The idea of a public or collective space is inherently fluid, and perhaps contradictory; a matter of constantly shifting definitions. What we witnessed on the sixth of January at the US Capitol building was, among other things, a dispute about what a public institution is, and what it owes to which citizens. Scenes of white police officers calmly allowing Trump supporters to infiltrate the senate floor and some of the reported remarks: ‘This is not America … they’re supposed to shoot BLM’ nakedly displayed the inequity of some of these definitions. A number of the essays in this edition engage with our previous edition’s focus on global Indigenous activism, others explore the complexity of inter-subjective space in other contexts. Writing and publishing are their own kinds of public space, structured by the conflicting definitions of race, class, and gender. In ‘White Mythology’ Derrida argued that western metaphysics, in attempting to erase its own historical specificity, misrepresents itself as abstract, universal, and infinitely plastic. In Australian writing the myth is more precise. William Stanner described Australian history as a window carefully placed to allow only one view of the landscape, and Australian literature is still marked by this myopia. Michael R Griffiths writes that the expression of settler nationalism is built upon a pathology of melancholia; a colonial logic of elimination which fetishises that which it destroys. This logic is palpable in much canonical Australian writing, from Lawson and Patterson, to Patrick White and Eleanor Dark, to the Jindyworobaks and Les Murray. To articulate an effective ethics of reading, writing, and publishing in this continent we must properly frame Aboriginality as an agentic subject, rather than a nationalist prop. Jeanine Leane’s essay in this edition is a singular step towards better definitions.
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