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The War on Terra Nullius: “Novel” Reading in 2017

by Adam David Morton on December 28, 2017
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Following my practice last year, I have listed my “novel” reading for 2017. This is a way of documenting what I get through in a year’s worth of reading on the commute to work, in the evenings after work, and while travelling on those airplane journeys from/to Sydney outside of my “normal”  academic reading. My use of the term “novel” reading is loosely adopted, as you will see from the list.

The year ended with a book that, I think, everybody should read, which is the debut novel Terra Nullius by a striking new Australian Aboriginal author in Claire G. Coleman. Of course, Terra Nullius was the legal fiction and declaration used to justify the invasion of Australia by British imperialism, with the term meaning ‘Nobody’s Land’ or ‘Empty Earth’. As the novel relays, ‘The declaration of Terra Nullius had the direct effect of defining the Native inhabitants as non-people’. The book is a work of post-colonial historical fiction exploring themes of dispossession, imperialism, racism, territory and space. As Coleman writes in the novel, ‘Hundreds of years ago the empires of what was then called Europe were driven by a strong, some would say insatiable, desire to expand’.

Weaving past, present and future, this book amplifies not only an Indigenous Australian perspective on Terra Nullius but also underscores a universalising standpoint on invasion and dispossession. It provokes a war on Terra Nullius. The book is a wake-up call not least for establishment politicians in Australia as we approach another Invasion / Survival Day on January 26.

The rest of my reading this year included the following:

  1. Sebastian Barry, Days Without End (Faber & Faber, 2016).
  2. Victor Serge, Conquered City [1932], trans. Richard Greeman (New York Review of Books, 2011) [re-read].
  3. Victor Serge, The Case of Comrade Tulayev [1940-42], trans. Willard R. Trask (New York Review of Books, 2004) [re-read].
  4. Victor Serge, Midnight in the Century [1939], trans. Richard Greeman (New York Review of Books, 2015) [re-read].
  5. Susan Weissman, Victor Serge: The Course is Set on Hope (Verso, 2013).
  6. Denis Johnson, Train Dreams (Granta Books, 2012).
  7. Joseph Roth, The Hotel Years: Wanderings in Europe between the Wars (Granta Books, 2016).
  8. László Krasnahorkai, The Last Wolf & Herman, trans. George Szirtes and John Batki (Tuskar Rock, 2017)
  9. Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon [1940], trans. Daphne Hardy (Vintage, 1994).
  10. George Orwell, Nineteen-Eighty Four [1949] (Penguin, 2013) [re-read].
  11. Sven Beckert, The Empire of Cotton (Penguin Random House, 2014).
  12. China Miéville, October: The Story of the Russian Revolution (Verso, 2017).
  13. Barbara Kingslover, The Lacuna (Faber & Faber, 2010).
  14. Yuri Herrera, Kingdom Cons (Trabajos del reino), trans. Lisa Dillman (And Other Stories, 2017).
  15. Amitav Ghosh, The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable (University of Chicago Press, 2016).
  16. Ariel Salleh, Ecofeminism As Politics: Nature, Marx and the Postmodern, Second edition (Zed Books, 2017).
  17. Fredric Jameson, Representing Capital: A Commentary on Volume One (Verso, 2011).
  18. Vanessa Berry, Mirror Sydney: An Atlas of Reflections (Giramondo, 2017).
  19. Nicole Sinclair, Bloodlines (Margaret River Press, 2017).
  20. Robert C. Allen, Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2011).
  21. Omar Robert Hamilton, The City Always Wins (Faber & Faber, 2017).
  22. Claire G. Coleman, Terra Nullius (Sydney: Hachette Australia, 2017).
Adam David Morton
Adam David Morton is Professor of Political Economy in the Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney. He is author of Unravelling Gramsci: Hegemony and Passive Revolution in the Global Political Economy (2007); Revolution and State in Modern Mexico: The Political Economy of Uneven Development (2011), recipient of the 2012 Book Prize of the British International Studies Association (BISA) International Political Economy Group (IPEG); and co-author of Global Capitalism, Global War, Global Crisis (2018) with Andreas Bieler. He co-edits Progress in Political Economy (PPE) with Gareth Bryant that was the recipient of the 2017 International Studies Association (ISA) Online Media Caucus Award for the Best Blog (Group) and the 2018 International Studies Association (ISA) Online Media Caucus Award for Special Achievement in International Studies Online Media.

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