Postcolonial politics of elimination?: A view from Australia and the United States

Francesca Merlan


A common view is that states formulate and administer policy. However, there is much in the classification and administration of persons that is not narrowly governmental. As an example, this article traces long-term developments in Australia and the United States which have made possible recent broadening and “de-racializing” of governmental formulations of Indigenous identity. This most recent phase has seen emergent kinds of “new politics,” here called “hyper-identification.” This is the self-identification of significant numbers of people as Indigenous, well beyond strictly “demographic” factors. It is easy, and probably partly accurate, to regard such hyper-identification as opportunistic, given the range of entitlements that Indigenous identification may permit. Yet an explanation in terms of opportunity, strategy, or psychology does not treat the conditions that enable that process. This paper attempts to do so in its focus on the relation between state classifications and shifts in the public sphere.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/720788