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Dr Elaine Kelly


I received my PhD in Critical and Cultural Studies from Macquarie University in 2010. In part, my PhD examined the racial politics of refugee policy in an Australian context through the lens of critical race and whiteness theory and Derridean deconstructive thought.

My current research looks at the political, ethical and socio-cultural dimensions of climate change adaptation. In my work I focus on two modes of ‘adaptation’: local adaptation (keeping people safe and in place), and migration as adaptation. I will also be looking the issues associated with relocation, considered as a ‘last resort’. The Torres Strait Islands and Bangladesh are two main case studies in my work, but other examples will be drawn on in the research book.

I am currently writing a book which examines the contribution Continental Philosophy can have on debates regarding climate change, migration and adaptation. I am especially interested in the ideas of Jacques Derrida and Hannah Arendt, but also engage with Martin Heidegger and Emmanuel Levinas. Recently, work in the field of ‘new materialism’ has forced me to consider how we can reconceive rights and responsibilities in the context of a more-than-human world.

I also hope to write a report which examines the notion of ‘migration as adaptation’. This report will examine the debates and evidence surrounding issues of climate-induced migration and seek to evaluate if migration needs to become part of a broader approach to adaptation and how this can be operationalised.

Casual Academic, University Casual Academics
Bachelor of Arts in Media and Cultural and Studies, Bachelors of Arts, Doctor of Philosophy

Research Interests

Continental philosophy, especially Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas, Giorgio Agamben
Critical race and whiteness studies
Climate change and human migration
Australian cultural politics
Refugees and asylum seekers
Critical and cultural theory

Cultural Studies; ‘Rights and Territories’


Matthews, N., Simon, J. & Kelly, E.K. 2011, ''Doing Diagnosis': Using Critical Disability Studies to Inform Academic Literacy Policy and Practice'.', Peer Refereed Conference Proceedings for the NCEE (National Committee for Enabling Educators) Biennial Conference.

Journal articles

Kelly, E.K. 2014, 'Anthropocene Hospitality: belonging in/to a changing climate', SCAN, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 1-5.
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In Of Hospitality, Derrida writes that the western legacy of hospitality, incorporating Judeo-Christianity, Pauline Cosmopolitanism and Greco-Roman traditions, ties it in various ways to an ethical concern: 'It is always about answering for a dwelling place, for one's identity, one's space, one's limits, for the ethos as abode, habitation, house, hearth, family, home (2000, 149/151). Taking my cue from this, I situate my analysis within emerging debates around climate change. How do we answer for a dwelling place in the context of climate change? Because an answer can be a defence, a gesture toward dialogue, be packaged as a solution or a point of closure or, alternatively, incite responsibility, we need to first think through the sorts of questions posed by this issue. For instance, does global climate change alter the dynamics of belonging to the nation-state, and what potential impact does this have on our understanding of relations between host and guest, self and other, nature and culture, citizen and non-citizen, and human and nonhuman? In this paper, my interest in the Anthropocene is what I see as its deconstructive potential. As I will demonstrate, the conceptual formulation of the Anthropocene presents us with an example of what Derrida refers to as autoimmunity. The autoimmunity of the Anthropocene opens up the possibility of extending our analysis to examine normative approaches to sustainability and social justice with their respective focus on responsibility as stewardship and commitment to human rights in the context of climate change. The Anthropocene as autoimmune calls these approaches into question by exposing the assumptions of human-centricity which underpin them. I will argue that this demands that we reconsider the relationship of the human to the more-than-human and consider an ethics and politic which takes account of the inextricability of our enmeshment in the more-than-human world. Hospitality is a useful way to frame this interventio...
Kelly, E. 2014, 'Sovereign matters: what can the 'new materialist turn' offer theorizations of sovereignty?', Continuum, vol. 28, no. 6, pp. 751-759.
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Kelly, E.K. 2013, 'Does Deconstruction Matter: Being 'at-home' in the era of climate change', Continuum, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 41-53.
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Ecology has Greek origins: oikos, `house. In this paper, I would like to think through the ways in which, and the implications of, climate change as a force is responsible for the deconstruction of the `at home in all its textual and material dimensions. In so doing, I build on Clarke's insight that it is not we, as active agents, who deconstruct in the era of climate change but, rather, that climate change is a `deconstructive force or `agency that `undermines and challenges the terms of consumer democracy and the liberal tradition of political thought (2010, 131). I negotiate the relationship between deconstruction and materialism away from being one of mutual exclusivity to one of productive tension. I centre deconstruction as a primary tool of critical engagement and socio-political change. Bringing together deconstruction and new materialist modes of thought I examine the way in which climate change has the potential to reconfigure our understandings of what it means to dwell and move, to be in and out of place, and how this may be reconsidered (without our express `consent) and rethought. The implications of and responses to climate change are varied, contradictory and often unjust, as I examine in relation to the Queensland floods of late 2010 into early 2011, and the situation of the Torres Strait Islands, where king tides and rising sea levels threaten the future of some communities
Kelly, E.K. 2012, 'A Rough Climate for Migration', Alternate Routes: A Journal of Critical Social Research, vol. 23, no. Uniting Struggles, pp. 59-84.
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In 2010, writer and director Michael Nash released a film detailing the impact of climate change and environmental degradation in terms of mass migration. Nashs film, titled Climate Refugees has since gone around the world, gaining official selection into countless film festivals. According to information contained on the official website http://www.climaterefugees. com, the film has made its way across much of the United States, presumably in an effort to educate Americans about the global nature of climate change as well as possible impacts at a domestic level with regard to displacement and migration. A call for political action, the film places emphasis on the negative implications of neglecting climate issues, casting this in terms of threats to national security. Given its dominant market (so far), its cover imagery of the U.S. and South America across a face, and its inclusion of prominent American academics, scientists and politicians, such as Al Gore, Paul Ehlrich and Lester Brown, it is not unreasonable to assume that U.S. national security is an important theme of the film.
Kelly, E.K. 2011, 'Review of Somatechnics: Queering the Technologisation of Bodies', Social Semiotics, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 137-139.
Book Review
Kelly, E.K. 2011, 'Review of Kay Anderson's 'Race and the Crisis of Humanism'', Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies, vol. 7, pp. 1-3.
Kelly, E.K. 2011, 'Re-Orienting Democratic Hospitality: Breaching Liberal Economies of Welcome', Derrida Today, vol. 4, no. 2, pp. 194-214.
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Does democracy lead to more ethical or just systems of welcoming, of hospitality? Derrida considers an analysis of sovereignty as pivotal to any re-evaluation of contemporary politics and ethics, tying such a project in with deconstructions of democracy and hospitality: `what is living together??must one live together only with one's like, with someone semblables? he asks in Rogues, prompting us to think through what it means to be, at once, democratic and hospitable. In this paper I propose that Derrida provides us with a way of re-orienting democracy and hospitality that complicates conditions of citizenship and belonging, of the nation-state and sovereignty and of justice and unconditionality. It is the contention of this paper that deconstructing sovereignty is essential for any re-orientation of practices of hospitality within liberal democratic countries. The figure of the foreigner and questions of hospitality reveal a deep ambivalence at the core of democracy in the sense that it provokes the desire for openness and closure simultaneously. In closing, I raise questions concerning the potential for deconstructive practice to engage in a future politico-ethics of the border in light of this critical evaluation of democracy. In so doing, I consider the role of deconstruction in relation to liberal modalities of hospitality.
Kelly, E.K. 2010, 'Growing Together: Land Rights and the Northern Territory Intervention', M/C Journal, vol. 13, no. 6, pp. 1-9.
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According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term coalition comes from the Latin coalescere or `coalesce, meaning come or bring together to form one mass or whole. Coalesce refers to the unity affirmed as something grows: co together, alesce to grow up. While coalition is commonly associated with formalised alliances and political strategy in the name of self-interest and common goals, this paper will draw as well on the broader etymological understanding of coalition as growing together in order to discuss the Australian governments recent changes to land rights legislation, the 2007 Emergency Intervention into the Northern Territory, and its decision to use Indigenous land in the Northern Territory as a dumping ground for nuclear waste. What unites these distinct cases is the role of the Australian nation-state in asserting its sovereign right to decide, something Giorgio Agamben notes is the primary indicator of sovereign right and power (Agamben). As Fiona McAllan has argued in relation to the Northern Territory Intervention: Various forces that had been coalescing and captivating the moral, imaginary centre were now contributing to a spectacular enactment of a sovereign rescue mission (par. 18). Different visions of growing together, and different coalitional strategies, are played out in public debate and policy formation. This paper will argue that each of these cases represents an alliance between successive, oppositional governments - and the nourishment of neoliberal imperatives - over and against the interests of some of the Indigenous communities, especially with relation to land rights.
Kelly, E.K. 2008, 'Democratic Hospitalities: national borders and the impossibility of the other for democracy', Transformations, vol. 16, no. 1, pp. 1-12.
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This paper is concerned with the relationship between democracy and hospitality. In public discourse and political debates, democracy is often conceptually invoked in order to confirm the juridical, political or moral validity of a position or mode of action. [1] In relation specifically to understandings of hospitality at a national level toward strangersrefugee or otherwisedemocracy is situated as both a right and a responsibility in the dominant liberal framework. [2] As will be made clear in this paper, the Howard Liberal Coalition government (1996 - 2007) aligned liberal democracy with the right to exclude those persons deemed to be illegal from the body of the nation-state, and to determine the conditions of entry into the nation-state via managed systems of immigration.
Kelly, E.K. 2007, 'Culture Wars: Liberalism, Hospitality and Sovereignty', Borderlands E-Journal, vol. 6, no. 3, p. 1.
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This paper offers an exploration of the interrelation of (neo)liberalism, hospitality and state sovereignty. This is done in the context of the 'cultural wars' which, I argue, is the site in and through which the Howard Liberal Coalition government promotes a teleological grand narrative underpinned by whiteness. In this paper I contend that whiteness is the overriding project concerned with the renewal of white social and economic privilege and power; racelessness is the mechanism of disavowing race as significant to, in this instance, liberalism. Liberalism is positioned as the end point and racelessness its outcome in politics and culture. Against this logic, this paper examines the constitutive racism of liberalism under the Howard government and the implications of the disavowal of this racism for practices of hospitality toward asylum seekers and migrants. By promoting liberalism as universal, innocent and unmarked by race relations, the Howard government has been able to reconfigure public debate, policy and law. Liberalism as unmarked veils over the perpetuation of racial hierarchies and disguises the racial implications of policy and law attached to a (neo)liberal agenda. In this sense, we cannot narrate neo-liberalism as a radical aberration of liberalism thus positing liberalism as innocent or distinct from racial violences. I contend that contemporary forms of liberalism are concerned with reconsolidating the group rights of whites to the exclusion of Indigenous sovereignty.
Kelly, E.K. 2006, 'White Hospitality: a Critique of Political Responsibility in the Context of Australia's Anti-asylum-seeker Laws', Continuum, vol. 20, no. 4, pp. 457-469.
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Since 1996, a shift to the right has characterized Australian politics. Such a trend is recognizable via what many commentators have referred to as the rise of the New Right; a neo-conservative movement characterized by the coupling of free-market economic principles with socially conservative values (see Markus, 2001; McKnight, 2005). This year, 2006, witnessed the 10th anniversary of Prime Minister John Howards leadership in Australia, and has continued to be marked by the movement of the Australian Labor Party to the centre and the disparagement of other dissenting or oppositional voices.