Settler colonialism is continuous: Daniel Black, ‘Settler-Colonial Continuity and the Ongoing Suffering of Indigenous Australians’, e-International Relations, 2021

04May21

Abstract: Central to the discourse of contemporary indigenous affairs is the notion that settler-colonialism is an unfortunate historical event that has since ceased. Such assumptions fail to recognise the enduring settler-colonial structures that continue to shape the oppression of modern indigenous Australians. It is precisely this notion that this essay seeks to deconstruct. The present essay will argue that the experience of indigenous Australians has been shaped throughout history, and continues to be shaped in the present by what will be referred to as the settler-colonial ‘logic of elimination.’In making this argument, the basic precepts of settler-colonial theory will first be sketched, in which it will be contended that the concept of settler-colonialism is best viewed as a continuous structure aimed at expropriating and maintaining control over land, rather than as a concluded genocidal event that exists only in the history books. Tracing Australian settler-colonialism in chronological stages, the argument will then follow that by denying sovereignty to the ‘uncivilised native’ in the pre-colonial stages, the ‘civilised settler’ eliminates the native first in a notional sense within international law discourse, thus justifying the subsequent colonial advancement into the ‘discovered’ territory. This notional elimination manifested in a particularly potent form in Australia – by designating the entire continent as ‘uninhabited land’, British colonial authorities essentially eliminated indigenous Australians under international law as if they had never existed in the first place – thus bypassing the legal requirement of treaty-making. It shall then be argued that the frontier era, characterised by overt violence and forced spatial segregation, can be best understood as the first stage of actual elimination aimed at clearing the native from his land. It will then be submitted that assimilationism continued this structural process of elimination by removing the growing population of ‘half-caste’ children from their tribes and recategorizing them within white settler-society.



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