Thinking for place in Australia: Owning the occupation

Rachel Joy


This paper takes as its starting point, the acknowledgement that the Indigenous nations of the continent of Australia have never ceded their sovereignty and as such the current nation-state of Australia constitutes a nation in occupation of other people’s lands. From a philosophical perspective, the Settler-citizens of the occupied territories of Australia therefore emerge into the world as occupier beings. As the inheritors of a still post-colonising nation, can contemporary Settler Australians find a way to live together ethically with the Indigenous population? This paper uses topologically based philosophical thinking of place in an effort to seek more expansive ways of thinking that might furnish us with productive questions about the meanings of place and identity in a settler-colonial context. I apply topological thinking to reveal the interrelated nature of Settler identity and the key constructs of settler-colonial Australia, the “possessive logics” of the political and legal systems that enact and maintain the occupation. The paper concludes with a call to thinking for place as a mode of acting in attentive awareness of the interests of a place as a whole, and in so doing realising an ethical relationship with both place and all the beings enfolded in it. Through recognising and relinquishing Occupier subjectivity, Settlers might begin to transform and decolonise themselves and engage in a process of becoming other than Occupier.


settler; place; identity

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