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[Nettime-bold] M/C - New issue 'sorry' now online
Elissa Jenkins on 21 Feb 2001 12:54:10 -0000


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[Nettime-bold] M/C - New issue 'sorry' now online


(If you'd rather not receive future M/C news releases, please drop us a
line at mc {AT} api-network.com).

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - 21 February 2001

The Media and Cultural Studies Centre at the University of Queensland is
proud to present issue one in volume four of the award-winning:

M/C - A Journal of Media and Culture - http://www.api-network.com/mc/

'sorry'

Issue editors Paul Newman,Tseen Khoo and Kathryn Goldie.

Editorial: 

'Sorry'

By Paul Newman, Tseen Khoo and Kathryn Goldie.

The issue of a national apology to the Stolen Generations by the Federal
Government has for some time been central to cultural and political
debate in Australia. Responses to the Bringing them Home report - the
text that generated a national audience for narratives of child removal
including the mechanics of apology - have come to substantially generate
the terms of the Australian reconciliation debate. The desire for the
performance of official sorrow has come to dominate arguments about
racial atonement to the extent, as several of our contributors note,
that more material achievements may have been neglected. 

This is not to endorse Prime Minister Howard's prioritisation of
'practical' reconciliation, in which the only specific policy the
government is prepared to advocate is the provision of basic rights to
Indigenous people, but to recognise some of the limitations of the
apology focus. The continuation of deliberations about whether or not
non-indigenous Australians should express sorrow has the potential to
feed into a lengthy history of anxious white Australian self-definition. 

Reconciliation, and the sorrow which may or may not constitute it,
therefore becomes the latest in an endless series of attempts to
ascertain Australia's national identity - this time informed by a moral
responsibility for historical wrongdoing. In his article, Jen Kwok
suggests the potential for the concept of reconciliation to become
safely amorphous, expressing the fear that an interest in reconciliation
can be acquired for the sake of appearance. In this way, the narrative
of a nation reconciled through a governmental process helps to inform
ongoing constructions of whiteness.

While Australia's initial ten-year period of reconciliation has
officially ended, the issue of a Federal Government apology has not.
Prime Minister Howard's version of an apology - the personal sorrow that
never becomes official -seems part of the conservative parties'
deliberate obfuscation of the importance of official recognition of
indigenous concerns, in the same way that a treaty is dismissed as
unnecessary. In this issue, Lynette Hughes takes the conservatives'
refusal to acknowledge the need to apologise as a starting point for
deliberations on the worth of the concept, with a timely focus on
Pauline Hanson's unapologetic re-entry onto the centre of the political
stage. 

If Hanson's emergence in 1996 was notable for her grouping of otherness
- 'Aborigines' and 'Asians' - as threat, this was a simple
identification of two forms of difference, in indigeneity and non-white
migration, that have been historically constructed as imperilling white
Australia. Guy Ramsay takes up an historical connection between two such
groups: Chinese and Indigenous peoples of North Queensland during the
latter half of the nineteenth century. This community of Others was seen
as a significant threat to the 'codes' and 'norms' of white behaviour,
as legislation was introduced to restrict the immorality and vice
necessarily attached to racial mixing. 

In M/C's feature article, Peta Stephenson also analyses the reasons why
the common experience of Australian racism by immigrant and Indigenous
people has not forged significant bonds between the two groups.
Beginning with a letter written by members of the Vietnamese community
in response to the Federal Government's ongoing refusal to apologise to
the Stolen Generations, Stephenson traces some of the current reasons
for the lack of interaction between those theorised as Other in
settler-indigene and Anglo-Ethnic conceptions.   

Despite, or perhaps because of, the historical proofs of the
mistreatment of migrant groups, there is reason to suggest continuity in
the behaviour of settler nations towards non-white peoples. Rita Wong's
examination of the Canadian government's treatment of recent refugees to
Canada provides similarities with Australia's own human rights record in
this area. This impulse to criminalise refugee seekers is certainly one
shared by both nations. The racialisation of the refugees in the media
and government rhetoric implies that the persecution of Asians in Canada
is not only an historical event.

A further relevant international comparison to the Australian situation
is evident in South Africa, where issues of reconciliation and apology
for historical misdeeds have gained great societal prominence. Despite
the limitations of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission,
there was an intimacy to the discourses of apology made possible by the
presence of 'perpetrator' and 'victim' in the same room: institutional
space was provided by the Commission for the confessions of the
perpetrators of human rights violations.

These personal reconciliations intensify the focus on the apology to the
'victims' of human rights violations, and emphasise the personal
accountability of those who perpetrated such acts. From her article on
the workings of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission,
Andie Miller's conclusion suggests that the official impulse to
reconcile-a feature of both Australia's and South Africa's version of
national redemption-cannot produce results that are acceptable to all
elements of society. Likewise, an emphasis on personal investment in an
'apology' is apparent in the contributions of Kwok and Hughes in this
issue.  

Even now, the reconciliation issue remains the locus of much angst and
self-reflection. Having a gathering such as Australia Deliberates:
Reconciliation for the 21st Century -- which was screened mid-February
2001 by the ABC -- aptly demonstrates the range of complex societal
changes which need to take place. More to the point, the concept of
reconciliation must move, as Jackie Huggins argues, from being a deed to
becoming a plan ("Australia Deliberates").

References:

"Australia Deliberates: Reconciliation for the 21st Century". ABC. 17 
February 2001.

Feature Article:

Sorry Business - Moving Beyond Black and White
By Peta Stephenson

Articles:

Past and Present Acts of Exclusion: Immigration and Globalization
By Rita Wong

Contentious Connections: Removals, Legislation and Indigenous-Chinese
Contacts
By Guy Ramsay

Truth and Reconciliation: 'Many Layers, Many Seasons'
By Andie Miller

An ANTaR Opinion about 'Sorry', Reconciliation and the Public Debate
By Jen Tsen Kwok

Social Justice from the Confessional?
By Lynette Hughes

M/C - A Journal of Media and Culture - http://www.api-network.com/mc/

-- 
Elissa Jenkins 
Co-ordinating Editor 
M/C - A Journal of Media and Culture 
mc {AT} api-network.com 
http://www.api-network.com/mc/


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