Conciliation, Trust and Violence: Empire’s Humanitarian Handshake and the Anatomy of a Transcolonial Idea, 1788–1901

This research examines the histories of conciliation, trust and violence and the various and powerful orders of affect and emotion between Australian Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples especially through issues of reconciliation, redress and treaty.

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The project seeks to trace the handshake motif as a strategy of affect and governance in diplomacy and peacemaking relations between Indigenous peoples and settlers in Australia. More broadly, the project is part of a larger research program in which I seek to historicise conciliation as a multivalent strategy of diplomacy and an intellectual idea with a genealogy where issues of trust, violence and peacemaking coalesce on often violent frontiers.

In recent decades settler nations across the globe have been compelled to make new political compacts between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples to address past grievances and to seek to create new national futures.  In the former colonies of British settlement, now nominally postcolonial nations, where settlers do not go home but make ‘home’ within a settler-colonial paradigm that is often resistant to decolonisation, reconciliation has become a political catch-cry.  Within the iconography of the Australian Reconciliation movement, handshake imagery abounds. The (re)conciliation handshake is a political and emotive performance, highly emblematic of the ‘settler compact’, as I term it, that is, the requirement for settlers and Indigenous people to conciliate and make new political agreements and emotional accords under the sign of nation.

Yet, reconciliation, this project argues, has a past. Conciliation is not just a postcolonial phenomenon of late liberal settler democracies. It possesses an intellectual, cultural and affective history, and was developed from the eighteenth century throughout the British imperial networks and within a political context of aggressive British settlement and the rise of humanitarianism. This project will examine how conciliation has been used, performed and mythologised in the service of British colonialism as a strategy of colonial invasion and governance within wider nineteenth-century imperial, local colonial, and postcolonial spheres. Attending in particular to colonial cultures and the visual lexicon of empire, this project considers the handshake gesture on treaty medals, paintings and in other imagery and proposes that it is the motif par excellence of trust and conciliation within often violent settler imperial relations.

This project builds on an ARC linkage project entitled  'Conciliation Narratives and the Historical Imagination in British Pacific Rim Settler Societies' (2008-2012), which I conducted at The University of Melbourne with Professor Kate Darian-Smith (CHE AI 2017, The University of Melbourne) and with industry partners Museums Victoria, National Museum of Australia, and Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. The outcomes of this project have been fruitful and have presented many research avenues.

Outputs

Press

'University of Tasmania Historian Shortlisted for Ernest Scott Prize: Historical Passion Leads to a Fascinating 10-Year Project'The University of Tasmania ‘Research to Reality’ News, 26 March 2017.

Awards

Australian Women's History Network Mary Bennett Prize, 2012.

Academy of Social Sciences in Australia Paul Burke Early Career Award for Panel C (History, Philosophy, Law and Political Science (2014)) for 'multi-disciplinary approach to settler colonialism' and 'theoretical depth and originality’, 2014.

Shortlisted for the Ernest Scott Prize 2017 for Settler Colonialism and (Re) Conciliation: Frontier violence, Affective Performances, and Imaginative Refoundings. Basingstoke: Palgrave McMillan, 2016.

Events

In October this year Associate Professor Edmonds will give the prestigious 2017 Trevor Reese Memorial Lecture at King's College London, the key Australian history lecture hosted by the Menzies Centre for Australian Studies in association with the Institute for Commonwealth Studies.

Publications

Book

Edmonds, P. Settler Colonialism and (Re) Conciliation: Frontier violence, Affective Performances, and Imaginative Refoundings. Basingstoke: Palgrave McMillan, 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Review

'Part exposé and part archive, this book is not afraid to explore the tensions between the enduring promise of reconciliation as a route towards cultural rapprochement and its intractable limits as a mode of postcolonial justice … Edmonds’ deft analysis of performance as fundamental to the negotiation process reveals an emerging trans-indigenous movement geared to change not only how we think about reconciliation, but also, and more importantly, how we go about doing it.'

- Professor Helen Gilbert, Centre for International Theatre and Performance Research, Royal Holloway, University of London.

Edited Collection

Darian-Smith, K. and P. Edmonds, eds. Conciliation on Colonial Frontiers: Conflict, Performance, and Commemoration in Australia and the Pacific Rim. London: Routledge, 2015. 

Book Chapters

Edmonds, P. 'Honourable colonisation? Australia'. In Honourable Intentions? Violence and Virtue in Australian and Cape Colonies, c.1750‒1850, edited by P. Russell and N. Worden, pp. 46‒63.  London: Routledge, 2016. ISBN 9781138850385 [Research Book Chapter].

Darian- Smith, K. and P. Edmonds. 'Conciliation and Conflict, Performance and Commemoration in Colonial Australia and the Pacific Rim'.  In Conciliation on Colonial Frontiers: Conflict, Performance and Commemoration in Australia and the Pacific Rim, edited by K. Darian-Smith and P. Edmonds, pp. 1‒12.  London: Routledge, 2015.  ISBN 9780415744300 [Research Book Chapter].

Edmonds, P. 'Tame Iti at the Confiscation Line: Contesting the Consensus Politics of the Waitangi Treaty in Aotearoa New Zealand'. In Conciliation on Colonial Frontiers: Conflict, Performance and Commemoration in Australia and the Pacific Rim, edited by K. Darian-Smith and P. Edmonds, pp. 171‒92. London: Routledge, 2015.  ISBN 9780415744300 [Research Book Chapter].

Articles

Edmonds, P. '“Failing in Every Endeavour to Conciliat”: Governor Arthur's Proclamation Boards to the Aborigines, Australian Conciliation Narratives and Their Transnational Connections'.  Journal of Australian Studies 35.2 (2011): 201‒18. ISSN 1444-3058 [Refereed Article].

Edmonds, P. 'A Breastplate Reveals the Story of an Australian Frontier Massacre'The Conversation, Australia, 28 October 2014 [News Article].

Blog Posts

Edmonds, P. and A. Marchant. '“Say Sorry you Bastard!” Postcolonial Shame, Reconciliation and National Sorry Day'. Histories of Emotion, ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions Blog, Australia, 25 May 2015. 

Marchant, A. and P. Edmonds. 'The Aesthetic of Dark Mofo: Emotion, Darkness and the Tasmanian Gothic', Histories of Emotion, ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions Blog, Australia, 24 July 2015. 

 

Image: By permission of Dr. Jan Hogan, The University of Tasmania.