Publication Details

Probyn-Rapsey, F. (2007). Paternalism and complicity: or how not to atone for the 'Sins of the Father'. Australian Literary Studies, 23 (1), 92-103.


The cultural politics of Australian colonialism revolve around discourses of paternalism and the ' protection' of Aboriginal people. Understanding how paternalism reproduces itself transgenerationally, and between whites and Aboriginal people, between subordinated groups, between women, is one way to approach its limits. Starting with this premise, I examine the ways in which paternalism reproduces itself, such that even today white paternalistic attitudes towards Aboriginal people and culture are pervasive. I focus here on Mary Ellen Jordan' s Australian memoir Balanda: My Year in Arnhem Land (2005), which is critical of, and complicit with, the biopolitical power of paternalism and its accompanying rhetoric of 'protection ' . I read this memoir within the context of a broader, shifting genealogy of protection within Australian cultural history, teasing out some of the implications of the capacity of paternalism to mutate and to retain its cultural and political influence.