Changing Roadscapes: Reflections on the LLHAA Conference 2023

Amy Hamilton (Australian National University)


A few days after the LLHAA Conference 2023 I sat behind the wheel of a car to drive the five hour trip to visit my family over the summer break. This normally routine drive was changed for me by Professor Thalia Anthony’s keynote – Carceralism, Colonialism and Necroautomobility. Thalia Anthony’s interventions sat with me as I navigated the colonial roadscape. I reflected on the colonial automobilities of the settler state that operate both literally and metaphorically. I saw the car I was driving and the vehicles around me as weapons – intricately part of the totalising logics of white possession with reference to Aileen Moreton-Robinson’s influential work. As fitting to the conference theme of Deus Ex Machina – Law, Technology, Humanities Anthony drew on the technology of the car and its role in settler colonialism – from the national imaginary of cars in the Australian psyche, registration processes, police hyper criminalisation of First Nations peoples on the road, the language of Judges and Coroners when they talk about police or white people using cars, the lack of prosecutions of police and state institutions for First Nations deaths at their hands on the roads. Yet the same technology of the car is part of prevailing Indigenous resistance in the form of community night patrols that demonstrate continuing First Nations sovereignty. A resistance that replaces coercive policing with an ethics of care and an honouring of First Nations protocols. Thalia Anthony’s keynote proved once again that law is everywhere – the cars we drive, the movies we watch, the roads we use.


What also struck me about this keynote and the other Conference sessions more generally was the dialogue created by the questions and discussions arising out of the presentations, especially comments that threaded at times the seemingly disparate so that they resonated as a whole. At the end of Anthony’s keynote, people’s questions extended ideas, picked up a point, turned it around, looked at it afresh. Necroautomobility was rethought in relation to aircraft and watercraft. And so not only in the keynote, but also in the space crafted in the HDR workshop and over the other days of the conference in the space of thoughtful questions, I witnessed law and the humanities scholarship in action – something moving, something changing and something nutted out together.