The white gaze and its artifacts: governmental belonging and non-indigenous evaluation in a (post)-settler colony
This essay takes a recent mass media event in Australia as an occasion to ask how governmental practices of looking at and evaluating racial ‘others’ move and transform between liberalism and late liberal moments. In particular, the article focuses on mass-mediated images of indigenous people and the rhetoric of settler subjects who arrogate the capacity to decide on these indigenous peoples’ mode of belonging. A series of conservative neoliberal articles written in criticism of ‘fair-skinned’ Aborigines appeared in Murdoch-controlled newspapers in 2011. While the debate which followed surrounded the status of free speech, little focus was given to the subtle mode of identity and collectivity claimed by the indigenous subjects and effaced in the articles. The essay argues that this lacuna reveals the pervasive return of physiognomic assumptions in the settler Australian imaginary by connecting the articles with popular writings from the mid-twentieth-century period of Aborigines administration. While in the era of self-determination, the essay argues, the state has become more savvy in its adjudication of complex durative modes of indigenous collectivity, the public sphere continues to retain racist practices of evaluation from former state practices.
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