Kim Scott’s Taboo and the Extimacy of Massacre

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Abstract

Kim Scott’s novel Taboo (2017) centres on the Kukenarup massacre, which followed the fatal spearing of John Dunn in 1880 on the ancestral lands of the Wirlomin Noongar people. Taboo traces the dynamics of silence that run through the lives of Noongar and settler descendants in the wake of massacre. What the novel underscores is that while a massacre may be located at a particular site and commemorated by public gestures (plaques, memorials and ceremonies), its reality cannot ultimately be separated from the inner lives of the survivors and their descendants. This article argues that the terrain of massacre is shown in Scott’s novel to be quintessentially extimate, a word that Jacques Lacan coined to describe the intimate exterior of psychic reality. As a concept, the extimate helps name the space that is routinely excluded by the deployment of public and private domains in the liberal capitalist order, whereby social suffering is consigned to a privatised interior, and private violence is made banal by empty public utterance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-180
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Australian Studies
Volume45
Issue number2
Early online date22 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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