Colonial Risk Management
University of Queensland
Critical risk scholarship tells a story of changing governmental practices of risk management in liberal societies. I take up this narrative and weave it together with recent Australian Indigenous policy initiatives, in order to present these as state attempts to manage Indigenous political difference. Risk management is usually understood as a governmental tool to regulate the behaviour of individual citizens, however the concept can also be used to reflect upon the actions of political authorities attempting to bring themselves into being and secure this being through time. I suggest that sovereign risk and colonial risk are useful categories to articulate the constant challenges posed to a settler colonial state by the ongoing existence of independent Indigenous political life. The three recent phases of Australian federal Indigenous policy—self-determination, neoliberal contractualism and coercive intervention—can be thought of as different strategies used by the state to imagine and manage this persistent risk. Self-determination is an attempt to socialise colonial risk and distribute it throughout the national body, while neoliberal contractualism asserts the unsustainability of such a collective colonial burden and the need to divest it onto capable Indigenous subjects. As contractualism gives way to intervention, Indigenous people are framed as unwilling or incapable of moderating the burden of risk they pose to themselves and others. The Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) presents a vision of catastrophic colonial risk which threatens us all, and which can only be secured by unilateral and unconfined settler sovereignty.
The full article is available as a PDF document: click here.
© borderlands ejournal 2012