Recent rituals of indigenous recognition in Australia: Welcome to Country

Francesca Merlan*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    36 Citations (Scopus)


    In this article, I examine the recent emergence in Australia of two small, and now regularly enacted, rituals: "Acknowledgments" and "Welcomes to Country." These are expressions of recognition, or response to perceived neglect and injustice. Recognition has become a global theme, part of a broader politics of reparation focused on indigenous and other colonized and subordinated peoples, and includes practices of apology and reconciliation. In Australia, recognition implies expansion the of relationship between categories of people who have been on unequal, distant, and (at some levels) negligible terms as settlers and natives, colonizers and colonized. Practices of recognition are therefore ambiguous: What is to be recognized, and how is recognition to proceed? Here I consider these rituals and their putative origins, structure, content, variations, and affect of participants and audiences. Both rituals cast recognition in ways that continue recent decades of national emphasis on indigenous emplacement, judgments concerning originariness, and authenticity; "Welcomes" also recast relations in terms of a host-guest framework. The emergence of these rituals fosters new kinds of indigenous public expression and receptions of recognition as well as some standardization of both. It is an indication of change, as well as of its limits in indigenous-nonindigenous relationships.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)296-309
    Number of pages14
    JournalAmerican Anthropologist
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


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