dagoes’ to ‘Wogs’: a transnational history of racial slurs, brings together transnational and historical whiteness studies approaches to assist research into how non-Anglo migrants responded, resisted, and reworked racial slurs in Australia and the United States across the twentieth century. In each country, people from the Mediterranean region were often labelled as ‘dagoes’ and/or ‘wogs’. These derogatory and prejudicial racial slurs situated Mediterranean migrants as precarious citizens within each nation and had an impact on their everyday lives. Despite the ubiquity of these racial slurs there has been scant historical attention paid to them, while contemporary discussions often lack historical context and depth. Expanding upon my dissertation on the dynamics of race to the making of an early Greek Australian consciousness, I will adopt an inter-ethnic approach that compares the shifting articulations and attitudes of Mediterranean migrants’ responses to racial slurs. The project is designed to explore the origin, use, and contested meaning of the slurs, as well as how the use of the terms were discussed by migrants in the pages of ethnic community generated publications. It aims to reconsider how people from the Mediterranean informed and unsettled dominant preconceptions about the ‘white-race’. Tracing and analysing the transnational circulation of racial slurs is an effective way of comprehending bigotry across time and space, as their meaning and use adapted to local and national circumstances.

Dr Andonis Piperoglou is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research, Griffith University. He is a 2021 recipient of the Freilich Project ECR Small Grant

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