settler colonial studies blog

sarah maddison on australian guilt about historical injustice

Sarah Maddison, ‘Postcolonial guilt and national identity: Historical injustice and the Australian settler state’, Social Identities: Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture (Forthcoming, August 2012)

In nations with a record of historical injustice, guilt about the past is deeply implicated in both efforts towards reconciliation and the construction of national identity. This is as true in notionally postcolonial nations, where past injustice is often denied or avoided, as it is in situations where conflict and injustice have been more recent, overt or visible to the rest of the world. Taking the Australian case as an example, this article considers the dimensions of historical collective guilt, and explores the implications of that guilt for contemporary national identity in postcolonial nations. It argues that until a nation is able to deal with social psychological barriers to addressing historical injustice, it is likely to construct and maintain a narrow and defensive form of nationalism.