History Seminar Series Six – Dr Jordana Silverstein: ”He died on my watch”: A History of Immigration Ministers, Emotions, and Child Refugees’

Dr Jordana Silverstein will present her paper, titled ‘”He died on my watch”: A History of Immigration Ministers, Emotions, and Child Refugees’, at this week’s History Seminar Series (Wednesday, 11am).


According to the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act 1946, the Immigration Minister is the guardian for all unaccompanied child refugees, asylum seekers and migrants. Since the introduction of this legislation, different ministers have publicly expressed their understanding of the implications of this role, from Arthur Calwell describing himself as the “father” of the children to Tony Burke publicly crying over the death of a child seeking to come to Australia by boat. In this paper I will focus on the words of two different recent Immigration Ministers – Burke (ALP) and Amanda Vanstone (Liberal Party) – and explore the emotions that have circulated in their public expressions regarding their role. In particular, I am interested in examining the ways that their words produce ideas of the Australian nation as an affective space. By situating their words in their historical contexts – and alongside the words of child refugees, refugee advocates, and other politicians – we can understand the economies of emotions that circulate through this political space.


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