Repair is often assumed to be a redemptive or restorative gesture: making amends in human relationships, returning something to a usable state in the case of artifacts and clothing, or to a prior state of functioning in the case of cars and houses. This paper argues for a more ambivalent approach to repair, taking into account situations where damage cannot be (or has not been) reversed, but which nonetheless call out for some kind of acknowledgment and recognition. My approach to repair is deeply indebted to queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s theorisation of reparative reading practices. Sedgwick, in turn, borrows the idea of a reparative position or orientation from psychoanalyst, Melanie Klein, for whom it signals the capacity to tolerate ambivalence; that is, to hold together both positive and negative feelings about something. The reparative position is not, then, simply about undoing or reversing damage; ambivalence precludes that wholly positive orientation. This way of thinking about repair should enable the incorporation of intense negative emotions and experiences such as the horror of annihilation, anger, and despair alongside positive feelings like tenderness, love, and hope. In this paper, I examine the work of contemporary Australian Indigenous artist, Judy Watson, where this complexity of address is particularly evident.

About Visual Politics Seminar Series

Listed below are the past and upcoming sessions of the Visual Poltics Seminar Series. Beginning from September 2016, the majority of seminars can be heard on the UQ POLSIS YouTube channel. If you would like more details, have any questions, or if you would like to present your own work please contact Prof Roland Bleiker at