Incommensurate Suffering: Making Women and Children in Massacre

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Journal Article
Australian Feminist Studies, 2001, 16 (34), pp. 61 - 67
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Figuring the production of Aboriginal women and children through non-Aboriginal accounts of a massacre is a problematic endeavour. It is a tricky postcolonial terrain of wishing to make explicit the particular ways in which women and children were distinctively produced through non-Aboriginal colonial accounts without recourse to a universalising framework that might suggest women and children have always existed in ways we always, already, know. My use of incommensurate 1 to describe the physical, emotional, ideological, linguistic, colonial terror that was suffered in the process of becoming women and children within a colonial system is not to suggest that there is no way in which that suffering can be communicated, but almost the opposite. Following Bhabha I am employing incommensurate to indicate that the different cultures meeting in these encounters are incommensurables, in that they cannot be organised into universal frameworks unless one wishes to continue a work of terror. What the category, the colonial recognition of woman and child allowed, was for those Aboriginal groups to be made available within a brutal colonial economy to be taken up and used, exchanged, killed and recategorised. What was done to non-Aboriginal women and children within these same categories, while also brutal, cannot be considered similar . Aboriginal women were saved into a colonial economy to be used saved to be spent, not saved to be safe.
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