CAEPR Seminar - Therapy Culture and the Intentional Aboriginal [Anangu] Subject - Sarah Holcombe

CAEPR Seminar - Therapy Culture and the Intentional Aboriginal [Anangu] Subject - Sarah Holcombe
Friday 29 April 2016

Where - Humanities Conference Room, First Floor, A.D. Hope Bldg #14 (opposite Chifley Library), The Australian National University, Canberra.

When - Wednesday, 4 May 2016 - 12.30 - 2.00pm





This seminar is drawn from a chapter in a work-in-progress book Human Rights in Aboriginal central Australia: Towards the Practice of Theory.   

The particularly rich locations where there are active attempts by the State and their agents at inscribing an agentic human-rights holder subject, as a reformed Aboriginal self; is through policy interventions labelled as 'behavioural change programs' for the perpetrators and the victims of spousal violence. There are several of these operating in Alice Springs, including within the jail, but the focus of this seminar will be on the Cross Border Indigenous Family Violence Program that operates in remote central Australian communities. The other therapeutic intervention of relevance in this field of gender violence is the Outreach Service offered by the Alice Springs Women's Shelter. As therapeutic technologies, both the Program and the work of the Outreach Service actively attempt to engage with the inner subjectivities of the participants or clients, as they attempt to question and dismantle the socio-centric 'structures of feeling', to co-opt William's terminology, that guide or orient Anangu decision-making. These therapeutic technologies aim to foster the responsibilisation discourse where individuals are created and taught and cajoled to become reflective outward looking agents free to make choices that change their status from 'victim' to actor and from 'perpetrator' to empathiser.

For my purposes, the role this therapeutic technology plays in the production of individuals 'free to choose' offers an insight into the incremental transformation of subjects into human rights holders. Although this human rights discourse may be nascent as a politically reformative program in this region, it is implicit in the formation of the modern citizen-subject in myriad ways.

Biography: Sarah Holcombe is an ARC Future Fellow in CAEPR at the ANU undertaking an ethnographic project exploring the local effects of human rights discourse in Aboriginal central Australia.  She has a diverse research background in remote Aboriginal Australia, which includes applied anthropology with Northern Territory land Councils and research management as the Social Science Coordinator for the Desert Knowledge CRC. She has undertaken research on the social sustainability of mining in Indigenous communities; alternative economies; Indigenous community governance; integrity systems in research with Indigenous peoples. Her research is increasingly focusing on legal and political anthropology.


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