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Misadventures with Aboriginalism

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For 30 years the dominant approach to Aboriginal affairs in Australia has been to support cultural recovery and accommodate cultural difference in the expectation that this will enhance Aborigines’ and Torres Strait Islanders’ equality as citizens.This approach has been driven by a dialectic of progressivist desire to ameliorate the effects of earlier colonialist policy and Aboriginalist discourse that assumes isolable cultures, unitary identities and uni-directional causes of marginalisation. That discursive formation, once counter to dominant colonialist discourse, has now itself become normative, internally repressive, counter-productive and resistant to change. This is the national misadventure with Aboriginalism. This paper argues that this unexpected development is a product of the national governing attempt to gain control through public policy that is inadequate to Aborigines’ contemporary lived reality of interculturality, post-ethnicity and political agency. It uses an indicative case study and an analysis of the national misadventure to propose a deliberative intercultural approach to public policy in respect of Aborigines.
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Keywords: Aborigines; deliberative governance; interculturality; pluralism; post-ethnicity

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Riawunna Centre, University of Tasmania, Launceston, Australia

Publication date: May 1, 2011

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