Indigenous-British Engagement and Reconciliation in Australia: A Girardian Analysis with Special Reference to the Awabakal People of the Newcastle Region, 1788-1842

Felicity McCallum

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis examines Indigenous-British Engagement and Reconciliation in Australia from 1788 to 1842. It does this through a particular focus on the Awabakal peoples of Wannungine/Wallambine country, east coast Australia. Through an historical lens the thesis examines relationships between structures, knowledges, histories, and people at the dawn of the modern Australian nation.
The framework and conceptual apparatus for the study is drawn from the mimetic theory of the French anthropologist and cultural theorist René Girard. Girardian theory provides a subversive way of reading culture using the hermeneutic of the scapegoat mechanism and mimetic desire. Girard’s mimetic theory offers fresh and insightful ways of analysing and uncovering dimensions of Indigenous-British engagement which often remain resistant and or opaque in more traditional historical modes of inquiry.
A theological/religious thread runs through this inquiry. The thesis shows how an intercultural Awabakal-Christian spirituality merged by First Australians and early mostly British people to the region operates within and well beyond the violence of invasion and colonisation. The positive dimension of this engagement is traced in the thesis through the remarkable friendship between Awabakal Leader and scholar, Birabahn with neighbour to the Awabakal people, humanitarian, evangelist and linguist, Lancelot Edward Threlkeld.
The thesis develops by identifying critical concepts in Girardian analysis and applying them to specific themes: the possibilities of reconciliation through the lens of René Girard, the intelligence of the victim, intellectual sacrifice and cultural memory in Australia, the genesis of intercultural life in Australia and the reckoning of Britain over Awaba, Australia’s monstrous doubles and national self-alienation, triangulation of desire and Awabakaleens, glorious doubles and a growing union in a strange new light.
The thesis concludes with an application of recent developments in Girardian studies by Rebecca Adams which focus on loving mimesis, positive mediation of desire at both personal and national levels and the implications of these findings for the Australian example. This thesis is designed to facilitate a deeper understanding of a crucial aspect of Australia’s history and in this way contribute to contemporary reconciliation between First Nations Peoples and non-Indigenous people of this country, now called Australia.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Pickard, Stephen, Principal Supervisor
  • Gladwin, Michael, Co-Supervisor
Award date01 Dec 2023
Place of PublicationAustralia
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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