Natalie Harkin, Archival-Poetics
Archival-Poetics offers a unique contribution to Australian poetry through a new way to write into, and out from, the State’s Aboriginal archives and from a Narungga woman’s standpoint. It will demonstrate an embodied reckoning with the colonial archive and those traumatic, contested and buried episodes of history that inevitably return to haunt. Family records at the heart of this work include South Australia’s Aboriginal Protection Board and Children’s Welfare Board records, highlighting assimilation policy measures targeting Aboriginal girls for removal into indenture domestic labour. Three interconnected threads underpin this Archival-poetic writing, and each thread is expanded as the theoretical heart to each section of the work: On Blood Memory – a reclamation of re-imagined histories through cultural identity (blood), narrative (memory) and connection to country (land); On Haunting as a ‘way of knowing’ – an active and honouring response to that which is silent and hidden; the seething and felt, yet unseen presence of colonial violence or unfinished business; On the Colonial Archive – a poetic spotlight on the colonial State and those key institutions, repositories and systems that maintain and perpetuate dominant discourses and representations on Indigenous peoples and histories. Each section of the work will be a potent, multi-textual artefact in its own right that centres the affective, transformative and honouring dimensions of haunting, where the potency of place, colonial-histories and blood-memory collide. They each bear witness to the state’s archivisation processes and the revelation of what is both absent and present on the record. As a trilogy offering in one volume of work, it collectively considers important questions of representation, surveillance and agency; and questions of power that resonate in our daily lives, on and through the colonial archive. It also bears witness to individual and collective loss in order to actively honour and contribute, beyond the local, to larger counter-hegemonic narratives of colonial history. This work demonstrates a critical-creative way of decolonising and transforming the colonial archive through poetic refusal, resistance and memory-making; a poetry that also engages theory, images and primary source archival material.
Dr Natalie Harkin is a Narungga woman and activist-poet from South Australia. She is a Research Fellow at Flinders University with an interest in decolonising state archives, currently engaging archivalpoetic methods to research and document Aboriginal women's domestic service and labour histories in SA. Her words have been installed and projected in exhibitions comprising text-object-video projection, including collaboration with the Unbound Collective. She has conducted poetry workshops and presented panels, readings and keynotes at many events including the Ottawa International Writers Festival, the Active Aesthetics Conference on Contemporary Australian Poetry and Poetics, UC Berkeley, the Queensland Poetry Festival, Mildura Writers Festival, Melbourne Emerging Writers Festival, Tarnanthi Festival of Contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, Blak & Bright Victorian Indigenous Literary Festival, and writing residencies with RMIT University and Sydney University. Her poetry is included in secondary school and university curriculum in many States, and she has published in literary journals including Overland, Westerly, Southerly, Wasafiri International Contemporary Writing, TEXT and Cordite. Her first poetry manuscript, Dirty Words, was published by Cordite Books in 2015.Natalie Harkin, Archival-Poetics