The Aboriginal Tent Embassy and Australian citizenship

Authored by: Edwina Howell , Andrew Schaap

Routledge Handbook of Global Citizenship Studies

Print publication date:  June  2014
Online publication date:  June  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415519724
eBook ISBN: 9780203102015
Adobe ISBN: 9781136237966


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The position of Aboriginal people as citizens is potentially fraught, given the association of the ideal of citizenship with the modern state and the civilizational discourse used to legitimate colonization. In this discourse, those qualities of agency and industriousness that are supposed to distinguish citizens are precisely what the colonized are imputed to lack. In practice, citizenship has been associated with techniques of government that deny the basic rights of Aboriginal people by differentiating their civic status from that of citizens of a settler state or by making recognition of citizenship conditional on assimilation to a settler society. Yet, as a term of political discourse, citizenship also potentially affords a basis from which to contest settler ideology. This potential lies in the ideal status of the citizen as a free and equal member of a self-determining political association. As such, Aboriginal people might demand citizenship or put to the test their status as citizens in order to resist their colonization. Such struggles over citizenship by Aboriginal people should not necessarily be identified with a desire for inclusion within a settler nation but may be consistent with a rejection of the state and an assertion of land rights and self-determination. At the same time, however, they may also afford an opportunity for renegotiating the terms of political association between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

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