With two weeks to go, it’s probably about time I tell you that I am going to be presenting a paper at the Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Association‘s 2012 conference, the theme of which is Racialising Desire. Assuming the timetable remains static, I shall be speaking on 11 December, the first of the three days over which the conference goes, at the University of Adelaide. I’ve never been to Adelaide before, nor, being a tiny little undergrad, have I previously presented at an academic conference. Any Adelaide tourist tips are welcome. I am excited, but mostly terrified. I can’t wait to hear from Senthorun Raj, president of Amnesty International Australia’s New South Wales branch, and Elena Jeffreys of the Scarlet Alliance (the Australian sex workers’ association), and so many others.
My paper is called “The Space that Shapes Desire: Refiguring Australian and South African Whiteness”. It’s concerned with the construction of whiteness in early twentieth century, you guessed it, Australia and South Africa. Specifically, I’m looking at how the state’s desire to cultivate particular kinds of whiteness is tied up with the racialised regulation of marriage and sexuality. It’s a paper about shame and love and law and grief. This is my lens for looking at my primary concern as a history student: whiteness’ simultaneous malleability and refusal to openly position itself as anything other than rigid and constant as it both shapes and is shaped by the state.