Document Type

Article

Publication details

Garbutt, RG 2006, 'White “Autochthony”', Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Journal, vol. 2, no. 1.

Published version available from: http://www.acrawsa.org.au/ejournal/?id=26

Abstract

Western conceptualisations of autochthony — that is, of being born of the earth itself — are a useful frame for understanding aspects of the settler Australian idea of “being a local”. The western tradition of autochthony underpins relationships between particular peoples and particular lands, and importantly, the implicit moral virtue of one people’s claim to specific territory over that of others. The virtue of being a local, of a local place or of the nation, rests on a false claim of white “autochthony” that to perform its social function must conceal Aboriginal autochthony. Bringing Australian settler claims of autochthony into the light enables its critical examination, and complements the critical examination of that other fictional people-land relation, terra nullius. The usefulness of white “autochthony” as an idea is not simply the deconstruction of its fiction. A critique of white “autochthony” opens local and national spaces to a constellation of ethical considerations. In particular, it institutes an ethics of location.