Accepted paper:

Embodied reflection on rural identity in North West QLD: some preliminary thoughts


Alana Brekelmans (University of Queensland)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how rural Australians of mixed cultural heritage negotiate and express rural identities through embodied acts. I examine both everyday acts and rites of inversion as instances of embodied reflection on rural identity.

Paper long abstract:

Narratives of 'the outback', of sunburnt stockmen in semi-arid plains, are central to the Australian nationalistic imagination. However, just 2.2% of Australians live beyond regional areas, with the overall rural population decreasing. Popular tropes of 'the outback', situate rural people as both spatially and temporally distanced from urban culture, often as remnants of a romantic peasantry or as backwards hicks. In an increasingly global society, many scholars now argue for viewing rurality as social construct, based on cultural ideas of spatialisation, national mythologies, and identity formation. In this paper, I explore how rural Australians of mixed cultural heritage negotiate and express rural identity through embodied acts. How do such embodied acts reinforce or offer counter-narratives to nationalistic ideas and media portrayals of rurality? I examine the intersect of national mythology and lived reality through everyday acts, such as moving through paddocks; commemorative ceremonies, such as rodeos; and rites of inversion, such as the 'ringer's rally' competitions held at community gathering across Outback Queensland. I suggest that embodied acts may be viewed as silent narratives of experience, counter-narratives to media portrayals of rurality, and self-conscious reflections on rural identity today.

panel P38
Embodied rituals, symbols and performances: embodiment as a negotiation of the state, and state negotiations of embodiment