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Talking silence : the 'history wars' and theorizing silence/s in black/white relations in Australia
conference contributionposted on 2005-01-01, 00:00 authored by C Halse, V Fraser
Australian public life has been embroiled in a vicious debate about the ‘true’ story of white Australia’s past treatment of Aboriginals. Invoking the rhetoric of science, conservatives claim that the history of white abuse of black Australians was fabricated by left-wing intellectuals and historians. While the debate has focused on truth claims, in this paper we examine the configurations and effects of silence/s in the controversy that ignited these History Wars: the 1926 Forrest River Massacre. We extend the notion of silence as a “culture of disremembering” for nation building (Stanner, 1979), focusing particularly on silence as exclusion, trauma, and resistance. Our argument is that the methodological deployment of silence has political effects, and that analysing silence/s provides a conceptual and analytical tool for unsettling the rhetoric of conservative reconstructions of black/white relations.