Australia and the Insular Imagination: Beaches, Borders, by S. Perera

Political Freedom

By S. Perera

Such a lot stories of Australia start with the “the island-continent.” the encompassing oceans are little greater than a backdrop for the dramas that ensue on dry land. this can be the 1st booklet to show its realization to the oceans and coastlines that make and remake the boundaries of Australia via occasions comparable to the coming of asylum seekers’ boats, the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Bali bombings and maritime peacekeeping missions within the Pacific. opposed to the imperatives of conflict, safety, reduction and catastrophe, quite a few configurations of our bodies, boats, borders and seashores testify to the ability and the boundaries of Australia’s insular illusion.   

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49 Sharp writes, In the eye of the coloniser, the northern coasts were blanks on the map. Northern lands were empty because they did not lend themselves to the presence of settlers; northern seas hardly registered because, uncoupled from land, they had only an ephemeral reality. The idea of land-sea companionship, so central to the views of saltwater people, was peripheral to the dominant imagination. 50 A road in the sea marks a passing presence, even as land and ocean acquire new, decoupled identities and a sovereign territorial order inscribes itself.

Emerging “at the outset of the European Age of Discovery,” this capacity to visualize space globally is defined “All the Water in the Rough Rude Sea” 39 by two main characteristics: “seeing the world-as-a-picture . . 24 The geopolitical gaze is totalizing, telescoping, and taxonomical. It surveys, classifies, and divides from a distance that “separates the self who is viewing from the world itself” as it panoptically levels, before it proceeds to reorder, the global terrain. ”25 Islands, rather than being peripheral or incidental, are central to the modern geopolitical imaginary, figuring as the “paradigmatic territorial states”: “Islands were conceived of as equivalent but individually unique, organically occurring, bounded spaces that exhibited temporal stability, territorial indivisibility and socio-political homogeneity amidst a world of interaction and movement.

At the same time, it connects to an anxiety Huntsman expresses later in the book about the potentially divisive effects of “cultural diversity”: “A situation where a single continent is occupied by a single nation-state has advantages over fragmentation. Influences that strengthen social cohesion in nonoppressive ways should therefore be welcomed . . [T]o the extent that the beach remains a common resource and a common site . . ”29 The function of the beach is to provide physical and cultural containment, to cohere.

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