“Power may be globalized, but Westphalian notions of sovereignty continue to determine political and legal arrangements domestically and internationally: global issues–the legacy of colonialism expressed in continuing human displacement and environmental destruction–are thus treated ‘parochially’ and ineffectually. Not designed for dealing with situations of interdependence, democratic institutions find themselves in crisis. Reform in this case is not simply operational but conceptual: political relationships need to be drawn differently; the cultural illiteracy that prevents the local knowledge invested in places made after their stories needs to be recognised as a major obstacle to decolonising governance. Archipelagic thinking refers to neglected dimensions of the earth’s human geography but also to a geo-politics of relationality, where governance is understood performatively as the continuous establishment of exchange rates.”
Paul was in conversation with John Cunningham, Curator and Creative director, Melinda Hinkson, Anthropologist and Director of IPCS, and Priya Srinivasan, Performance Studies Scholar
Paul’s latest book Decolonising Governance was published by Routledge as part of the Institute of Postcolonial Studies’ Writing Past Colonialism series.
“Is eating a settler-colonial act?” History, justice, and the future of food
“If you eat, you are involved in agriculture” is a popular saying among agrarian and alternative food advocates. It is often attributed to the American poet and farmer Wendell Berry who wanted to draw attention to the way eaters are intimately connected with growers. By thinking of eating as an agricultural act, Berry believes eaters will join with growers to help co-create a more just food system that respects the environment, farm workers, animals and planetary health.
Understanding the connection between eating and growing food is a pressing issue today. But what about the past? Both eaters and growers are often ignorant of the entanglement of agriculture and settler-colonial violence. As Patrick Wolfe observed, agriculture “progressively eats into Indigenous territory” for the reproduction of the settler population, while simultaneously curtailing “the reproduction of Indigenous modes of production” and justifying violent dispossession.
If eating implicates one in agriculture, and agriculture is implicated in colonial violence, then eaters, not just farmers and graziers, are implicated in this history.
“If you eat, you are involved in settler-colonialism”. How should we respond to this claim? What does food justice look like that recognises past injustices associated with agriculture? How would such food justice be enacted in urban farms and gardens of inner-city Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane or Perth? What would it look like in our kitchens, restaurants and supermarket aisles? Or to borrow a question from Indigenous food sovereignty scholar, Michelle Daigle, “what do everyday practices of responsibility and accountability look like for settler food actors as they live and work on contested and occupied Indigenous lands?”
Ghassan Hage & Jessica Gerrard, “Toxic Whiteness”
Building on the argument of his recent book Is Racism an Environmental Threat?, Ghassan Hage traces the transformation of White ethno-nationalism into a toxic ecological problem, diffused through all aspects of society. As racism has become a pervasive environmental threat what is the impact of academic critique? Should academics fight, rather than just discuss and analyse? If so, how? Jessica Gerrard asks: what are the practices of inequality and injustice that belie the intensification of far-right politics and violence? She tracks the exclusion and expulsion of particular categories of people as structural conditions of capitalism’s idea of ‘the good life’. Liberal progressive politics paradoxically risks replicating the violence of exclusion by identifying racism as the product of ignorance and poverty—the fault of the ‘uneducated’—rather than the product of elitist (and well educated) power.