Anxieties of Belonging in Settler Colonialism

Lisa Slater

My work examines Indigenous-settler relations, in all of its messy, complex materiality.
Currently there are two key aspects of my work. Firstly, I explore what influences policy-
makers, such as government and non-government agencies, industry and ‘progressive’
settlers engagement with Indigenous Australians, and how these driving forces play out in
concrete local forms. Secondly, I examine how Indigenous people utilize cultural initiatives
to negotiate and contest settler colonialism and reassert their sovereignty and cultural
practices. One domain in which I explore these questions is contemporary Aboriginal
cultural initiatives, primarily festivals. I ask how are solutions to social problems, wellbeing
and the future differently imagined? How do these events challenge and change broader
Australia’s understanding of Indigenous lives? Aboriginal cultural initiatives provide a rich
focus because ‘Aboriginal culture’ is both celebrated and problematized by settler
Australia, but rarely understood on Indigenous terms.

I am currently writing a monograph, Anxieties of Belonging in Settler Colonialism
(forthcoming Routledge, 2018), which investigates the cultural politics of ‘recognition’ and
‘equality’ by analysing what ‘well-intentioned’ settler Australians see and feel when they
interact with Aboriginal people. My particular interest is in the anxiety that arises when
settlers are confronted with what they perceive as politics, when they wanted to learn
about ‘culture’. I ask why does Aboriginal political will continue to provoke and disturb?
How does settler anxiety shape and inform public opinion and political solutions to
Indigenous inequality and issues of social justice?