Sovereignty: Indigenous Counter-Examples

In: International Journal of Public Theology
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  • 1 Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ethics, Whitley College, University of Divinity, Melbourne, Australia
  • 2 Aboriginal Academic at Australian Catholic University, Melbourne

Abstract

Through assertions of ‘sovereignty’, modern nation states lay claim to an undivided authority. It is commonly suggested that this kind of political assertion superseded the overlapping authorities of medieval theological imagination. But in settler colonial states, Indigenous sovereignties endure to the present, not washed away by the ‘tide of history’, and in many cases Indigenous peoples embrace Christian identities along with traditional law and custom. The peculiar complexities of Australian history reveal many counter-examples to the conventional modernist tale, and in particular, the article seeks to show how Indigenous Christians snatched the King James Bible from Protestant doctrines of discovery. This discussion comes at an historically significant time as Australian state governments contemplate treaty making with the First Nations, each of whom exercise their own alternative model of sovereignty within local jurisdictions. This article argues that biblical theologies can support the making of modern treaties.