In relation to Aboriginal Laws and the Sensible Transcendental: Watson and Irigaray
Rebecca Hill

August 28, 2018, 12:00pm - 1:30pm
PHI research group, Deakin University

221 Burwood Hwy
Burwood 3125

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities


Deakin University



This paper strives to draw out some fruitful resonances between the relational sense of Being at the heart of Aboriginal Laws as they are articulated by Irene Watson and the “concept” of the sensible-transcendental that is fundamental to Luce Irigaray’s thought.

Aboriginal Laws are not like the Western conception of sovereignty. Where the Western sense of sovereignty designates the exclusive ownership of a territory or of some thing or of someone “I” hold mastery over, Aboriginal Laws emanate from relationality. For Watson, relationality “… is embedded in Indigenous knowledge systems; “knowledge belongs to a people and the people belong to a landscape” (2015, 13). Australian Indigenous ontologies elaborate an interconnectedness of country, ancestors, totems, people, animals, plants, rivers, oceans, the wind; an interconnectedness of all “things.” Strictly speaking, there are no “things” that can be isolated and counted in quantitative terms. The Aboriginal sense of country is not a mass that can be broken up into property or instrumentalised through the technologies of man; country is the common spirit-body to which a people belong.

Irigaray’s sensible-transcendental is crucial to her ethics of sexuate difference. This strange “concept” is a synecdoche for something that remains essentially in excess of symbolisation. As I read Irigaray, the sensible-transcendental designates the relationship of a sexed subject to non-totalisable becoming of “nature” (the Common Mother). The Common Mother is not a thing, nor something “we” get a grip on, for it is the whole of time-space (of infinite dimensions) that are beyond “our” understanding. The Common Mother remains open and in becoming. The sensible-transcendental is a threshold to this mysterious “whole” of which ‘I’ as a woman am a tiny aspect. This threshold is embodied in my flesh, in the rhythm of my breath, in the myriad of relationships I have with other bodies surrounding me (male, female, trans, human or inhuman). Acknowledging the sensible-transcendental is what situates ‘me’ in place, in a specific milieu. 

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