In contemporary settler societies reconciliation has emerged as a potent and alluring form of utopian politics. This paper, drawn from Penny's new book 'Settler Colonialism and (Re)conciliation: Frontier Violence, Affective Performances, and Imaginative Refoundings', examines the performative life of reconciliation and its discontents in settler societies, and the way the past is creatively mobilized in the name of social transformation within a new global paradigm of reconciliation and the “age of apology”. In search of a new emancipatory politics, the lecture takes particular account of Indigenous-led refutations or reworkings of consensus politics in public culture that directly confront the ongoing structural legacy of colonial violence. These are risky and often experimental performances, border-crossings that also offer us glimpses of new postcolonial futures. Situating Australia alongside other settlernations, such as the USA, Canada, and Aotearoa New Zealand, the paper traces these fraught and affective performances, which go to the heart of public and pressing postcolonial debates in Australia.
Penny Edmonds is ARC Future Fellow and Associate Professor, History and Classics, School of Humanities, University of Tasmania. Penny's research and teaching interests include colonial histories, humanitarianism and human rights, Australian and Pacific-region transnational histories, cultural heritage, performance, and museums. She is the co-editor of Australian Historical Studies journal. Her latest book Settler Colonialism and (Re)conciliation: Frontier Violence, Affective Performances, and Imaginative Refoundings (Palgrave, 2016) was recently shortlisted for the Ernest Scott Prize (2017).