23 April – ‘Trapped in the Gap’ book launch

Thursday 23rd April – Book Launch – Emma Kowal – ‘Trapped in the Gap: Doing Good in Indigenous Australia’ (Berghahn, 2015), plus, Academy of Social Sciences of Australia Paul Bourke lecture. 4-7pm, Deakin Melbourne City Centre, Level 3, 550 Bourke Street, Melbourne.

In Australia, a ‘tribe’ of white, middle-class, progressive professionals is actively working to improve the lives of Indigenous people. This book explores what Trapped in the Gaphappens when well-meaning people, supported by the state, attempt to help without harming. ‘White anti-racists’ find themselves trapped by endless ambiguities, contradictions, and double binds — a microcosm of the broader dilemmas of postcolonial societies. These dilemmas are fueled by tension between the twin desires of equality and difference: to make Indigenous people statistically the same as non-Indigenous people (to ‘close the gap’) while simultaneously maintaining their ‘cultural’ distinctiveness. This tension lies at the heart of failed development efforts in Indigenous communities, ethnic minority populations and the global South. This book explains why doing good is so hard, and how it could be done differently.

“This is an excellent forensic analysis of the dilemmas of well intentioned white development workers in the intercultural, post-colonial setting of a region of a settler society that is still unsettled. It is well written and engaging . . . It is scrupulously balanced, strives to be complete, and is consistently well argued.”  ·  Patrick Sullivan, University of Notre Dame

“This book breaks new ground in the study of postcolonial identity politics. Its analysis of the complex motivations, aspirations and ethical ambiguities arising from the legacy of colonialism is both compelling and certain to prompt productive debate.”  ·  David Trigger, University of Queensland