Tag Archives: indigenous

People’s Tribunal on 11 April 2015

If you’re in Melbourne on 11 April, please come along to this important public event. You don’t have to be an employee of University of Melbourne to have an interest in the impact of neo-liberalism on our public institutions.

A popular tribunal including Aboriginal elders will hear evidence and testimonies about the employment practices used to reform professional positions at the University of Melbourne. Over 500 professional staff have lost their positions, and many more suffer mental stress, due to the loss of job stability.

Location: Brunswick Uniting Church, 212/214 Sydney Road

Date: 10.00am-4.00pm, Saturday, 11 April 2015

See https://www.facebook.com/thepeoplestribunal

A Revolution for Free!

Julian Assange on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy. Photo Credit: Carl Gardner via Compfight Creative Commons

Julian Assange on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy. Photo Credit: Carl Gardner via Compfight Creative Commons

As we mark the 50th the anniversary of The Great March on Washington, and move closer to the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, and in my own country of Australia, the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Yirrikala Bark Petition for Indigenous rights. I therefore cannot but help think history may record 2013 as a watershed year that is looked back in history as a defining moment in the political history of the West. This historical event is the beginning of the young Westerners cleaning up their own political back yards. It is as though in my mind this year marks ‘key events’ that may trigger a consciousness amongst the young people that have had enough of the bullying by their governments in holding the globe ransom to their overzealous beliefs in their own righteousness.

James Douglass in his book JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters brings to the readers attention that ‘the Unspeakable’ is the manifestation of evil on the globe at the behest of powerful ‘unknowns’ in the United States, who 50 years ago orchestrated the assassinations of JFK and the subsequent assassinations of Martin Luther, Malcolm X and finally Bobby Kennedy.

The use of the generic term of ‘the Unspeakable’ allows for a distancing of individual blame to that of a – sickness of heart – which pervades Western rulers and their sense of righteousness, then and now. A sickness which some youth can no longer tolerate, as it is their future which is being destroyed politically, economically, and worst of all, climatically, by this evil.

Oliver Stone in support of Douglass is also on his own mission to educate the American youth about their history that allows this evil to thrive. He is horrified by the ignorance of the average American and so has directed and written the series The Untold History of America. Such valiant attempts gives one the impression that they are looking for the reincarnation of at least one of the ‘golden’ four to step forth from the modern generation of youth. This desire is a bit like a desire for a messianic resurrection of a saviour.

Can I put forth however, that instead of a golden haired or black hair boy, what instead we have is a gender crossing Chelsea! Both the mythologist in me as well as the satirical black-humour from my Indigenous heritage cannot but help make associations which perhaps the fact driven elders above might overlook.

Let me begin by saying, what I see in the evil of the Unspeakable is a combination of the homophobic cross-dressing Edgar J. Hoover and the ludicrous obsession with money which allows the public to still sanction the continued million dollar payments to heads of failed banks. Therefore the heroes who take on this force no longer look like a Hollywood-Kennedy or sound like the magnificent orators; Martin or Malcolm, but rather look more like penniless nerds and grrl power. That is the enemy of the unspeakable is actually the alter ego of the above. On one hand we have Bradley proudly declaring he is Chelsea – none of that cupboard gay stuff for him – and the Assanges and Snowdens dumping their credit cards and relying on mobile phones and friends to help them free the Free World from its cyber chains.

What these three men/woman have done is to cyber-picked the backdoors of the great and powerful; looked inside and caught them with their pants down and promptly photo’d, digitalized and duplication in 3D copy the crown jewels, and sent them out into the universe of cyberspace all for free. And I think that is the most revolutionary act of all. It was free! And that’s what the money addicted nations and their bullies can’t abide, its was given away for free!

The source of this youthful clean up job, which is predominantly in the North, has come from the South and surprisingly from the odd-bod country Australia that suffers from an identity crisis, in that it thinks it is in the North when in fact it is in the South. It therefore, is not surprising that this southern bastion of northern values has thrown up another odd bod in Julian Assange. Julian and his fellow young hackers learnt very early how the little backdoors of the cyber world worked. And in true Aussie style after viewing the content of Pax Americana realized it was a whole lot of the guff about ‘bringing democracy’ to the downtrodden. The rise of Wikileaks in turn allowed American youth to take on ‘the Unspeakable’ and its manifestations of evil as Manning saw in the now infamous Bagdad tapes and Snowden saw as a cyber matrix within which all Americans live. A cyber matrix which when we look closer however is not funded by the North, but in fact those countries who identify with the Global South.


BRICS as we are all aware on a subliminal level will redefine the geopolitics of the world and so The Global South, might be reconfigured to East or West of the Great Wall of Chinese Economic dominance which is running laterally through the globe rather than horizontally. But then again as China prefers to economically coerce nation states into being tribute states, the definition of where each nation state finds themself on the global map might be something quite different. However, one thing is for sure, Australia will no longer be a favoured nation of a Pax Americana world, but rather a tribute state of a BRICS cultural and population dominated globe. Pax Americana can run around snooping on everyone if it wishes to waste its resources that way, but we all know who is funding the credit card the US is using to pay the bills. But there is something else we didn’t know.

Having read Cyberwar: The Next Threat to National Security and What to do About (2010) it by Richard Clarke and Robert Knake, and had Clarke not been the National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection and Counterterrorism under four presidents, I would have thought I was reading a George Clooney script.

The extent of Chinese government hacking against U.S., European, and Japanese industries and research facilities is without precedent in the history of espionage. Exabytes of data have been copied from universities, industrial labs, and government facilities. The secrets behind everything from pharmaceuticals formulas to bioengineering designs, to nanotechnology, to weapons system to everyday industrial products have been taken by the People’s Liberation Army and by private hacking groups and given to China Inc. (Clarke and Knake, 2010, p.59)

A nation couldn’t be that stupid to let this happen, but it could be that arrogant to miss the obvious! And that is the flaw of the ‘the Unspeakable’ – its arrogance!

And it is this very kind of arrogance that finds ‘the Unspeakable’ being confronted by enemies who look like characters out of films like Midnight Cowboy or Fisher King. Who would have thought a gangly look-a-like comic super hero with silver hair and a broad Aussie accent would teamed up with a petit transsexual who even after three years in high security prisons and solitary confinement could articulate himself like Atticus Finch and take the high moral ground in relation to his actions. And then after being sentenced to a life time of imprisonment, pulls the hat trick of wanting transgender therapy based on his human rights, which will give the military more headaches than any leak every did. It is like Manning now Chelsea Manning is tapping into the American hysteria over same sex marriages and playing the hysteria for all it is worth. And now we have Snowden to follow up, once again able to outwit the most powerful nation in the world with the advice from the Aussie and his mates at Wikileaks. I mean landing on the doorstep of Russia and Putin calling it an ‘unwelcome Christmas present’? Christmas present? Doesn’t that ring warning bells and now we have him staying until Christmas! Now I don’t even think Woody Allen could come up with a script as good as that. I mean who is writing this reality show, it is all becoming too scripted.

And so the Global South has provided an unintended hero, the leader of the pack, in Julian. But what of his own country where he is treated like a common criminal? Well if China pulls the plug on the US credit card, mark my words in ‘true blue’ fashion Julian will overnight become a national hero. As China and her mates slowly but surely ingratiate themselves into everyone’s backyards through their wiz-bang gadgets and very cheap goodies which the silly souls that inhabit the West have greedily feed themselves on for the past decades as the third world exists on their donations. How embarrassing to know, we have for decades given food aid and fund small projects, while China now ready to step up to the table goes in and builds infrastructure, you know railways and roads for transporting goods.

I think the Unspeakable is being challenged at a very fundamental level if not at the mythological. A new type of mythological super hero is building momentum. And just like all good super heroes they are not overt bullish figures like Arnie as the Terminator or Downey Jr as Ironman, but in fact are nerds in real life. How the transgender issue will be treated I will leave that up to the feminist, but then again maybe that is the only way a women can get into the male dominated myth making world of the West!

The South therefore in my opinion is on the verge of realignment, not by its own volition but one forced upon it by geopolitical shifts of tectonic proportion. Pax Americana may appear to have sway with its nemesis of the Unspeakable driving it towards further unspeakable invasionary tactics, but there is a greater force out there and it is not the force of good or some Godlike benevolence, it is just the force of history; time is up for the West and it is now BRICS turn in the form of the Chinese century which will look nothing like the American or British century, it will be far more sophisticated and therefore far more dangerous for the complacent. So all I can say we are going to live in interesting times and I am glad Julian is from The South.

Dr C.F. Black is author of The Land is the Source of the Law.

Who are your moral heroes?

Christine Black

Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Griffith Center for Coastal Management, Griffith University, Brisbane

Greetings from Dr Christine Black

I have been asked to contribute to this conference through this intermediary of writing a few paragraphs to convey a message from Australia. As an Indigenous woman of the Kombumerri and Munaljahalai peoples I want to first acknowledge the spirits of your lands and those who have come before you and those who will come after you. Your continent is a powerful and vast land that has experienced continuous invasion like no other continent on this earth. And yet it prevails and gives your people life. We should all be thankful for what the land we walk upon each day gives to us personally. Furthermore your Indigenous Peoples have survived through all these invasions and have preserved and protected the ancient knowledge of your lands. To preserve a culture and law takes strength and moral fortitude. It is not preserved by technology but relationships, relationships between humans and their beloved land. Land teaches people how to live on it, and to understand the law of a land takes thousands of years of caring for land.

Australia has a unique responsibility to the world. That responsibility is to must preserve and perpetuate the oldest continuous culture and law in the world. This is a great honor bestowed upon Australians by providence.

It has also been my personal responsibility to continue and share that ancient knowledge and law. I have carried out this responsibility by writing a book on Indigenous legal theory entitled The Land is the Source of the Law: A Dialogic Encounter of an Indigenous Jurisprudence. (Routledge). This book is made up of many stories of how the law of sharing and caring is the most important moral compass a peoples can live by. That caring begins with caring for the Land and environment. The book is not just meant for academics, as the knowledge of our Senior Law People is for everyone to learn how important it is to understand that lawful behaviour comes from caring for Land and not just ourselves.


I have also been asked to pose a question to the participants. I would therefore ask; who, in your opinion has demonstrated moral courage which others of the South could learn from? In other words who are your heroes and how can citizens of other nations in the South learn from their exemplar moral behavior.

¿Qui, en su opinión, ha demostrado coraje moral que otros del Sur puede aprender? ¿En otras palabras, que son sus héroes y cómo pueden los ciudadanos de otras naciones en el Sur de aprender de su comportamiento ejemplar moral?

A statement and question offered to participants of the symposium Diálogo Trans-Pacífico y Sur-Sur: Perspectivas Alternativas a la Cultura y Pensamiento Eurocéntrico y Noroccidental, University of Santiago, 8-9 January 2013

Kim Scott: “Language & Nation”

An important event not to miss if you are in Melbourne on 25 July:

Kim Scott: “Language & Nation”
Hosted by Australian Indigenous Studies, School of Culture and Communication, Faculty of Arts

Professor Kim Scott of Curtin University is  one of Australia’s most signi?cant authors.   His major works That Deadman Dance (2011),  Benang (1999) and True Country (1993) have  received a host of literary prizes including the Miles Franklin Literary Award, Victorian  Premier’s Literary Award, Commonwealth  Writers Prize, and Western Australian  Premier’s Book Award. Professor Scott has also been named West Australian of the Year  2012 for his work in Indigenous language regeneration as well as his contributions to Australian literature.

Professor Scott’s fiction is uncompromising in its identification and contestation of  reader expectations of Indigenous writing  and authorship. His command of Nyoongah,  Aboriginal, Australian and English literary forms produces complex narratives about  intimacy, identity and history in the Australian context. This combined with his work in the  area of Indigenous language revitalisation creates new possibilities for communication  and expression. Professor Scott’s masterful use of genre and social commentary calls  for a new type of reader who is willing to engage in breaking down existing codes of  representation, politics and repression that  continue to operate in contemporary Australian  society.

In a wide-ranging address Professor Scott will bring together his concerns with Indigenous cultural renewal though language revitalisation and the role of literature in an evolving vision of Australia in the twenty-first century. 

Wednesday, 25 July 2012
7.00pm – 8.00pm
The Basement Theatre
Spot Building
The University of Melbourne
Admission is free. Bookings are required. Seating is limited.
To register visit: http://alumni.online.unimelb.edu.au/kimscott

Indigenous Knowledges in Latin America and Australia conference

Please note the upcoming Symposium that SURCLA is organising: Indigenous Knowledges in Latin America and Australia | Locating Epistemologies, Difference and Dissent | December 8-10, 2011.

The symposium will bring together Indigenous educators and intellectuals from Mexico, Argentina and Chile to Sydney to meet with interested Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators, scholars and activists, as well as non-Indigenous practitioners and allies, to discuss different models and approaches of Indigenous Knowledges and Education in the tertiary sector and beyond.

This project aims at helping educators and researchers in the Higher Education sector of Australia and Latin America to identify opportunities for integrating in their research and teaching and learning relevant aspects of Indigenous Knowledges in the areas of culture, education and sustainability.

Apart from the symposium itself, academic publications, public lectures by distinguished visitors and the creation of a website, the project will stimulate debate on Indigenous Knowledge and film production in Latin America and Australia by hosting film screenings on the topic.

For more information, visit the website.

Lorenzo Veracini on settler colonialism

‘Here from Elsewhere: Settlerism as a Platform for South-South Dialogue’
Discussion Roundtable, Institute for Postcolonial Studies, Melbourne, 21/10/10
Participants: James Belich, Lorenzo Veracini, Kate Darian Smith

Lorenzo Veracini

1) Settler colonialism as a compound category is an antipodean-developed paradigm. This origin makes it an important platform for South-South dialogue.

Actually placing “settlers” and “colonialism” in the same analytical field required overcoming a number of conceptual blockages. It took decades. The nineteenth century – the century of the “settler revolution” (see Belich 2009) – did not think that they could be compounded. Indeed the settler revolution had cleaved the two apart: Marx, who engaged extensively with Wakefield (see Pappe 1951), thought that the settler colonies were the only “colonies proper”; Mill, who wrote extensively on colonisation and colonialism kept them rigorously separate (see Bell 2010). Archibald Grenfell Price was probably the first, in 1929, to theorise a particular form of colonial activity distinct from other colonial endeavours. Settler-driven colonialism – “independent” settlers – had been more effective colonisers than other metropole-directed groups (Price 1929). He was explaining South Australian specificities in the context of Australian diversity; and yet, he did not propose an exceptionalist account. On the contrary, his outlook was systematically comparative, proof that paradigmatic shifts are often grounded in parochial concerns.

I have elsewhere followed the development of “settler colonialism” as a concept since the 1930s (Veracini forthcoming). In the context of this trajectory, the notion that settler colonial settings were fundamentally different from both metropolitan and colonial contexts was recurrently proposed from the “South”. The settler themselves said so (the Algerian, Rhodesian, and south African settlers, for example, all at one point or another claimed a local version of southern exceptionalism), and the scholars, even if their agenda differed dramatically from the settlers’, confirmed it (i.e., Donald Denoon’s outline of settler capitalism in the southern hemisphere [1983], the “staple theory” of economic development that turns into a staple “trap” at the antipodes [see Schedvin 1990], Patrick Wolfe’s emphasis on the fundamental inapplicability in the specific conditions of settler colonialism of the master slave dyad typical of colonial studies [Wolfe 1999], and James Belich’s discovery, even if he does not use these terms, that settler colonialism is primarily about reproduction, not production, and that settler colonialism is immediately autonomous from the colonising metropole [2009]). Whether at the level of practice or theory, the notion that settler colonialism should be seen as a distinct formation came from the South.

That this was an original development and that only recently this notion has become better received in the northern hemisphere should be emphasised. On the contrary, scholarly traditions have consistently understood settler colonial phenomena either as colonial or metropolitan ones, not as an autonomous formation (alternatively, parochialising exceptionalist paradigms have been put forward). Marx and Engels, as mentioned, thought that settlers and metropole were part of the same analytical field. Lenin, and twentieth century Marxisms, on the contrary, conflated colonial and settler colonial forms and considered all colonialisms part of the general process of imperialist appropriation. Imperialism, it was argued, reorganised precapitalist economies anywhere, and integrated all peripheries into the world capitalist economy – the settler was, in Ronald Robinson’s words, the “ideal prefabricated collaborator” of imperialist endeavours (Robinson 1972). Likewise, anticolonial “Third Worldism” routinely collapsed the settler locales and the colonising metrople within the “global North” category, while only some within postcolonial studies preferred to include the settler colonies within the bounds of the “postcolonial” experience (even though this remained contentious and it was acknowledged that settler postcolonialities should be considered a specific subfield [see Ashcroft, Griffiths, Tiffin 1989]).

2) Even if it remains an antipodean-developed paradigm, the applicability of settler colonialism has recently been expanded. Indeed, the indigenous/settler divide is now seen informing locales and experiences way beyond the settler Angloworld (see Belich 2009). This flexibility makes it a privileged platform for South-South dialogue.

Influential historians of Africa and Latin America Mahmood Mamdani and Richard Gott, for example, have convincingly deployed a settler colonial paradigm (Mamdani 1996, Mamdani 2001, Gott 2007; for a call to look for settler colonial phenomena beyond the “colonies of settlement”, see Edwards 2003). Both macroregions are generally considered as typically non-settler colonial. Africa and Latin America did not have the sustained economic development and political stability that settler colonialism, in marked contrast against colonial underdevelopment, would produce. Moreover, Africa did not have locales where white settlers constituted the majority of the population, and Latin America was inherently “hybrid”, it did not have the ethnic and racial homogeneity that typically characterises settler colonial formations.

Nonetheless, Mamdani extensively demonstrated how the postcolonial condition reverses but does not supersede a colonially determined relationship between “native” and “settler” (he defines a “settler” anyone who doesn’t have an ancestral homeland or lives outside his ancestral homeland). He outlined how in many postcolonial contexts dominated by nationalist regimes an indigenous ascendancy is enforced to the detriment of variously defined exogenous alterities (and how many of the intractable conflicts of postcolonial Africa depend on the inability/unwillingness to move beyond this dichotomy [Mamdani 2002, Mamdani 2009]).

Similarly, Gott noted how genocidal attacks against indigenous people in Latin America actually followed independence, not Spanish colonisation, and how recent political developments in the region can be interpreted as an indigenous renaissance in opposition to established settler colonial political orders. He thus proposed to fundamentally upturn received historical narratives of latin America: settler colonialism, not independence or neo- or informal colonialism followed the end of formal colonial subjection.

3) But there is another way in which reflection on settler colonialism as a distinct formation can facilitate an original approach to South-South dialogue. Even if they prefer to imagine themselves operating in an empty setting, settlers inevitably displace indigenous peoples. Relatedly, even if they would like to free themselves from settler imposition, indigenous peoples operate within settler colonial orders. Settlerism and indigeneity coconstitute each other.

Francesca Merlan (2009) has recently proposed in an essay published in Current Anthropology a history of the emergence, consolidation and eventual internationalization of a global category comprising all indigenous collectivities since the 1920s (see also Niezen 2003). “International indigeneity”, she noted, emerged in Scandinavia and in the Anglophone settler colonies and only eventually, indeed only very recently, became a truly global phenomenon. However, the “establishing” settler states did not support the ultimate institutionalization of indigeneity in international affairs, and voted as a bloc (CANZAUS) in 2007 against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (see also Allen, Xanthaki 2010). This, Merlan argued, is a paradox that can be explained by reference to these countries’ liberal democratic political institutions. The “establishing” countries’ rejection of the Declaration “is consistent with the combination of enabling and constraining forces that liberal democratic political cultures offer” (303), she concluded. Liberal democratic political cultures allowed for the expression of indigenous political activism but eventually what could be construed as indigenous demands for special status clashed with a generalised reluctance to recognise the special claims of a particular constituency.

And yet, there is an alternative explanation beside Merlan’s sophisticated argument. If we define indigenous peoples as the “original inhabitants” of a particular locale, and considering that all polities are one result of one type or another of different processes of military and demographic expansion, the permanence of indigenous peoples is a possibility that equally characterises metropolitan, colonial and settler colonial contexts. However, only if we realise that “indigeneity” has its roots in settler colonialism, that “indigeneity” is a relational category that acquires its full meaning when it is paralleled by its dialectical counterpart – the non indigenous settler (Fanon famously noted that “it is the settler who has brought the native into existence and who perpetuates his existence” [1967: 36]) – we can better understand why it was the settler polities that voted against the Declaration. Only in the context of what I have elsewhere defined as the settler colonial “situation” there is a permanent distinction between an indigenous and an indigenising exogenous collective (see Veracini 2010).

Metropolitan and postcolonial polities could more easily accommodate the Declaration’s terms than settler polities whose current sovereign dimension is fundamentally premised on the original dispossession of indigenous peoples. Crucially, if the colonial relation fundamentally defines both metropole and colony (and their postcolonial successors), it does so in terms of externality: colonialism is something done somewhere else (i.e., the colonies), or by someone else (i.e., exogenous colonizers). In the metropole and in the colony, it is this externality can ultimately sustain a claim to indigeneity (if colonialism is extraneous to the polity, and if colonialism can be defined as a form of intergroup domination characterised by an exogenous ascendancy [as Ronald Horvath had proposed in another Current Anthropology article in 1972], the polity is indigenous by definition). However, this claim is impossible in the case of the settler colonies/societies, where colonialism is performed on the spot and by the settler, and where in any case there is no specific moment inaugurating a post-settler colonial predicament. Thus, whereas the Declaration is a largely irrelevant text in metropolitan and postcolonial settings, these can comfortably claim to be indigenous polities, it constitutes a potential challenge to the sovereign order in settler colonial contexts. Despite its cautious formulation, as it protects indigenous peoples’ rights above settler prerogatives, the Declaration constitutes a powerful anti-settler manifesto. Contra Merlan, I would conclude by noting that it wasn’t a bland statement, but the unresolved settler colonial character of the settler polities, and that it isn’t only a matter of liberal democratic political cultures and their constraints. It is settler colonialism (indeed, focusing attention on liberal democratic institutions may imply a neglect of the unresolved dynamics of settler colonialism).

Thus, reflection on the dynamics of settler colonialism can help understanding a multiplicity of situations: what in one of the founding texts of what should consolidate into “settler colonial studies” Alan Lawson defined the (settler) “Second” world (Lawson 1995), as well as what are generally referred to as “Third” and (indigenous) “Fourth” worlds. Settler colonialism ultimately contributes to South-South dialogue by proposing that settler and indigenous experiences should integrate traditional understandings of the binary relationship between North and South. I propose these three insights, and the suggestion that the distinction between colonialism and settler colonialism should be regarded analytically and not geographically (that is, that it is a distinction between separate forms and not between “colonies of exploitation” and “colonies of settlement”), as a preliminary framework for developing “settler colonial studies” as a genuinely global and transnational paradigm.


Stephen Allen, Alexandra Xanthaki (eds), Reflections on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2010.

Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, Helen Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in post-Colonial Literatures, London, Routledge, 1989.

James Belich, Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009.

Duncan Bell, “John Stuart Mill on Colonies”, Political Theory, 38, 1, 2010, pp. 34-64.

Donald Denoon, Settler Capitalism: The Dynamics of Dependent Development in the Southern Hemisphere, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1983.

Penny Edwards, “On Home Ground: Settling Land and Domesticating Difference in the ‘Non-Settler’ Colonies of Burma and Cambodia”, Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, 4, 3, 2003.

Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1967.

Richard Gott, “Latin America as a White Settler Society”, Bulletin of Latin American Research, 26, 2, 2007, pp. 269-289.

Ronald J. Horvath, “A Definition of Colonialism”, Current Anthropology, 13, 1, 1972, pp. 45–57.

Alan Lawson, “Postcolonial theory and the ‘settler’ subject”, Essays on Canadian Writing, 56, 1995, pp. 20-36.

Mahmood Mamdani, Citizen and Subject: Contemporary Africa and the Legacy of Late Colonialism, Oxford, James Currey, 1996.

Mahmood Mamdani, “Beyond Settler and Native as Political Identities: Overcoming the Political Legacy of Colonislism”, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 43, 4, 2001, pp. 651-664.

Mahmood Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers: Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2002.

Mahmood Mamdani, Saviours and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror, London, Verso, 2009.

Francesca Merlan, “Indigeneity: Global and Local”, Current Anthropology, 50, 3, 2009, pp. 303-333.

Ronald Niezen, The Origins of Indigenism, Berkeley, CA, University of California Press, 2003.

H. O. Pappe, “Wakefield and Marx”, The Economic History Review, 4, 1, 1951, pp. 88-97.

A. G. Price, “Experiments in Colonization”, in J. Holland Rose, A. P. Newton, E. A. Benians (eds), Cambridge History of the British Empire, 7, 1, London, Cambridge University Press, 1929, pp. 207-242.

Ronald Robinson, “Non-European Foundations of European Imperialism: Sketch for a Theory of Collaboration”, in R. Owen, B. Sutcliffe (eds), Studies in the Theory of Imperialism, London, Longmans, 1972, pp. 117-140.

C. B. Schedvin, “Staples and Regions of Pax Britannica”, Economic History Review, XLIII, 4, 1990, pp. 533-559.

Lorenzo Veracini, Settler Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview, Houndmills, Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Lorenzo Veracini, “Constructing ‘Settler Colonialism’: Career of a Concept”, Portal: Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, forthcoming.

Patrick Wolfe, Settler Colonialism and the Transformation of Anthropology: The Politics and Poetics of an Ethnographic Event, London, Cassell, 1999.

‘Here from Elsewhere’–settler-colonialism with a southern horizon

James Belich, Lorenzo Veracini, Kate Darian-Smith

James Belich, Lorenzo Veracini, Kate Darian-Smith

Here from Elsewhere was the final in this year’s Southern Perspectives series at the IPCS. The series began with Raewyn Connell’s outline of ‘southern theory’ as a counter-hegemonic argument against the concentration of knowledge in the metropolitan centres. It set the scene for speculative propositions about forms of knowledge particular to the periphery, which included developments in indigenous theory, tidalectics and humid thinking.

One of the obvious points of connection between countries of the south lies in the settler-colonial experience. But recent developments in settler-colonial studies disturb the comfortable opposition between centre and periphery, north and south. The Imperial/Settler binary is counterbalanced by the Settler/Indigenous divide. While it might seem possible for those who cast themselves as ‘southern’ to join in solidarity against the metropolitan centres, there remains the historical conditions that continue to split these nations along colonial lines.

New Zealand historian James Belich (Victoria University, Wellington) began by outlining the argument in his recent book Replenishing the Earth. He articulated the three phrases of Anglo settlerism: incremental, explosive and re-colonisation. In the discussion that followed, Belich’s concept of the ‘re-colonisation’ was seen as implying that the flow of influence from Britain had ebbed before it was re-kindled.

Specialist in settler colonialism Lorenzo Veracini (Swinburne University, Melbourne) provided an analytic account of the distinction between colonialism and settlerism. He argued that settlerism was a distinctly southern phenomenon, emerging from the periphery. The discussion questioned the qualitative difference in relations with indigenous between colonial and setter. Veracini gestured the difference as one between the colonist addressing the indigenous with ‘You, work for me!’ (colonial), or ‘You, go away!’ (settler).

Historian Kate Darian-Smith (University of Melbourne) reflected on her own research, particularly in the circulation of objects related to reconciliation around the Pacific rim. In discussing the significance of objects such as the brass gorgets, Darian-Smith pointed to the active ways in which settlers proceeded to make their claims on the new land. She also implied a gender dimension in analysis of settlerism.

The following discussion continued the spirited contestation and defence of the settler-colonial paradigms that were presented. In terms of ‘southern perspectives’, it raised some important questions:

  • What is the substantial difference between the settler-colonialism experienced in Australasia and that of the United States?
  • What is the prognosis for the condition of settler-colonialism? Is it an original sin beyond redemption?

Clearly, the notion of a southern perspective must critique the manufactured forms of solidarity that elide the violence of colonisation. Settler colonial studies provides a powerful argument to expose facile alliances.

But settler-colonial studies also provides a powerful enabler of south-south dialogue by exposing exceptionalism as a common condition. In the case of Australia, the concept of the ‘great southern land’ encourages the narrative of a lucky country with singular promise. Through the settler lens, we see the way other countries create parallel forms of exceptionalism, particularly from the booster narratives of explosive colonisation. This applies not just to Anglo cousins, but across the latitude to Latin America and southern Africa.

So the challenge now awaits to use this platform as a way of journeying out beyond the familiar forums into south-south conversations. This notion of south is not the ground we stand on, but the horizon towards which we can gaze.

Our Williams–Ross Gibson and Tony Birch

Tony Birch and Ross Gibson

Tony Birch and Ross Gibson

The recent dialogue between Ross Gibson and Tony Birch demonstrated the kind of thinking that might be revealed through a southern perspective.

At the opening of the series, Raewyn Connell laid down the challenge to broaden our theoretical references beyond the metropolitan centres. In the discussion that followed, there was a sense of concern in abandoning the reassuring authorities, particularly European theoretical figures. Would this be to forgo critical thought – to drift away from the main action in transatlantic universities? Connell countered with a democratic image of a thousand boats that would criss-cross the south-south axis.

Gibson and Birch pointed in an alternative direction. They both looked back to iconic figures in the early history of European colonisation. Gibson considered the life of William Dawes, a scientist who explored different ways of engaging with Indigenous hosts in Port Jackson at the time of the First Fleet. And Birch looked from the Victorian end at the biography of William Barak, a Wurundjeri leader who traversed the Indigenous and settler worlds. While Dawes and Barak would not be considered theoretical sources, their actions in their time provided models for ways of thinking today.

Gibson looked at Dawes’ attempts to understand the local language. His notebooks reveal that he moved away from a nominalist approach to an increasingly contextualised grasp of their language. This is in part thanks to his intimacy with a local woman, Patyegarang, who helped him appreciate the profoundly relational nature of Indigenous language. Gibson talked about Dawes as a ‘littoral’ person, a marine adept at working in the space between land and sea. His notebooks show a man navigating a shifting world, ‘always in conversation with oneself and other people.’

For Birch, Barak also negotiated between the white man (namatje) and Wurundjeri. Rather than a passive figure, Barak was always navigating a path as a political strategist. An important component of that was his relationship to the first manager of the Aboriginal mission in Coranderrk, John Green. Birch could see echoes here of his own collaborations with namatje such as the artist Tom Nicholson.

Other Australian writers have also recently depicted the first encounters between white and black worlds, such as Inge Clendenin and Kate Grenville. But it is not only in Australia that this interest has emerged. The Argentinean writer Walter Mignolo has written about the Inca historian Guaman Poma, who tried to tell his people’s side of the story in a book The First New Chronicle and Good Government (1615). Poma tried to identify how the best of European and Inca cultures might be combined. In doing this, he used a map dividing the world into four quarters, rich and poor, moral and barbaric.

In modern terminology, civilization and barbarism distinguished the inhabitants or the two upper quarters; while riches and poverty characterized the people living in the lower quarters. On the other hand, the poor but virtuous and the civilized are opposed to the rich and the barbarians. In a world divided in four parts, subdivided in two, binary oppositions arc replaced by a combinatorial game that organizes the cosmos and the society.
Walter Mignolo The Darker Side Of The Renaissance: Literacy, Territoriality, And Colonization Anne Arbor: University of Michegan Press, 2003, p. 252

The next step would be to gather together scenes of first encounter as they are currently being rehearsed across the South. In these tentative experiences of contact, there is sometimes a brief flicker of dialogue before the full force of colonisation is finally applied. A glimpse of these proto-colonial scenes can speak to those countries where the tide of colonisation is now ebbing in the other direction.

Suvendrini Perera: An Insular State

An Insular State

Thu 02-09-10, 7:30pm

At least since Thomas More’s Utopus founded his ideal state by carving it free, by the use of forced labour, from the continent to which it was bound, the topos of the island, organised by an ontologised division between land and sea, has been central to the geopolitical imagination of western modernity. In his 1998 Boyer lecture David Malouf described island-Australia as the product of an entirely new and uniquely European act of envisioning: When Europeans first came to these shores one of the things they brought with them, as a kind of gift to the land, was something that could have never existed before; a vision of the continent in its true form as an island … And this seems to have happened even before circumnavigation established that it actually was an island … Aboriginal Australians, however ancient and deep their understanding of the land, can never have seen the place in just this way … If Aborigines are a land-dreaming people, what we latecomers share is a sea-dreaming, to which the image of Australia as an island has from the beginning been central (my emphasis). For Malouf island-Australia is the fulfilment of a European (more specifically, English) desire that completes a teleology of colonial desiring: a gift. Reciprocally, insularity is the distinctive gift the colonisers bring to the land: an opening of previously unimaginable ways of seeing and being. This paper explores what is at stake in insularity as a gift of form, at once a topographic and imaginative figure and a political programme, for Australia, the island-continent.

Suvendrini Perera is Associate Professor of Cultural Studies at Curtin University. She completed her PhD at Columbia University, New York, and her B.A at the University of Sri Lanka. Her most recent book is Australia and the Insular Imagination (New York: Palgrave, 2009). A co-edited volume, Enter at Own Risk? Australia’s Population Questions for the 21st Century is forthcoming in 2010.

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