Representing 'The Gulf': issues of place, race and identity in a region of northern Australia

Richard James Martin

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

[Truncated] This thesis examines issues of place, race and identity in the southern Gulf of Carpentaria. Moving beyond typological modes of categorizing ‘indigenous’ and ‘non-indigenous’ peoples, it looks to recuperate relational understandings of Aboriginality and Whiteness in Australia. While acknowledging politicised associations of indigeneity with an encapsulated colonial history, I argue against a tendency to conflate indigeneity with an exclusively Aboriginal identity, seeking to account for the myriad ways in which residents of the Gulf understand their own place(s) with respect to each other’s presence in the region. At the same time, I analyse the ways in which prevailing modes of representation (including anthropological ones) are involved in the creation of place(s). By adopting a perspective in between the institutionalised disciplines of literary/cultural studies and anthropology I propose alternative ways of thinking about Aboriginality and Whiteness in ‘the Gulf’.

In the first section of this thesis, I focus upon historical discourses of exploration and ‘discovery’, classical ethnography, and early literary and anthropological writing. I discuss the development of representations of Aboriginality and Whiteness, while critiquing the textualism of much discourse analysis performed within post-colonial studies.

In the second section, I bring the analysis up-to-date by looking at post 1970s material, including texts relating to Australian land rights and native title legislation and jurisprudence. This section looks at how creative contemporary writing engages with and critiques historical representations of Aboriginality and Whiteness, while advancing the possibility of a politics more closely attuned to specificity of place and the singularity of ‘Aboriginal’ and ‘non-Aboriginal’ identities in the Gulf.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012

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