School of Culture and Communication - Theses

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    Indigenous Futurism: Practices and Politics
    Alizzi, Arlie ( 2021)
    This thesis examines Indigenous Futurism as an activist practice. Indigenous Futurism is an emerging international mode of Indigenous creative production. Recently, it has become an increasingly used form of artistic expression and tool for political organising in Australia. Indigenous Futurism uses future time to produce visions of Indigenous survivance and to subvert colonial narratives of history and politics. It can transform our thinking in relation to challenges we face in the present as Indigenous people. In the last decade, a number of texts have emerged in Australia by Indigenous people which imagine political futures. This thesis explores three works made in 2013 and 2014, including Alexis Wright’s novel The Swan Book (2013), Ellen Van Neerven’s short story Water (2014), and Nicole Watson’s alternative feminist judgment In the Matter of Djappari re Tukiar 2035 (2014). Additionally, it engages with one Canadian virtual reality work by Danis Goulet, The Hunt (2017). The original contribution of this thesis is to examine Indigenous Futurist works as examples of what Poka Laenui describes as decolonial ‘dreaming’ (2000). It is also the contribution of this thesis to assert that the works belong to a broader gathering of Indigenous Futurist theory and creativity in an international context. In the Australian context, prior work on the texts studied in this thesis has categorised them based on western genre categories and thematics. Studies from literary theory have not engaged meaningfully with the analytical and philosophical frameworks provided by Indigenous Futurist thought. In response, this dissertation undertakes a critique of how literary theory has related to Indigenous literatures demonstrates how the texts implement the narrative strategies and political principles of Indigenous Futurism. This thesis engages with these four contemporary Indigenous texts about the near future as activist texts. It extends on the prior work of Indigenous Futurist scholars and practitioners globally to conduct an exploration of Indigenous Futurism as both critical political tool and a distinct artistic movement which is growing in Australia. The thesis finds that Indigenous Futurism is a political form of writing and creative expression which complicates western understandings of genre. It demonstrates that Indigenous Futurist texts present new ways of thinking about justice, war, queerness, racism, climate trauma, and the role of plants and non-human actors in decolonial projects and cultural revitalisation. The analysis of the works studied in this thesis reveals a deep engagement with the dual narratives of the progressive white nation state and the myth of linear progress. This thesis argues that the texts are methods for critical engagement in themselves. It uses key frameworks from Indigenous literary theory, such as Chadwick Allen’s ‘Trans-Indigenous’ and the emerging methodology of storywork to present an analysis of the texts which breaks away from the normative habits of western literary theory, and to claim them as Indigenous Futurist texts that exist in a growing international critical movement.