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Modern by Analogy: modernity, Shoah and the Tasmanian Genocide

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 06:48 authored by Shipway, J
One of the themes developed in this article concerns the consolidation of modernity in Tasmania, an island state member of the national federation of Australia. The process of social change and transformation designated by that term is now widely regarded as world-historical. But along with the recognition that modernity remains a salient tool with which to theorise the social realities of the contemporary world has come a tendency to use the concept as if it applied to an originary set of social events that are only ever replicated in non-European settings (see particularly Giddens, 1990; Habermas, 1987). In fact, it will be shown that modernities exist firmly in the plural. As Dilip Gaonkar argues in Alternative Modernities, different time–space locations produce their own specific modernities, alike but ultimately irreducible to the original European version. This study, then, charts the functioning of one of those alternative modernities, but in doing so gestures outwards to the many different sets of socio-cultural configurations that are known by that name. For readers without an interest in or a prior knowledge of Tasmanian history, this argument might be taken as a kind of instantiative study, an analysis of the different paths to modernity within a given spatio-temporal configuration, but ultimately, not restricted to that immediate place. For anyone else, it can be taken as a kind of cultural history of a specific aspect of this intriguing island’s passage to the present. Colonial genocide, which forms the other topos of the investigation here, is only now becoming more fashionable as a research topic, as evidenced by the arrival of the Journal of Genocide Research. The Holocaust, of course, remains at the top of the list of topics to study in the Western humanities. The significance of genocide for an understanding of one’s own civility is unprecedented, and the Tasmanian instance that is catalogued here is only made the more interesting by virtue of its intensity, completeness and rapidity. The conjuncture between genocide and modernity needs to be considered by anyone interested in the process of social development and the idea of moral progress. Unless one becomes fully informed about this horrific topic, one cannot be sure that one will remain alert to its reappearance. And this of course would be a monumental tragedy.


Publication title

Journal of Genocide Research








School of Social Sciences



Place of publication

London, UK

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in human society

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