Visiting Fellows Seminar (Semester One)

Recorded: Thursday, 13 July 2023

Presentation one: Avoiding Maladaptive Outcomes: Relocation as an Adaptation Response to Climate Change – Assistant Professor Amanda Bertana

Until recently, climate change policy has focused heavily on mitigation for fear that discussions on adaptation would detract from efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Nevertheless, ongoing climate change has made adaptation a global priority. As adaptation is needed and projects are being implemented around the world, it is necessary to identify the structural processes that contribute to both successful adaptation and maladaptation (e.g., waste financial resources, result in further ecological degradation, or redistribute harms to other marginalised populations). Fiji provides an illuminating case study to explore these issues. Drawing upon data from in-depth interviews with Indigenous Fijian community members and an ethnographic study of three coastal villages that were at different stages of relocation as an adaptation to coastal erosion, I provide an analysis into the structural processes that resulted in maladaptive outcomes.

Presentation two: Settler nationalism and Indigenous sovereignty in so-called ‘Australia’ – Dr Dan Tout and Dr Kim Alley

This paper explores the nature and political implications of contemporary settler nationalism in so-called ‘Australia’. While the origins and nature of nationalism remain contested, its essential principle is embedded in the nation-state ideal, in which national coherence and territorial sovereignty are imaginatively aligned. In settler-colonial Australia, the process of state formation preceded the creation of ‘the nation’ it purported to represent. The project of national cultural construction this required has been constrained by the settler-colonial system of relations, in which settler national/ist efforts to indigenise are unsettled by the presence and persistence of prior Indigenous sovereignties (Veracini 2010). As a result, the sought-after naturalisation of the settler national body remains incomplete (Strakosch 2016). Over the post–1967 period and especially in the wake of the High Court’s decision in Mabo no. 2 in 1992, a resurgent Indigenous polity has confronted settler Australia with the Reality and illegitimacy of its own foundations.

Those invested in the coherence and legitimacy of the settler nation have had to grapple with a shift in its imagined geography, from one founded on the presumed absence of Indigenous peoples and sovereignties to one in which they can no longer be (plausibly) denied. New forms and varieties of settler nationalism have arisen in response, working to deny, contain, or subsume the existence and implications of pre-existing and persisting Indigenous sovereignties for a settler nation constructed on fantasies of their absence. In this paper, we explore the challenges and disruptions Indigenous assertions of sovereignty present to the foundations, narratives, and understandings of settler-colonial Australia in order to uncover the persistent structuring tendencies imposed and maintained by settler-colonial nationalism on settlers’, and the settler state’s, continuing denial of Indigenous sovereignty. We conclude with our reflections on possibilities for living and relating otherwise, in accordance with what Tuck & Yang (2012) describe as an ‘ethic of incommensurability’.


Amanda Bertana, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Southern Connecticut State University. Her primary area of research investigates the human dimensions of global environmental change and its effects (flooding, coastal erosion, more frequent and intense storm surges) on local communities, particularly as it relates to concerns of inequality and justice. Recently, she has studied climate adaptation efforts with an emphasis on structural processes that lead to adaptive and maladaptive outcomes. She has published articles in Environmental Sociology, Environment and Planning C, The Geographical Journal, Anthropological Forum, Rural Connections, Climate and Development, and Case Studies in the Environment.

Dan Tout is a lecturer in history and sociology at Federation University, a Visiting Fellow with the Australian Centre at the University of Melbourne, and an Arena Publications Editor. His research focuses on settler colonialism and nationalism in Australia and their impacts on and implications for First Nations peoples. Dr Tout’s Visiting Fellowship is focused on developing a fuller theorisation of settler nationalism, with the aim of elaborating the nature and political implications of settler nationalism in contemporary so-called ‘Australia’, and around the settler-colonial world.

Kim Alley is Senior Lecturer in Indigenous Studies at the University of Melbourne and Australian Centre Fellow. Dr Alley is an Aboriginal academic and researcher, with more than ten years’ experience in researching and teaching Indigenous Studies, Australian Politics and Middle Eastern Politics/History. Her work focuses on settler colonial histories and political violence, while also examining social movements for change and liberation, transnational activism and resistance politics. Dr Alley’s work seeks to highlight how such histories and activism impact and inform Indigenous–Settler relations today both in Australia and internationally.