contemporary comparative frontiers at swinburne


Swinburne Institute for Social Research

Democracy & Justice – Special Seminar Wednesday, 17 July, 13:00-15:00, BA912 (Hawthorn Campus)

‘Comparative Contemporary Frontiers’

Alex Young and Timothy Neale

Two brief papers followed by discussion

Discussant: Lorenzo Veracini

‘“Are Mexicans Indigenous?” Settler Colonialism as A Paradigm for The Study of The U.S.-Mexico Borderlands’, Alex Young, University of Southern California

Abstract: As the work of Australian settler colonial theorists has begun to make inroads into U.S. scholarship as a paradigm for understanding “Westward expansion,” one region of the U.S. has proven a consistent stumbling block is the Southwestern Borderlands. The site of multiple forms of imperial conquest, the political and cultural formations of the contemporary U.S.-Mexican borderlands stand as something of a palimpsest of competing colonialisms, troubling any attempt to imagine a clear binary between settler and indigenous. Indeed, in one of the most controversial recent monographs, Comanche Empire, Pekka Hämäläinen argues that we must recognize indigenous sovereignties as themselves capable of imperialism. In this paper I will give an overview of recent works of scholarship of the US borderlands in order to explore both how the history of the Southwestern borderlands might serve to trouble the often Manichean applications of settler colonial theory in the U.S. context, but also to consider how the insights of transnational settler colonial studies might serve as an important explanatory tool for some of the borderlands’ more persistent contradictions.

‘Wild Rivers, Wild Time: Resilient Frontiers and Cape York Peninsula’, Timothy Neale, University of Melbourne Abstract: Recently, the Queensland government has begun attempting to ‘replace’ the Wild Rivers Act 2005, a

catchment-based environmental regulation requiring development setbacks from designated waterways. Decried as ‘green tape’ hampering Indigenous futures in the far north, the Act provoked sufficient ire in Cape York Peninsula to attract the attention of federal opposition leader Tony Abbott and, in turn, the interest of several parliamentary inquiries. But under Premier Newman’s administration the Act still survives and has continued to enjoy broad support in the Gulf and Channel country. Why this disparity between regions? This paper suggests that the Wild Rivers controversy should be understood in the context of the persistent failure of the settler project in Cape York Peninsula – its having been, to quote Noel Loos, a site of ‘uncompleted colonisation’ – a failure that has both led to the entrenchment of ‘wildness’ as a constitutive value of the region and, more recently, its availability to claim under native title and Indigenous land legislation. A resiliently remote, ecologically ‘intact,’ comparatively depopulated and majority Indigenous region, the present uses of the Peninsula’s persistent ‘wildness’ places pressure upon binary conceptualisations of the settler- Indigenous problematic and opens up questions about the future of such regions within the settler-colonial nation state.

Biographical notes:

Timothy Neale is a PhD candidate in Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne, currently engaged in a project concerning Queensland’s Wild Rivers legislation. He has recently published papers in Australian Humanities Review and Griffith Law Review on this topic.

Alex Trimble Young is a Provost’s PhD fellow in the English department at the University of Southern California. His recent publications include an article on Deleuzian rhizomatics and the settler colonial imaginary in Western American Literature entitled ‘Settler Sovereignty and The Rhizomatic West’. With Erik Altenbernd, he is co-editing, a special issue of Settler Colonial Studies on the concept of the frontier in transnational history.

Lorenzo Veracini is at the Swinburne Institute for Social Research. His research focuses on the comparative history of colonial systems and settler colonialism. He has authored Settler Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview (2010). Lorenzo is managing editor of Settler Colonial Studies.

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