Journal article

Historical reasoning about Indigenous imprisonment: a community of fate?

10 Apr 2015

The high rate of Indigenous incarceration is a problem for public policy and therefore for historical and social analysis. This paper compares and contrasts two recent attempts at such analysis: Thalia Anthony’s Indigenous People, Crime and Punishment (2013) and Don Weatherburn’s Arresting Incarceration: Pathways Out of Indigenous Imprisonment (2014). What difference do these books’ contrasting narrative models of Australian history make to our thinking about contemporary Indigenous incarceration? The paper reveals several differences and similarities in their perspectives: how they position themselves in relation to the values that shape Australian debate about punishment; their historical understanding of the institutions of ‘protection’ and of the impact of ‘assimilation’; whether the law and order apparatus is systemically biased against Indigenous Australians; and whether Indigenous Australians should be understood as a ‘community of fate’.

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