In the early 1970s, Australian governments began to treat Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders as 'peoples' with capacities for self-government. Forty years later, confidence in Indigenous self-determination has been eroded by accounts of Indigenous pathology, of misplaced policy optimism and persistent socio-economic 'gaps'. In this collection of new and revised essays, Tim Rowse accounts for this shift by arguing that Australian thinking about 'Indigenous' is a continuing, unresolvable tussle between the idea of 'peoples' and 'population'.
Rowse's essays offer snapshots of moments in the last forty years in which we can see these tensions: between honouring the heritage and quantifying the disadvantage, between acknowledging colonisation's destruction and projecting Indigenous recovery from it. Rowse asks not only 'Can a settler colonial state instruct the colonised in the arts of self-government?', but also, 'How could it justify doing anything less?'
Timothy Rowse is a Professorial Fellow at the University of Western Sydney. He has taught at Macquarie University, the Australian National University and Harvard University. Since the early 1980s, his research has focused on the relationships between Indigenous and other Australians.
Reviews and endorsements
‘In an age when the instruments for measuring populations and testing policies are more sophisticated and sensitive than ever, alarmingly few people seem open to rational, evidence-based argument. That’s one reason why Tim Rowse’s Rethinking social justice: From “peoples” to “populations” is so welcome.’
— Frank Bongiorno, Inside story: Current affairs and culture from Australia and beyond, May 2013.