White Spaces Network

Current Events

Rountable on Indigeneity, Whiteness and Race: Forced Essentialization: Racist Violence, White Subjectivity and the Indigenous Body

Tuesday 10th June 2014, 1:30-3:30pm – LHRI Seminar Room 1, University of Leeds
Aileen Moreton-Robinson, David Singh, Alissa Macoun, and Chris Anderson

Abstracts and Bios

Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Moderator 

Dr Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Professor of Indigenous Studies and Director of the National Indigenous Research and Knowledges Network and Indigenous Studies Research Network, Queensland University of Technology

David Singh: Racial Violence Against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples: A Black British Perspective

The hackneyed repetition that ‘race is a social construct’ and the stress on admixture, hybridity and creolization as marking never complete identities, is typical of theory embracing the Enlightenment ideal of progress. The march of theory however marginalizes the phenomenological and ontological dimensions of ‘race’, where the body remains primary marker of ‘race’.

This paper will highlight the findings of the neglected ‘Report of National into Racist Violence in Australia’ and the National Report into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody to examine the ways in which Indigenous bodies are subjected to violent racist acts. The paper argues that forced essentialisation marks violent racism and in doing so incapacitates and subdues the Indigenous body’s exercise of sovereignty. In so arguing it will become clear the ‘raced’ bodies of the Indigenous other serve as handmaidens for a virulent form of possessive, white subjectivity that continues to underpin the colonizing enterprise.

Dr David Singh, Research Fellow, Indigenous Studies Research Network, Queensland University of Technology, Australia, david.singh@qut.edu.au

Ailssa Macoun: Between Children and Savagery: White Innocence and Australia’s Northern Territory Intervention

In 2007, the Australian government announced a program of coercive government and military intervention in Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory, claiming this was in response to a national emergency arising from Aboriginal child abuse.  The ensuing public debate about the nature, value and future of Aboriginal people and communities in Australia, was explicitly racialised; the program required the suspension of the Commonwealth’s Racial Discrimination Act to enable increasing external control and surveillance of Aboriginal lands, communities, lives and bodies.

This paper traces recurring colonial images of the Aboriginal child, the Savage and the Primitive as they were deployed by white architects and supporters of the Northern Territory Intervention to justify and explain their program.  These discourses emphasise white innocence, deploying racist constructions of Aboriginality to licence ongoing colonial violence and reassert the legitimacy, neutrality and sovereignty of the white settler state.  White advocates of intervention construct themselves as standing between Indigenous children and a primitive or savage Aboriginality. Institutional and individual settler accountability for abuse is deferred and contained through the responsibility to develop the primitive and civilise the savage. Intervention advocates frame their program as extending settler authority over a troubling black terrain, controlling, containing and redeeming Aboriginal bodies and spaces through inclusion in the white nation’s moral order.

Dr Alissa Macoun, Research Fellow, National Indigenous Research and Knowledges Network, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

Chris Andersen: Race and the Erasure of Indigenous Peoplehood: Métis Beyond “Mixedness”

In Canada, virtually all scholarship relating to Aboriginal issues takes for granted three Aboriginal peoples: First Nations (formerly termed Indians), Inuit (formerly termed Eskimos) and Métis (formerly termed Halfbreeds and Métis). Despite their virtually unquestioned legitimacy, these terms are as much administrative as they are autonymical and as such, are heavily shaped by Canada’s racialized histories. Among those Indigenous peoples most heavily impacted by this racialization has been the Métis, whose post-contact origins are seen as a metric of lack of authenticity vis-à-vis other Indigenous peoples. In this talk, I wish to demonstrate how racially inflected administrative practices created and sustained an apparently natural divide between Metis and other Indigenous peoples based around a presumptive “mixedness” (i.e. Métis-as-mixed) and, moving beyond these racial logics, my presentation will seek to explore a non- (or at least, less) racialized understanding of Indigeneity that presents a new formulation of Métis peoplehood.

Professor Chris Andersen is the Director of the Rupertsland Centre for Metis Research in the Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta.

Public Lecture: The Possessive Logics of a White Colonising Aesthetic: Representations of Indigenous Children in the Work of Brownie Downing

Tuesday 10th June 2014 4:30pm Wine Reception, 5:30pm Lecture – Business School Western LT (G.01)
Aileen Moreton-Robinson

The twentieth century marked the availability of leisure to the masses, an increase in private property ownership and proliferation of commodities for consumption, acquisition and collection. In particular, after World War II, the home became the primary site where personal objects were available to be used, stored, collected and displayed. The home is itself the private realm of our intimate relationships to objects represented as symbols of security, as expressions of self-concept and as signs of one’s connection to, or differentiation from other members of society (Kulka 1996; Miller 1998; Sturken 2007). As inanimate objects they come to represent and be imbued with different and multiple forms of meaning operating socially as well as discursively. In this paper I argue that the interpretive dimension of representation involves re-presentation; a discursive process that is operationalised by a white possessive logic to bring things into existence. I explore how white possession manifests as a colonising aesthetic in the artwork of Viola Edith Downing, otherwise known as ‘Brownie Downing’, who is considered to be one of Australia’s most recognised and popular commercial artists of the twentieth century.

Postgraduate Masterclass on Indigeneity and Whiteness

Wednesday June 11th Lunch (provided) 1-2pm, Masterclass 2-4pm, LHRI Seminar Room 1
Led by Aileen Moreton-Robinson, David Singh, Alissa Macoun, and Chris Anderson

Spaces are limited for this event, and postgraduate students will be prioritized. RSVP to Say Burgin (s.burgin@leeds.ac.uk). Once your attendance is confirmed, we will send you the readings.

Extradition: The Question of Citizenship in the War on Terror

7th March 2014

Who has the ‘privilege’ of citizenship? Should it ever be revoked, and does the War on Terror justify this? A screening of the 2012 Yale Law Project film “The Worst of the Worst: A Portrait of a Supermax Prison”, followed by discussion with a panel of esteemed activists, commentators and writers. This free event is being held by JUST West Yorkshire in conjunction with the Free Talha Ahsan Campaign.

Click for full event details on the JUST West Yorkshire Website

Facebook Event Page

Bradford Students Union, Lecture Theatre 0.51, 5:30pm


The Stuart Hall Project

26th Feb 2014

A screening of the John Akomfrah documentary on the life and works of a seminal cultural theorist. Covers themes of memory, belonging, culture and politics in a 20th century context.

Click to watch trailer

Leeds University, Business School, Maurice Keyworth SR (1.15), 6 – 8:30 pm




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