AustLit logo
y separately published work icon Australian Humanities Review periodical issue   peer reviewed assertion
Alternative title: Unfinished Business : Apology Cultures in the Asia Pacific
Issue Details: First known date: 2017... no. 61 May 2017 of Australian Humanities Review est. 1996 Australian Humanities Review
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'This special section of Australian Humanities Review, entitled ‘Unfinished Business: Apology Cultures in the Asia Pacific’, arose out of a Monash University Arts Faculty Interdisciplinary Research Project of the same name. This project brought together an interdisciplinary team across the fields of Literary Studies, History, Film, and Cultural Studies, encompassing aspects of law, human rights and ethics. The project sought to understand how various forms of cultural practice and narrative mediate our comprehension of the past and of ongoing human interactions within and between nation-states, in particular, of past, present and future social and cultural interactions that coalesce around the material and symbolic consequences of apology in the Asia Pacific region.' (Editorial Introduction)


  • Only literary material within AustLit's #scope#(/austlit/page/5961889) individually indexed. Other material in this issue includes:

     - Collecting Bones: Japanese Missions for the Repatriation of War Remains and the Unfinished Business of the Asia-Pacific War by Beatrice Trefalt -

     - Tom Baily : Review of Artist at Work: Proximity of Art and Capitalism, by Bojana Kunst

      - Adrian Martin: Review of Mise en Scène and Film Style: From Classical Hollywood to New Media Art

     -  Emily Potter : Review : Eating the Ocean By Elspeth Probyn


* Contents derived from the 2017 version. Please note that other versions/publications may contain different contents. See the Publication Details.
Unfinished Business : Apology Cultures in the Asia Pacific, Sue Kossew , Beatrice Trefalt , single work essay
Neither Nationalists nor Universalists : Rex Ingamells and the Jindyworobaks, Dan Tout , single work criticism

'The Jindyworobak poetry movement, founded by Rex Ingamells in 1938, emerged in the context of a literary-cultural milieu split between those concerned with developing a uniquely ‘indigenous’ Australian tradition on the one hand, and those primarily concerned with defending and maintaining continuity with Australia’s European inheritance on the other. While the Jindyworobaks have typically been associated with the former tradition, this essay argues that they in fact sought to chart a new path that rejected both the straightforward traditions of anti-colonial nationalism and the ‘alien’ influence of imported European culture; that they rejected both extremes and sought instead to achieve a synthesis of the two. With this aim in mind, they turned towards Aboriginal Australians, as bearers of the spirit of the place, in an attempt to appropriate an imagined environmental essence and to thereby construct the conditions for an unmediated encounter between the settler and the land.' (Introduction)

Antipodean Dream, Antipodean Nightmare : Spatial Ideology and Justin Kurzel’s Snowtown, Ari Mattes , single work criticism

'This essay begins from a simple premise: determinations of ‘Australianness’ and ‘the Australian character’ have been and continue to be inextricably linked to the fetishisation and reification of space in popular cultural manifestations of Australia. This is evident throughout white Australian cultural histories, as well as white histories of Australian culture. Perhaps this is a tautological claim in relation to any conception of nation, tied as such conceptions are to modern practices of cartography and geography. However, it is my contention that whilst notions of space play a determinant role in general vis-à-vis the configuration of nation (and national character), they play a larger role than usual in the configuration of ‘Australia’; the function of space in the conception of Australia is less modulated through competing discourses such as class, ethnicity and religion than in other national examples. This emphasis continues to privilege a mythical vision of space, with terra Australis incognita reified according to either of two dominant paradigms: the landscape is cultivated as a blank space offering the egalitarian opportunity for ‘man’ to reassess and reassert ‘his’ place in the natural order; or the landscape is cultivated as a sublime object—grand, and at times terrifying in its vastness and emptiness, a spectral antipodean environment that seems to ‘naturally’ lend itself to the gothic mode.' (Introduction)

Introduction : Unfinished Business, Tessa Morris-Suzuki , single work essay

'In the introduction to a recent book on historical memory and justice, Australian scholars Klaus Neumann and Janna Thompson write: ‘It was once assumed that historical wrongs could be addressed and then forgotten. Few would make that assumption now’ . The lesson of the reconciliation and justice commissions which, over the past two decades, have tackled problems of historical responsibility for violence—from Argentina to South Africa and from Spain to East Timor—is that committees of investigation, apologies and compensation funds do not close the ledger book of history. They may have very important and valuable outcomes, helping victims to recover from terrible past injuries, and enabling former enemies to live together. They may therefore be worth campaigning for with great energy. But they do not make the past go away. Some problems almost inevitably remain unresolved, and the tasks of remembrance, reconciliation and redress go on. This ongoing and global process of addressing the past is well illustrated by two recent events from opposite sides of the world.' (Introduction)

Warning Signals : Indigenous Remembrance and Futurity in Post-Apology Australia, Therese Davis , single work criticism

'The 2008 national Apology to the Stolen Generations was met with jubilant acclamation from across the country, generating a collective wave of optimism that Australia could be a better place that it had been, even if this was a ‘largely symbolic’ event. Nine years on, the Apology’s promise to make Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians equal partners by ‘closing the gap’ in health and life-expectation has spectacularly failed in all areas bar one, while the nation stalls yet again on questions of formal recognition of the first Australians in its handling of the campaign for a referendum on constitutional change that would ‘end the exclusion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from the Australian Constitution and deal with racial discrimination in it’ (Commonwealth of Australia, Constitutional Recognition).' (Introduction)

Unfinished Business in (Post)Reconciliation Australia, Catriona Elder , single work criticism

'In the late 1980s Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians continued a set of conversations—conversations that had emerged during the bicentenary—about the need for proper recognition of Indigenous peoples by the state. These discussions focused on legal and political issues and took place alongside an increased interest from non-Indigenous people in thinking about ways of ending racism. In 1991 Reconciliation was posited by the federal parliament as the key state intervention to deal with these issues. This article traces the 35 years of reconciliation since the Council of Reconciliation Act was passed in 1991. It engages with questions asked by Tessa Morris-Suzuki (9) about who the parties are that are involved in the reconciliation process and what reconciliation would look like if it were achieved. This analysis draws on the historical sociological theory of the event to undertake this work. In this perspective events are ‘that relatively rare subclass of happenings that significantly transforms structures’ (Sewell cited in Clemens 541). Elisabeth Clemens, drawing on Marshall Sahlins’s work notes that some events ‘may be capable of disrupting established associations and oppositions’ (541). For example, the legislation that mandated a decade of reconciliation in Australia produced a situation where citizens thinking about Australian race relations had their cause legitimated in a new way.' (Introduction)

A Post-Apology Carceral Regime : Encountering Refugee Art in Australia, Olivia Khoo , single work criticism

On 13 February 2008, the newly-installed Australian Prime Minister of the day, Kevin Rudd, made a now-landmark speech saying ‘Sorry’ to the Stolen Generations. Symbolically, the Apology was considered ‘a turning-point in the process of reconciliation’ (Kossew 171), a way of righting a historical wrong that would lead to a new chapter in the nation’s history. We can compare this speech to statements made by Rudd on his brief return to leadership prior to the September 2013 elections, when he introduced a strict refugee resettlement policy whereby all refugees arriving to Australia by boat were to be resettled in Papua New Guinea, and none would be allowed to settle in Australia, even after their claims for asylum had been processed. Despite widespread criticism from members of his own party, Rudd refused to back down over his hardline refugee policy. He repeatedly said that he made ‘no apology’ for the fact that he had to make some tough decisions (Uhlmann; Scarr and Jones). Ostensibly the policy was to stop people perishing on the treacherous journey from Indonesia to Australia in unseaworthy boats but it was also clearly a political manoeuvre in an effort to appeal to more conservative forces in a last-ditch attempt to win an unwinnable election. Since then, Rudd’s political opponents have made similar statements of being ‘unapologetic’ for their own asylum seeker policies (Borello; Whyte). It is this period of Australian cultural and political life that I refer to as ‘post-apology’ (Introduction)

Revisiting the Haunted Past : Christine Piper’s After Darkness, Sue Kossew , single work criticism


A frequently-used metaphor in Australian national discourse is that of one or other ‘shameful’ or ‘dark’ chapter in our past. Alongside the notion of shame and guilt comes the idea of repressed and silenced memory, either through deliberate institutionalised forgetting or through the impossibility of fully articulating traumatic pasts. At the same time, as Kate Darian-Smith and Paula Hamilton suggest, ‘forms of remembering and commemoration have become the central contemporary mode through which various constituencies understand history, including the national past’ (371). This seemingly contradictory clash of a willed forgetfulness alongside a fascination with remembrance may account for the popularity in Australian literature of historical novels, a sub-set of which may be termed ‘sorry novels,’ and of literary works that may be regarded as participating in a process of what Tessa Morris-Suzuki and others in East Asia Beyond the History Wars: Confronting the Ghosts of Violence (2013) term ‘reconciliation as method’. This concept is defined ‘not as an end-point in which consensus on history is achieved, but rather as sets of media, skills and processes that encourage the creative sharing of ideas and understandings about the past’ (13). The focus on ‘creative sharing’ suggests that such texts may participate in uncovering ‘unfinished business’ and in this way contribute to debates about understandings of the past. At the very least, the concept of ‘reconciliation as method’ prompts us to consider how literary narratives (among other forms of cultural texts) provoke questions of historical responsibility.' (introduction)

After Apology : the Remains of the Past, Paul Muldoon , single work criticism

'In an extraordinarily prescient lecture, addressed to the nation responsible for the first ‘crime against humanity’, Theodor Adorno attested to the paradox of a past that lives on, but cannot be lived with: ‘one wants to get free of the past, rightly so, since one cannot live in its shadow, and since there is no end to terror if guilt and violence are only repaid, again and again, with guilt and violence. But wrongly so, since the past one wishes to evade is still so intensely alive’ (Adorno 115). Although ‘the past’ to which Adorno refers remains the exceptional instance of state crime, his observations strike at the heart of a dilemma that many political communities continue to grapple with today: how does one get free of a past that refuses to pass? Though an increasingly popular theme of intellectual inquiry, a burgeoning topic within the ever expanding and ever more sophisticated field of ‘memory studies’, the question could scarcely be dismissed as being of merelyacademic interest. Assuming John Torpey is even half right in suggesting that concern for the future has now been eclipsed by a ‘preoccupation with past crimes and atrocities’, the ‘righting old wrongs’ project is of more than marginal concern for states right around the world (Torpey 1). Indeed, if the problem of ‘coming to terms with the past’ was ever exclusively German, it is now a truly universal political concern.' (Introduction)

‘Sorry, above All, That I Can Make Nothing Right’ : Public Apology in Judith Wright, Bridget Vincent , single work criticism

'Since the middle of the twentieth century, the phenomenon of public apology has become increasingly prevalent and visible, enacted in contexts ranging from the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission to the Australian government’s apology to the Stolen Generation, to the iconic genuflection of Willy Brandt before the Warsaw Ghetto Monument. While research surrounding public apology (particularly in the context of work on trauma, memory and reconciliation) has also become increasing prevalent, literary representations of public apology remain under-researched. Works like J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace (1999) and Gail Jones’ Sorry (2007) present something of a scholarly conundrum. In the final historical and cultural assessment of public apologies, how are imaginative representations of apologies to be understood? Do they participate in the apologising process, or do they simply describe it? What implications does a judgement either way hold for scholarship on the larger relations between art and civic life? This paper finds a way into some of these large questions by considering the specific case of Judith Wright and the forms of literary redress she made to Indigenous Australians. ' (Introduction)

[Review Essay] : Australian Literature in the German Democratic Republic : Reading Through the Iron Curtain, Ned Curthoys , single work essay

'This volume of essays is an engaging study of the reception of Australian literature in the GDR, the former East Germany. It explores the remarkable story of the publication and reception of Australian literature in the GDR by a state sponsored ‘publishing combine’ consisting of writers, editors, government officials, and censors. Some ninety-five titles by Australian authors dot the short history of the GDR from the early 1950s until that nation’s demise with German unification in 1990. Some titles, such as Marcus Clarke’s convict narrative For the Term of His Natural Lifehad a long and highly successful publishing history in the GDR, running into multiple reprints. Others such as Frank Hardy’s Power Without Glory (translated into German in 1952) paved the way for a steady stream of communist and social realist writers to travel to an ideologically congenial East Germany in the 1950s and 60s. Novels like these were refracted through a particular interpretive matrix in the GDR, remediated by publishers for pressing ideological purposes. As translators and cultural intermediaries, editors and translators in the GDR, often Anglophone academics, interpreted the history and culture of Australia as doubled: ‘geographically exotic’ yet ‘politically retrograde’, a utopic experiment whose depredations indexed the exploitative system of world-capitalism.' (Introduction)

[Review Essay] The Mother’s Day Protest and Other Fictocritical Essays, Therese Davis , single work essay

'The Mother’s Day Protest and Other Fictocritical Essays by Stephen Muecke is the latest contribution to Rowman and Littlefield’s series Place, Memory and Affect. The aim of this series is ‘to forge an agenda for new approaches to the edgy relations of people and place within the transnational global cultures of the twenty-first century and beyond’. This collection of Muecke’s essays offers a unique geo-philosophical, non-humanist approach to these relations, firmly planted in discussion of a wild array of places, events and things. Their insights into issues of climate change, indigeneity, protest, colonial history, critique and more engage readers in new ways with debates in Indigenous Studies, Environmental Humanities, History and Philosophy.' (Introduction)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Last amended 11 Jul 2017 13:45:31