A politics of uncertainty: good white people, emotions & political responsibility



Publication Details

Slater, L. (2020). A politics of uncertainty: good white people, emotions & political responsibility. Continuum,


2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. My purpose is to consider the role that uncertainty might play in reimagining political responsibility in Australia. There is a growing body of scholarship that is re-examining what it might mean to be settler colonial and politically responsible. It urges settlers to not only comprehend their complicity in structures of violence and oppression-colonialism, environmental degradation, racial inequality, for example-but more so, to know how they are constituted by the racial logic of settler colonialism. In a sense, it is asking progressive settlers not to turn away from the uneven distribution of suffering, trauma and vulnerability towards the ease, certainty and satisfaction of much good white politics. I want to reflect upon how fundamental certainty is to the reproduction of settler colonialism. Or more so, the refusal of uncertainty, which is a denial of being implicated and the limitations of one's knowingness. To do so, I bring critical Indigenous studies and settler colonialism into conversation with studies of emotion and affect. If the white settler emotional economy stymies anti-racism-innocence, fragility, anxiety-then emotions are a site for ethical and political action. Doubt and uncertainty don't feel good, but they tell of other political possibilities, and ways to reform responsibility.

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