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Keywords:

  • settler–nationalism;
  • Australian Aborigines;
  • reconciliation;
  • object relations theory;
  • affect

Settler–nationalism is a form of nationalism that must face specific cultural dilemmas as a result of the dispossession of indigenous peoples. Since the Second World War, Australia has attempted to come to terms with its past of dispossession and to find ways to incorporate Aborigines within national imaginings, and within the nation itself. This paper argues that there are two modes of settler–nationalism—termed assimilationist and indigenizing—that compete to organize the national reality, including relations between the settler and indigenous populations. Kleinian object relations theory is drawn upon to delineate the emotional structures of the two modes of nationalism. Implications for indigenous rights, in particular for Aboriginal land rights, are examined.