Indigeneity, identity and representation in north Australia's Gulf Country
(University of Queensland)
Richard Martin (University of Queensland)
Philip Mead (University of Western Australia)
Paper short abstract:
The paper explores fiction, autobiographic and scholarly writing focused on overlapping and contested social identities in north Australia. Analysis of this literature is complemented with ethnographic studies of the significance of indigeneity, ancestry and sense of place.
Paper long abstract:
The Aboriginal author Alexis Wright's novels Plains of Promise (1997), Carpentaria (2006) and The Swan Book (2013) have prompted scholars and critics towards enthusiastic comparisons with the ground breaking work of a range of international writers. With her novels all set partly in the remote Gulf Country of north Australia, Wright's genre arises from intellectual and political commitment to Indigenous people, and aspires to the idea of a distinctive 'Aboriginal sovereignty of the mind'. Much less known, yet we argue of complementary significance, are a broader suite of writings about this region, and we address representations of cultural identity and connections to place by authors with both Aboriginal and European ancestries. With our interest in a deliberately cross-disciplinary methodology, ethnographic research complements our focus on texts, to facilitate analysis of diverse identities in a setting produced through both the resilience of Indigenous cultural traditions and the legacies of European settler colonialism. We argue that the range of authorial representations arising from this sector of Australian society provides a focus for understanding shared and contested postcolonial imaginaries about place, culture and identity.
Writing across borders: textual mediation and collaboration in an interconnected world