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University of Sydney Business School

Ethical Recognition in Feminist Research and Politics

Tilly Milroy; Leanne Cutcher; Melissa Tyler,

1st Nov 2017  01:00 pm - 02:00 pm Rm 5040, Abercrombie Building (H70)

Bigali Hanlon is a Yindjibarndi woman born in 1940 at Mulga Downs in Western Australia. At the age of six Bigali was taken from her mother and sent to live in a church-run hostel for ‘fair-skinned’ Indigenous children until she was 13 when she was sent into indentured domestic service. Wages were collected but never paid to Bigali. When the Western Australia government announced in 2010 that they would compensate Indigenous people for unpaid wages, Bigali made application to access her government files so that she could lodge a claim with the Commission.

In an act of great generosity Bigali shared the files documenting her early life with us and also shared aspects of her story, not captured in the official files, in an interview with Tilly. In this talk we draw on these different accounts of Bigali’s life to ask what effect giving an account of oneself can have on the self. As Butler (2006, 121) reminds us “we are not simply the effects of discourses but that any discourse, any regime of intelligibility, constitutes us at a cost”. Elsewhere Aboriginal Australians have talked of getting “tired of telling the stories: she’s Stolen Generation and telling that hurts her all the time” (McKenzie quoted in Maddison 2009). We ask, what this requirement to produce a coherent account of the Indigenous subject has cost? (Butler, 1993).

We also explore the causal relation that giving an account of oneself establishes. Drawing on Butler (2005, 51) we argue that, in telling their stories, Indigenous people are ‘doing something with this telling, acting on [the other] in some way’. As Butler (2005, 21) posits, ‘an account of oneself is always given to another, whether conjured or existing and this other establishes the scene of address as a more primary ethical relation than a reflexive effort to give an account of oneself’.

In the talk we examine the nature of this ‘ethical relation’ by first interrogating our own causal relationship as feminist researchers ‘to the suffering of others’ (Butler, 2005, 12). We also discuss how this idea of an ‘ethical relation’ and a willingness on the part of non-Indigenous people to be open to the Other (Butler 2004) could move Australia beyond a ‘politics of regret’ (Olick, 1999) to an ethical recognition of Indigenous Australians.

Date: Wednesday 1 November 2017
Time: 1:00 - 2:00pm
Location: Rm 5040, Abercrombie building H70
The University of Sydney Business School

ASAP. Places are limited.
Please email
A light lunch will be provided, please advise Katy of any dietary requirements.