Rethinking Neo/liberalism and the Australian Citizenship Test: A History of Regulating Difference

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Emma Sarian


While the rise of neoliberal discourse in Australia during the term of the Howard government (1996–2007) has long been recognised, its relationship to changing understandings of citizenship is rarely theorised except in terms of economic ideology. However, neoliberalism can also be conceived as a political rationality whose logics are ultimately concerned with the regulation of human conduct. This article contends that the Australian Citizenship Test can be understood as part of such a process of regulation, and that analysing it in terms of neoliberal and liberal (neo/liberal) political rationalities demonstrates the extent to which the Howard government’s multicultural policy was actually enabled by its predecessor, thereby providing a more nuanced understanding of how the test came to be a meaningful solution to the ‘problem’ of difference.

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Author Biography

Emma Sarian, Macquarie University

Emma Sarian is a PhD candidate in the Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations, Macquarie University, where she is completing a thesis on the history of human rights and rights-claiming practices in Australia.


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