Becoming? What if one already is? Cameo Dalley, ‘Becoming a Settler Descendant: Critical Engagements with Inherited Family Narratives of Indigeneity, Agriculture and Land in a (Post)Colonial Context’, Life Writing, 18, 3, 2021, pp. 355-370


Abstract: Using personal reflections from my experiences as a descendant of settlers, I undertake an autoethnographic interpretation of how my inherited family history of agriculture and memory structures my
relationship to land. Agricultural identities have been foundational to the formation of the Australian nation and in the metamorphosis of settlers into settler descendants. Memories formed by settlers and inherited by their descendants as family stories become a consubstantive force in the determination of relationships to land. At the same time, I recognise how the dispossessory overtures of these sentiments continue the erasure of autochthonous Indigenous belonging by the colonial settler state. Thus, my work critically engages with how an
autoethnographic approach to issues of settler colonial identity in the historical past might stifle or conversely open up critical engagement with ethical responsibility to Indigenous peoples in the political present. This analysis reflects on the broader society’s proclivity toward agricultural identities, borne out in the recent debates surrounding Indigenous author Bruce Pascoe’s book. Dark Emu [Pascoe, Bruce. 2014. Dark Emu. Broome: Magabala Books monograph], which positions Indigenous people as Australia’s first agriculturalists. These trends follow scholarship that seeks to expose normative and racist beliefs about Indigenous others through attentiveness to troubled colonial history.

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