Pivot 2021 Virtual Conference July 22-23 2021
Dismantling Reassembling - tools for alternative futures

White Skin, Brown Soil: a white woman’s search for identity, culture, and belonging on stolen lands

This research responds to the eventual (and very necessary) process of dismantling and unlearning the white Australian culture in favour of pluriversal, decolonial, and relational ecologies. However, the ways in which we go about collectively re-imagining this future is unclear. This research documents my own personal journey to explore and integrate my Celtic ancestry so that it can be a source of wisdom and inspiration for assisting myself and other white people for co-creating sustainable and pluralistic futures alongside indigenous and culturally diverse migrants on the lands of so-called Australia. This study is contextualised through a brief reflection on an abstracted chronology leading up to and including the colonisation of Australia and the subsequent creation of a modern ‘White’ Australian monoculture, made possible through the assimilation of culturally diverse migrants, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. This research looks for opportunities which moves beyond linear notions of time and colonial notions of place and geographical boundaries. It does this by highlighting the learnings and knowledge that can be found in the form of ancient seasonal calendars which reflect the rhythms and cycles of life, and the way in which ancient rituals and practices framed through a bioregional lens can help foster rootedness and authentic connection to place. Ultimately, this study provides a different view on decoloniality which not only offers the perspective of someone descended from the ‘oppressor’ class but seeks to establish connections with people from different cultures and thus furthering the relationship we have as humankind.

Decoloniality; Eco-spirituality; Topophilia; Bioregionalism

About Sarah Johnstone

Sarah Johnstone (She/Her) is an emerging design strategist, PhD Candidate, and educator at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). She specialises in ‘designing for diversity’ and co-design processes, and has experience in designing tangible, accessible, and low-fi creative/arts-based community and stakeholder engagement tools for people with varying skill sets, perspectives, and abilities. Sarah has applied this approach to the design of interactive needs assessment activities for youth work settings, for facilitating participant content creation for citizen engagement on urban development processes, and more recently—in several design research projects within the healthcare sector. In her own PhD project, she designed and tested creative methods for engaging with culturally and linguistically diverse women with a focus on fostering an ecology of care based on an inclusive, pluralistic, relational, and ecocentric approach to delivering social services. My submission to this conference marks the beginning of a personal journey focused on exploring my personal and collective role in cultures which impact on human and non-human life forms who are marginalised and exploited within the patriarchal, colonial, capitalist, and anthropocentric global paradigm. In this journey, I hope to develop rituals and practices which enable myself and others of colonial descent to develop a stronger relationship with our ancestry, with the local land and all its inhabitants, and ourselves.


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