Textual Spaces: Aboriginality and Cultural Studies

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API Network, Australian Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology, 2004 - Aboriginal Australians - 194 pages
In the early days of white settlement, Australia was like a divided text: on one side of the frontier was a single language, English, which bore the ideology of the day - imperialism - and on the other side there were some 250 different language families. Colonial violence was based on problems of communication and culture. For instance, Aborigines were seen as having no written language and therefore no culture worth respecting. But although they didn't have alphabetical writing, they did have complex forms of iconography. So what appears to be mere dots and lines to a non-Aborigine could in fact be spatial signs containing layers of meaning which can be 'read' by Western Desert people. Today, 'culture' is central to concepts of Aboriginality, but Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders are continually being burdened with a western romantic concept of their culture. This has the effect of inhibiting other forms of Aboriginal development, and limiting the options offered to Aborigines in Australian society. The author examines not only textual representations but also social rituals and speech events as specific aspects of Aboriginal culture. He traces the shifts in theoretical approaches to Aboriginal texts, investigates an encounter between Aboriginal law and European law, discusses contemporary representations of landscape, postmodernism and Aboriginal art and music, and finally, he draws some important implications for the future.

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