Back to

Beyond Recognition: Postcolonial relationality across difference

Beyond Recognition: Postcolonial relationality across difference

Based on case studies in Australia, Kenya and Papua New Guinea, the project aims to better understand how different forms of recognition shape relations between Indigenous people and people in positions of relative privilege.

This multi-site, international comparative project examines forms of relationality in diverse postcolonial contexts (Australia, Kenya and Papua New Guinea). Focusing on the ‘politics of recognition’, the research will build on recent critical Indigenous scholarship which has mapped the ways that these politics can exacerbate, rather than ameliorate, colonial hierarchies. In the diverse case study sites, the research examines forms of relationality between colonised/formerly colonised peoples and agents of power, including states, governmental agencies, development agencies, and individuals from colonising/formerly colonising powers.

Mr Elking Doroda holds the Fuzzy Wuzzy Commemorative Medallion awarded to his father for service as a carrier during the Second World War. New Buna village, Oro Province, Papua New Guinea, 2017.Photo: Dr Victoria Stead

In settler colonial Australia, we examine existing mechanisms for Indigenous land justice including native title and land rights, and how critical appraisals of these processes might better inform the design of constitutional recognition and treaty. In formerly settler postcolonial Kenya, we consider the politics of recognition as it plays out through institutions introduced during colonialism but which have undergone considerable transformation since the 2010 Constitution: the census, citizenship registration, and communal land titling. The Kenya case study also explores encounters between civil society and development agencies and slum residents in a political context in which codified ethnicities are key differentiating markers. In non-settler postcolonial PNG, our focus is the contested distributions of ‘benefits’ in a growing war tourism industry that caters primarily for tourists from the country’s former colonial power, Australia, and brings them into engagement with local people recognised as ‘customary landowners’.

The project involves four researchers and a dedicated PhD student (Alice Bellette), as well as a range of other collaborators at Deakin and other institutions. The researchers use a multi-methods approach, including ethnography and social media analysis in order to understand the experiences of those in the diverse field sites.


In this series, Welcome?, we talk about the difficult work of relationships between colonised, coloniser, and the many in-between categories, in three different contexts: Australia, Papua New Guinea and Kenya. We tell stories from our work as academic researchers, stories about real people in real places.

In the Boon Wurrung and Wurundjeri lands where we live and work, in Naarm (Melbourne), you often see the phrase ‘Wominjeka/Womindjeka’ used in public places and at public events. It’s usually translated into English as ‘welcome’. At Welcome to Country ceremonies, though, Elders teach that it means more than that. They teach us that it’s a call to ethical relationship — with people, land, and with the future — that might be better translated as ‘come with purpose’, or ‘state your intention’.

In this podcast, we ask the questions: who is welcome? Who does the welcoming? And on what and whose terms? And, of course, who is not welcome?

That question mark after ‘welcome’ in our title – it’s intentional.

Our stories help us explore different ways of accepting a welcome, offering one, or being alert to being unwelcome, and what we can do with such a situation.

We invite you to join us as we try to work out what that question mark after ‘welcome’ might mean for us, and for you.


Looking to partner with Australia's leading social sciences 
and humanities research institute?

If you are interested in partnering or studying with us – we're keen to hear from you.