A Nation by Rights: National Cultures, Sexual Identity Politics, and the Discourse of Rights

By Carl F. Stychin | Go to book overview

6
Reimagining Australia

In this final case study, I focus on a national culture in which, for the past several years, the relationship between national identity, sexuality, and rights has been a central focus of public discourse. Australia is a society in which national identity is perhaps the least "naturalized" of any that I have considered so far. Nation in Australia is most explicitly and widely recognized as a social construction -- one that is in process -- and capable of reimagination for the next century. It is a social order in which the public, for a number of years, has been saturated with the question of what an Australian national identity might signify. This has taken the form of debates over the creation of a republic (as opposed to Australia's current status as a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth as head of state); occasional attempts to create an entrenched, comprehensive constitutional bill of rights (which does not currently exist at either the federal or state levels of government); Aboriginal justice through recognition of historic land rights (an ongoing issue that has achieved both success and setbacks in the judicial and legislative process); and the meaning of multiculturalism in a society historically dominated by white "Anglo-Celtic" peoples but that now must come to terms with the importance of its relationship with "Asia."

All of these issues are bound up with the reimagination of the place and role of Australia in the current global order. As a "settler society" of the British Empire, Australia's geographical isolation was tempered by its links to the United Kingdom, symbolized by the role of the British monarch as head of state. Subsequently, in the post-World War II era, its ties (and dependency) shifted to the United States, and Australia, unlike most Western allies, participated actively in the Vietnam War. That event served as a catalyst for the articulation of an oppositional, countercultural vision of Australia through a series of vibrant movements. Social movement

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