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‘A day that unites the nation': contesting historical narratives in national day discussions

Hastie, B., Augoustinos, M. and Elovalis, K. (2022) ‘A day that unites the nation': contesting historical narratives in national day discussions. Critical Discourse Studies .

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National days often represent unifying narratives about nation-states. Recent calls for historical redress within settler-colonial nations, however, have been based on redefinitions of triumphalist historical narratives, incorporating darker histories of colonialisation’s ongoing effects. This has resulted in controversy about national days, especially in Australia (celebrated on the anniversary of British colonisation). Discussions about Australia's national day may show us if, and how, these competing historical narratives can be integrated into a unified national story. A critical discursive examination of Australian news media articles demonstrated the ways historical narratives were deployed to construct competing understandings of the national day’s meaning. Analysis showed how the narrative of colonisation as a force for cultural advancement was used to justify celebrating the current date. In contrast, acknowledging and reckoning with the past was positioned as crucial to moving forward, and, correspondingly, that changing the date was necessary. Respecifying the historical narrative in this way brought together a more complex, nation-building story unifying Indigenous peoples, settlers, and newer migrants in celebrating the (new?) national day. Such reimagined national stories offer potential ‘golden futures’, but risk allowing nations to continue to avoid reckoning with their dark histories, and, especially, the connection of these to present-day inequalities.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Psychology, Counselling, Exercise Science and Chiropractic
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
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