Aboriginal Identity: Who is ‘Aboriginal’?

Posted in Articles, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Media Archive, Oceania, Social Science on 2015-01-25 01:45Z by Steven

Aboriginal Identity: Who is ‘Aboriginal’?

Creative Spirits
2014-12-23

Jens Korff

  • People who identify themselves as ‘Aboriginal’ range from dark-skinned, broad-nosed to blonde-haired, blue-eyed people.
  • Aboriginal people define Aboriginality not by skin colour but by relationships.
  • Light-skinned Aboriginal people often face challenges on their Aboriginal identity because of stereotyping.

Ever since white people mixed with Aboriginal people they have struggled to define who is ‘Aboriginal’.

Racist definitions of Aboriginal identity

  • ‘full-blood’ as a person who had no white blood,
  • ‘half-caste’ as someone with one white parent,
  • ‘quadroon’ or ‘quarter-caste’ as someone with an Aboriginal grandfather or grandmother,
  • ‘octoroon’ as someone whose great-grandfather or great-grandmother was Aboriginal.


Caste categories in an identity card used in the 1940s [4].

These “one-dimensional models of Aboriginality” [41] pervaded literature of that time. Today these words are considered offensive and racist. In fact, racism lies just beneath the surface and it “bubbles out” when Aboriginal identity is discussed [40]…

…Is there genetic proof of Aboriginality?

Proposals of genetic testing as a means of proving one’s Aboriginality have been dismissed on the grounds that ‘race’ and ‘ethnicity’ are social, cultural and political constructs [2] which cannot be tested objectively.

Cheri Yavu-Kama-Harathunian has a story to tell about genetic proof [48]: “I have a brother (by association, and my own recognition), who has sought ‘recognition’ of his Torres Strait/Aboriginal heritage for the last five years. “This dear man comes and sits with me to tell me of the joys of his discoveries and the sorrows of hearing, ‘This is not enough.’

“His last attempt [was] back to an Aboriginal organisation in the town of his birth was met with, ‘You might have to get DNA proof’ DNA proof! I rang the Chairperson, and asked what this DNA stuff was about. I heard the phone being placed back and the line go dead.

“This man lived in this town all of his life, is known by the Chairperson, and the organisation… and only moved later in life. He is in his fifties now, and he, his wife and I have been trawling through historical documents, court documents, government documents for this ‘proof’.”…

…Most people still believe that Aboriginal people are poor, uneducated and live in the desert. But only 25% of Aboriginal people live in remote areas.

While the vibrant life of urban Aboriginal communities goes mostly unnoticed, the national eyes turn willingly to reports of violence, criminal activities or antisocial behaviour (such as drinking) which then shape the perception of urban Aboriginal identity.

Aboriginal writer Anita Heiss, author of “Am I Black Enough For You?”, describes herself as “a concrete Koori with Westfield dreaming” [43]. She is urban, educated, glamorous and cheeky, hates camping and cannot tell the time by the sun [44]…

Read the entire article here.

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Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the British Empire [Paterson Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, History, Media Archive, Oceania on 2015-01-21 20:07Z by Steven

Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the British Empire [Paterson Review]

The British Scholar Society
Book of The Month
November 2014

Lachy Paterson
University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Salesa, Damon Ieremia, Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire (Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). 308 pp. $US 45 (paperback).

Race has always been an important preoccupation in New Zealand society. In the country’s popular imagination, its past is predicated on national myths that it had the best race relations in the world, and that its Māori citizens were the best treated of all indigenous peoples. Intermarriage between Māori and the Pākehā settlers, a practice encouraged even prior to formal colonisation, was often given as evidence for such claims. Damon Salesa’s Racial Crossings is an exciting investigation of the theories, discourses and policies that underpinned intermarriage, and the broader colonial project of racial amalgamation.

The volume’s subtitle, Race, Intermarriage, and the Victorian British Empire, is a little misleading. The book is not a social history of intermarriage: indeed the story concerns itself more with the discourses of racial crossing, than the lives of the actual people doing the crossing. Its focus is on roughly four decades of New Zealand history, one preceding the Treaty of Waitangi (1840) and the three following. A reader will find little detail on the policies and practice of intermarriage of colonial India, Canada, Australia or South Africa, or even of New Zealand in the last three decades of Victoria’s reign. As Salesa notes, power was generally devolved to colonial governors, whose actions and policies were shaped by local conditions. Although conditions may have been localised, ideas flowed more freely around the Empire. New Zealand’s pertinence to “imperial” studies is that it was colonised when humanitarianism was flourishing. After earlier examples of destructive colonisation, Britain sought to protect New Zealand’s promising “aborigines” through civilisation and amalgamation. Although missionaries, officials both in Britain and New Zealand, intellectuals and settler politicians may have had differing (and sometimes competing) agenda, a general consensus prevailed that intermarriage would benefit both Māori and colonisation…

Read the entire review.

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The fluidity of race

Posted in Anthropology, Asian Diaspora, Dissertations, History, Media Archive, Oceania on 2015-01-02 20:18Z by Steven

The fluidity of race

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
May 2012
221 pages
DOI: 10.7282/T3FN154X

Nicholas Trajano Molnar, Assistant Professor
Department of History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies
Community College of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This study is an examination of the American mestizos who lived in the Philippines from 1900 to 1955. No scholarly studies exist that analyze and historicize this group, but this is understandable, as the population of the American mestizos compared to the overall Filipino population is miniscule, never exceeding 20,000 individuals at any one time. Despite their small numbers, the American mestizos were a matter of social concern for the Philippine state and the expatriate Americans and Filipino nationalists who resided there. Various actors in the Philippines carried their own imposed racializations of the group that changed over time, ranging from American expatriates who emphasized the group’s “American” blood to Filipino nationalists who embraced them as Filipinos.

This study will demonstrate that the boundaries of race have been constantly shifting, with no single imposed or self-ascribed American mestizo identity coalescing. American mestizo racial definitions and constructs are historically and regionally specific, complicating conventional scholarly assumptions and requiring a historically grounded approach to the understanding of race and ethnicity. This study makes theoretical contributions to the study of race in the United States and its former colonies. Contemporary literature seeks to explain by what means racial identity is created and maintained. My study, however, seeks to explore racial formation from another angle, exploring why a distinct group identity never coalesced among the American mestizos despite the presence of similar economic, historical, and social forces that have clearly led to racial formation in other groups.

The concept of the American mestizo and the fluid Philippine racial framework challenged static American notions of race. I argue that contact with the Philippines led to an assimilation of Filipino racial ideas among American expatriates, who in turn created their own colonialized concepts of race and nationality, demonstrating that under certain historical conditions, American concepts of race had room to bend. Tracking the transmittal of these hybridized ideas, and their transformations and various interpretations at each venue, allows us to gain insight into the malleability of Philippine and American notions of nation and race, and into the larger processes of racial construction overall.

Request a copy of the dissertation here.

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The corporate institution of mixed race: Indigeneity, discourse, and Orientalism in Aboriginal policy

Posted in Articles, Canada, History, Media Archive, Native Americans/First Nation, Oceania on 2014-11-28 18:10Z by Steven

The corporate institution of mixed race: Indigeneity, discourse, and Orientalism in Aboriginal policy

Critical Race and Whiteness Studies
Volume 10, Number 1, 2014
17 pages

Camie Augustus
Department of History
University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Contradiction in Aboriginal policy, especially the oscillation between assimilation and segregation, is often viewed as inconsequential. The suggestion has been that inconsistency is typical of governments and even expected of administrations that have little time, money, or motivation to be overly concerned with Aboriginal matters. However, I posit that ambiguity has meaning. I propose that utilizing Said’s concept of the corporate institution of Orientalism reveals a ‘mixed-race’ discourse in government records during the late 19th and early 20th centuries that in fact gives meaning to this contradictory nature. I examine the ways in which the texts of Aboriginal law and policy in Canada, the US, and Australia constitute a specific mixed-race discourse of ambivalence and ambiguity, in contrast to a racial discourse of certainty. Based on a discourse analysis of key policy texts, I conclude that ambiguity and ambivalence constitute part of a colonial structure based on racial binarisms where an absence of space for ‘those in between’ reflected the perceived transitional and transient nature of ‘mixed-race’ as a temporary category, and the impetus to eliminate it. This discourse is surprisingly similar and persistent across a broad span of time and space, suggesting that questions about racial mixing and the presence of mixed-ancestry Natives constituted a major determining factor in the shaping of Aboriginal law and policy in these three countries between 1850 and 1950.

Read the entire article here.

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How far have we come in our acceptance of mixed race people?

Posted in Articles, Census/Demographics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Oceania, Social Science, United States on 2014-11-17 19:25Z by Steven

How far have we come in our acceptance of mixed race people?

Special Broadcasting Service (SBS)
Crows Nest, New South Wales, Australia
2014-11-14

Lin Taylor

What was once a shameful taboo with a deep, dark racist history is now the face of the modern world. But how far have we really come in our acceptance of mixed race people?

Estelle Griepink is not a celebrity.

But more often than not, the 22-year-old will get stopped on the streets of Indonesia and Malaysia, with passers-by eager to take her photo.

“I lived in Indonesia for a couple of months and I was stopped by people who wanted to take photos of me – and with me – quite frequently,” she said. “It’s happened in Malaysia, where my family lives, too.”

Her appeal? The fact that she is half Malaysian and half Dutch.

“I know this happens to people who are white too – blonde hair, blue eyes – but I felt there was something kind of creepy doing it to me as they would go on about how amazing it was that I was half Asian, half white.

“At the end of the day my ethnicity is completely out of my control, so I hardly think it is something to be congratulated on or celebrated for… like you’re a collector’s item.”

But with their mysterious, racially ambiguous ‘look’ and exotic heritage, it’s not hard to see why mixed race people like Griepink are so in demand…

…Racial hierarchy, racism and the ‘one-drop rule’

Dr Julie Matthews, an educator and sociologist at the University of Adelaide, believed the sexualisation and preference for mixed race people is inherently racist.

“We’ve sexualised or pornographied mixed race. It’s a very narrow line between exoticisation and sexualisation, fetishisms – where you turn all non-white people into people who exist simply into your own pleasure.”

She said that a person who is half white is more “palatable” and acceptable in society – an idea, she believed, is steeped in racism and prevalent since colonisation.

“Colonialism has circulated the idea that white is best. White is at the top of a kind of hierarchy of humanity… If you believe there is a hierarchy of races, which is what racism is about, a little bit of white is more palatable,” said Dr Matthews, 58, who is half Japanese and half English.

“You can get rid of the fear, and horror and the anger of race by adding a bit of whiteness.”

A pertinent example of this was the treatment of half-Aboriginal children and the Stolen Generation. Between the late 1800s and the 1970s, the Australian government forcibly removed Aboriginal children with a white parent from their community, placing them in non-Indigenous foster homes or state-run institutions. It was hoped that mixed race children would ‘assimiliate’ into white Australian society and cut ties with their black ancestry.

Sociologist Professor Reginald Daniel from the University of California added that across all racial groups, blackness is the one identity that is the most complicated.

“When it comes to blackness, there is one frontier that is the most complicated,” he told SBS. “There is no ambiguity about who’s black no matter what you look like, no matter what your ancestry because of the ‘one drop rule’ way back to, at least informally, in slavery, and then formally in law.”

A term mainly used in the US, the one-drop rule is the idea that even ‘one drop’ of blackness in your ancestry precludes you from being truly white, and therefore ‘lower’ on the racial hierarchy (with whiteness being at the top of the scale).

“There was a time when [an interracial] couple would have been – in parts of the United States – lynched by the [Ku Klux] Klan. Those kinds of attitudes had very serious consequences in terms of physical harm. And that does still happen. There are numerous hate crimes directed at interracial couples and mixed race people. And that pattern has not gone. It’s a reflection of that deep long racist history,” said Professor Daniel, whose own multiracial identity includes African, European, Asian, Arab, and Native American origins.

As a result of such entrenched racism, Professor Daniel said identifying as a multiracial person was often “fraught with conflict”, especially if the individual had a black ancestor.

“There was not a lot of mixed race people in the past in terms of identity – even if they existed they didn’t embrace that identity. So it was an identity that was fraught with a lot of conflict, in a sense that, well, how do you form an identity that’s so totally different from everything and everyone around you?”

It’s a sentiment that Tony Ryder, 25, knows all too well.

With an Italian father and an Aboriginal mother, Ryder told SBS he grew up hiding his Noongar and Yamatji ancestry because of the racism he endured in his hometown of Perth.

“Everyone’s experience is different I suppose, but for me, you know, you get called b**ng, c**n, every name under the sun… Where I went to high school, being Aboriginal isn’t celebrated – you just get made fun of.”

But when Mr Ryder did start embracing his Aboriginal heritage, he said he struggled to find acceptance within the community because of his lighter skin.

“People need to start realising that Indigenous people don’t all look the same…We are a diverse people just like any other race. Years and years of genocide and forced assimilation does not mean that we are all going to be black-skinned and living in the desert.”…

Read the entire article here.

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ONExSAMENESS: Dr Anita Heiss at TEDxBrisbane

Posted in Autobiography, Media Archive, Oceania, Videos on 2014-11-11 20:19Z by Steven

ONExSAMENESS: Dr Anita Heiss at TEDxBrisbane

TEDx Talks
2013-10-25

Anita Heiss

“It’s and I-dentity, not a YOU-dentity, stop telling me who I am!”

Anita is a contemporary Australian author. She is a Wiradjuri woman. She is an Indigenous Literacy Day Ambassador and an Adjunct Professor with Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, UTS amongst many other things.

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Am I Black Enough For You? By Anita Heiss [Milatovic Review]

Posted in Articles, Autobiography, Book/Video Reviews, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Oceania on 2014-10-09 17:36Z by Steven

Am I Black Enough For You? By Anita Heiss [Milatovic Review]

Transnational Literature
Volume 6, Number 2, May 2014
3 pages

Maja Milatovic
University of Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Anita Heiss: Am I Black Enough for You? (Random House: Sydney, 2012)

Anita Heiss’ Am I Black Enough for You? is a compelling and deeply affective memoir on community, family, alliances and the complexities of identity. This work contributes to Heiss’s prolific oeuvre as a proud Wiradjuri woman, writer, educator, public speaker and literary critic. Heiss is the author of historical fiction, non-fiction, social commentary, poetry and travel pieces and the creator of an innovative genre of commercial women’s fiction named ‘Koori chick-lit’, or ‘choc-lit’, featuring urban Aboriginal women

The thought-provoking title of the memoir, Am I Black Enough for You?, reflects its preoccupation with identity. Posing the question, Heiss invites readers to reflect, consider and reconsider stereotypical and received notions about Aboriginal identity. The memoir begins with an act of self-defining, attesting to its importance and necessity, as Heiss embraces her diverse selves, firmly rooted in her identity as a Wiradjuri woman: ‘I am an urban, beachside Blackfella, a concrete Koori with Westfield Dreaming, and I apologise to no one’ (1). Throughout her introductory chapter, Heiss challenges stereotypical notions of Aboriginal identity, asserting her connection to her land and community. Analysing terms such as ‘Aborigines’, Heiss reveals the problematic constructedness of such terminology connected to the history of invasion and dispossession, emphasising once again the importance of self-expression and self-representation.

Following the introduction, Heiss references her much-publicised suit against conservative columnist Andrew Bolt and his article which targeted Heiss and several others, claiming they have chosen their ‘Aboriginal identity’ for personal and professional gain. Along with eight other plaintiffs, Heiss took Bolt to court for breaching the Racial Discrimination Act and won the case. She reflects on Bolt’s discriminatory and inaccurate assumptions and challenges prescriptive notions about Aboriginal identity emerging from colonialist imagination. Winning the case against Bolt, Heiss significantly contributes to countering problematic representations of Indigenous people in the media and encourages dialogue on equality and accountability…

Read the entire review here.

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Am I Black Enough For You?

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Oceania on 2014-10-06 19:10Z by Steven

Am I Black Enough For You?

Random House Books Australia (Available in the United States via University of Hawai‘i Press)
2012-04-02
352 pages
Paperback ISBN: 9781742751924
eBook ISBN: 9781742751931

Anita Heiss

Winner of the Vic Premier’s Award for Indigenous Writing.The story of an urban-based high achieving Aboriginal woman working to break down stereotypes and build bridges between black and white Australia.

I’m Aboriginal. I’m just not the Aboriginal person a lot of people want or expect me to be.

What does it mean to be Aboriginal? Why is Australia so obsessed with notions of identity? Anita Heiss, successful author and passionate campaigner for Aboriginal literacy, was born a member of the Wiradjuri nation of central New South Wales, but was raised in the suburbs of Sydney and educated at the local Catholic school. She is Aboriginal – however, this does not mean she likes to go barefoot and, please, don’t ask her to camp in the desert.

After years of stereotyping Aboriginal Australians as either settlement dwellers or rioters in Redfern, the Australian media have discovered a new crime to charge them with: being too ‘fair-skinned’ to be an Australian Aboriginal. Such accusations led to Anita’s involvement in one of the most important and sensational Australian legal decisions of the 21st-century when she joined others in charging a newspaper columnist with breaching the Racial Discrimination Act. He was found guilty, and the repercussions continue.

In this deeply personal memoir, told in her distinctive, wry style, Anita Heiss gives a first-hand account of her experiences as a woman with an Aboriginal mother and Austrian father, and explains the development of her activist consciousness.

Read her story and ask: what does it take for someone to be black enough for you?

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Intervening in the racial imaginary: ‘mixed race’ and resistance in contemporary Australian Literature

Posted in Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Oceania on 2014-08-18 18:37Z by Steven

Intervening in the racial imaginary: ‘mixed race’ and resistance in contemporary Australian Literature

University of Sydney
2014
243 pages

Lyn Sue Dickens

A thesis submitted in fulfilment of requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

This thesis examines the extent to which three contemporary Australian novels can be regarded as interventions in “the modern racial imaginary” (Mignolo 2011a, p. 277). In order to analyse the novels as interventions, this thesis looks in particular at depictions and conceptualisations of mixed race subjectivity and experience in the texts. The novels, The World Waiting to be Made by Simone Lazaroo (1994), Shanghai Dancing by Brian Castro (2003) and The Lost Dog by Michelle de Kretser (2007) all explore mixed subjectivities and experiences in the Asia-Pacific region. Throughout this thesis I examine the complexity and disruptive potential of the concept of ‘mixed race’. I argue that through the depiction of people of mixed race and their traumatic experiences of racialisation, the novels critique, resist and disrupt concepts of race and colonial worldviews.

I further explore the ways in which the novels both promote and exemplify alternative ways of perceiving and interacting with other human beings that do not rely on racial categories or the humanitas/anthropos divide (Mignolo 2011b, p. 90). In order to do this I draw on Walter Mignolo’s concepts of border thinking/sensing and delinking, and Édouard Glissant’s work in The Poetics of Relation. I argue that critical examination of mixed race subjectivity and representation, in conjunction with transcultural concepts such as Relation and border thinking, provide a means of both challenging traditional concepts of race and essentialised cultures, and thinking beyond their boundaries. Furthermore, the novels themselves open up a transcultural space with transformative potential, which encourages the imagination of alternative, more equal worlds of Relation.

Read the entire thesis here.

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JS-44.12: A Global Look at Mixed Marriage

Posted in Africa, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Europe, Live Events, Media Archive, Oceania, Social Science, South Africa on 2014-06-08 22:21Z by Steven

JS-44.12: A Global Look at Mixed Marriage

XVIII ISA World Congress of Sociology: Facing an Unequal Word: Challenges for Global Sociology
International Sociological Association
Yokohama, Japan
2014-07-13 through 2014-07-19

Wednesday, 2014-07-16, 18:00 JST (Local Time)
Room: 315

Erica Chito Childs, Sociology
Hunter College, City University of New York

Mapping attitudes toward intermarriage—who is and who is not an acceptable mate—offers an incisive means through which imaginings of belonging—race, ethnicity, nationhood, citizenship and culture—can be critically evaluated.  In particular, social constructions of race and difference involve discussions of purity, race identity and taboos against interracial sex and marriage. Drawing from qualitative interviews and ethnographic research in six countries on attitudes toward intermarriage, this paper explores these issues of intermarriage in a global context.  Through a comparison of qualitative data I collected in Australia, Brazil, Ecuador, Portugal, South Africa and the United States, I offer a theoretical framework and provide an empirical basis, to understand the concept of intermarriage and what it tells us about racial boundaries in a global context. For example, in the United States, the issue of intermarriage is discussed as interracial with less attention paid to inter-religious or inter-ethnic, to the point that those concepts are rarely used.  Similarly in South Africa, despite the end of apartheid decades ago, marriage across racial categories is still highly problematized and uncommon.  Yet globally there is less consensus of what constitutes intermarriage—sometimes intercultural, interethnic, or any number of words with localized meanings.  In South America and Australia, the debate seems to revolve more around indigenous status, citizenship and national identity such as who is Australian or who is Ecuadoran?  As indigenous populations rally for rights and representation how does this change the discourse on what intermarriage mean?  Looking globally, what differences matter? What boundaries are most salient in determining the attitudes of different groups toward intermarriage?  How are various communities responding to intermarriage, particularly if there are a growing number of “mixed” families? This research on attitudes toward intermarriage adds to our understanding of constructions of race, racism and racialized, gendered and sexualized beliefs and practices globally.

For more information, click here.

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