Accomodating Indigenous wildfire sovereignty: Lachlan Beggs, Cameo Dalley, ‘Wildfire bureaucracy: The affective dimensions of state engagement with Indigenous peoples in southeast Australia’, Geoforum, 138, 2023, 103675


Abstract: In recent years settler governments have begun to seriously engage with Indigenous peoples’ fire and other ecological knowledges in the context of managing natural hazards and resources. In Australia, Aoteroa New Zealand, Canada and the United States, Indigenous peoples and their ecological knowledge have become increasingly involved in combating such naturally—and socially constructed—threats as wildfires, floods, and storms. Nevertheless, while there has been significant research into the sociocultural dimensions of Indigenous peoples’ ecological knowledges, until recently little analytic effort has been directed to understanding the other side of this intercultural interaction: what can be conceptualised as settler natural hazard management bureaucracies. Taking the emergence of government engagement with Indigenous peoples’ fire knowledge in the southeast Australian state of Victoria as a case study, this paper contributes to the nascent body of ethnographically informed research focusing on the interaction between state natural hazard bureaucracies and Indigenous peoples. We do so by asking what motivated this change in government interest in Indigenous peoples and their fire knowledge. Informed by engagement with experienced fire sector staff, our findings reveal the presence and importance of affect and other more-than-representational qualities that animate state engagements with Indigenous peoples and their cultural burning knowledge.

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