Settler-Colonial Violence and the ‘Wounded Aboriginal Child’: Reading Alexis Wright with Irene Watson (and Georgio Agamben)
Joanne Faulkner (University of New South Wales)

October 18, 2019, 2:30pm - 4:00pm
School of Philosophical, Historical, and International Studies, Monash University

Menzies Building, fifth floor, Room E561
20 Chancellor's Walk
Clayton, Melbourne 3800


Monash University


Abstract: Drawing on Alexis Wright’s novel The Swan Book and Irene Watson’s expansive critique of Australian colonial law, the paper locates within the settler-Australian imaginary the figure of the ‘wounded Aboriginal child’ as a site of contest between two rival sovereign logics: First Nations sovereignty, grounded in spiritual connection to land over tens of millennia, and white settler sovereignty, imposed over Indigenous peoples by means of physical, legal, and existential violence for just over 230 years. Through the conceptual landscape afforded by these writers, the paper explores how the arenas of juvenile justice and child protection stage an occlusion of First Nations sovereignty, as a disappearing of the ‘Aboriginality’ of Aboriginal children under Australian settler law. Giorgio Agamben's concept of potentiality is also drawn upon to analyse this sovereign difference through the figures of Terra Nullius and 'the child.'

Bio: Dr Joanne Faulkner is ARC Future Fellow at Macquarie University. She researches the ways in which representations of childhood circulate in Australia to manage anxieties about national identity and history; and, particularly, the specific meanings attributed to Aboriginal children as sites of mediation, intervention, and impasse between settler-colonial and First Nations peoples. Her most recent book is Young and Free: [post]colonial ontologies of childhood, memory, and history in Australia (Rowman & Littlefield International, 2016).

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