One ‘Body/Nation’: Pathology and Cultural Citizenship in Australia

Main Article Content

Zoe Anderson


Particular bodies within the Australian nation can be seen to threaten to disrupt and destabilise dominant notions of cultural citizenship. Understood through intricate intersections of ethnicity, gender and sexuality, ‘Australianness’–and its correlation to the geographical nation–is constantly monitored. Crucial here is the manner in which boundaries of whiteness, and ‘true Australianess’, are reconstituted, fuelling avoidance of the ambiguities of national belonging and ensuring the enduring pathologisation of the ‘un’Australian. In particular, discursive associations between HIV/AIDS and the ‘foreign’ as perceived contaminates to the nation operate to reinforce these understandings. Here, the threat of disease both informs, and is fuelled by, connotations to ‘the foreign’, often conflating the two in very literal ways. Discourses of pathology correlate here with visceral connotations of pollution and darkness. As such, HIV/AIDS has become a crucial site whereby cultural fears of the ‘non-normal’ coalesce; a meeting point for all manner of perceived threats to the ‘white heteronormativity’ of a healthy Australia. The relationship between Australian citizens–rendered knowable and safe through normalising hegemonies–and the nation becomes one of identification through these signifying practices of fetishised affiliation. The body is implicated in all aspects of these complicated matrices of identity markings, revealing the fluid and often contradictory manner in which the nation’s cultural borders are articulated, assumed and performed, on, and through, the body. Indeed, as the taxonomies of national identity are reiterated and reaffirmed through discourses of the everyday, the boundaries rendering distinct those deemed truly ‘Australian’, by virtue of cultural appropriateness, become increasingly important in the desire to maintain the ‘essential’ nature of national belonging.

Article Details

Articles (Peer Reviewed)
Author Biography

Zoe Anderson, University of Western Australia

 Zoe Anderson is a PhD candidate in the discipline of History at the University of Western  Australia. Her thesis utilises Queer theory to examine issues of migrancy and citizenship in Australia in the 1970s and 1980s. Her research interests are nationalism and cultural belonging, theories of sexuality, ethnicity and bodies, post-structuralist and Queer theory, and the politics of biomedicine. She has taught history units at all levels at UWA.