Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Details

Griffiths, M. R. (2010). “Need I Repeat?: Settler colonial biopolitics and postcolonial iterability in Kim Scott’s Benang,”. In N. O''Reilly (Eds.), Postcolonial Issues in Australian Literature (pp. 157-183). Amherst, N.Y.: Cambria Press.


Settler Australia is increasingly conscious of the need to redress thematerial consequences of its colonial history and to symbolically commemoraterelated injustices. The dialectic between symbolic and materialpolitics may appear to render either as incommensurate poles.Nonetheless, in the Australian context, this apparent incommensurabilityraises the specters of the long-term derision of symbolism by formerPrime Minister John Howard. To raise such questions as the materialityof redress and of its necessary relation to the symbolism of mourningand reconciliation implies questioning the very language of raising inthe context of the policy of assimilation. In the above epigraph, Nyoongarnovelist Kim Scott begins to do just that. Scott's text suggests thatthe covert regulatory function underlying the "progressive thoughts" ofAustralia's settler colonial regime is intrinsically linked to its "animalhusbandry" enfolding of racial difference into the biopolitics of physicalanthropology. The meaning ascribed to repetition raises the stakes forthe settler colonial nation's self-assertion as an unquestionably postcolonialmulticultural liberalism. This is especially so since, as Scott makesclear, direct medical and sexual regulation of indigenous people alsounderlay the "progressive" policy of assimilation.