sarah maddison on indigenous identity, authenticity, and the structural violence of settler colonialism


Sarah Maddison, ‘Indigenous identity, ‘authenticity’ and the structural violence of settler colonialism’, Identities (iFirst 2013).

In many ways, the structural violence of settler colonialism continues to dominate the lived experience of Indigenous populations, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in contemporary Australia. One aspect of this structural violence concerns the regulation of Indigenous identity, today perpetuated through state monitoring of the ‘authenticity’ of Aboriginal people. This article argues that the contest over Indigenous identity perpetuates a form of symbolic political violence against Indigenous people. It considers the ways in which structural violence against Indigenous identity has featured in Australia’s settler colonial regime and examines the particular violence faced by urban-dwelling Aboriginal people, who endure much contemporary scrutiny of the ‘authenticity’ of their Indigeneity. As a case study, the article examines the symbolic violence associated with a particular legal case in Australia and, in light of this analysis, concludes that settler colonies could make a decolonising gesture by legislating for the protection of Indigenous identity.

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