The problem of recognition of cultural alterity in the context of land claims in Australia

Abstract : Land claims, today called "Native Title Claims", have in Australia become the process and struggle through which the recognition of cultural alterity (or otherness), more than actual ownership of land itself, is supposedly achieved. Cultural alterity can in this context be defined as the political will to, and the discourse about, the cohabitation of ethnic diversities in a Nation-State. For various historical and legal-conceptual reasons, however, the recognition of cultural diversity, in particular when it comes to Indigenous peoples in Australia, has been confronted with difficulties throughout the two centuries of colonization. One of these, I argue, is directly tied to the (in)capacity for recognition itself: of otherness in general, and of cultural difference in particular. As such, Native Title Claims are therefore a fallacy since they produce the exact contrary of what is originally intended. In a first short part, the presentation will set the general stage of the principles that governed the colonization of the Australian continent and that colored the nature of first encounters between Westerners and Aborigines, both of which having had permanent implications on the capacity of Aboriginal societies for being recognized. In a second part, the evolution of the legal framework for recognition will be discussed. Some important milestones from the 1960s onwards have had significant impacts on the means through which Aboriginal people could be situated in a position of undergoing the process of recognition. In a third part, the paper will present a particular ethnographic case to illustrate the difficulties implied by the process of undergoing these procedures. Native Title claims imply prerequisites and produce significant consequences on Aboriginal social organization and their conception of their own otherness. In a last and conclusive section, we will reconsider the concept of recognition itself and, with Ricœur, argue that it is necessarily an asymmetrical process diminishing cultural difference rather than acknowledging it.
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Submitted on : Thursday, January 12, 2012 - 8:14:20 AM
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  • HAL Id : halshs-00659050, version 1



Laurent Dousset. The problem of recognition of cultural alterity in the context of land claims in Australia. Institutskolloquium der Ethnologie, Institut für Ethnologie, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Jan 2012, Göttingen, Germany. ⟨halshs-00659050⟩



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