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CCH Seminar Series 2023 – Wed 24th May , 11am – Scott McCarthy

11am, 24th May 2023
Burwood: C2.05.01
Waurn Ponds: IC2.108
Zoom link here.

‘Gentlemanly young Australians’ and ‘”Cawtholic” snobs’: the liminal nature of middle-class Catholic identity in Victoria and New South Wales prior to the Great War

The period between the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries saw the Australian-Catholic middle classes grow in both size and confidence. Those developments were aided in part by the temporal progress of élite Jesuit schools in Sydney and Melbourne. These colleges performed the dual role of facilitating the entry of young Catholic men into the universities and professions, and further assimilating educated, respectable Catholics within cultural spaces otherwise defined by Protestant, or secular, elements. Such social and economic mobility was threatened, however, by opposing forces that sought to temper Catholics’ acceptance within normative middle-class society in Australia. This opposition came from defensive, often extreme, Protestant voices, but also from insular, Irish factions in the Australian-Catholic community. In navigating these tensions, the Jesuit colleges became symbols for the liminality of middle-class Catholicism, at once straddling a distinctly British, Protestant, public-school privilege, and an irrevocable, Irish-Catholic otherness. This paper will explore these developments, and place them within the wider context of my PhD thesis’ research into middle-class Catholic identity, and that community’s navigation of social and sectarian divisions in Australia between the 1890s and 1920s.

Scott McCarthy is a PhD student in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University. His PhD research examines the Australian-Catholic middle class in Victoria and New South Wales through the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries.