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university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 2, spring 2004 MARK WILLIAMS On the Discriminations of Postcolonialism in Australia and New Zealand What is the place of the colonial in the postcolonial? Is it that which is put behind? Or does the colonial return in unacknowledged ways at the very moment when colonized countries seek to usher themselves into what comes after? Rukmini Bhaya Nair has recently argued that >the deep amnesiac indifference displayed by postcolonial administrations= in India since independence may be traced to the >epistemic abnegation of selfcritical responsibility= of colonial rule (xvii). Settler countries also, albeit belatedly, seek to separate themselves from the mother country, to grant themselves identities uncontaminated by the embarrassing legacy of empire. In the process the spaces between past and present turn out to be filled with colonial ghosts, though not quite the same ghosts. Writing in 1985, Simon During described New Zealand as coming to >know itself in Maori terms,= while in Australia he discerned a >crisis of emptiness= caused by the continual silencing of indigenous voices (370B71). Over the next decade the differences in the way each country negotiated a postcolonial identity were played out in cultural policy directions and tourism campaigns, figured in literary texts and films, dramatized through the clamorous assertions of cultural minorities, and reflected in the way each country managed the intersections of economic and cultural policy. In the 1980s Paul Keating positioned Australia as >part of Asia= and promoted multiculturalism, while New Zealand, under David Lange, embraced biculturalism and acknowledged its cultural situation as a Pacific nation. In the late 1990s, John Howard=s government would set about reversing multiculturalism, retaining the monarchy, refusing refugees, and repudiating reconciliation with Aboriginal peoples, while Helen Clark=s New Zealand committed itself to increased immigration (including refugees rejected by Australia), constitutional revision, and further legal embedding of biculturalism. My purpose here is not to assign virtue to one country over another by comparing the treatment of indigenous minorities or migrants in Australia and New Zealand. Rather, I wish to identify a common source of the significantly different ways each country has represented ethnicity as a feature of the nation. This source lies in the structure of imperial understandings of racial difference that shaped the first tentative formations of national consciousness in both countries in the late colonial period. 740 mark williams university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 2, spring 2004 The seemingly contradictory stances towards culture and ethnicity adopted by Australia and New Zealand from the 1970s responded to a common crisis characterized by the redundancy of national identities formulated around settler concerns, the fragility of pastoral and extractive economies, adjustments to the new imperatives of an expansive global capitalism, and the need for new technology skills. Assertions of indigenous rights, shifts in immigration policy, and the conscripting of international intellectual and economic trends were all caught up in an energetic but confused period of cultural revaluation that resulted by the late 1990s in a greater sense of difference between the two countries than at any period in their history. The nations that emerged from this process of redefinition looked backward as well as forward, inward as well as outward, but rarely sideways at each other, except in moments of increasing irritation. What separated them, apart from sporting competition, defence and immigration policies, and problems in the air industry,1 were the different ways in which ethnicity was enlisted B settler, immigrant, indigene B in the enterprise of rebranding the nation. What connected them was the blindness by which historical patterns of settler consciousness influenced efforts to update the imagery and practice of the nation. At issue in each country was how to employ otherness in the project of reconfiguring the national imaginary. We might characterize the cultural (and even the economic) redirections taken in the 1980s and 1990s2 as >settler postcolonialism,= in the loose sense 1 This paper extends an essay of mine, >Immigrants and Indigenes: The Politics of Pluralism in Australia and New Zealand,= published in 1996, before policy redirections effected by John Howard and Helen Clark. The immediate source of antagonism is to be found in the Australian response to the collapse of Ansett in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 739-753
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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