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date: 07 August 2020


A Dictionary of Critical Theory

Ian Buchanan

As Bronwyn Carlson demonstrates in The Politics of Identity (2016), Aboriginality is a highly contested term that has real, material effects. Aboriginality is a term the Australian government uses to classify people who are entitled to receive various government benefits made available to Indigenous people in Australia (housing, healthcare, education support, and so on). In this sense Aboriginality is used as a kind of racial litmus test—it amounts to asking if someone is Aboriginal ‘enough’? By the same token, the term has also been used by the Australian government to justify the exclusion of Aboriginal people from citizenship and the rights that usually attach to citizenship—in this sense it amounts to saying someone is too Aboriginal. For example, Aboriginality justified the shameful practice of removing Aboriginal children from their birth families and placing them with white foster families, which created what is now known as the ‘stolen generation’. Marcia Langton has tried to reclaim the term for critical theory by using it to conceptualize the disparity between representations of Indigenous Australians in film and media and their actual life circumstances. Aboriginality, like ... ...

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