History, Recognition and the Trauma of Indigenous Enjoyment in The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith

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This article reads Fred Schepisi's 1978 film The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith through its engagement with violence, proposing that previous accounts of the film that rely on a historicist approach fail to adequately theorize the radicality of the violent act. Against such readings, this article proposes that Schepisi's film should not solely be taken as a document of history but, rather, following a psychoanalytic approach to film, as an instance of social dreamwork, reflecting the desires and anxieties of Australian settler colonial society. With an acceptance of this stance, as well as the film's shortcomings, The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith can be read as a refined critique of the social order it depicts, through its exploration of the futility of recognition, the place of primitive accumulation in pre-federation Australia, and the emergence of colonial subjectivity through violence. Central to the film's elaboration of these themes is Frantz Fanon's elaboration of colonial violence, as well as the Lacanian concept of enjoyment (jouissance), which can be seen to orient the relation between the white settler society and the excluded Indigenous community in the film. By taking up a restorative stance to the film, this article considers the radicality within The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)296-312
JournalAntipodes: a global journal of Australian/New Zealand literature
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


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