Research Stream


Shino Konishi
The University of Western Australia

Indigenous Australians and Emotional Pasts

This project explores the emotional life worlds of Indigenous Australian people before colonisation and in the immediate aftermath of colonial contact, as well as the emotional legacies of Indigenous interpretations of the past in the modern era. Its broad aim is to trace both continuity and change in the history of Indigenous emotional attachments to country and how this attachment is expressed.

Shino image.jpg

This project explores both indigenous emotions past, and how Indigenous people today invoke emotions as a means of better explaining the past. Firstly, by reading seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European accounts of Aboriginal people against the grain, Shino Konishi considers how we might gain insights into Indigenous people's feelings about their country and territory. This includes not only the landforms and plant and animal life that constitute the particular landscapes and influenced local Indigenous cultures, but also Indigenous people's affective responses to the arrival of Europeans. Konishi will analyse early European observations of seemingly alarming, perplexing or bemusing emotional displays by Indigenous people. One example is the seemingly oscillating emotions which were intrinsic to the performance of Indigenous ceremonial protocols governing how to receive or repel strangers, as well as the apparently heartfelt and intimate interactions which established kinship relations and forged new reciprocal obligations with the European strangers. Other case studies examine Indigenous emotions connected to country, such as when Aboriginal people made impassioned interventions to prevent early colonists from despoiling local environments through hunting and land-clearing, as well as the social performance of emotions, especially in response to death, the execution of customary law, and cross-cultural interactions.

The second part of the project poses a question: why is it that for many Indigenous people the past is a source of enduring pain and anger, but also of pride and dignity? Konishi will investigate how emotions imbue contemporary Indigenous engagement with history, that is, how Indigenous historians, writers, filmmakers and artists explicitly evoke emotions in recovering and reconciling with the past. In particular, Konishi will consider histories of territorial dispossession, including frontier conflict, massacre, forced removal, as well as land rights activism and Native Title.

Image: Scar, Michael Jalaru Torres, 2017. Courtesy of the artist.