Jordana Rosenberg and Chi-ming Yang, ‘The Dispossessed Eighteenth Century’, The Eighteenth Century 55, 2-3 (2014).

This Introduction to our special journal issue is organized around the concept and lived history of dispossession. Its immediate occasion is provoked as much by our current, post-2008 economic crisis as by the legacy of domestic and imperial enclosures in the British Empire of the long eighteenth century. We trace recent debates on dispossession and settler colonialism to Marx’s writings on primitive accumulation and debt, alongside his eighteenth-century sources, with particular attention to the prominent role assigned to Asian states for Enlightenment theorists of absolutism and twenty-first century theorists of capitalism alike. To the extent that recent debates in political economy have centered on China and India as potential rival hegemons to U.S. power, we note that the specter of the “Asiatic” has shaped and continues to shape and disrupt Western chronologies of capitalist development. Moreover, the history of capitalist production—with its attendant crises and violent consolidations of power and resources—must be studied through the development of slavery and race. We argue that literary and materialist approaches to these interconnected phenomena can illuminate the ways in which capitalism’s baleful and bloodthirsty proscriptions have been discursively sedimented; so, too, have otherwise-occluded histories of resistance become aesthetically encoded. The perspicacity and the Eurocentrism of the longue durée approach toward the history of world economic change continue to confront historians and theorists alike, and it is this conversation between history and theory—across time and space—that we foreground here.

Rachel Busbridge, ‘On haunted geography: Writing Nation and Contesting Claims in the Ghost Village of Lifta’, Interventions (Published online 11 Jul 2014).

This essay explores the case of Lifta, a ‘ghost village’ located just outside of Jerusalem which has recently emerged as a poignant site of Israeli–Palestinian national contestation. The last remaining depopulated village from the 1948 Palestinian Catastrophe (al-Nakba), Lifta has been slated for ‘redevelopment’ since 2004: a plan that would see the village replaced by a luxury, Jewish-only residential and commercial complex. Employing the dual analytical lens of haunting and imagined geography, this essay examines Lifta as an instance of ‘haunted geography’ in which settler colonial attempts to write nation are always confronted by what is written underneath. Not only is Lifta a stark fissure in Israeli imagined geographies of nation, in that it speaks to an alternate geography which calls into question the former’s legitimacy, but also the attempt to Judaize Lifta has provoked the ‘ghosts’ of the past. These ghosts demonstrate both the past’s continuing legacy in the present and the impossibility of erasing Palestinian claims and memories. With counter-calls for Lifta to become a site of commemoration, I argue that the village has come to be representative of a reconciliatory futurity in Israel–Palestine. This reconciliatory futurity paradoxically derives from the demand to recognize and engage with past injustice; namely, the ongoing historical effects of the Nakba. In Lifta, then, that which haunts underneath becomes a landscape for reconciliation – and a space from which future possibilities of reconciliation may be landscaped.

Andrew Gunstone, ‘Indigenous Stolen Wages and Campaigns for Reparations in Victoria’, Indigenous Law Bulletin 12, 8 (2013).

During most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Australian governments developed a number of practices that ensured they  and their agencies controlled the wages, savings and benefits of Indigenous people. Today, these practices are known as the stolen wages practices. They have substantially impacted upon generations of Indigenous people and have been referred to as ‘slavery’. Many Indigenous people throughout Australia never received the monies owed to them, due to government mismanagement and fraud. The overall amount of wages, savings and benefits owed to Indigenous peoples throughout Australia is extremely substantial. Ross Kidd noted that ‘in Queensland alone, it has been estimated that as much as $500 million in today’s value was lost or stolen from Indigenous families’. This short paper focuses specifically on stolen wages in Victoria. The paper is divided into three sections. Firstly it outlines the research that has been conducted on the history of stolen wages practices in Victoria and the impact of these practices on Indigenous Victorians. This section also briefly discusses the level of research conducted on stolen wages practices in other states and territories. Secondly, it looks at the general political campaigns for justice for those impacted by stolen wages that are being conducted in some states and territories before examining the campaign being run by Indigenous Victorians and their supporters in more depth. Finally, the paper looks at the reparation schemes to address the legacies of stolen wages developed by the New South Wales (‘NSW’),
Queensland (‘Qld’) and Western Australian (‘WA’) governments and the failure of the Victorian government to develop a Victorian reparation scheme.

Samantha Jeffries and Philip Stenning, ‘Sentencing, Aboriginal Offenders: Law, Policy, and Practice in Three Countries’, Journal Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice/La Revue canadienne de criminologie et de justice pénale 56, 4 (2014).

The statistical “over-representation” of Aboriginal people in the criminal justice systems (especially prisons) of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand is not disputed. Sentencing is often perceived as a point in the criminal justice system where, potentially, the problem of Aboriginal over-representation could be addressed. During the last 20 years there have been robust discussions in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as to whether (and if so how) Aboriginality should be taken into account in sentencing. Reviewing and comparing the trajectories of these debates within the three countries during the last 20 years, in terms of legislative provisions, court decisions, and innovative sentencing practices, suggests that although the problem of over-incarceration is viewed similarly, sentencing responses have varied between nations, but have been equally unsuccessful in actually reducing rates of Aboriginal imprisonment.

Georgine Clarsen, ‘Pedaling Power: Bicycles, Subjectivities and Landscapes in a Settler Colonial Society’, Mobilities (Published online: 08 Jul 2014).

Mobilities across contested terrains are key to the formation of settler societies. This paper explores how safety bicycles were drawn into the Australian settler project at the turn of the twentieth century, just as the six independent colonies were federating into the Commonwealth of Australia. As recently imported objects, bicycles afforded settler men unprecedented mobility across remote landscapes that had not been smoothed by the infrastructures of the ‘old world’. In those years of national formation, bicycles were received as objects that could fill ‘empty’ land with people, things, activities and stories, at the same time as they generated masculine, settler subjectivities. A practice approach to settler mobilities helps to tease out the entanglements between bicycle ‘overlanding’ and two fundamental imperatives of settlerism: transforming indigenous places into settler places and creating ‘nativised’ settler subjectivities.

Edward Cavanagh, Review of The promise of land: undoing a century of dispossession in South Africa, in Social Dynamics (Published online: 07 Jul 2014).

As it does in the wider scholarship on land reform, along with policy documents and variously coloured ANC “papers” on land reform, talk of “colonialism” and “dispossession” (etc.) emerges so oddly and inconsistently in this book as to fail in conveying to the reader any analytical or historical specificity. A more serious shortfall, this inconsistency will render the collection less valuable to social scientists who take seriously the historical specificity of social structures and regime change. A few examples will suffice to illustrate my point: we are told to remember and redress “colonial land dispossession,” although that is never defined, and in the complete absence of discussion of any elements of pre-nineteenth-century history, we might assume that the editors mean “dispossession of land during British crown administration”; we see “colonialism and apartheid” coupled often, and even “colonial and apartheid strategies,” and “colonial and apartheid legacy,” which are coupled, one can only assume, to imply that the latter superseded the former, though neither are explicitly defined; we are told to hope for “an effective decolonisation of land,” albeit even in a “postcolonial” African state; we are told that “colonialists,” even “colonialists and the architects of apartheid” fluttered across nineteenth and twentieth centuries, who, we are left to wonder, were either settlers, London officials, local administrators or some terrifying hybrid born in late-colonial Natal (seriously); we are told about “the settler–colonial state” and its specific land reform dilemmas, albeit not to incorporate Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States of America into the framework (states which are all entirely absent from the “global” approach), but to distinguish between certain sub-Zambezi African states from the rest of the continent; and one author (whom I do not name out of politeness) even demands we make the contrast between how things were “in the colonial days” with how they are amid “a new kind of colonialism” today because of “global imperialism,” neither temporally nor geographically distinguishing between what it is these terms convey beyond some kind a disjuncture taking place sometime between the nineteenth century and the mid-twentieth century!

If I seem overly perplexed here, it is because the last two decades have witnessed an increasing scholarly concern with our analytical frameworks on these phenomena, highlighting, in particular, how important it is to distinguish between colonialism and settler colonialism. This school of thought, which transcends hemispheres, implicates, among other things, a more robust comparative methodology. Readers coming from a perspective which recognises the global nature of settler colonialism may consider it bizarre to pigeonhole South Africa within the southern African region, or the “South,” given that similar dispossessions have inspired similar statutory- and litigation-based mechanisms for redress in both hemispheres. In fairness, direct engagement with these debates is hardly necessary for a collection of this type, but the clarification of terminology and justification of grand categorisations, partially achievable by sending the contributors a universal glossary beforehand, is surely more so.

Tom Lynch, ‘“Nothing but land”: Women’s Narratives, Gardens, and the Settler-Colonial Imaginary in the US West and Australian Outback’, Western American Literature 48, 4 (2014).

This essay applies ecocriticism, informed by a transnational, settler-colonial theory, to a comparative analysis of texts by three US and three Australian women authors. Through an examination of both “wild” and domestic landscapes, the essay works to establish how these authors manifest the “settler-colonial imaginary” through their glorification of the process of establishing English-style gardens on homesteads founded in territory depicted as an “unland.” The essay reads the insistent use of a “nothing but” construction in descriptions of uncultivated land in both the Australian and US texts as signifying the literary imagining of the “unland” of the colonized territory, a discursive clearing of the land, as it were, to make room for settlement. From there, it proceeds to compare and contrast the different ways in which these texts imagined settlers’ occupation of land as an ecological struggle to wrest an arid or semi-arid landscape into a space amenable for the production of an English garden—the symbol of the settler-colonial project’s ultimate success. It then discusses texts by settler women in both Australia and the United States that imagine settlement in a more ecologically sustainable way, signaling a potential “counter-colonial” gesture of reconciliation with place.

Mark Mazower, ‘The End of Eurocentrism’, Critical Inquiry 40, 4 (2014). 

bit in lieu of abstract:

From one viewpoint, the years from 1945 to 1948 can be seen as a story about European reconstruction; from another, they emerge as the opening chapter of decolonization. Putting these two stories together raises the question of how Europe’s relations with the world changed in these years and, in particular, how contemporaries thought about Europe’s changing place in the world. This in turn was bound up with the ways in which they read the war and how the experience itself shaped their sense of Europe’s relationship with the world. This helps explain both Bidault’s surprise and Murray’s anxious discovery that there are other continents.

The Second World War marked the end of a long period of European ascendency, whose critical starting point was not the sixteenth century, let alone the Renaissance, but somewhere at the end of the eighteenth or the early nineteenth century. The age of Eurocentrism spanned the period from 1800 to 1945 in several senses. First, it marked the emergence of Europe as a center of world power through its formal colonialism and the technology gap created by the Industrial Revolution. Concurrently, there was the rise of settler societies, of which the “Anglo-world,” as James Belich tells it, was the most successful—although there was also the German-Russian settlement expansion south and eastwards, as well as its smaller Ottoman version.3 Subsequently, there was a kind of diplomatic intellectual counterpart to this European ascendancy: a new discipline of international law, one that enshrined the notion of a standard of civilization, that Gerrit Gong wrote about and that rested on a differentiated categorization of sovereignties in different parts of the world.4 This was accompanied by a changing conception of Europe. Paradoxically, as Europe expanded in power, Europe as a concept shrank. In 1840, for instance, the European powers could plausibly propose to Mehmet Ali that if he stopped threatening to invade Istanbul they would allow him to become part of the system of Europe. Forty years later, that was not an offer anybody was making. The geographical conception of Europe had become more focused even as Europe became more powerful.

David Williams, ‘Adam Smith and colonialism’, Journal of International Political Theory (online June 29, 2014).

In the context of debates about liberalism and colonialism, the arguments of Adam Smith have been taken as illustrative of an important line of anti-colonial liberal thought. The reading of Smith presented here challenges this interpretation. It argues that Smith’s opposition to colonial rule derived largely from its impact on the metropole, rather than on its impact on the conquered and colonised; that Smith recognised colonialism had brought ‘improvement’ in conquered territories and that Smith struggled to balance recognition of moral diversity with a universal moral framework and a commitment to a particular interpretation of progress through history. These arguments have a wider significance as they point towards some of the issues at stake in liberal anti-colonial arguments more generally.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says we have all benefited from Britain’s original foreign investment because Australia was “unsettled” before the British arrived.


“As a general principle we support foreign investment. Always have and always will,” he said.

“Our country is unimaginable without foreign investment.”

“I guess our country owes its existence to a form of foreign investment by the British government in the then unsettled or, um, scarcely-settled, Great South Land,” he said.

Gareth Hutchens for SMH.


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