Metal is at once durable and impressionable, natural and extracted. In this talk, I consider the affordances of metal as both holder and inciter of memory, with a focus on gold in the making and maintaining of colonial territory in the British Empire. In particular, I consider how gold is at the symbolic and material centre of the settler cosmologies of land that enabled colonialism: molded into the Crown, panned out of gold rush rivers, and undergirding the currency, gold materialized colonial sovereignty. Through a discussion of the concept of Crown land and the public memory of gold mining that persists in museums and gold-panning theme parks, (especially Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), I consider how gold continues to ground the metaphysics of colonial territory.
“Metals and Memory: Gold and the Metaphysics of Colonial Territory,” McLester Colloquium, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, United States. February 26, 2020.