bignall, rigney and hattam on agamben and south australia
Sovereign authority to establish the colony of South Australia was given by Letters Patent (1836), signed by King William IV. The Letters Patent made explicit provision for the recognition and protection of Indigenous rights and interests in traditional lands and waters, establishing the basis for a peaceable and respectful interaction between Indigenous and settler societies. However, the preexisting sovereignty of Indigenous peoples was not respected and these written orders were ignored by the South Australian Company in its executive action to establish the Province of South Australia. Accordingly, the potential for development of positive forms of intercultural social relationship remained unrealized in this region, as was also the case throughout the Australian colonies. This essay reflects upon the transformative force of this unrealized potential, which remains immanent within the trajectory of Australian history. It makes use of Agamben’s conceptualization of time and exigency in The Time That Remains (2005) to theorize directed processes of historical discontinuity. We analyse colonial sources of contemporary Australian society, with a renewed attention to those aspects of political recognition and positively shared social life that were always possible but never came to pass into history. We argue that the experience of time and temporality in the ‘messianic mode’ enables new understanding of the problematic ‘time of the now’ and recreates possibilities for the communal invention of postcolonial futures that respond properly to ongoing and contemporary Indigenous practices of sovereignty and nationhood.
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