On history, trees, and ethical proximity

Deborah Bird Rose

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ashis Nandy urges us, in his essay 'History's Forgotten Doubles', to consider alternative modes of engaging with the past. I take up his inspiring challenge in relation to my long-term research with Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory of Australia. Through an examination of several short stories that connect past, present and future, I consider an Indigenous critique of colonising damage and destruction. Nandy suggests that 'each ahistorical culture is so in its own unique style'. The effort to engage with an ahistorical culture on its own terms requires me to provide a certain amount of understanding of key cultural facts, and an understanding of story structure and intention. With that analysis in place, I then offer an account of a story in context. This story (within a story) moves me to a consideration of the prophetic voice and its capacity to expose ethical proximity through vulnerability. Drawing on the work of Emmanuel Levinas and James Hatley, in particular, I argue for a historiography that is both other-wise and Earth-wise.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157-167
Number of pages11
JournalPostcolonial Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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