Thursday, July 19, 2007

Alice wakes up from dreamtime


Alice Springs is the town I've often dreamt about when thinking about settling somewhere far away from the distractions of a big city, where there might be time and space to think and write. In Alice you would not suffer from lack of company. I'd been impressed with the strong community there of artists and vagrants, sometimes 'new age', practically feminist, but resilient and cheerful. And the town is surrounded by Aboriginal communities that exist on a very different calendar to the mechanical time of white cities, reminding us of the relativity of our own particular capitalist order.

But rust never sleeps. There were a number of changes I noticed. First, the very charming Bar Doppio is being sold, with the promise of introducing 'the taste of Melbourne's Brunswick Street'. The local health food store Afghan Traders no longer sells wattle seed bread -- there's no one left who can make it. And they can't get the bush tomatoes. Todd Street mall feels like its been worn flat by the hordes of German and Japanese tourists who have poured through over the decades.

Still, the Beanie Festival is powering on. They took more than $100,000 this year. And tjanpi Aboriginal women's craft program is continuing to produce curious and wonderful work.

Maybe it's not the inexorable tide of global capital. Perhaps it's just the endless game of tag between development and exploitation. I hope so.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Is deracialization the best future for non-indigenous?

Melissa Steyn
In African Studies Review, Thomas Blaser reviews Melissa Steyn's book Whiteness Just Isn't What It Used to Be": White Identity in a Changing South Africa. Steyn advocates a future for whites in South Africa that involves transcending concepts of race. Blaser is skeptical:

I agree that deracialization is the objective, but perhaps we will have to settle for a mutual acknowledgment of differences that minimizes conflict. Steyn does not approve of such a multicultural approach to race and ethnic relations, for it leaves the white master narrative untouched. Nonetheless, to shed the skin of white identity and move beyond imaginaries of the Other requires processes that take time. It also is not clear what makes white people adopt the narrative of hybridization.

Thomas Blaser  'Changing South Africa'

So is there an alternative between white supremacy and deracialisation? Perhaps it is worth seeking meanings for whiteness that already exist in indigenous cultures.

'the Third World among us'

The Age editorial We have crossed the Rubicon (30/7/07) rallies readers to the cause of indigenous welfare. The serious health and economic issues aside, this editorial is interesting for the way it uses the label 'third world' as a goad for action.

Whether the reasons were moral or political, Mr Howard has focused attention on the Third World among us.

Some questions:

  • What exactly is it about Aboriginal Australia that is 'third world'?
  • In addressing the 'third world' status, are we also introducing a form of cultural homogenisation?
  • Is there anything about the 'third world' lifestyle that is worth preserving?
  • Is the only destiny of 'third world' to hope one day to be 'first'?