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The site of memory: reading surveillance, alterity, and South Australia's Indigenous archives in Natalie Harkin
journal contributionposted on 2018-03-01, 00:00 authored by Matthew Hall
Natalie Harkin is a Narungga artist and writer from South Australia, whose recent collection Dirty Words (Cordite Books, 2015) draws Australian Indigenous poetry toward conceptual and procedural methodologies. The archive Harkin utilizes in her conceptual writing stems from The Aboriginal Archive held in South Australian government control. It contains documents that detail the surveillance conducted upon her extended family and specif ically those surveillance records that document the life of her grandmother, collected between 1938 and 1947. This essay examines the claims to sovereign expression in Harkin's poetic, a poetic that seeks manifestly to contest the historical record through a critique of the colonial archive as a site of persuasion. This essay considers Harkin's methodologies as reconstituting and resanguinating the subjective expression, emotion, and voice of those silenced by the dominance of the colonial past. The critique of the archive that Harkin provides frames it a racialized historical construction through which systems of surveillance, control, and dominance were enacted. The constitutive genealogies and systems of power that were used to segregate and to control the conditions of Indigenous life in Australia are contextualized historically and criticized for contributing to the monohistoricizing impulses of colonial empires and using the archive to control the historical narrative and the very def inition of Australian indigeneity.