Tuesday, September 21, 2015
Emma Kowal, Associate Professor, Deakin University
Location: 10 Sachem Street, Room 105
Title: “Trapped in the Gap: Doing Good in Indigenous Australia”
Associate Professor Emma Kowal, Deakin University. In Australia, a ‘tribe’ of white, middle-class, progressive professionals is actively working to improve the lives of Indigenous people. Drawing on ethnography of an Indigenous health research institute in northern Australia, this seminar explores what happens when well-meaning people, supported by the state, attempt to help without harming. ‘White anti-racists’ find themselves trapped by endless ambiguities, contradictions, and double binds — a microcosm of the broader dilemmas of settler colonial societies and international development. These dilemmas are fueled by tension between the twin desires of equality and difference: to make Indigenous people statistically the same as non-Indigenous people (to ‘close the gap’) while simultaneously maintaining their ‘cultural’ distinctiveness. This tension lies at the heart of failed development efforts in Indigenous communities, ethnic minority populations and the global South.
Emma Kowal is Associate Professor of Anthropology in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. She is a cultural anthropologist who has previously worked as a medical doctor and public health researcher in Indigenous health settings. Her research interests include Indigenous-state relations and settler colonialism, racism and anti-racism, science and genomics.