Identity and Power in Rabbit Proof Fence
Humans naturally seek community and belonging. A sense of community powerfully influences self identity. Community is often found in the nation; that is, in "a collection of people who have come to believe that they have been shaped by a common past and are destined to share a common future, [
and possess] a sense of otherness from groups around them" (Enloe). It is this "otherness" that both strengthens and endangers community bonds, and the pursuit of an ideal nation can have negative consequences. Colonialism was justified by its ethnocentric tendencies, and colonists set out to transform primitive societies into their versions of better, modern societies. The destruction of identity is key to cultural domination, because identity is key to nationalism and its consequent power. Such intended destruction of identity for power is explored in Rabbit Proof Fence, a film concerning the eugenically influenced policies that demanded the captivity of Australian aborigines in the 1930s.
Rabbit Proof Fence is the true story of three aboriginal girls forced to leave their families in Jigalong, Australia in 1931. Their abduction was mandated by the Aborigines Act, an assimilation policy that ordered "half caste" (half white) children taken from their families and homes, supposedly in efforts serve the community and teach the children the domestic ways of modern civilization. The girls are taken to Moore River Native Settlement, forbidden to speak in their native language, are told they no longer have mothers, and are required to attend church. The children face an identity crisis: are they aborigines, or are they part of the white community, as promoted by a unifying false-consciousness? The real purpose of the Aborigines Act, however, is not to help the girls, (as proven by a selection bias towards fairer skinned children). It is to erase their previous aboriginal identities and replace them with white, Christian, English...
Cited: Dikötter, Frank. "Race Culture: Recent Perspectives on the History of Eugenics." American Historical Review, April 1998. Introduction to Women 's Studies, Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan, New York: McGraw Hill, 2002. 69-71.
Enloe, Cynthia. "Nationalism and Masculinity." From Bananas, Beaches, and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990. Introduction to Women 's Studies, Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan, New York: McGraw Hill, 2002. 229-235.
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