Author:Melinda Hinkson (Deakin University)
Paper short abstract:
A situation of displacement is explored amidst transformation in the Australian government's approach to remote Aboriginal people. One Aboriginal woman's navigation of her new metropolitan life involves wrestling between exilic states and place-based ways of being human.
Paper long abstract:
When the state in relatively benevolent mode is replaced by a coercive governance regime, what responses are available to governed subjects? One option is to leave the places where hard governance takes hold, acting on the state's own promise that better life prospects are to be found elsewhere. This paper explores a situation of displacement at a time when the Australian government is shifting the terms of its engagement with Aboriginal people of small remote towns. It tracks the creative and energetic moves of a highly competent Aboriginal woman from the Central Australian desert as she navigates the new terms of her metropolitan life. Existential crisis and excruciating frustration are common as dreams of transformation come up against the realities of protracted unemployment, punitive welfare regimes, and the prefigured expectations of others. Anxiety, rapid-paced movement and digital communication collide with bureaucratic containment, resulting in ontological circumstances that, following Henrik Vigh (2009) we might describe as 'motion squared'. Travelling with Nungarrayi, we glimpse subtle differences and gruelling continuities experienced by Aboriginal people as they move between differently governed jurisdictions. Oscillating between crushing limbo and the euphoric promise of new found freedoms, between starkly opposed exilic states (Malkki 1995; Coutin 2016; Khosravi 2017), this paper tracks an intimate and intense wrestling between differently ordered forms of value and place-based ways of being human.
De-exceptionalising displacement in times of crisis