Time, Indigeneity, and Peoplehood: The Postcolony in Australia

  • Citation: Moses, A. Dirk. "Time, indigeneity, and peoplehood: The postcolony in Australia." Postcolonial studies 13.1 (2010): 9-32.
    • Topics:
    • IR Theories
    • Keywords:
    • Australia
    • language of decolonization
    • indigeneity
    • Aborigines
    • Australians

Despite many differences between settler colonial states and the African successor states of the European empires, some important parallels are identifiable in the debates among their black intelligentsias. If in Africa and Australia the language of decolonization was (and often remains) suffused by the grammar of cultural distinctiveness, anti-imperial resistance and liberation, new voices can be heard that are challenging these terms of political struggle and collective self-understanding. The similarity of mood and sobriety among these revisionist intellectuals, and the co-temporality of their work, has not been registered so far. This article explores the dilemma of self-critique, solidarity, and group survival by reading the intense Australian Aboriginal discussion about ‘Indigeneity’ through the lens of Achilles Mbembe’s critique of postcolonial African states. For the past 15 years, and especially in his book The Postcolony, the Cameroonian philosopher has been advancing a highly original auto-critique of African black racial identity and nationalism that tries to avoid the trap of exculpating colonialism and confirming the prejudices of white racists. The article suggests that most Indigenous Australian intellectuals are unlikely to find Mbembe’s style of post-racialized identity intellectually interesting or politically useful because the status of Aborigines as a tiny minority in a settler society calls forth the very language of survival and autochthonous authenticity that he and others seek to surmount. Dissident voices find little resonance while the experience of attack and disintegration is intense.

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