Re-considering the Relationship Between Indigenous People and Violence
(Forthcoming) in J. Stubbs & S. Tomsen (Eds.) Australian Violence. Leichardt: Federation Press.
26 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2014
Date Written: 2014
For years prior to and following the significant work of the Australian National Committee on Violence (NCV), the subject of Australian Indigenous people and violence has attracted intense focus and debate. Some two and a half decades ago, the NCV report stressed the need to understand the complex nature of the causes of violence in contemporary Indigenous communities. Yet debates continue to be dominated by colonising discourses of pathology, tribalism and barbarity, or simplistic interpretations of the impact of colonialism, which is usually reduced to frontier violence.
Moving beyond the restricted focus on Indigenous peoples' so-called 'problem' with violence, this chapter seeks to provide a more nuanced and critical interpretation of the complex relationship between Indigenous people and violence. Building on the work of a range of Indigenous writers (ATSISJC 2011; Dodson 2003; Moreton-Robinson 2011; Watson 2009), and postcolonial (Said 1995; Spivak 1988) and decolonial theorists (Blagg 2008; Santos 2007; Quijano 2000), our discussion begins by re-centring the full meaning of colonial violence. Then, we consider how epistemic violence and the related disavowal of colonialism influences debates on Indigenous violence. The effects of these concerns on the colonial construction of the violent, pathological and inferior Indigenous Other are explained. We then consider Indigenous-identified and critical understandings of, and responses to the nature and source of the violence occurring in contemporary Indigenous communities. The continued denial of Indigenous knowledge and understandings of violence is illustrated through an examination of the Northern Territory Emergency Response (the 'Intervention'). We conclude with a consideration of the fundamental importance of reflexivity and of the need to foreground critical and Indigenous understandings of violence.
Keywords: Indigenous people; Violence; Colonialism; Epistemic Violence
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