Cultural Pathology: what Ern Malley Means

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Aftershocks from the conflicts that shaped Australian poetic culture in the 1940s can be faintly discerned even today. One influential element of the 'legend of the '40s', for example, the Jindyworobak movement, is the source of an evolutionary strain in Australian cultural theory that some writers continue to draw on in their redefining of national culture in relation to questions of race. What began as an attempt to 'Australianise' writing and culture betrayed itself soon enough, as the name suggests - Jindy-worobak: to annex or join - as another form of (white) symbolic violence. As subsequent debates about Aboriginality and writing were increasingly framed by Aboriginal writers themselves, and influenced by developments in ethnographic knowledge and postcolonial theory, the depoliticising, neo-colonialist tendencies of Jindyworobak, and its romanticising of Aboriginal culture - turning it into an Arcadia, free of the 'spectres of death and dispossession' - were exposed
Original languageEnglish
JournalAustralian Literary Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 1995


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