Colonial 'Blind Spots': Images of Australian Frontier Conflict

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Visual representations of colonial violence constitute an overlooked source of evidence that, although shaped by contemporary visual and cultural conventions, allow us to engage with this troubling history in significant ways. The “history wars” of the turn of the millennium have been accused of focusing on disciplinary protocols with the effect of obscuring the moral implications of colonial invasion and dispossession. By contrast, images evoke empathy, creating social relationships across the British Empire that defined identities and aligned viewers with specific communities. Images also return the modern viewer to the emotional and moral intensity of 1830s and 1840s frontier violence in south-eastern Australia. They map colonial “blind spots” by demonstrating the ways that these emotions were politicised to legitimate colonial interests, for example, by directing sympathy towards white colonists, or seeking to evoke compassion for Aboriginal people. From our present-day perspective, these visual images help us to see our “reflection”, and acknowledge the truth of our history and its legacies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-427
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Australian Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Dec 2018

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