To Cut Down the Dreaming: Epistemic Violence, Ambivalence and the Logic of Coloniality

Amanda Kearney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The main argument presented here is that in cultural contact zones, such as the Australian settler state, there can emerge violent tendencies in dominant patterns of thought, as both epistemic habits and systems of value. The logic of coloniality is one of war, destruction and inequality, and this is expressed through attempted erasure and actual ambivalence towards Indigenous peoples, their lands, waters, Laws and cultures. This is supported by habits of epistemic violence and axiological retreat. This paper examines such habits, through an ethnographically informed and localised case study of the destruction of an ancestral Dreaming site on Yanyuwa country in the Gulf of Carpentaria, northern Australia. In this instance the body of Yulungurri, the ancestral Tiger Shark, manifest in a large cycad palm, was cut down. Read through the lens of axiological retreat, and coloniality’s ambivalence towards Indigenous presence, the discussion considers the dispositions which lead to and support violence in such forms and how these might become naturalised or concealed in everyday life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)312-334
Number of pages23
JournalAnthropological Forum
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Anthropology
  • epistemic violence
  • place destruction
  • axiology
  • repugnant
  • Epistemic violence


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