Program and Abstracts: Indigenous Sovereignties, Identities, Histories

Indigenous Sovereignties, Identities, Histories

Thursday 10 October 2019
History House, First Floor, 133 Macquarie Street
Programme & Abstracts

11.30 am – Venue opens

11.40 am –Acknowledgement of country/event welcome

11.45 am-1.00 pm: Methodologies: Indigenous and Settler Colonial Histories

Chair: Dr Crystal McKinnon, RMIT

Jane Carey, University of Wollongong, Approaching Indigenous Histories: Indigenous Studies and Settler Colonial Studies
Lou Glover, Macquarie University, Towards a History of Lawlessness
Ben Silverstein, ANU, Reading Sovereignties in the Shadow of Settler Colonialism Studies and Settler Colonial Studies

1.00 pm – 1.45 pm: Lunch (provided)

1.45 pm – 3.00 pm: Mobilities and Biographies

Chair: Professor Warwick Anderson

Leah Lui-Chivizhe, University of Sydney, A Biography or Life History of the Auridh Mask
Kate Fullagar, Macquarie University, Voyagers from the Havai‘i Diaspora, 1760s-1850s
Innez Haua, Macquarie University, A Little Whare in Sydney, Australia

3.00 pm – 3.30 pm: Afternoon Tea (provided)

3.30 pm – 5.10 pm: Indigenous-Settler Relations/Futurism and Haunting Aboriginal Fiction & Film

Chair: TBC

Jodie Stewart, University of Wollongong, Sharing Histories and Pasts on the Bundian Way
Lisa Slater, University of Wollongong, The Anti-festival: KALACC, vital politics and the artful business of making Kardiya hear and feel differently
Michael R. Griffiths, University of Wollongong, The Dust Swamp and the Plant People: Tenses of Climate Change in Aboriginal Speculative Fiction
Evelyn Araluen, University of Sydney, Aboriginal Gothic: Haunting and Artifactuality

5.10 pm: Wine & Cheese Reception (with vegan options)

5.50 pm: Public Lecture

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui, Wesleyan
Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty and the Contradictions of Indigenous Self-Determination
Chair: Professor Fiona Probyn-Rapsey (UOW)

6.55 pm – Depart venue for informal dinner at Salt Meats Cheese, Level 2, Gateway Building, 1 Alfred St, Circular Quay



Public Lecture:

Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty and the Contradictions of Indigenous Self-Determination
J, Kēhaulani Kauanui, Wesleyan

This talk offers an overview of the fraught politics of contemporary Hawaiian sovereignty claims with a focus on the contestation over indigeneity and independent statehood. The Hawaiian case is particularly instructive for showing both the possibilities and limitations of indigenous political praxis within and against U.S. settler colonialism and imperialism.  Exploring the ways Hawaiʻi is apprehended within conflicting paradigms for comprehending its hybrid status – simply seen as the 50th state under the domestic jurisdiction of the U.S. government, as an occupied independent kingdom, and as the homeland of an indigenous people who are supposedly awaiting U.S. recognition as a Native Hawaiian Governing Entity – the lecture advances a critique of statist nationalism and prospects for non-statist decolonization.

J. Kēhaulani Kauanui is Professor of American Studies and affiliate faculty in Anthropology at Wesleyan University, where she teaches courses on indigenous studies, critical race studies, settler colonial studies, and anarchist studies. She is the author of Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Sovereignty and Indigeneity (Duke University Press 2008) and Paradoxes of Hawaiian Sovereignty: Land, Sex, and the Colonial Politics of State Nationalism (Duke University Press 2018). She is also the editor of Speaking of Indigenous Politics: Conversations with Activists, Scholars, and Tribal Leaders (University of Minnesota Press 2018). Kauanui currently serves as a co-producer for an anarchist politics show called, “Anarchy on Air,” a majority-POC show co-produced with a group of Wesleyan students, which builds on her earlier work on another collaborative anarchist program called “Horizontal Power Hour.” Kauanui is one of the six original co-founders of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA), established in 2008. She also serves on the advisory board for the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI).

Panel 1: Methodologies: Indigenous and Settler Colonial Histories

Towards a History of Lawlessness
Lou Glover, Macquarie University

Lawlessness – ‘a state of disorder due to disregard of the law’

When James Cook first trespassed and committed robbery and assault on Gwaegal Country in 1770, he was not only breaking English law, but Aboriginal law. With Cook’s acts of lawlessness, and the usurping of lawful authority for the Crown, law pertaining to humanity became inverted. We are still in this paradigm of lawlessness parading as law.

Lawfulness has morality principles but it is clear that legal does not equal moral. Yet settler legislation that enforces a lawless, immoral, exploitative paradigm is perceived as moral and, in that belief of righteousness, mobilises a force of settler outlaws wreaking havoc on Country. The state of disorder due to the disregard of the law is evident in climate change concerns, mental ill-health, environmental degradation, extinctions, and poverty.

This paper applies CF Black’s expression of the Aboriginal notion of ‘patterning into place’ to Cook’s actions on Gwaegal Country as ‘ground zero’ for the inundation of lawlessness carried on by the settler-colonial masses throughout colonial history.

Lou is an Indigenous woman and PhD Candidate who identifies as belonging to the Walbunja community of South Coast New South Wales. She won the 2017 UOW Law, Humanities and the Arts University Medal for her Honours Thesis entitled ‘Deep Time People: Resilience, Inundation and Fishing Rights on the South Coast’. Lou’s identity expands and changes as more family secrets are unearthed.

Reading Sovereignties in the Shadow of Settler Colonialism
Ben Silverstein, ANU

The Northern Territory of Australia is often described by historians as marginal and anomalous, characterized by plurality and set apart from the settler colonial south(east). But it has long been subjected to practices of government designed to articulate a settler colonialism upon and through its distinctive character. In this paper I take one such governmental project in order to read the antagonistic work of Indigenous and settler sovereignties alongside each other. By examining the imposition of restrictions on Chinese people’s capacity to work and to employ Aboriginal labour in Darwin around 1911, I locate a racialized labour politics and racial capitalism as central to the obstruction and production of sovereignties. In doing so, this paper engages with two recent criticisms of settler colonial studies: one that impresses upon scholars the need to write not only of settlers but also of Indigenous peoples; and another that insists on attending to the specific conditions of settlers of colour or precariously racialized migrants to settler colonies.

Ben Silverstein is a postdoctoral research fellow with Rediscovering the Deep Human Past Laureate Program at the Australian National University. He researches in colonial and Indigenous histories, with a focus on Australia, southern and eastern Africa, and the Pacific. His work engages questions of race and settler colonialism as well as contests over sovereignties and colonial government. His first book, titled Governing Natives: Indirect Rule and Settler Colonialism in Australia’s North (Manchester University Press, 2019), explores Australian articulations of indirect rule as a mode of governing Aboriginal people in the interwar period.

Approaching Indigenous Histories: Indigenous Studies and Settler Colonial Studies
Jane Carey, University of Wollongong

This brief methodological paper reflects on the recent impact of settler colonial studies on the writing of Indigenous histories, and the (sometimes acrimonious) debates that have emerged over the claimed ‘dominance’ the field has achieved. I particularly pick up Kauanui’s observation that settler colonial studies must simultaneously engage Indigenous studies if it is to produce meaningful, useful scholarship. The paper also draws on a range of work in which I have observed the gulf that exists between colonial history and Indigenous studies and urged the need for historians in this field to engage much more directly with Indigenous studies scholarship. In this context I ask the questions: What does the framework of settler colonialism offer to understandings of Indigenous histories? And does settler colonial studies work as a stand-alone analytic?

Jane Carey is a senior lecturer in history and Co-Director of the Centre for Colonial and Settler Studies at the University of Wollongong. Her work spans across settler colonial, women’s and Indigenous histories. She is the editor of several collections including Re-Orienting Whiteness (Palgrave, 2009), Creating White Australia (Sydney University Press, 2009), and (with Jane Lydon) Indigenous Networks: Mobility, Connections and Exchange (Routledge, 2014). She is currently completing a monograph on the history of Australian women and science and is engaged in ongoing research examining Indigenous engagements with western science. She is a settler currently living on Dharug land.

Panel 2: Mobilities and Biographies

A Biography or Life History of the Auridh Mask
Leah Lui-Chivizhe, University of Sydney

In July 1836 a large turtle shell mask was stolen from its keeping place on Auridh in the central Torres Strait. Within months the mask, which had been adorned over many years with human skulls, sea shells and coated with red ochre, was deposited with the Australian Museum in Sydney. The skulls had been identified as both European and ‘native’. How the mask became part of the Museum’s collection and the inclusion of the skulls of Europeans reflect nineteenth century settler colonialism in northern Australia as well as Islander responses to the intrusions of outsiders. In settler narratives of the mask’s removal, Islanders are sidelined as ‘savage natives’, the indiscriminate takers of heads and the makers of a ‘gruesome trophy’. Absent is a narrative that considers the nature and complexities of Islanders’ relationships with each other and the objects they made and used.

This presentation explores what a biography or life history of the Auridh mask can reveal about the material and spiritual pasts of Torres Strait people.

Leah Lui-Chivizhe researches in Indigenous histories with a focus on Torres Strait material and cultural histories and performance. Her current project is on a nineteenth century ethnographic and natural history collection and how Islanders might engage with the collection for remembering and performing history. It’s envisaged that further work with this material will document Islander ecological knowledges and stories of adaptation and climate change. Other research interests include settler colonialism in Oceania, and specific to Torres Strait; ancestral remains in Islander and museum contexts; gendered knowledge and labour history.

Voyagers from the Havai‘i Diaspora, 1760s-1850s
Kate Fullagar, Macquarie University

Between the mid-eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries, people from the eastern Pacific experienced a second wave of super-voyaging that resembled the epic voyages of their ancestors from the western Pacific some 600-1000 years earlier. These modern voyages were to parts of the Pacific outside their own “Polynesian triangle” and sometimes even to places outside the Pacific altogether. They numbered around 15,000 individuals. This paper looks at the experiences and meanings of a few exemplars.  It takes a deliberately biographic and comparative approach in order to address the pertinent recent critique by Indigenous scholar Kealani Cook, who warns against the continued emphasis on studying Pacific peoples in relation to European imperialists. Doing so, Cook insists, has ‘naturalized empire’ and, furthermore, ‘makes it very difficult to truly envision an [Indigenous] future without empire.’ Even when done to celebrate Indigenous resistance, such work can ‘still reify both the normality of those relationships and the political borders created by such relationships.’ The voyages of the “second Havai‘i diaspora” is a relevant case in point; in many ways it was seen to be intimately tied to the new European presence in the Pacific, but looking at particular whole-life exemplars in close relation to one another can instead de-dramatise the means of the voyage – the European role – and re-centre the deeper Indigenous background to it.

Kate Fullagar is a historian of the eighteenth-century world, particularly the British Empire and the many Indigenous societies it encountered. Her interest in comparative indigenous history focuses on the eastern Pacific (Polynesia), the American southeast (esp. Cherokees), and the Eora of today’s Australia.  She is the author of The Savage Visit (University of California Press, 2012), and the editor (with Michael McDonnell) of Facing Empire: Indigenous Experiences in a Revolutionary Age (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018). Her second monograph, The Warrior, the Voyager, and the Artist, Is forthcoming with Yale University Press. She is a settler living on Darug land.

A Little Whare in Sydney, Australia
Innez Haua, Macquarie University

One in five Māori now lives in Australia, and the number of Australian-born Māori is increasing, yet most conversations around Māori in relation to indigeneity and identity tend to assume that Aotearoa, New Zealand is the only site of Māori experiences and history. This presentation focuses on a little carved whare, which was built in Sydney, Australia in 1976. The little whare draws attention to the rootedness of the Australian Māori diaspora within Indigenous lands in Australia and the ensuing uneasy entanglement of indigeneity, migration, colonisation and identity. Examination of how a little whare came to be in Sydney, illuminates aspects of Australian social and political environments in the 1970s and the self-perception of the Australian Māori identity. Tracing the construction of the little whare invites broader discussions around intersecting indigeneity, histories, encounters, peoples, places and cultural expression.

Innez Haua is a descendent of the Ngāi Tāmanuhiri and Ngāti Porou iwi, Aotearoa who lives and works on Dharug Country, Australia. She is a PhD candidate in Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University, Sydney and her research includes Indigenous diasporas with a focused interest in the Māori diaspora of Australia.

Panel 3: Indigenous-Settler Relations/Futurism, Haunting and Artifactuality in Aboriginal Fiction and Film

Sharing Histories and Pasts on the Bundian Way
Jodie Stewart, University of Wollongong

The Bundian Way project is an initiative of the Eden Local Aboriginal Land Council (LALC) on the far south coast of New South Wales, Australia. Aboriginal Elders and activists working on the project are restoring an Aboriginal pathway, that stretches from the coast to the high country. Aboriginal Elders and activists hope to open the pathway to Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people as a ‘shared history pathway’. Eden LALC Chairperson BJ Cruse stated that ‘today’s shared history is mainly Aboriginal people sharing with government and sharing the pathway itself’. A history of ‘sharing’ that is often initiated by Indigenous people and not reciprocated by settler Australians is a fundamental part of the history of the project itself. Drawing on qualitative research undertaken for my PhD thesis, I analyse non-Indigenous responses to Indigenous cultures of sharing on the Bundian Way. I argue that for the non-Indigenous people that I interviewed, Indigenous sharing is often understood via the dominant paradigm of reconciliation which works to nullify the fundamental difference of Indigenous sovereignty. I explore these responses and ways of understanding and consider what this means to the project of decolonisation on the far south coast.

Jodie Stewart is a PhD candidate and tutor in the faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts at the University of Wollongong, Bega. Jodie is documenting the development of the Bundian Way project as an important and potentially recuperative public history initiative. Pathways into History: Experiencing the Contemporary Aboriginal Past on the Bundian Way, examines how various community members and visitors to the pathway, which stretches from the coast to the high country, think about, evaluate and understand the Aboriginal past via bodily and emplaced encounters with Aboriginal cultural landscapes. Jodie’s research is supported by the Australian Government RTP scholarship.

The Anti-festival: KALACC, vital politics and the artful business of making Kardiya hear and feel differently
Lisa Slater, University of Wollongong

The Kimberley Aboriginal Law & Culture Centre (KALACC) festival is an uncompromising event. It is driven by Traditional Owners’ knowledge and histories, on their terms and on country; it is not easily (if at all) translatable for Kardiya (non-Indigenous people).

In 2014 & 2017, funding bodies were invited to the festival for a five-day cultural immersion and knowledge program. They represented agencies that have significant influence in the Kimberley region or more generally Aboriginal Australia: funding bodies, resource industry or government agencies.

In this paper, I will discuss what Kardiya recognised, how they were affected and if the event reframed their perceptions of remote Aboriginal Australia. It is only too clear that they were willing to listen, but what could they hear? I argue that KALACC’s political strategy is one of ‘untranstability’: it is not about recognition or reconciliation, which continue to operate on settler colonial terms. But rather it is an invitation for non-recognition – multiplicity. I examine the philanthropic tour as working to intervene in, activate and expand the affective capacities of Kardiya. To feel, see and hear something other than white worry and the need for intervention. What happens when you throw well-meaning, settler Australians into imponderable spaces?

Lisa Slater is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Wollongong. She works in the disciplines of critical Indigenous, cultural and settler colonial studies. Her work is committed to challenging key concepts that inform policies and cultural politics. Her projects have a strong focus on remote and rural Australia. She has recently been published in Australian Feminist Studies, Settler Colonial Studies and The Pedagogies of Cultural Studies (Routledge)and her latest monograph is Anxieties of Belonging in Settler Colonialism, Routledge, 2019.

The Dust Swamp and the Plant People: Tenses of Climate Change in Aboriginal Speculative Fiction
Michael R. Griffiths, University of Wollongong

Could an ancient hand be responsible for this? The parched paper country looking as though the continent’s weather systems had been rolled like an ancient scroll from its top and bottom ends, and ping, sprung shut over the Tropic of Capricorn. The weather then flipped sides, swapping southern weather with that of the north, and this unique event of unrolling the climate upside down, left the entire continent covered in dust.[1]
—Alexis Wright, The Swan Book.

For Indigenous writers, recognizing the coming of climate change, knowledge and praxis are bound together. Meanwhile, the eliminationist logic of settler colonialism means that often not only has nothing changed for Indigenous people but, in this time of cataclysm the politics of slow death are also always already right here, right now.[2] Fredric Jameson once said that “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.”[3] Might we similarly suggest that it is easier to imagine the environmental devastation of the entire planet than the destruction of the settler state as an institution? In the passage above, Alexis Wright imagines just that, a dystopian Australia whose political order survives to manage a geography in crisis. How does envisioning the future—often as one of environmental devastation and ongoing dispossession—operate as a critique of the colonized present?

This paper examines fiction by Yugambeh writer Ellen Van Neervan, Noongar writer Claire Coleman, and Waanyi writer Alexis Wright: speculative, dystopian Aboriginal literary figurations which, I argue, operate to critique settler colonial structures of dispossession by projecting them into the future. Further, they project the way settler colonial structures often attend upon the governance of Indigenous land and lives even when the corporeal bodies of this state’s leadership have been desegregated and divsersified. As Mark Rifkin asks: if: “the space of the nation-state operates as an ongoing colonial imposition that denies Indigenous peoples’ histories, sovereignties, and self-determination, why would the concept of inherently shared time be more liberatory or less conducive to settler independence?”[4] For Rifkin, then, accounts of the temporal presence of Indigeneity in the now are necessary but, often, insufficient.

Yet resistance is also narrated in these texts. Van Neervan’s novella “Water,” refuses to narrate victory and total decolonization but, nonetheless, closes with an uprising against a future faux-multicultural settler order, narrated as it is, in the thick diegesis of present tense. In “Water,” the impulse to make a state of exception for Indigenous people and call it utopia comes through a weapon of war against the planet—uncannily present. Wright’s The Swan Book is similarly skeptical about settler utopias that could act as climate sanctuaries, foregrounding awareness of the degree to which these imaginaries are frequently predicated in dispossession. Through figuring imagined futures, these texts reveal the hypocrisies of dispossession present in the liberal policies of settler colonial governance extant today.

Theodor Adorno vested his aesthetics in intergenerational reaction to horror; his solution to such horrors as the holocaust (or settler genocides of Indigenous people) was to insist on aesthetic autonomy. He asserts that “[a]rtworks detach themselves from the empirical world, and bring forth another world, one opposed to the empirical world as if this other world too were an autonomous entity.”[5] Wright, Coleman and Van Neervan, too, “bring forth another world” that, in its autonomy illuminates the possibility of Indigenous resistance to the hegemony of settler time. This place on which we stand, like the places in these texts, always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

Michael R. Griffiths lectures in English and Writing at the University of Wollongong. He is the author of The Distribution of Settlement: Appropriation and Refusal in Australian Literature and Culture (UWAP 2018). His essays have appeared in Settler Colonial Studies, Discourse, Postcolonial Studies and The Journal of Commonwealth Literature and many other venues. Griffiths edited the book Biopolitics and Memory in Postcolonial Literature and Culture (Ashgate 2016) and coedited a special issue (with Bruno Cornellier) of Settler Colonial Studies titled: “Globalising Unsettlement.”

Aboriginal Gothic: Haunting and Artifactuality
Evelyn Araluen, University of Sydney

As Eve Tuck and C. Ree write in A Glossary of Haunting (2012), “Social life, settler colonialism, and haunting are inextricably bound; each ensures there are always more ghosts to return.” In recent years, ‘haunting’ has become a generative philosophy in the work of Indigenous researchers and creative practitioners, conceptualising radical forms of engagement and refusal of settler-colonial spaces and conventions. Aboriginal gothic – whether it operates as a mode, genre, or aesthetic in the work of Aboriginal filmmakers and writers, plays out these practices of haunting in resistance to what Michael Griffiths calls the artifactuality of settler-colonial imaginings of Aboriginality. This paper considers the slippage of haunting and artifactuality in the work of contemporary Aboriginal filmmakers Tracey Moffatt and Warwick Thornton.

Evelyn Araluen is a poet, researcher and educator working with Indigenous literatures at the University of Sydney, and an incoming co-editor of Overland Literary Journal. Born and raised on Dharug land she is a descendant of the Bundjalung nation.

[1] Alexis Wright, The Swan Book. Sydney: Giramondo, 2013, 17–8. Hereafter cited parenthetically in text.

[2] Scott L. Morgensen, “The Biopolitics of Settler Colonialism: Right Here, Right Now,” in Settler Colonial Studies 1, 1 (2011): 52–76; Laurie Berlant, “Slow Death (Sovereignty, Obesity, Lateral Agency),” in Critical Inquiry 33, 4 (2007): 754–80;

Nichols, Robert. “As the U. S. Oligarchy Expands its War, Middle Class White People Must Take a Side,” Abolition, Jan. 31, 2017; Nixon, Rob, Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor. Cambridge, MA: Harvard U. P., 2013.

[3] Fredric Jameson, “Future City,” in New Left Review 21 (2003): 65–79, 76.

[4]  Mark Rifkin, Beyond Settler Time: Temporal Sovereignty and Indigenous Self-Determination. Durham: Duke U. P., 2017, viii.

[5] Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory. Trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor. Minneapolis: U. of Minnesota P., 1997, 1.