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Working paper

Abstract: Border anxieties pervade discussions of refugees, asylum seekers and the defence of white privilege. Many scholars have explored the significance of borderlands/borderscapes in shaping and defending the white western self. The defence of a ‘vulnerable’ white subject includes the demonisation of the asylum seeker other and a deep fear of the erosion of ‘patriarchal white sovereignty’. In print news texts about lip sewing by asylum seekers, a common theme is the location of Woomera and other detention centres as ‘states of exception’ or part of ‘not-Australia’. Using Kristeva’s notion of the ‘abject’ I explore the ‘dark’ place of Woomera and its (voluntary and involuntary) residents in news texts and the role such texts play in constituting what Rutherford (2000) called the ‘good’ white Australian subject. I explore how news texts depict ‘Woomera’ to marginalise both external and internal Others – asylum seekers and white residents – and find that such symbols of abjection reveal the extent to which news representations continue to involve white projections, desires and imaginings of the cultural and class Other.


Ron Hoenig is a PhD student in journalism and cultural studies. His thesis focuses on the Australian media‟s depiction of lip sewing by asylum seekers. This paper was presented at the „ReOrienting the World: Decolonial Horizons‟ international symposium at the International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding, University of South Australia, 22–23 March 2011. He would like to acknowledge that this paper was developed on the traditional lands of the Kaurna people and would like to thank three anonymous referees for their very helpful suggestions for redrafting this paper.

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