Settler Colonialism

‘Country’ – the land of Indigenous peoples (minus their Dreamings) – is the great subject of settler-colonial art, an act of appropriation in which the dispossession of its original custodians is rendered invisible. As Jarrod Hore establishes beyond doubt in Visions of Nature, it was landscape photographers who proved to be one of the more significant cultural agents of settler colonialism across the Pacific Rim in the second half of the nineteenth century. What his important study reveals even more clearly is just how much they and their images were shaped by the times and societies in which they worked.

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Melbourne’s Moreland City Council recently agreed to adopt a new name, after petitioning by Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung community leaders and prominent local non-Indigenous representatives. The petitioners argued that the name ‘Moreland’, adopted in 1839 by Scottish settler Farquhar McCrae, derived from a Jamaican slave plantation. Renaming the council was an opportunity to bring about greater awareness of both the global legacies of enslavement and the history of Indigenous dispossession. In this week’s episode, Samuel Watts reflects on the politics of memorialisation and its impact on public conceptions of history.

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Though a generation has grown up with online technology, we are only just starting to grasp what it means for our understanding of humanity. As a historian, I’m surprised to find that I can now trace the emotional and intellectual experience of individuals, through long periods of their lives, with a new kind of completeness. Fragments of detail from all over the place, gathered with ease, can be used to build up inter-connected portraits of real depth. A new inwardness, a richer kind of subjectivity, takes shape as a result.

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It is now well accepted that the invasion and colonisation of the Indigenous territories we call ‘Australia’ are emblematic of a particular type of colonialism. A settler colony, unlike, say, an extractive colony (where Indigenous peoples may be exploited in pursuit of resources but where permanent settlement does not necessarily follow), seeks to establish a new society on an acquired territory (regardless of the means by which that territory was acquired), intentionally displacing and eliminating the Indigenous inhabitants. In settler colonial societies, the settler came to stay.

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The Colonial Kangaroo Hunt by Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver

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August 2020, no. 423

As generations of Australian tourists have found, the kangaroo is a far more recognisable symbol of nationality than our generic colonial flag. Both emblematic and problematic, this group of animals has long occupied a significant and ambiguous space in the Australian psyche. Small wonder, then, that Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver have found such rich material through which to explore our colonial history in The Colonial Kangaroo Hunt.

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Australian Sikhs delivering free meals to fellow citizens in need has been a heart-warming news story against a backdrop of doom and gloom this year as bushfires then the coronavirus laid waste to life as we know it. Public housing tenants in lockdown, international students stranded without support, and bush-dwellers who lost everything in the fires are among those who benefited from their kindness and competence.

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You are looking at a book. On its cover is a painting of a person of colour. But you can only see a portion of the piece. The face is obscured. One dark eye takes up the middle third of the page, while one nostril fills the bottom right-hand corner. The painting is covered in a layer of fine cracks – presumably due to its age. These lines show that myriad individual pieces make up the image before you, but this is still only one part of the picture. Frustratingly, you cannot see the face as a whole.

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Though he had already produced two volumes of poetry, Roger McDonald first came to popular attention with his spectacular début novel, 1915, published in 1979. A recreation of the Gallipoli Campaign from the points of view of two ...

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‘Fuck Australia, I hope it fucking burns to the ground.’ Sarah Maddison opens this book by quoting Tarneen Onus-Williams, the young Indigenous activist who sparked a brief controversy when her inflammatory comments about ...

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On Identity by Stan Grant & Australia Day by Stan Grant

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August 2019, no. 413

It was a great moment in Australian history when William Cooper walked to the Australian parliament to object to the treatment of Jews in Germany during World War II. At the time, the British and Australian parliaments were ambivalent about the atrocities occurring across Europe ...

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