What is this Sovereignty thing? Intimate connection to Country

Author: Faye Blanch

Blanch, Faye, 2022 What is this Sovereignty thing? Intimate connection to Country, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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This thesis considers a process that exceeds the possibility of the human through strategically, methodologically, and theoretically centring photographs as entry points to narrate the relationship between the colonised bodies of Indigenous Australians and the coloniser (the settler state). The dispossession and dislocation of Indigenous bodies from place, culture, and sense of belonging lies within the realm of humanness, although invasive techniques of colonialisation deemed First Peoples as sub-human; profiled as fauna and flora. This thesis argues that the relationship between White Australians and First Peoples is one of intimacy and brings to the fore the violent and monstrous acts of intimacies in the relationship between colonised bodies and the nation states. I draw from my own families to position the argument outlined in this thesis by disputing techniques of science, the study of First People as objects, and the language that lies within the frame of racialisation. This thesis unpacks the various policies legislated to contain and maintain control over the lives of Indigenous Australians, and while this thesis speaks to my own intimate relationship to country and family, I argue that there are many connecting similarities with other Indigenous groups throughout Australia.

Epistemological understandings and ways of knowledge are the foundations of Indigenous ways of being and lie within the boundaries of country; First People’s intimate and deep connection within and in country. Indigenous Australians understand that skin holds important significance in living and breathing country; skin is the earth that is alive and embodied. This thesis responds to how our skin is represented, named, and coded. I engage a methodological and theoretical process of decolonising that lies within the concept of refusal: a refusal of “Indigenous” or “Aboriginal” to instead lay claim to my sovereignty as Yidiniji/Mbarbaram. This is my own intimate understanding of my body and skin and my humanness in those violent and dangerous spaces of coloniality.

Through the creative and research process of performance articulated through the Unbound Collective, I speak to our performance as new science, a new grammar; one that engages with First Nations’ understandings and ways of being. The theories of resistance, refusal, human as praxis, decolonisation, and sovereignty is framed through the Unbound Collective performances and how we are represented within the landscape as both First Nations academics and community members who carry the scars of colonialism on the body and in the body. Through our creative work and performances, we are both intellectual warriors and sovereign beings.

Keywords: Intimacy, colonialism, setter-society, racialisation, racism, mathematics, genocide, first peoples bodies, racialised assemblanges, techniques of scientific study

Subject: Humanities thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2022
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Associate Professor Simone Tur