Publication Details

Slater, L. 2009, 'Beyond celebration: Australian Indigenous festivals, politics and ethics', in S. Boyd, A. Gil & B. Wong (eds), Culture, Politics, Ethics: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, InterDisciplinary Press, Oxford, UK. pp. 171


In contemporary Australia public discourse about Indigeneity in general and remote Indigenous communities in particular has been circumscribed by a climate of crisis. This has awakened mainstream Australia to vast inequalities, but the discursive frame continues to disable, or severely limit, an engagement with Indigenous lived experience and values. It also protects non-Indigenous, primarily I speak of, white, settler, Australians from comprehending and taking responsibility for their/our role in re-producing Indigenous marginality. The very sovereignty of the good, white, liberal subject-citizen rests upon being the universal image of good and healthy. I argue that the resistance by white, settler Australians to relinquishing or questioning the ideal of the healthy citizen has negative material affects upon Indigenous lives. This paper is a part of a larger research project that examines the immediate and longer-term impacts of selected Australian Indigenous cultural festivals on community wellbeing.

Cultural festivals are public spaces where Indigenous people re-assert that they belong to a different and the same socio-political body. To ethically engage with one another we are responsible for our own flourishing whilst not depleting another’s life force. They are cultural-political spaces that challenge us to create a new ethics of cross-cultural engagement. I argue that they are public spaces in which Indigeneity cannot be assimilated or appropriated but rather where ‘we’ work toward new forms of relationality. An anti-colonial Australia in which we must proceed with uncertainty, feeling the pain and gain of history, the entanglements, threats, complexity and exclusions, the desire to be ‘them’ and ‘us’, to lose the self and never succeed sovereignty: to be enchanted and disenchanted by one another.

Link to publisher version (URL)

OInterDisciplinary Press