Stories of the Nation's Continuing Past: Responsibility for Historical Injuries in Australian Law and Alexis Wright's Carpentaria
41 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2012
Date Written: October 28, 2012
Alexis Wright’s novel Carpentaria provides a deep condemnation of Australian contemporary law and politics, and an effective claim for social justice based on a critique of the dominant narratives that produce and support these laws and politics. It challenges the hierarchy of whose stories count in Australia, and how those stories come to matter. The novel’s interrogation of key narratives in law, and the practices of representation used to tell them, undermine versions of sovereignty, responsibility and subjectivity that privilege the ‘white nation’, offering a rich, Australian jurisprudence. The two central problematics to be examined here are sovereignty and responsibility. This article explores the ways in which the law has imagined Australian sovereignties — both the sovereignty of the white state and Indigenous sovereignties — and how Carpentaria provides a critique not only of the substance of these concepts of sovereignty, but also of the ways in which they have been represented. The article examines the ways in which sovereignty is central to contemporary formulations of responsibility for historical injuries, the ways in which critical historiography has intervened in the law’s dealings with the past through re-thinking sovereignty, particularly through the concept of redemption developed by Curthoys, Genovese and Reilly, and how this reading of Carpentaria engages with and further develops the redemptive move.
Keywords: Indigenous rights, sovereignty, Alexis Wright, Stolen Generations, historical injustice, redemption
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