Should you find yourself this summer with spare time and an itch to understand the national culture, consider the work of Ghassan Hage. Were it not for the stubborn urging of a fellow Crikey contributor, I might never have read the book of an anthropologist, or his later short works, which make a question like, “Is Australia racist?” seem like a shaky foundation for debate.

“I have never found this question useful to ask let alone answer,” writes Hage, in the journal article, Continuity and Change in Australian Racism, a straightforward piece that can be understood by those of us not fluent in obscurantism. Hage suggests that racism cannot be reliably measured in individuals, and, heck, even if it could, researchers would still be left with the problem of deciding how many individual racists or actions are needed to declare an entire nation racist.