Archiving the Northern Territory Intervention in Law, and in the Literary Counter-Imaginary
Australian Feminist Law Journal [Vol. 40, Forthcoming]
17 Pages Posted: 28 May 2014 Last revised: 30 May 2014
Date Written: 2014
This article focuses on a figure archived in contemporary Australian law, a figure who is central to the state’s control of Aboriginal people. This figure, like her counterparts in earlier historical periods, is to be found in legislation and in case law, and in law’s supplementary genres, including welfare and indigenous policy, and Parliamentary second-reading speeches. This figure is the ‘abused Aboriginal child’, and she has been significant to the production of myths of the Australian nation-state, and to the rule of law. She is being used to justify the continued administration of Aboriginal communities, through simultaneously both the continuing suspension of the rule of law, and the violent instrumentalisation of law. This article examines the archive of the Northern Territory Intervention and subsequent Stronger Futures legislation, investigating the ways in which law’s violence masquerades as law’s care. I seek to explore the ways in which reading law as an archive opens up the possibility of a counter-archival practice that interrupts and disorients law’s claim to violent jurisdiction over Aboriginal people. The emphasis here is on reading law as archive — on taking up a position of readerly responsibility with respect to the practices of representation that constitute law’s archive, and on constructing counter-archival practices and imaginaries that resist and re-situate law’s authority. By way of example, I examine Alexis Wright’s most recent novel, The Swan Book (2013), which is read as an exemplary counter-archival text that interrupts law’s archival practices and claims.
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