Between the states of exile and migration: On the governance of getting stuck in Adelaide
Paper short abstract:
This paper is an enquiry into displacement and placemaking at a time of shifting governance. It tracks the creative and energetic moves of a woman from Central Australia as she attempts to navigate the new terms of her metropolitan life.
Paper long abstract:
When the state in relatively benevolent mode is replaced by a more 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 might be found elsewhere. This paper is an ethnographic enquiry into a contemporary situation of displacement at a time when the Australian federal 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 Central Australia as she attempts to navigate the new terms of her metropolitan life. Existential crisis and excruciating frustration are common, as possibilities for transformation meet the realities of protracted unemployment, poverty and punitive welfare regimes. In the absence of extended kin and associated place-based forms of ontological anchorage, negotiating the shifting terms of state surveillance is a high stakes game. Travelling with Nungarrayi we glimpse subtle differences and gruelling continuities experienced by Aboriginal people as they move between differently governed jurisdictions. Oscillating between the crushing state of limbo and the euphoric promise of new found freedoms; between interactions with case workers who act like state agents and those who do not; between the coercive capture of paperwork and the unopened letters addressed to persons long since moved on, we glimpse differently ordered forms of value, ways of relating to places and splinters of hope for a differently ordered future.
States beyond states