Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Mayes, C.
Governmentality of Fencing in Australia: Tracing the White Wires from Paddocks to Aboriginal Protection, Pest Exclusion and Immigration Restriction
(2020) Journal of Intercultural Studies, 41 (1), pp. 42-59.

DOI: 10.1080/07256868.2020.1704228

The importation of wire-fencing to Australia from the 1840s transformed the management of sheep. Rather than shepherds watching over flocks, wire-fences allowed sheep to roam relatively unsupervised in paddocks. It is commonly argued that the popularity of wire-fenced paddocks arose because they reduced labor costs and improved wool production. This is partly true. The declining use of shepherds to protect flocks coincided with the ending of brutal frontier wars and localised eradication of dingoes. That is, the conditions for adopting wire fences and practice of paddocking were made possible through violence. Fences came to denote property, order, and civilization. Drawing on and expanding Michel Foucault’s work on pastoral power and governmentality, this paper argues that the initial period of colonial “pastoral violence” dovetailed into a “fencing governmentality” that mobilised literal and figurative “paddocks” to manage, sort, and reproduce life that is desirable while excluding life that is not. Importantly, violence does not vacate the paddock, but is recoded and manifest differently depending on one’s relation to the fences. This paper traces the development of a fencing governmentality and its use in the protection, exclusion and restriction of biological life, namely the lives of Aboriginals, animals, and non-British immigrants. © 2020, © 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Author Keywords
Australia; colonial violence; Governmentality; Michel Foucault; pastoral power; sheep

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