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The passage of authority: imagining the political transformation of Australia’s Christmas Island, from sovereignty to governance

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journal contribution
posted on 2024-06-17, 17:06 authored by P Chambers
In 2012, Australia’s Christmas Island is best known as an island of immigration detention, a key component of Australia’s growing offshore border security apparatus, where interdicted boat arrivals seeking asylum are detained and processed. This article offers one account of how the Island came to be what it is, by providing two snapshots of the operable set of power relations on Christmas Island, then and now: ‘Island in the Sun’, and ‘Tropics of Governance’. Side by side, their stark contrast reveals the passage of authority through time and place, from the embodied, unified voice of the sovereignty of the British Empire to the palliative communication and bureaucratic sincerity that characterise governance. By disclosing shifting patterns of emergence and decay and showing border security’s intimate relation to governance, this article seeks to offer a deepened understanding of the current detention situation in its immanence. What can now be seen as Christmas Island’s past follies also reveals the restless work of successive political imaginations, the shifting ways and means by which an island can be translated into a solution to a political problem, and how successive solutions tend toward wreck and ruin.

History

Journal

Shima : the international journal of research into island cultures

Volume

6

Pagination

116-137

Location

Sydney, N.S.W.

Open access

  • Yes

ISSN

1834-6057

Language

eng

Publication classification

C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal

Copyright notice

2012, The Author

Issue

2

Publisher

Macquarie University