The Necessary Refinement of Aboriginal Identity Politics

Terence Moore

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    Today, once distinct ethno-religious societies and cultures routinely intersect and change each other. As they become less actually distinct, their members often discursively re-create cultural and identity distinctiveness, and so in multicultural nations can drift to intolerance of the other and resistance to inclusion, and contribute to wider social division. In this article I argue that the public policy settings that have prevailed in the human rights era have influenced this eventuality in the Aboriginal case, by over-emphasising socio-cultural particularity. In the Aboriginal case, policies, programs and practices have begun to fetishise particularity and difference from others, and to neglect what is shared with them, and in the process fostered essentialist ideal types and performative difference. This article works to conceive an approach that retains respect for cultural difference but manages the tensions of superdiversity without inciting radicalism. Key to this balancing act is to maintain an eye to Aborigines’ difference from other Australians alongside an eye to their coexistent sameness to them. The aim of the paper is to indicate potential directions of policy reforms that acknowledge difference but undermine the grounds of fundamentalist difference, in part by focusing on the nuances of individuals’ multiple, dialogical and fluid distinctions. The intent is to improve Aborigines’ capacity to retain cultural difference and to at the same time engage as equals.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)65-84
    Number of pages19
    JournalThe Journal of the European Association for Studies of Australia
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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