These Borders Are Not Your Borders

Dear Person-Who-Put-Up-The-Alarming-Poster-Featured-Below,

File 23-1-18, 8 53 41 pm

First, let me thank you for the opportunity to consider an issue of great importance: borders. I gather from the poster’s symbolism that the borders you are referring to with the statement “My Borders, My Choice” are the borders of the Australian nation (as opposed to the borders of your personal body, the latter of which would quite frankly make for a much more appealing poster). Luckily, I am happy to talk about national borders, too.


Via this poster, specifically via the statement “my borders”, you claim that you have a right to manage national borders because they are yours. I have taken a moment to look up the word “my” in the Oxford English Dictionary and it directed me to the definition of “mine”:


“Used with a possessive to emphasize that someone or something belongs or relates to the person mentioned.”


In accordance with this definition, when you write “My Borders” you are claiming that the geographical borders of this continent belong to you. Interestingly, this continent’s colonial invaders originated from England, like this definition. Even more interesting, this continent’s First Nations never ceded the land to the English colonial invaders. As such, the land, if we are to be technical, belongs to the former. Since the colonial invaders never made a transaction to possess the land, it seems the invaders and all subsequent generations actually undermine the definition of the word “my” that they themselves have invented every time they use the word in relation to the nation’s borders. I guess what I am getting at here is that these borders you refer to are an arbitrary demarcation enforced by a colonial imaginary and therefore cannot be possessed/in your belonging. I am also pointing to the fictive but self-authorising power that the English language enables through performativity. But let’s put this aside for the time being and get back to the more intimate claim that you are making, in particular, that these national borders somehow personally belong to you.


Exactly how have these borders come to belong to you? I gather you have not bought them at the supermarket, aisle 3: Aussie Arrogance? Are they included on the asset list of your bank statements? Do you declare them as income on your tax returns? (If not, you really should, since you’ve undoubtedly profited from this incorrect but nonetheless dominant belief that the borders are yours.)


Let’s assume that you believe you own these arbitrary borders through inheritance, a bit like how you might inherit a home. This is a logic that I can more easily follow: you were born in the home, your parents died and left you the home, the home now belongs to you, and you decide who comes in and out of its borders.


Naturally, when people from other homes want to come to your home you want to be able to choose whether or not to let them do so. Of course, I understand you would feel very upset if a burglar came into your home, unannounced, took your things, and destroyed your property. In line with this logic, am I right to assume that if your neighbour’s house burns down overnight, you would also be very upset when they run into your yard seeking safety from the fire, unannounced? After all, just because someone’s house is on fire doesn’t mean they can cross the borders of your home willy nilly! Your borders, your choice! And just because they didn’t have time to ask if it would be okay for them to stand on your front lawn and call 000—and then wait five years for you to respond with a YES or NO—that is not your fault!


Okay, yes, you’ve got me, I am being facetious. Of course, I don’t really believe that someone like you, so clearly proud of their home, their neighbourhood, and their nation would respond to your suddenly homeless neighbour like that. You would appreciate that sometimes “life happens” and consequently makes controlling the borders of your home a bit slipperier and less black-and-white than first envisioned. Plus, you’re not a monster, and you’re all about mateship! While you want to have fundamental control over the home you inherited, you would still allow for these minor misdemeanours to occur at your borders here and there, right?


The above home analogy works pretty well, although you might have picked up on a subtext where neighbours are refugees and burglars are all non-First Nations peoples, I’m not sure. Regardless, I’m afraid this home/nation borders’ logic really starts to fall apart for me when I think a little more about it—something I would encourage you to do also. For example, if one naturally owns the home they were born in, does that mean I can return to my first home and demand to live there? True, my parents did sell that home to other people, and these people have probably since sold it on to other people, but because the basis of this home/nation borders’ logic begins with an illegitimate take-over of the continent by colonialists, surely it is appropriate for me to take over my original home on the same basis?


Gee, it really does seem as though when we consider Australian national borders we inevitably hit an almighty wall (a border, you might say): the unlawful dispossession of land that belongs to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Indeed, every time we deploy this home/nation borders’ logic, we also indirectly reassert the fact of colonial invasion, and thereby indirectly acknowledge all those people who were born within the borders of this continent an eternity ago. The logic indirectly acknowledges that these people were massacred and/or displaced by our colonial ancestors, and it indirectly acknowledges that the families of these people—families that determinedly, wilfully, incredibly managed to survive this violence—have a right to claim the land that was stolen from them.


Personally, I really feel that this is the fundamental truth that makes your “My Borders, My Choice” claim a bit dodgy, by which I mean: utterly ludicrous and offensive. For this reason, I did you the favour of removing the poster immediately, in the hope of saving you from future embarrassment. You can thank me later after you’ve thought this through a little more.


Yours Sincerely,



a drafting strategy

I am currently drafting my fourth and fifth chapters of my PhD thesis. I always find I am good at drafting in the beginning but then lose my way somewhere in the middle. This tends to result in me frantically editing my work at the last minute. Needless to say, Pat Thomsons’s post on drafting has arrived in my inbox at a very useful time! I feel like I now have a step-by-step guide to drafting which speaks to me, but will also help me keep on track when I start to flail! Thank you! I hope the writers among you find this useful, too!


I’m not a should-must-always person when it comes to academic writing. I think there are lots of ways to get scholarly authoring done and there are lots of ways for it to look and read. I always feel pretty uncomfortable when I see people writing about academic writing saying “do this”, “always do it this way”, “never do that” …

So I don’t hold for example that free writing works for everyone, anymore than I think that talking-as-writing will. I reckon that, as academic writers, we need to develop a range of strategies and resources, and work out which ones work for us, when and for what tasks. Just like any tools, academic writing strategies aren’t fit for all purposes. They do specific jobs. And after all, we are smart people aren’t we, and we can work out what works for us, even if it takes a bit of time…

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Australia’s Silence on Violence against Women

*TRIGGER WARNING*: violence against women

Last week, Australian grandmother, Jeanette Moss, was murdered in her home & the headlines emphasised police suspicion that the killer might have been known to Ms Moss . The homicide case is still underway.

Whatever the outcome is, it is deeply concerning that the headlines failed to emphasise that the suspected circumstances of her death are not uncommon or unusual. In Australia, women are more frequently killed or sexually assaulted by someone they know. In fact, at least one Australian woman is killed every week by a former or current partnerWhen I first heard this stat, I thought I’d misheard it. I hadn’t. Worse still, this statistic is likely understated: in 2013, this report was released noting that the majority of violence against women incidences go unreported in Australia. Here is the recent ad campaign White Ribbon, an advocacy group committed to eradicating violence against women, has released in attempt to shed light on the current situation. (For readers who live outside of Australia, & who are perhaps unfamiliar with the aesthetic/narrative techniques used here, the ad parodies Australian tourism campaigns):

At the moment, our government is making a concerted effort to stop so-called king-hit (one punch) violence. It comes after a devastating New Years Eve incident in Sydney where an eighteen year old male was killed by a king-hit punch in King’s Cross. A very similar incident occurred in 2012.  These occurrences most certainly warrant investigation and a strategic shift in thinking about violence and justice responses to it . For Tony Abbott,  this involves ‘throwing the book’  harder and faster at perpetrators of these one-punch killings, or what the NSW state government has since pushed to rename ‘coward punches‘. Whether or not this strategy is the right one is not something I wish to discuss in this instance, though I am comforted to know that at least some forms of Australian violence are under scrutiny.

Nonetheless, there remains an obvious and unnerving silence when it comes to violence against women. To repeat it: at least one Australian woman is killed every week by a former or current partner . Where is the outrage from our PM about this? In 2012 he announced his support for White Ribbon, but I’ve not heard him on the radio, in the papers, or on the television demanding any real commitment to the issue. In fact, I haven’t heard a damn thing from the guy about it ever, and this is Australia’s Minister for Women, lest my ovaries forget.

At what point will the government take seriously the outrageously unsafe environments women contend with on a daily basis–on the street and in nightclubs, yes–but also in their schools, their places of work, their own homes?

Further info and stats:

Been There, Heard That: 6 September 2013

This week on “Been There, Heard That,” we see a solid mix of everyday life and the Australian election campaign spurring people’s discourse.

Rudd v Abbott

It’s all too easy to stress about not stressing. My friend K-Maz on the tricky issue of managing your stress levels. Ain’t it the truth.

What it actually just means is that when you go to buy your choc-mint ice cream at the supermarket it will be, like, 50 cents dearer. Seriously. Get fucked. My friend Yacob on theLiberal Party’s bullshit “recession doom: everyone panic!” rhetoric. The Chaser Team further explain:

If there is a hell, mine will be waking up in Ray’s Outdoors and being forced to try on pants—cotton drill pants—endlessly. My brother, Antonino, on his loathe for Ray’s Outdoors and their lack of well-fitting pants.

Kevin Rudd, racist coward; we don’t need another Howard! Protesters against Asylum Seeker Policies on Kruddy Politics. Can’t argue with that.

That guy is really weird. He was always, like, ‘I don’t have very many friends; people aren’t very nice to me.’ He was so shy but always trying to talk to me. He’s also…well, you know, CHINESE.  Melbourne tram commuter on why she does not like some guy. (Namely: he’s Chinese, and she’s racist).

How do you create that kind of environment? It’s not by having a room full of bean bags. John Denton on the need to foster business environments that are supportive of creative risk and innovation.

Classic Bean Bag Room

And there were even some new words bandied around:

#Unbefuckingliberal—robust word used to express exasperation at Australia’s Liberal Party, delivered by one Mr McCallum .

#Monetzing—1080’s word to describe something as amazing as Claude Monet’s paintings. It’s like amazing but more Monet, you see?

#Snoopy Deal—look, it’s no big deal.

Where Am I? A Lesson in Calming the Fuck Down

I awoke yesterday morning after dreaming of the Australian continent, or an ambiguous mass that my dream mind knew to be Australia. I was hopelessly trying to pin something on it, like someone tries to pin a tail on a donkey while blindfolded and dizzy from being spun around. I just couldn’t grasp it, pinpoint it. When I awoke I felt suitably displaced, perhaps even more so as I remembered where I was: Melbourne, Australia.


I arrived in Australia after a 23 hour transit from Vancouver to Adelaide. The weeks leading up to that flight are a blur, all mashed up into one long hazy day. Five days after arriving in Adelaide my partner and I jumped in our car and headed East to Melbourne. Ten hours later we arrived at our friends’ home, greeted by hugs and news of the past year. Three days after that we were signing a lease for a new apartment. One day following and we had the keys to said apartment and were moving in. And somewhere in the midst of that I was inducted into my new office at uni, I picked up some boxes of my Canadian life I had freighted to Melbourne airport, and I sifted through even more boxes of my Australian life I had locked-up in a storage unit while away in Canada. In short: I really had no idea where the fuck I was, or which “life” I was currently living!


I’ve tried not to panic too much about this. Having just spent ten months living abroad independently and then partaking on a whirlwind move back, it seems pretty reasonable. It surely takes time to consolidate the pieces of one place with another; one time with another—and this has been a big shift in both place and time.


When I awoke yesterday, however, my mind did not find this justification reasonable. Not good enough, it said, not today! Of course it had a lot to do with that thing that happened the night before. That thing where our Labor Gillard Government got upended from the inside by Kevin Rudd, who I watched get signed in as the new Prime Minister via a webvideo the next day. Well, I half-watched. I had to close the video box before his oath was over because it was too much for me to take in. Don’t like this reality? Just click the red box; close the internet; shut down your computer! Too bad it’s so much harder to shut down your mind.


I came back to Australia uncertain of myself but certain of many other things, including that Julia Gillard was our Prime Minister and Tony Abbott was our Opposition Leader and there was going to be an uphill slog to keep it that way at the September election. But in the time it takes to check your Facebook newsfeed this fact became history. Not having a TV or wifi or even a radio set up yet in the new apartment I pieced everything together via Facebook status updates and a quick news search on the smart phone. Fuck! That is about all I could muster. Fuck. When I finally went to sleep that night my subconscious set off trying to find “Australia” all night long but to no avail.


I woke up bewildered, agitated and somewhat lost. Something about the leadership changeover triggered off the part of myself still confused about why I was suddenly in the Southern hemisphere, what emotions such a move should manifest in my body, where I’d left off and needed to pick-up from, and how I was going to reconcile my time in the foreign country with this fresh start at “home,” which in fact felt uneasily foreign itself right now.


My mind proceeded to chase after its own tail for the rest of the morning and well into the afternoon; hunting its identity, country, political ideology, opinion and all other things that go along with the term “home” and any disruption to it. After a few hours of (pretending to do) PhD work in my office, I stumbled down Sydney Road in Melbourne’s Brunswick with a buzzing head. How do you feel, dannijean? What do you make of all this? How much of last night’s government debacle is about misogyny and gender? Did you even really like Julia? Is it even about liking? How does this compare to the Harper government in Canada? Oh, Canada… Do you miss it yet? Do you wish you were still there? But didn’t you want to come back? My thoughts were thankfully interrupted when I spotted a thrift shop and walked in. I bought a potted parsley plant for $1. It was a clear and obvious attempt to attach myself to something that had roots.


While waiting for the bus home, clutching my small plant, I overheard two elderly women complaining about the unreliability of the bus system. One lady commented: “bus drivers just don’t care anymore, they just don’t care,” and my mind, caught up in a neurotic self-questioning, immediately thought: ‘what does it mean to care in 2013 Australia? What is “care,” exactly?’




A few minutes later, having boarded the bus still clutching my parsley, I watched a woman hop-off with a toddler strapped to her back and a small child skipping behind her. I thought, ‘that woman probably has to go home now and spend the next however many hours looking after those little beings: prepare them food, bathe them, entertain them. She might have swirling thoughts like I do but she probably does not have the time or capability to indulge them.’ And then, as if the blindfold used in my pin-the-tail-on-the-country dream game was removed from my eyes I thought: ‘well, I DO have the rest of this whole day to indulge my swirling thoughts… But, I also have the rest of this whole day to put them aside for now, water my new plant, drink a cup of tea, have a bath, and lie on the couch PERFECTLY STILL if I choose.’


Well, hallelujah, dannijean. Welcome to Perspective Town, population: growing.


It seems that when you are able to put yourself at the centre of everything you generally will, and some days you will let your mind go traipsing down the road which has too many speed signs and not enough stop lights. All of the questions I was sweating over are interesting, and most of them are certainly worth thinking about, but just because I’m trudging down this road doesn’t mean that clear thoughts and structured arguments are as well. I believe psychologists describe this predicament as: “analysis paralysis.” The truth of the matter is, sometimes I really do not know how I feel or what I think and nothing but time will sort that out for me. When this happens, I thank small parsley plants and Mums with children for reminding me that there’s a place beyond my relentless questions and expectations—this place has no “I,” is not concerned about how or when the unresolved questions will be answered, and—most importantly—it is very, very quiet.


The Australia Day Killjoy

Sara Ahmed has written a wonderful, scholarly account of what she terms ‘the feminist killjoy.’ The feminist killjoy is the person who speaks up in both informal and formal public situations—be it the dinner table with family, the pub with friends, or the workplace with colleagues— to point out or question sexist discussion. Inevitably this person is met with the feeling invoked by a pair of rolled-eyes, as those around her frustratingly ask/say things like: ‘why do you always have to take everything so seriously? Way to dampen the mood. Can’t we all just have a casual discussion without getting political…?’ And so on. Ahmed illustrates how emotions get entangled with the political: to interrogate sexist discussion is somehow to threaten good feelings, and as such, is not an easy position to occupy.

We’ve all been there. Someone says something offensive and we scroll through our response options in our head, quickly and carefully weighing them up against the probable fall-out. Is it worth it to speak up? It probably always is, but I’m certainly guilty for not always doing so.

Yesterday was Australia Day. I am currently living in Canada and was thus relieved of the intense flag-bearing nationalism one is often subjected to on this day. However, the uneasiness I experience on this day in Australia still haunted me here in Canada. My Canadian housemate asked if I would be doing anything celebratory to mark the occasion, i.e. to have a “happy Australia Day!” But as I explained to her, I find it difficult, if not impossible, to feel “happy” about Australia Day. I am an Australia Day killjoy.

Australia Day is celebrated on the 26th January, the day England’s First Fleet arrived to “settle” on the continent in 1788. In other words: the day the Imperialist movement invaded the continent to brutally take it over from its rightful Indigenous inhabitants. As it stands then, this day commemorates mass violence and the denial of the world’s oldest Aboriginal populations. The day is clearly not off to a happy start. Yet, as Ahmed notes, the past is often associated with bad feeling; the future with good feeling. There are those that will say: ‘yes, that was a bad start, but we have to let go of the past, we have to focus on the great things about our country in the present.’ Not doing so is somehow (and paradoxically, it seems to me), ruining the “happy” of the moment.

So let me move to the present. In the past year the Gillard Labor Government attempted to legislate a “people swap deal” with Malaysia for its asylum seekers. Our government wanted to send asylum seekers to Malaysia for “processing,” in exchange for “already-processed” asylum seekers granted refugee status. (Anyone would think we were talking about salami, not people). It was defeated, but legislation was passed to send asylum seekers to remote Pacific Islands. Here, desperate people are currently imprisoned in inhumane conditions, despite their rights under International Human Rights Law to seek asylum in any country. (It seems clear to me who the actual “people smugglers” are). Melissa Phillips from University of Melbourne raises some good questions on asylum seekers in the context of Australia Day.

In 2012 we also denied legislation to legalize gay marriage in Australia. Marriage aside, standard civil rights of our Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transsexual community are constantly denied in the face of brash homophobia.

I love my country for a number of reasons. But, so long as it continues to shove people into the margins and outside the realm of humanness, I cannot  feel “happy” with it on the 26th January. Australia, you can continue to push people out of sight but I refuse to let them be pushed out of my mind, especially on a day that is supposed to celebrate all Australians, along with the country’s overall virtue. I will celebrate your decency when you act decently. (HINT: changing the date of the national holiday would be a good place for you to start). ‘Til then, the beer I raise is in solidarity with all those fighting to be rightfully included in Australia Fair’s ‘boundless plains to share.’

Oh, Danni. Way to dampen the mood.