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The Magic of Narrative in the Emplotment of State-Subject Relations: Who's Telling Whose Story in the Native Title Process in Australia?



Since 1992 Australian Aboriginal communities have been engaged in a complex and fraught legal process for the recognition of their traditional rights to country (‘native title’). In this article I argue that it is theoretically and critically illuminating to investigate the broader ‘meaning effects’ of the native title determination process on the subjective experience of the state in Australia. The article demonstrates this through examining the narrative effects of certain discursive moments through which identities get objectified. Through examining such moments in the discourse and practice of native title from the perspective of a participant-observer, I seek to advance our theoretical understanding of how the narrative properties of speech (or other performative behaviours) in specific contexts structure the subjective experience of the state.