Australian Literature: Postcolonialism, Racism, by Graham Huggan

By Graham Huggan

The Oxford stories in Postcolonial Literatures sequence bargains stimulating and available introductions to definitive themes and key genres and areas in the swiftly diversifying box of postcolonial literary stories in English. In a provocative contribution to the sequence, Graham Huggan offers clean readings of a good, occasionally deeply unsettling nationwide literature whose writers and readers simply as unmistakably belong to the broader global. Australian literature isn't the precise province of Australian readers and critics; neither is its specific activity to supply an inner remark on altering nationwide matters. Huggan's publication adopts a transnational strategy, influenced by means of postcolonial pursuits, within which modern rules taken from postcolonial feedback and important race concept are productively mixed and imaginatively reworked. Rejecting the modern view that Australia isn't really, and that Australian literature, like different settler literatures, calls for shut cognizance to postcolonial tools and matters. A postcolonial method of Australian literature, he indicates, is greater than only a case for a extra inclusive nationalism; it additionally consists of a basic acknowledgement of the nation's replaced courting to an more and more globalized global. As such, the publication is helping to deprovincialize Australian literary reports. Australian Literature additionally contributes to debates in regards to the carrying on with background of racism in Australia-a heritage within which the nation's literature has performed a constitutive function, as either product and manufacturer of racial tensions and anxieties, nowhere extra obvious than within the discourse it has produced approximately race, either inside of and past the nationwide context.

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Behind all the posturing, however, was a real material struggle. For in large part, the US culture wars reflected the frustrations of educational reform under economic pressure or, as Malik puts it, they were the effect of ‘institutionalised pluralism and its championing of cultural diversity meeting a scarcity of economic resources’ (Malik 1996: 180). This economic struggle was recoded in cultural terms, as embattled conservatives sought to shore up what they saw as core Western civilizational values while seizing an opportunity to cast multiculturalists as a convenient new scapegoat for the post Cold War era (Malik 1996: 180).

Three issues come to the fore here: ‘[T]he relationship between social and literary practices in the old world and the new; the relationship between the indigenous populations in settled areas and the invading settlers; and the relationship between the imported language and the new place’ (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1989: 135). In each case, a local settler literature emerges that continues to be marked by the European traditions from which it wishes increasingly to dissociate itself, and that is characterized by the sustained effort to move beyond a merely ‘filiative relationship with [the] dominating culture’ towards new definitions of the meaning of ‘home’ (Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin 1989: 26).

Australian Literature, Race, and the Politics of Location settler literatures in the past (Arthur 1988; Huggan 1994). However, more specifically materialist and/or historicist critics have also tended to be suspicious of the self-heroicizing view of an Australian ‘resistance literature’ (Slemon 1991) struggling to free itself from its European conceptual legacy, and locked in a permanently combative relationship with the nation’s colonial past. For such critics, the ambivalence of settler writing functions as the sign less of resistance than of complicity, a view articulated forcefully in a book written in part-response to Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin’s, Bob Hodge and Vijay Mishra’s Dark Side of the Dream: Australian Literature and the Postcolonial Mind (1990).

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