Published 05 August 2020
Please join us to celebrate Tess Lea’s remarkable new book, Wild Policy: Indigeneity and the Unruly Logics of Intervention.
Drawing on her years in “the field”, which included being a lurker in the Strategic Indigenous Housing and Infrastructure Program – until she was thrown out by a Commonwealth Minister, her many years working with Indigenous people, bureaucrats, and construction crews on Groote Eylandt, and helping to establish and work in the Karrabing Film Collective, Tess gives us a book that is totally enthralling. These diverse sites are stitched together with conversations and reflections with John Singer, an Anangu man and Chief Executive Officer of Nganampa Health Council, Australia’s oldest remote-area community-controlled health service. We learn from him as he and Tess reflect on the sheer immensity of what it means to endure.
Wild Policy is compulsive and absolutely necessary reading for all of us who, as Tess notes, “eat the mine[s]” that eat into unceded Indigenous land, where the violence of “the settler is reasserted everyday”. It is a call to arms on many levels: a reminder that the “familiar tools of scrutiny can blind us to what might also be there, hidden in plain sight, if we care to look askance”; to know that while “good policy” may not be possible, rerouting its effects may allow for multiple points of intervention; and that “sometimes all it takes is to start doing and expecting, differently”. It is all of these things, and above all a beautiful books to read with eyes, ears, and fingers following Tess’ writing and the exquisite maps and drawings that interlace throughout.
Ghassan Hage is Professor of Anthropology and Social Theory at the University of Melbourne. He has worked for many years on racism and white nationalism from a comparative perspective. His publications include his early work White Nation (1998) that deals with white supremacist fantasies in Australia, and his later work Is Racism an Environmental Threat? (2017) that deals with the commonalities between the colonial practices of racialisation and exploitation of people and the speciesist practices of exploitation of nature. His forthcoming works include Decay (Duke University Press, 2021) and The Diasporic Condition (University of Chicago Press, 2021).
Tess Lea is an Associate Professor who specialises in the anthropology of policy. Her fundamental interest is with issues of (dys)function: how it occurs and to what, whom and how it is ascribed. Looking at extraction industries, everyday militarisation, houses, infrastructure (e.g. plumbing and roads), schools, and efforts to create culturally congruent forms of employment and enterprise from multiple perspectives, her work asks why the path to realising seemingly straightforward ambitions is so densely obstacled. She is also exploring ways in which Aboriginal families might tell their stories and commandeer policy openings and closings for their own ends. For this pursuit she is working closely with Professor Elizabeth Povinelli from Columbia University and the Karrabing Film Collective.
Heidi Norman is a leading researcher in the field of Australian Aboriginal political history. Her research sits in the field of history and draws on the cognate disciplines anthropology, political economy, cultural studies and political theory. She has made significant contributions to the understanding of Aboriginal social, cultural, economic and political history where she addresses questions of power in relation to Aboriginal citizens, the state and settler society and Aboriginal land justice.
Elspeth Probyn (Chair) is Professor of Gender & Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney. She has published several ground-breaking monographs including Sexing the Self (Routledge, 1993), Outside Belongings (Routledge, 1996), Carnal Appetites (Routledge, 2000), Blush: Faces of Shame (Minnesota, 2006), Eating the Ocean (Duke, 2016), and over 200 articles and chapters. Her current research focuses on fishing as extraction, fish markets as gendered spaces of labour, and anthropocentric oceanic change. She is the co-editor (with Kate Johnston and Nancy Lee) of a new collection, Sustaining Seas: Oceanic Space and the Politics of Care (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).
David Ritter is the Chief Executive Officer of Greenpeace Australia Pacific. He has been with Greenpeace for nine years, campaigning to secure an earth capable of nurturing life in all its amazing diversity. He is an Affiliate of the Sydney Environment Institute.
Jakelin Troy is the Director of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Research at the University of Sydney. Professor Troy’s research focuses on documenting, describing and reviving Indigenous languages, including her new focus on the Indigenous languages of Pakistan, including Saraiki of the Punjab and Torwali of Swat. She is interested in the use of Indigenous research methodologies and community-engaged research practises. Professor Troy is an Aboriginal Australian and her community is Ngarigu of the Snowy Mountains in southeastern Australia.