Writing, space and authority: Producing and critiquing settler jurisdiction in Western Australia

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On the edge of Stirling Gardens in central Perth, Western Australia, five large, old-fashioned pen nibs stand in a curved line, their tips in the ground. Anne Neil’s sculpture, Memory Markers, commemorates the history of this site, which includes the Supreme Court. Taking this sculpture as an emblem of writing, which in the context of its setting highlights the relationship between literature and law, this article explores the image of the pen in the ground. As a symbol of literacy, it evokes the powerful network of discourses—particularly law, science and religion—that underwrote the imperial project. It signals, in Michele Grossman’s terms, “the event of literacy [that] radically interrupts and disrupts—but never eliminates—pre-existing Aboriginal epistemologies”. The article goes on to explore the sculpture as a symbol of the assertion of jurisdiction, the speaking of law in and over colonised space. It analyses a group of written texts associated with this site, from colonial legal assertions of jurisdiction over Aboriginal people in Edward Landor’s The Bushman (1847), through a proclamation under the Aborigines Act 1905 (WA), to Stephen Kinnane’s Indigenous family memoir of life under that act, Shadow Lines (2004). © 2017 International Australian Studies Association.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-155
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Australian Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2017


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