Misadventures with aboriginalism

Terry Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For 30 years the dominant approach to Aboriginal affairs in Australia has been to support cultural recovery and accommodate cultural difference in the expectation that this will enhance Aborigines' and Torres Strait Islanders' equality as citizens. This approach has been driven by a dialectic of progressivist desire to ameliorate the effects of earlier colonialist policy and Aboriginalist discourse that assumes isolable cultures, unitary identities and uni-directional causes of marginalisation. That discursive formation, once counter to dominant colonialist discourse, has now itself become normative, internally repressive, counter-productive and resistant to change. This is the national misadventure with Aboriginalism. This paper argues that this unexpected development is a product of the national governing attempt to gain control through public policy that is inadequate to Aborigines' contemporary lived reality of interculturality, post-ethnicity and political agency. It uses an indicative case study and an analysis of the national misadventure to propose a deliberative intercultural approach to public policy in respect of Aborigines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)423-441
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Identities
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


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