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Alien possession: constructions of Australian identity

Reibel, Tracy (1999) Alien possession: constructions of Australian identity. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis involves an examination of a range of historical discourses and how they have contributed to the shape and definition of constructions of cultural identity in Australia. The impact of such constructions on the socio-cultural environment has created a situation where Australia is internationally regarded as a just, fair, and tolerant democratic society but concomitantly has ensured a continuing state of colonisation for the Indigenous peoples of Australia and denied them a history beyond I 788. This highlights an inconstancy in the representation of Australian society that has privileged certain forms of cultural production and limited the ability of the society to adequately embrace its culturally diverse make-up. It is against the background of a continuing colonial imperative that many of the arguments presented in this thesis will be made.

Cultural production is the way in which all facets of social, political, and economic life are accounted for in the realisation of unique meaningfulness for a culture. When these processes are selective and discriminatory a sense of disruption will become evident over time, as individuals and groups are marginalised and alienated from the dominant culture. While justice and tolerance may long have been ideals for the Australian community, and have contributed significantly to the endurance of Australia as a unique socio-cultural environment, they are ideals that have often been circumscribed by influential ideological assertions. For example, the ideology of nationalism and national identity in particular has been the driving force of Australian society since the late I 800s and has very much defined the cultural, social, political and economic domains. The ideological circumscription that nationalism entails has erected barriers to the cohesion of Australian society, in that it has promoted a false homogeneity as a 'truth' of representation.

In order to investigate the questions raised throughout the thesis a number of theoretical concepts, or tools, have been chosen to address the problematic nature of defining cultural identity; the cultural condition; and the meaning and impact of multiculturalism. The tools chosen primarily stem from the works of Jean-Franyois Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Benedict Anderson.

The thesis posits that the imagining of the future Australian republic requires thoughtful engagement with all facets of the socio-politico-cultural environment including those historical events that may have been seen as undesirable or unnecessary by the dominant cultural memory. It is not the history itself, however, that is in view but the ways in which representations of such history have been responsible for distorted or false constructions. It is the goal of this thesis to emphasise a more inclusive view of Australian history in order to enable a positive future direction for all Australian citizens - now and in the future. The thesis concludes by drawing the threads of the discussion together and considers how the Australian community can resist the temptation to accept a less tolerant social context and determine positive ways in which to transform the socio-cultural environment to develop an inclusive, just, and ethical cultural milieu.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Division of Social Sciences, Humanities and Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): De Reuck, Jennifer
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