Raphael Lemkin in Remote Australia: The Logic of Cultural Genocide and Homelands

Jon Altman*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)


    In the 1970s, Aboriginal people in remote Australia took decisive steps to decentralize from government settlements and missions to live and make a living on their ancestral lands at places that have become known as homelands. Over time, this migration garnered some state support and saw the emergence of new facilitating institutions. But in the last decade homeland living has been discursively demeaned by politicians, and policies have been put in place to undermine the possibility of residing and making a livelihood in these smallest, most remote places mainly located on Indigenous-titled lands. As Indigenous territorial rights expand, the state looks to extinguish possibilities for current and future generations to utilize the land and its resources for livelihood. In this article, I draw on evidence from political discourse, policy documents and programme design and implementation to outline this state project to eliminate a contemporary lifeway. I provide ethnographic evidence from work with Kuninjku people in Arnhem Land that documents this destruction. I engage with the work of Raphael Lemkin to document and theorize the techniques being deployed in terms of the logic of cultural genocide. I end by asking what homelands people might do to push back and what role anthropologists might play in such a process.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)336-359
    Number of pages24
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2018


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