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Aboriginal representations in Australian texts

Mishra, V.ORCID: 0000-0002-0193-9736 (1987) Aboriginal representations in Australian texts. Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media and Culture, 2 (1).

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The task taken up here is essentially one of Aboriginal cultural representation in film and literature. [1] How is Aboriginal culture represented and how does it represent itself? What are the limits of these forms of representation? Who can claim unmediated access to the laws which govern the forms by which Aboriginality is represented? What discursive practices impinge upon the processes, how do they advance or modify power relations between the subject of representation and the form of representation? Is there a continuous, identifiable, hermetically sealed discursive practice or are these practices fractured, discontinuous, part of a serial which resists totalizing tendencies? [2] Because there is no natural, unmediated, culturally untainted Aboriginal discourse as such in the borrowed language of the coloniser - though claims on radically political grounds may be made for it - Aboriginal representation (by Aborigines themselves and by whites) is an extremely complex and varied phenomena. It is impossible for one "ideological fiction," one discourse of power, one system of thought to account for the heterogeneous nature of Aboriginal people's "histories." Their, the Aborigines', outburst against white inhumanity might well be unrelieved, but their discourses are varied, competing and even contradictory. This proliferation of discourses thwarts any easy reduction of a culture to a dominant discourse. But such a reduction has not only been attempted, but has partially succeeded in swamping the plurality of Aboriginal voices. This reduction is designated by my use of the word "Aboriginalism".

Let me begin by opening up the field of representation by examining, firstly the discourse of "Aboriginalism," which is perhaps one of the most powerful "fictions" in Australia today and, secondly, a number of literary and filmic texts through which Aborigines have been represented. My examination of "Aboriginalism" draws upon the concept of Orientalism; my textual analysis draws upon that discourse analysis which looks to the ways in which genres and conventions govern. and indeed dictate, what is being represented. I will be arguing that generic structures organize and pre-determine Aboriginal representations to a significant extent In arguing such a case this paper is not only tentative and exploratory but is narrowly blind to a host of urgent social questions.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: Routledge, part of the Taylor & Francis Group
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