I am currently working on two projects. The first is an account of the reception of indirect rule in Australia in the interwar period. It traces the way indirect rule was crafted as a coherent project of colonial governmentality and charts its transformations as it was received in Australia as an influential mode of ‘native administration’ that could be operationalized as a mode of governing Aboriginal people in the north. This work will be published in Governing Natives: Indirect Rule in Settler Colonial Australia and the British Empire, under contract with Manchester University Press.
My other research project focuses on ideas and practices of race in colonies populated by British settlers around the turn of the twentieth century. In particular, I am exploring ways in which labour was racialised where white settlers as well as Indigenous peoples, and often alongside other migrants or indentured labourers, were engaged in work. Considering land and labour in the same frame, this research broadens the field of settler colonial studies, encompassing all territories where settlers came to stay; considering Kenya, for example, alongside Australia.
I am currently working on two projects. The first is a conceptual history in which I am researching the meanings of self-determination in indigenous activist networks across the Anglo settler colonial world in the latter half of the twentieth century. The idea of self-determination was adopted from and influenced by anti-colonial movements in other parts of the globe where the achievement of such was premised in a sharp rupture from the colonial past. In Anglophone indigenous activism, the possibility of self-determination often came to be associated with land rights claims and efforts to prove ongoing attachment to lands and waterways. This legal framework obliged indigenous activists in the 1970s to describe and imagine self-determination in moral terms of attachment to the land and interdependency with majority settler societies rather than potentially violent detachment from the colonial past. In this history, I examine the localization and redeployment of a notion of “self-determination” in and across settler states.
In my second project, I am undertaking a cultural history of the “tribe” in the Pacific. In the late-nineteenth century, so-called “tribal” peoples who lived in areas now claimed by burgeoning settler states across the Pacific were considered to be dying out. Even those among white elites who espoused a humanitarian ethic of care thought that the native races were on a path of inevitable decline; and those identified as native often cast themselves in such terms. However, by the 1920s and 1930s, native populations had generally increased and policy-makers and native leaders were faced with new challenges of care for and development of often very poor native communities. Proposed solutions were many and various, including the biological deracination of Aborigines in Australia, the incorporation of tribal lands in New Zealand, and the “reorganization” of tribes in constitutional terms in the United States. This project examines in particular the reinvigoration of the “tribe” as a form for collective survival and development by comparing initiatives in New Zealand, Hawai’i and Australia and the various strategies that native leaders and intellectuals in particular developed in imagining new “tribal” futures.
I am currently working on a book manuscript entitled Faithful to Science: Race, Religion, and Eugenics in Chile. It examines the relationship between Catholicism and science in the twentieth century by analyzing intellectual interest in eugenic-inspired biology as an organizing principle for social reform to illuminate the construction of scientific racism in the Global South. The manuscript will argue that notions of racial superiority were not created exclusively in societies identified as white. Rather, racial privilege (or exceptionalism) as a concept was more malleable than it might have appeared.