“Need I Repeat?: Settler colonial biopolitics and postcolonial iterability in Kim Scott’s Benang,”
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Settler Australia is increasingly conscious of the need to redress the material consequences of its colonial history and to symbolically commemorate related injustices. The dialectic between symbolic and material politics may appear to render either as incommensurate poles. Nonetheless, in the Australian context, this apparent incommensurability raises the specters of the long-term derision of symbolism by former Prime Minister John Howard. To raise such questions as the materiality of redress and of its necessary relation to the symbolism of mourning and reconciliation implies questioning the very language of raising in the context of the policy of assimilation. In the above epigraph, Nyoongar novelist Kim Scott begins to do just that. Scott's text suggests that the covert regulatory function underlying the "progressive thoughts" of Australia's settler colonial regime is intrinsically linked to its "animal husbandry" enfolding of racial difference into the biopolitics of physical anthropology. The meaning ascribed to repetition raises the stakes for the settler colonial nation's self-assertion as an unquestionably postcolonial multicultural liberalism. This is especially so since, as Scott makes clear, direct medical and sexual regulation of indigenous people also underlay the "progressive" policy of assimilation.