Instrumentalities of the Settler State 3c - Whitewashing the Gendered and Sexual Violence of Settler Law and Literature


Whitewashing the Gendered and Sexual Violence of Settler Law and Literature

Five people sit on a stage behind a table. Projected text behind them reads 'Panel 1: Responses to the Deathscapes Site: Safdar Ahmed, Bronwyn Carolson, Maria Giannacopoulos, Hannah McGlade. Moderator: Chris Cunneen'. To their right is a large framed photo of Uncle Ray Jackson, a bouquet of flowers and other memorabilia.

[imagecaption] Professor Bronwyn Carlson speaking at the Deathscapes Launch, Gadigal Country (Sydney), 2019. Video available on Youtube. [/imagecaption]


In this video, Professor Bronwyn Carlson, Head of the Department of Indigenous Studies, Macquarie University, talks about past and contemporary settler violence against Aboriginal women.

Discussing the case of an Aboriginal woman who died in custody after experiencing a history of domestic violence and criminalisation, Carlson describes how: ‘when the Aboriginal woman was brought before the judge, he said to her: “Your Aboriginality won’t be used as a defence in my court.”‘ She continues: ‘I’ve really never forgotten that because I thought: Wow, you’ve literally just wiped out this woman’s entire identity and history, which is linked to all of that violence. The fact that she was an Aboriginal woman was the reason for all of those things that had happened to her. Because if she’d been a non-Indigenous woman, she would have been able to seek help and attract help in a much different way.’

Carlson also underscores the white normalisation of settler violence against Indigenous women, reading from an excerpt by Xavier Herbert, considered ‘one of the elder statesmen of Australian literature’ and awarded the prestigious Miles Franklin prize. In the text that she quotes, Herbert matter-of-factly describes how the men of the pearling industry in Broome would abduct Aboriginal women, use them as divers, rape them and, when they became pregnant, throw their bodies overboard. Carlson concludes that: ‘The killing of Aboriginal women has a long history, a long-revered history where the colonial perpetrators of this violence are revered in their actions.’


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