Representing indigeneity as an exercise in settler peer-review: Roland Bleiker, Sally Butler, ‘Radical Dreaming: Indigenous Art and Cultural Diplomacy’, InternationalPolitical Sociology, 2016
Abstract: We examine links between art and foreign policy through two important instances of cultural diplomacy in Australia’s history. Each time—in 1941–1942 and in 2009—the government staged an extensive exhibition in the United States. Each time, the exhibition displayed Indigenous art with the explicit purpose of increasing Australia’s political legitimacy and influence. But in each case, the artworks in question resisted and subverted this form of diplomatic instrumentalization. Art managed to insert and communicate political claims that highlighted—against governmental intentions and policies at the time—the suppression of Indigenous rights and demands for sovereignty. In doing so, art challenged not only legal and political norms but also an entire verbal and visual narrative of nation building that emerged out of colonialism. Art thus became political in the most fundamental way, for it directly interfered with what Jacques Rancière called the distribution of the sensible: the boundaries of what is visible and invisible, is thinkable and unthinkable, and thus, can and cannot be debated in politics.
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