1st Edition

Unsettled Voices Beyond Free Speech in the Late Liberal Era

Edited By Tanja Dreher, Michael R. Griffiths, Timothy Laurie Copyright 2021
    182 Pages
    by Routledge

    182 Pages
    by Routledge

    From resurgent racisms to longstanding Islamophobia, from settler colonial refusals of First Nations voices to border politics and migration debates, ‘free speech’ has been weaponised to target racialized communities and bolster authoritarian rule. Unsettled Voices identifies the severe limitations and the violent consequences of ‘free speech debates’ typical of contemporary cultural politics, and explores the possibilities to combat racism when liberal values underpin emboldened white supremacy.

    What kind of everyday racially motivated speech is protected by such an interpretation of liberal ideology? How do everyday forms of social expression that vilify and intimidate find shelter through an inflation of the notion of freedom of speech? Furthermore, how do such forms refuse the idea that language can be a performative act from which harm can be derived? Racialized speech has conjured and shaped the subjectivities of multiple intersecting participants, reproducing new and problematic forms of precarity. These vulnerabilities have been experienced from the sound of rubber bullets in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to UK hate speech legislation, to the spontaneous performace of a First Nations war dance on the Australian Rules football pitch.

    This book identifies the deep limitations and the violent consequences of the longstanding and constantly developing ‘free speech debates’ typical of so many contexts in the West, and explores the possibilities to combat racism when liberal values are ‘weaponized’ to target racialized communities.

    This book was originally published as a special issue of Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies.

    Introduction: Unsettled Voices: Beyond Free Speech in the Late Liberal Era

    Tanja Dreher, Michael Griffiths and Timothy Laurie

    1. Beyond denial: ‘not racism’ as racist violence

    Alana Lentin

    2. 'You cunts can do as you like': the obscenity and absurdity of free speech to Blackfullas

    Chelsea Bond, Bryan Mukandi and Shane Coghill

    3. Off script and indefensible: the failure of the 'moderate Muslim'

    Randa Abdel-Fattah and Mehal Krayem

    4. Inquiry mentality and occasional mourning in the settler colonial carceral

    Micaela Sahhar and Michael R. Griffiths

    5. What does racial (in)justice sound like? On listening, acoustic violence and the booing of Adam Goodes

    Poppy de Souza

    6. The ‘free speech’ of the (un)free

    Yassir Morsi

    7. Silence and resistance: Aboriginal women working within and against the archive

    Evelyn Araluen Corr

    8. The shape of free speech: rethinking liberal free speech theory

    Anshuman A. Mondal

    9. In a different voice: 'a letter from Manus Island' as poetic manifesto

    Anne Surma

    10. Manus prison poetics/our voice: revisiting 'A Letter From Manus Island', a reply to Anne Surma

    Behrouz Boochani

    11. Behrouz Boochani and the Manus Prison narratives: merging translation with philosophical reading

    Omid Tofighian

    Afterword: Reconstructing voices and situated listening

    Timothy Laurie, Tanja Dreher, Michael Griffiths and Omid Tofighian


    Tanja Dreher is Scientia Associate Professor in Media at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Tanja’s research focuses on the politics of listening in the context of media and resurgent racisms, Indigenous sovereignties and intersectional feminism. 

    Michael R. Griffiths is Senior Lecturer in English and Writing at the University of Wollongong, Australia. He is the author of The Distribution of Settlement: Appropriation and Refusal in Australian Literature and Culture (2018). His essays have appeared in Discourse, Postcolonial Studies, Australian Humanities Review, and many other venues. He is an active participant in the Jindaola Project—an initiative on decolonizing curriculum within the University of Wollongong.

    Timothy Laurie is Lecturer at the School of Communication at the University of Technology Sydney, Australia. His core research interests include cultural theory, gender and sexuality studies, and philosophy, and he is the Managing Editor of Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies. Currently, Timothy is a co-authoring a book with Dr Hannah Stark on love and politics.

    "By drawing forensic attention to the structural conditions under which ‘free speech’ debates appear as debates, both the impossibility and necessity for speaking, writing, and being heard in colonial Australia becomes visible.  This is a rich collection of voices, united in their ability to carve out ways forward from this impasse by offering critique and decolonial vision in equal measure. The collection powerfully demonstrates the role of anti-colonial critique in forging new paths beyond the persisting lie of terra nullius."

    • Maria Giannacopoulos, University of South Australia


    "Free speech conflicts are a recurring feature of highly mediatised and irreducibly multicultural publics. This exceptional collection of essays transcends the comforting circularity of normative debates about the limits of speech to examine how and why freedom of speech has come to act as such a productive site of antagonism. Ranging across writing styles and critical approaches, every single essay is perceptive. Taken together, they provide us with a cumulative project of significant theoretical innovation, and keen contemporary insight." 

    • Gavan Titley, Maynooth University


    "The beautiful concepts valorised in the western world, like tolerance, democracy and free speech, are like the valorised beautiful lifestyles and privileges that come with them, enmeshed in the ongoing colonial, practical and symbolic violence that is their condition of production. The authors of this book, collectively and individually, take the concept of ‘free speech’, shatter the vitrine of sublime concepts where it is positioned, and lay bare its aggressive colonial kernel. This makes for essential reading."

    • Ghassan Hage, University of Melbourne