You are on page 1of 31

Cultural Studies Review

volume 16 number 2 September 2010


http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/journals/index.php/csrj/index
pp. 194224
Alison Ravenscroft 2010

Dreaming of Others
Carpentaria and its Critics

ALISON RAVENSCROFT
LA TROBE UNIVERSITY

Anationchants,butweknowyourstoryalready.
AlexisWright,Carpentaria1

Nonknowledge or invisibility is not registered as the wavering and


negotiations between two certainties, two meanings or positions, but as
theunderminingofeverycertainty,theincompletenessofeverymeaning
orposition.
JoanCopjec,ReadMyDesire2

WhitecriticaleffortstomakemeaningofAlexisWrightsCarpentariahavesoughtto
anchorittothebignamesamongwhiteAustraliannovelists.3Suchmovespresume
tomakeWrightindebtedtotheseliterarymasters,assessingthesignificanceofher
text by its proximity to theirs. Frank Hardys name is frequently evoked and so is
PatrickWhites;XavierHerbertsnameisrepeatedwiththefrequencyofanervous
tic,onecriticgoingsofarastosuggestthatCarpentariassubversivehighspirited
vernacularvoicemighthavebeenlearntfromHerbert.4Whitecreativityappearsin

ISSN 1837-8692

these critics eyes as if it were the original creativity, the inventive one, the
prototype.5Thesemovesaresurelyanotherwayofsayingbutweknowyourstory
already because it is our own.6 They are moves that refuse the texts
unfamiliarity,itsstrangenesstoawhitereader.7
DespitethisrecoursetowhiteAustralianliterarytraditionsasmarksagainst
whichtomeasureCarpentaria,thesecriticsneverthelessremainataloss:theyjust
dontknowwhattomakeofit,theyarelostinthereading.8Thefirstfamiliarising
movehasnotworkedafterall:neithertextnorreadercanbeheldoncourse,andso
new moves are made. One move is to blame the author who cannot resolve the
multifarious issues she sets running, implying that she should provide such
resolution, that an unresolved and irresolvable text is a failure rather than an
accomplishment.9Illgoontocritiquesuchawishtofinddecidabilityinanothers
textbutthereisanothermoveIdliketodiscussfirst.Thisistheverypopularmove
to fix the text within the constraints of magic realism, a move that provides a
vocabulary through which the novel can be read as dreamscape magic, an
indigenous magic realism.10 This is yet another way of saying but we know your
story already, its very form is our own, for magic realism is not a form of writing
thatarisesinanothersculture,asissooftenclaimed:itisverymuchtheproductof
a certain white Western critical strategy. As Stephen Slemon once warned: the
established systems of generic classification are complicit with a centralizing
impulseinimperialcultureandtheconceptofmagicrealismmightbeoneexample.
Itthreatens,heargued,tobecomeamonumentalizingcategoryforliterarypractice,
offering a single locus upon which the massive problem of difference in literary
expressioncanbemanagedintorecognizablemeaninginoneswiftpass.11
WhataretheliterarypracticesandhistoriestowhichAustraliancriticsrefer
when they produce Indigenoussigned texts as magic realist? It quickly becomes
clearthatmagicrealismhasbeentakenupinthenameofliterarypostcolonialisms
interestsinthepossibilitiesofreadingandwritingdifferencebetweenthecoloniser
andthecolonised.Indeedthecriticalproductionofmagicrealismnowreadslikea
synecdoche for debates in postcolonial theory, exercising that body of theorys
preoccupations with questions of hybridity and liminality.12 It is equally clear
thoughthat,intheend,thedifferencethatisinsisteduponinonemomentisallowed

Alison RavenscroftDreaming of Others

195

to fall in the next. In Australia, as elsewhere, the strategy becomes one more
momentintheproductionofanotherasa(lesser)versionofoneself.
The term magic realism was coined by Franz Roh in Germany in 1925 to
describe his vision for a new postexpressionist art, where the art would give
representationtoasubjectiveexperienceofreality,arealitythatisamplifieduntil
itsownsocalledmagicappearsintheworkofart.13Rohsideaarosehistoricallyin
the context of psychoanalysis and its interests in visibility and invisibility, in what
canandcannotbebroughtintolanguage,intoknowledge.Likepsychoanalysis,itis
concernedwithdivisionanddoublenesswithinanyonehumansubject,wherewhat
Rohhascalledmagicisalwaysanotheraspectorexperienceofapsychicreality.Itis
that part of reality that hovers around, or palpates behind, what can be discerned.
WhatRohhopedmightbemadetoappearinanewartasmagicalorstrangeisnot
anothers reality, then, but always ones ownrecalling Freuds insistence on the
uncanny as the constitutive strangeness that is not exterior to the subject but
within.14Rohhopedforanartisticpracticethatcouldpointtothatpartofsubjective
reality that escapes representation, this magic that falls from view and is perhaps
feltratherthanseen,anatmosphereonemightsay;apartofsubjectiverealitythat
artisticpracticemightbeabletopointtoby,forinstance,figuringfragmentationsof
thevisualfield,orincertaindistortionsandcondensationsinpatternsofdarkness
andlight,inshadowandaura.
These hopes and possibilities are foreclosed, however, in most
contemporary literary critics mobilisations of magic realism. The term tends now
not to be taken in Rohs sense of art that represents the magic of socalled reality,
the very subjective strangeness of ones own psychic reality. Instead, magic and
realism are taken to be two distinct, even oppositional, representational codes at
work in a text and referring to two distinct worlds or cultures. These worlds are
now keenly associated with the world of the coloniser on one hand and the
colonised on the other. Unsurprisingly, the socalled magic falls on the side of
Indigenous colonised subjects and socalled reality remains on the side of the
colonisers.
In postcolonial literary criticism, gestures are always made towards
difference, and the word dialectic runs through this criticism like a talisman that
couldwardoffchargesofneoimperialism.But,aswellsee,thesegesturestowards

196

VOLUME16 NUMBER2 SEPT2010

difference and the dialectical turn out to be merely moments of deferral in the
courseofaselfsameargumentwherebyothersrealityisproducedasifitwerea
version of the colonisers own, only a lesser one: less rational, less logical. The
arguments eventually arrive at the point they are supposedly contesting: that the
othersunderstandingofrealityisapoorone,itissubeducated,inthewordsofone
critic,itisnaveandfantastic,itisbasedinbeliefsinthemythicandmagical.15The
doubleness of a psychic reality which for Roh, after Freud, always has its own
magicwithinitisnowarrangedacrosstwofields,withmagicanditscorrelates
dream,delusion,irrationalityappearinginthefieldoftheother.
InreadingsthatproduceCarpentariaasamagicrealisttextthereisjustthis
recuperation of the binary that associates Indigeneity with magic, irrationality,
delusion and dream, and whiteness with realism, reality and rationality, and with
consciousness,awakefulstatedespitethesecriticsaimingatsomethingelse.Such
an arrangement of dream and reality, sleep and wakefulness, across a coloniser
coloniseddividerecallsargumentsthatPatrickWolfehasmadeaboutthemeanings
associatedwiththetermDreamtimeasitwasconceivedwemightsayinvented
byanthropologicaldiscourse.16ThisdiscoursemadeanaffinitybetweenAborigine
anddreams,wheredreamwasunderstoodtobeaconditionassociatedwithsleep,
or unconsciousness rather than with what might also be called (again, in English)
IndigenousLaw.WolfeshowsushowthiscouplingofAborigineanddreaminthe
Australian colonising context made for the dispossession of Indigenous peoples by
takingthemoutofhistoricaltimeandplace:theywereeithereffacedfromtheland
orassimilatedtoit.17So,whatisatstakeforcontemporaryliterarycriticswho,via
thetropeofmagicrealism,oncemoremakeanassociationbetweenIndigeneityand
dream?And,howmightwhitesreaddifferentlysothatourdoublenessanddivision
remain,sothatourownmagic,dreamsanddelusionsmightmaketheirappearance?
Whatfollowsis,first,amoredetailedcritiqueofsocalledpostcolonialmagic
realisminwhichIpointtocriticsrefusaltoallowmarkersofdifferenceintextsto
besignificant;indeed,tosignifyatall.Instead,thereisahabitofskippingoverthese
places where differences are inscribed as if they were not there at all. There are
some differences that are just too much, it seems. Second, I propose reading
Carpentaria through a different paradigm, and this is the paradigm of radical
uncertainty, an impossible dialectic.18 In this might lie the beginnings of another

Alison RavenscroftDreaming of Others

197

reading practice, one that allows Carpentaria its difference, its strangeness, and
which points to the necessary estrangement of its white readers. This is not to
refuse the beauty of the text and the pleasures it offers but to suggest a reading
practice that sits still with this beauty and bears its enigma. Third, I look at those
readings by white critics that would have this novel as offering a white reader an
opportunitytoacquirenewknowledgeaboutIndigenousLaw.Ofthesereadingswe
mightaskinwhatsenseawhitereadercouldbesaidtoknowIndigenousLaw,and
how would she ever distinguish it from this texts huge, generous, imaginative
playfulness?
Idonotarguethatthisparticulartext,Carpentaria,escapeswritingslimits
orthatitsauthor,becausesheisIndigenous,enjoysabsoluteorperfectvision.The
argument,instead,isthatforeachofustherearelimitstothepowersofsightand
knowledge, although whiteness invites its subjects to forget this and to believe
instead in our own powers of perfect vision. If white subjects are canny enough,
smartenough,patientenough,sothefantasygoes,wewillbeabletoseewhatour
others see, know what they know. From such a white subject position, from the
positionthatCarpentariaswhitecriticstakeupforinstance,wecanbetemptedto
approachanothersknowledgeasifitwerealwaysandinallwaysaccessible.Here,I
lookatwhitecriticsofthisIndigenoussignedtextwhohavemistakenthemeanings
theycanmakeofitfortruth,forcompleteknowledge,forrealityitself.
CAN BLACK PEOPLE FLY?

What is magic and what is reality, and by what representational codes will we
recognisethese?Howwillreadersknowthesedifferentworldsandrepresentational
formswhentheycomeacrosstheminatext?Perhapsthequestionsmightbetterbe
posed:whosemagic,whosereality?Criticshavewarnedagainsttheeffectsofusing
thetermmagicrealismtoofreelybecauseofthewaysinwhichthereistheriskthat
audiences among the Western world will read other cultures reality as magic.
Arguing against reading magic realism as magic in the Western sense, Roberto
GonzalesEchevarraforinstancehassaidofmagicalrealismthatithasasitssource
materialbeliefsorpracticesfromtheculturalcontextinwhichitisset,whatMaggie
Bowershascalled,afterEchevarra,ontologicalmagicalrealism,wherewhatmight
appeartoaWesternreaderasmagicalormarvellousarequalitiesthatarerealityto

198

VOLUME16 NUMBER2 SEPT2010

the population out of which the text was produced.19 They are ontologically
necessary to the regions populations vision of everyday reality.20 This kind of
argumentpointsoutthatwhatistakenbyawhitereadertobemagicinthesetexts
mightnotbesofortheworldofthenovelorintheworldoftheauthor.Thisiswhat
ItakeGabrielGarciaMarquezsrefusalofthetermmagicrealismtomean:itdidnot,
hemaintained,describehisownworkatall,despitehisworkbeingcitedbycritics
astheverycornerstoneofthegenre.Instead,Marquezinsistedthathewasarealist
writer: I believe that in Latin America everything is possible, everything is real.21
The socalled magical is for Garcia Marquez a subjective representation of a social
reality.LiterarycriticssuchasLoisZamoraandWendyFaris,too,pointoutthat:
Textslabeledmagicalrealistdrawuponculturalsystemsthatarenoless
realthanthoseuponwhichtraditionalliteraryrealismdrawsoftennon
Westernculturalsystemsthatprivilegemysteryoverempiricism,empathy
over technology, tradition over innovation. Their primary narrative
investmentmaybeinmyths,legends,rituals.22
ButwhileZamoraandFaris,likeotherliterarycritics,pointoutthatwhatis
magicinmagicrealisttextsmightnotbesofortheworldofthenovelorintheworld
oftheauthor,atthesametimetheirargumenttendstofallawayfromthisclaim,itis
unabletoinsistitself.AsIvealreadysaid,gesturestowardsdifferenceturnouttobe
onlypausesinthecourseofaselfsameargument.Theyaremerelydeferrals.The
arguments tend to eventually arrive at the same point they are supposedly
contesting:thattheothersunderstandingofrealityisonlynave,fantastic,mythic
it is magic after all. A gesture is made to the possibility that what appears as
magicaltotheWesterncriticmightberealitytohisorherothers,butthenarrativity
thattheseotherspursueturnsouttobe,inthemindsofthesecritics,onlyatale,a
myth,alegend.Theseveryterms,thesegenres,aretheWesterncriticsown,andare
associated in these critics discourse with magic, fantasy and the supernatural.23
Then,asZamoraandFarishavedonehere,thenonWesternculturalformsoutof
which the narratives are said to arise tend to be characterised as mysterious, too,
empathic and traditional against an empirical, technological and innovative West,
makingtheotherculturesrealitymysteriouseventoitself.24
On this question whose magic, whose reality?, Toni Morrison has made
someclaimsthatareworthtakingalittletimetoconsiderhere,notleastbecauseof

Alison RavenscroftDreaming of Others

199

the anxiety they seem to arouse among some of her white critics. Morrison claims
that among AfricanAmericans there are ways of knowing that might fall into the
magic or superstitious in the eyes of white American readers. AfricanAmericans
are a practical people but within that practicality we also accept what I suppose
couldbecalledsuperstitionandmagic.Whichisanotherwayofknowingthings.25
Morrisons insistence (much like Garcia Marquezs, or indeed Alexis Wrights) that
she aims to represent reality in its complexity rather than simply referring to
magic and superstitions, causes discomfort among many of her critics.26 The
distancethatisinstalledbyMorrisonsownwordswhatIsupposecouldbecalled
superstition or magicis collapsed. Morrisons own reservations about the
suitability of these words superstition and magic are closed over, and
superstitionandmagicarereinstatedasdistinctfromreality.ThewhiteWestern
criticsrealityhasbecometheonlyone.
Id like to tease out an example of Morrisons critics refusal to take her at
herword,evenwhileclaimingtodoso.P.GabrielleForemaninsistsoninterpreting
as mythic Morrisons Songs of Solomon where men and women have the power to
fly.Thereisasurprisingfrequencywithwhichthisparticularstoryisreferredtoby
literary critics, as if there might be something about the story that disturbs more
thanmightbeadmittedinaccountsofitasmerelymagical,orasarhetoricalmove.
Foremaninsiststhatthisstorybereadwithinthemythicandmagicalevenwhileshe
offers a quotation from Morrison which suggests something quite different.
Morrison herself says that if this story of men and women flying means Icarus to
some readers, fine; I want to take credit for that. But my meaning is specific: it is
about Black people who could fly. White readers own story, the myth of Icarus, is
taken by these readers to be the prototype on which Morrisons story is based,
whereasforMorrison,whetherherstoryrightfullybelongsinthegenreofmythat
allisrathermoredoubtful.Flying,shesays,wasoneofourgifts.Idontcarehow
silly it may seem its in the spirituals and the gospels. Perhaps it was wishful
thinking but suppose it wasnt?27 There are possibilities that Morrison seems
prepared to considerthat flying once belonged in an AfricanAmerican reality,
althoughperhapsnotherown.
Morrisonsclaim,then,thatBlackpeoplecouldflybecomesquiteenigmatic:
what can she mean? And what can the magic/realist divide do with this sort of

200

VOLUME16 NUMBER2 SEPT2010

claim? Returning to Stephen Slemon on magic realism: he insists that the


importanceofmagicrealismforapostcolonialprojectliesinitsrefusaltoresolveor
translate one representational system into another. Realism and fantasy are each
workingtowardthecreationofadifferentkindoffictionalworldfromtheother.28
Slemon argues for an incompatibility between these fictional worlds that prevents
either coming fully into being, each remains suspended, locked in a continuous
dialectic with the other, a situation which creates disjunction within each of the
separatediscursivesystems,rendingthemwithgaps,silencesandabsences.29
SurelySlemonspointwouldleadustoask:inwhatnexusofsignificationis
the notion of men and women flying given its meaning? In what other world of
meaning does this possibility arise? And how would we read across the time and
spacebetweenourworldandthisotherone?Surelywecant.TheclaimthatBlack
peoplecouldflybelongstoanotherstorythantheoneMorrisonswhitecriticscan
read, and of that story, that scene to which flying belongs, all they can see is that
signifierflying.Wemightsaythatthesignifieritselfflies,itfloatsliketheskullin
the foreground of Holbeins The Ambassadors.30 To name it as magical, or as
deluded, as wishfulfilment, as fantasy, is to refuse the division in the visual field,
which is to say it is to disavow the critics own division: it is to disavow the
incompatibility between worlds that Slemon insists on. It is to refuse a world of
meaning,anotherstory,whichremainsinaccessibletothewhitecritic,indeedasit
mayremaininaccessibletoMorrisonherself.ThedifferencebetweenMorrisonand
her critics is that Morrison is prepared to consider that there are other worlds of
meaningandsheinvitesustojustsupposewithher.Thesewordsareignoredby
Foreman, written over, as if the utterance had never been made. The gap in the
whitecriticsknowledgeisclosedover.
Similarly,MaggieBowers,afteradiscussionofontologicalmagicalrealism
drops realism out of her interpretation of Morrisons story of flying men and
women, and the story becomes only magic or mythic again: Her magical realism
includescharacterswhocanflybacktoAfricawhentheydie.Thiswasacommonly
knownmyth amongstAfrican American slaves.31 What would happen if that word
mythweredroppedouthere?Bowersstatementwouldsuddenlybemadebolder,
more epistemologically challenging, and closer to Morrisons own claims. It would
become: This was commonly known amongst African American slaves. After all,

Alison RavenscroftDreaming of Others

201

thisiswhatMorrisonsays.Herclaimisnotaboutamyth;sheclaimsthatitwasthe
powerofflightthatwasknownandnotamythaboutthepowerofflight.Thiswould
be to follow through the logic that these critics of magic realism have themselves
established:thatonesrealityisnotanothers;thatthereareotherwaysofknowing.
It would be to point out that Maggie Bowers is not necessarily or exclusively
occupyingthesameworldofmeaningasToniMorrisonandthatsheiscertainlynot
occupyingthesameworldastheAfricansaboutwhomMorrisonwrites.
Morrison, like Alejo Carpentier and Gabriel Garcia Marquez before her, has
been condemned by some critics for these kinds of propositions.32 Morrisons
insistence on a distinctly different AfricanAmerican reality, subjectivity, indeed
corporeality,hasprovokedparticularlypowerfulantagonisms.Shehasbeenaccused
of participating in her own cultural prostitution,33 inventing an enchanted village
called blackness,34 and surely many readers will find the notion of Black men and
women taking to the skies and returning in this way to Africa as entirely fanciful.
Whatisjustasclear,though, is that a writer like Morrison might be aiming to put
understrainwhitereadersassurancethattheycandecidewhatisrealandwhatis
magical,orwhetheritisarealityrepresentednaturalisticallyandwhenitisfigured
incode.

While the magicrealist novels subversive capacities lie for many critics in the
pressures brought to bear on a hegemonic, colonial reality on one hand, and on
realismasanaturalisedmodeofrepresentingitontheother,thishegemonicreality
isoncemorereiteratedintheveryassurancewithwhichtherealandthefantastic
aredeterminedbywhitecriticsasbeingacrosstwoculturallocations.Whatwould
be more productive would be to return to the idea of the magical and reality as
subjective experiences that are available in any cultural location.35 As Freud said,
there is only one reality, and this is a psychic one, where fantasy and reality are
oneandthesame.Buttheideaofmagicrealismasanaestheticformthatmightgive
expression to the division and doubleness of the subject is precisely what drops
fromwhitecriticaleffortstoreadCarpentariaasmagicrealist.Instead,realityand
magic are once more divided between ourselves and our others, disavowing the
whitesubjectsowndoubleness,herownmagic,herownstrangenesstoherself.

202

VOLUME16 NUMBER2 SEPT2010

Carpentaria effects its own resistances against the exclusive coupling of


dream and magic with Aborigine. To start with, it is populated with white men
and women who are irrational and illogical. They are nave believers in their own
nonsense, where newfound legends and lores, folktales, lullabies and childrens
verse,miraclesandcreationstoriesstandinforknowledgeoftheirownhistoryand
ofthecountryaroundthem.TheybelieveforinstanceinanoriginalGodwhohad
comealongwithallthewhitepeople,whocreatedeverythingforthem.36Theseare
menandwomenwhoarelookeduponinwonderbytheAboriginalmenandwomen
for being historyless: their white worldview is a failure of history and of origins,
theirs is a timelessness, of men and women wandering without recourse either to
origin or destination, without culture, song, or sacred places, ghostly men and
womenarrivingwithnopasttheycouldremember.37Whenawhitemanarrivesin
their midst in a most unusual way, walking in across tidal mudflats after a storm,
comingwithnonameandnomemory,thesewhitefolkrecallthearrivaloftheirown
forebears.ThismanwhowillintheendbeknownbythenameofEliasSmithrecalls
[t]heiroriginalforebear,aghostlywhitemanorwoman,simplyturneduponeday,
justlikeElias.Onthescaleofthings,theirhistorywasjustahalfflickoftheswitchof
truthsimplyamemorynogreaterthantwolifespans.38
The white men and women watching Elias coming in from the sea wonder
what he is. Is he, after all, a man, or something else, equally believable to their
minds:AnangelcarryingthemessageoftheonetheycalledtheAlmighty?Aghost,
spirit,demonorseamonster?39Intheeyesofthewhitecitizens,thearrivalofthis
man is a vision of a marvellously hideous other kind. They believe they are
witnessing the emergence of an aquatic aura, a Godsent water angel, and
downright proper, respectable Uptown women could not escape the spell the
marinerhadcastonthem.40
Here,whitesdesiretofindmagicintheother,theyseekitout,theyproduce
thesupernaturalintheotherkindsoastobringitintotheireverydayworld.They
holdhopesoftheirlivesbeingenchantedbytheother.Outoftheirownincapacityto
acquire a working knowledge of the world they find themselves inthey cannot
read the weather, for instance, or fish the seasthey read others knowledge and
skillsintheregisterofmagic.So,NormPhantomspowerstonavigategreatbodies
of water, to know stars and storms, the currents of the air and the sea, to know

Alison RavenscroftDreaming of Others

203

wheregreatschoolsoffisharestilltobefound:thesepowerscannotbeimaginedby
thewhitecitizensofDesperancetobebasedinrationality,inacquiredandpractised
intelligence.Itistheirownrationalitythatfails.
The white citizens of Desperance are captured by their own dreams and
delusions;theyarenetted.Theybelievethatthetownisprotectedbyaninvisible
net:
madeupofprayersandgodfearingdevotionaprotectiveshield,saving
the town from a cyclone every November, at the onset of the Wet, at
night,whensomeoftheCouncilmencouldbeseencongregatinginsecret.
Youknewthenetwasbeingdrawn,becauseyoucouldseethemysterious
flashing of torchlight in the long grass. In the Pricklebush, everyone
stopped to listen when the bush creatures became silent. Crickets and
frogsweretheguardiansofthenightforgenerationsofPricklebushfolk.
The old people said, Dont worry. They explained the men were checking
theirmagicnailsinthefencepostsincaseanyonewasstealingthem.41
Among the whites there are those who could tell you the stories of how they had
been taken away for weeks on metallicdisc spacecraft with red lights flashing
across the sky, and who knows, they said when they came back, if aliens were
invadingthewholecountryside.42Thedifferenceindreamingbetweenwhitesand
Aborigines in Desperance is noted by the Pricklebush mob, too. Where the
Pricklebushmobsawhuge,powerful,ancestralcreationspiritsoccupyingtheland
andseamovingthroughthetown,eveninsideotherfolkshouses,rightacrossany
pieceofthecountry,theyseethewhitecitizensashavingpueriledreamsofstone
walls,biglockedgates,barredwindows,barbedwirerolledaroundthetoptolock
out the menace of the black demon.43 The Pricklebush look on in disbelief at the
Uptownerswhonotonlybelieveinthesestrangedreamsoftheirownmaking,but
believetheycanbemastersoftheirowndreams.44
And, crucially, this novel not only points to its white protagonists wish to
find magic in others, and so enchant their own world, but implicates those white
readers who also possess a similar desire. A white reader and not only the white
residentsofUptownmightfindherselfdrawntotheothersmagic,desiringtofind
themagicalasrestinginherculturalotherslured,astoahook,byhopesoffinding
magicandthedreamintheother,sayingitwasalwaysthere,thatitwaswrittenfor

204

VOLUME16 NUMBER2 SEPT2010

us, that it is just there, on the page. Many white readers have delighted in making
others the repository of magic, wanting to believe. Carpentaria, then, is a text that
inscribesawhitereadingpracticeintoitsnarrative:itiswewhoarepointedatand
challenged.Doyou,thetextseemstoask,dreamofothersandthensayitistheir
fantasies rather than your own? When a white reader determines the texts
placementinherowngenreofmagicalrealism,whatisthisbutadeterminationto
readherownbewildermentastheothersmagic?
A POETICS OF UNCERTAINTY

But Carpentaria does more than reverse the colonialist distribution of rationality
andirrationalitybetweenwhiteandAboriginal.Itdoesmorethantelltalesofwhite
irrationality on one hand and Aboriginal logic and intelligence on the other. It
accomplishes its political work through an aesthetics of uncertainty, a radical,
irresolvable equivocality in language and form. This is not a dialectic that can be
resolved:thereisnounitaryresolution,nodialecticalsynthesis.Itinsteadraises,for
me as a white reader, an aesthetics reminiscent of modernism rather than magic
realism.ThisisanaestheticsthatrecallsJamesJoyce,whomAlexisWrightadmires,
ratherthanHerbertwhosenovelsshehasnotimetoread;sheistoobusylearning
fromotherpeople.45
Carpentariaisoverfivehundredpagesoflabyrinthinenarrativethatopens
onto one scene and then onto another, one story folded between others as if in
parenthesis.Pastandpresentintermingleinthespaceofapageorevenless:time
expands into the cracks and crevices of the hereandnow, bringing with it a
proliferationofimagesandsoundsthatbelongnowtoamansbrokenmarriageand
nowtolandwomandevilGardajala,46nowtoadeadwhitemanbeingreturnedtothe
giant old gropers in their secret place in the deep seas, now to a small boy whose
motherHopehasbeendroppedwhilestillalivefromahelicopteratagreatheight
overwater.Carpentariaisanovelsofullofimagesitwilltakemanyreturnstoits
pages before a reader could boast of more than a slight acquaintance. So, how to
keep reading and rereading this text that surely exceeds a white readers easy
knowing?HowtoresistthecalltobringthisnovelintothewhiteAustralianliterary
canon on one hand, or into an imperialist magic realism on the other? What other
waystoreadNormPhantomsjourneysthroughstormyseasintocountrypopulated

Alison RavenscroftDreaming of Others

205

by yinbirras, among them toothless old women dressed in crumpled leaves, bush
blossoms, tangled strands of grasses;47 or his son Wills experience in the flooded
Desperance hotel in a cyclone, visited by an old lady in a knitted beanie and floral
dress who had every right to grab her turn in a countrymans dreams?48 I ask
myselfagain,likeanincantation:howtomakesenseofthis?Howtoread?
Clearly, not within the monologic of conventional Western literary realism,
onthispointtherewouldbefewdissenters.Thereis,forinstance,noeasynarrative
outline that I could provide that would be at all supportable. Carpentaria exceeds
thenarrativeelementsIcouldnameandorder,anditdoesthiscruciallythroughits
form and language. To my reading, Carpentaria puts into effect an aesthetics of
uncertainty; in its language and form there is a radical doubleness, a poetics of
equivocality. It is unpinnable. It inscribes different worlds and representational
modes in the space of a few lines or phrases; it brings different objects, different
worlds,intosuchcloseproximitythattheirplacementinarationalormagicalmode
isundecidable.Itmakestheverydivisionintomagicalandrational,livinganddead,
body and country undecidableat least for this white reader. This is not an
undecidabilitythatresides(only)intheAboriginalprotagonists,assomereviewers
havesuggested:itisnotjustNormalPhantomorhissonWillwhocantalwaystell
whatislivingandwhatisdead,whatisdreamandwhatiswaking,whereonesown
mind ends and anothers begins.49 This undecidability is produced in me, too. The
conventionalEuropeanarrangementsofobjectsintorealityandfantasy,interiority
andexteriority,countryandculture,earthandbodythesecannolongerhold,and
thetextmovesandmorphs,itshimmers.Thismovement,thisdoubleness,troubles
my sense of knowing: it is the hinge through which another scene opens, one I
cannotsee/hear/know,oneIcannotsignify.Itbelongsinanotherstorythantheone
Icanknoworimagine.
To show something of this, we can look to the musicality of the text as a
startingpoint.ItisfromthisthatwemightbeabletoteaseoutwhatImsuggesting
mightbethetextsuncertainty,itsirreducibledoubleness.Forthereisanimpossible
doublenesstoitsmusic,atleastasitsoundsandfailstosoundtomysenses.The
text brings sounds I can hearopera, country and western, choral musicinto
proximitywithsoundsIcannothearevenasIamtoldtheyaretheretobeheard.I
cannothearGlory!Glory!fromthegillsandscalesoffishes.Icannothearoperaor

206

VOLUME16 NUMBER2 SEPT2010

sacredmusicissuingforthfromthecountryitself.AlthoughIcanrecogniseeachof
theelementsinascene,Icantbringthemtogetherintotheonescene.Theyremain
unassimilable to each other. The text seems to require of me that I hold the two
togetherratherthanresolvethem,holdingthemasdistinct,inarelationoftension.
MusicisanimportantpartofCarpentariasform.Thetextopenswithmusic,
and music continues to its very close, ranging in tone and timbre, mood and form.
Thenovelsepigramis:Anationchants,butweknowyourstoryalready.Thebells
peal everywhere. Church bells calling the faithful to the tabernacle The novel
closes with another kind of song altogether: It was a mystery, but there was so
muchsongwaftingoffthewateryland,singingthecountryafresh50Thecountry
sings,thecricketssing,windandwater,birdsandfishes,humanstooareallmoved
to sing, to give voice to what? Its hard for me to say. At times Carpentaria is a
libretto,atothersarequiem,atothersitfollowsthelyricsandrhythmsofcountry
and western, and then again it refers to sounds that elude me: the countrys own
song.
ThenthereistheIrishpriestinhisoldblacksoupedupValiantdrivingina
stormacrossafloodingplain,whoturnshiscarscassetteplayertofullvolumeand
triumphant trumpets and the Philadelphia Tabernacle Choir flow out into the
surroundingsaltbush.51Pulledoverbythelocalminessecurityguards,headdresses
hisantagonistsinfuriousspeechaccompaniedbytheheavenlyvoicesinaTeDeum
of three massed choirs. Another choir occupies Norm Phantoms fishroom where
he practises his taxidermy, turning dead creatures into exquisite jewels. Secretly,
Normhimselfbelievesthese miracles are not his own work, but the work of some
God who uses the room as an experimental studio, a type of expos for life in the
decayingworld,wheretheairsmeltlikeabeach.52Intothisroom,thewinterwinds
blow:
southeasterlyinweeklyrhythmsaftermidnight.Likenobodyelse,Norm
lovedthegrandoldcomposer,therapturousmelodieswhichswamalong
the tin walls of the corridor from the house to the fishroom. The music
arrived in the middle of the night and tapered off after midday Norm
sang Gloria, alongside the old composer conducting his mass choir of
cricketsthatsangGlory!Glory!Intimewiththerattlingwalls.Thecrickets,

Alison RavenscroftDreaming of Others

207

part of the fishrooms metamorphosis, lived in the dark, musky, fish


smellingenvironment.53
AndNormsresurrectedfish,gleamingamongtherafterswherehehashungthem,
sangeeriesongsinshrilled,mezzosopranovoicesthatfloatedoutoftheirmouths
fromthecricketshiddennests,fromdeepinsidethefisheshorsehairbellies.54Ifall
textsaretissuesofquotation,thenherewehaveaselectionofmusicalformsthat,
foralltheirfamiliarity,areneverthelessmadescarcelylegible,oraudiblebecauseof
their arrangement. They are brought into an arrangement that unsettles my own
senseofknowing.
ThenthereisBigMozzieFishmansingingcountryandwesterntosootheand
settlehimselfandhisfollowersinhisneverendingtravellingcavalcadebringing
amajorLawceremonyovertheStateborder.55Theirconvoycontinuedanancient
religious crusade along the spiritual travelling road of the great ancestor, whose
journey continues to span the entire continent and is older than time itself. The
writingatthispointtakesonthefeelofFishmanstune:
Inthemiddleoftheday,thevehiclesweretravellingalonganarrow,hilly
road, twisting like a goat track out of Mozzies fishing nightmares. This
stretch of road always caused Big Mozzie to break into nervous singing
withagreatdealofsoultothespirits.GoodbyeJoe,megottogo,meoh!
Myo!MegottogoforthecodfishladiesdowntheBayou.Seriously,hetold
WillPhantom,ayoungmaninhismidtwenties,whowastravellinginthe
samecarrightnexttoBigMozzieashisdriver,hewasalivingexperton
every Hank Williams song known to mankind. Older convoy members
pretendedthiswastrue.Itsavedthepeace.However,theyknew,heknew,
he never remembered the lyrics of any song, and simply invented new
words to suit himself. But why not! The son of a gun, hey, Will? And he
brokeintoajitterbug,singingonaboutsomeplaceasifheknewwhereit
was:Abuzzin,havingfundowntheBayou.56
I am puzzled not only by song but by the entire scene. To my eyes, the image of
MozzieFishmanandhismenbringswithitamixofmedievalChristiancrusadesand
indigenous practices, and puts them altogether in a convoy of a hundred 1980s
Falcon sedans and Holden station wagons, a long line of battered old cars heavily
coated in the redearth dust of the dry country leaving in their wake a haze of

208

VOLUME16 NUMBER2 SEPT2010

petrol fumes and dust.57 This is strangely beautiful, an evocation of persistence in


motion,atoncefullofearnestnessandhumour,ofthemusicalityofacircusandthe
violence of a vocation, Christic images of the sick being healed on one hand, and
Fishmansrefusaltoperformanymiracleoftheloavesandthefishesontheother;
andrunningthroughitallissurelythecoldedgedrealityofpoliticalresistance,all
moved, like the cavalcade itself, by the engine of something enigmaticto me, at
least.Perhapsitisdrivenbytheinventivenessanddeterminationofthesereligious
devotees who double as mechanics with artisans hands and genius minds,
fashioning tools as well as spare parts from nature, and so all of these vehicles
survivedoverthousandsofkilometresofthecountryshardestrockandgravel.58I
donotknowhowtodistributepowerandpathos,humourandforcefulnessamong
theelementsofsuchascene.DoIshowmyselfasafooltotakeanyofitseriously;
amImisreadingthesignificanceofwhatmightinfactbeacult?
Topointtothemusicalityandindeedthetriumphalismofthenarrativeisto
riskfailingtopointtoitstragediesanditsinsistentstoryofresistance.Itwouldbe
easytooverlook,say,Normssuppressedviolencewhenfacedwithhishatredofthe
policeman Truthful who sexually abuses Norms daughter. Truthful knows how to
makeGirliescreamforbeingmeantohim.Well!Sheknewwhatshewasaskingfor,
he thought, if it was pain she wanted.59 The handcuffs in his pocket pressing into
his groin aroused the sensation of good times ahead.60 There are the three little
boys,petrolsniffers,whodieafterbeinglefttolanguishforgotteninaprisoncellfor
acrimetheydidnotcommit.ThenthereisthetortureofKevinPhantom,thecoon
boy,bywhitemenunderwhitehoods.61
He heard his bones break with a pain that forced him to open his shock
sealedlips,andcalloutthroughthemufflingbagtohisfatherHewas
wetandhurt,andhisarms,stretchedoutinfrontofhim,theywerebeing
dragged off his body. His skin was burning, he was being skinned alive,
pulledbehindthecar,itsexhaustfumeschokinghisbreath.62
Itistemptingtoresolvethesedifferentmoodsandrhythmsofthetextinto
two distinct registers. If we were to follow those critics who advise us to read
Carpentariawithinthegenreofmagicalrealism,thepartsofthetextthatappearas
wondrous, or theatrical or triumphant would fall to the magical and fantastic; and
tragedy,loss,andviolencetorealismthisdespitetheclaimsmadeforthegenres

Alison RavenscroftDreaming of Others

209

dialectic between socalled magic and realist forms.63 If, as Slemon claims, the
magicalrealistgenreatitsbestoffersadialecticthatpointstothegapsandsilences
ineachofthetworepresentationalforms,theninCarpentariawemightsaythatwe
have a text that inscribes an impossible dialectic: one that emphasises that these
gaps and silences cannot be filled. This is the dialectics impossibility: the dialogic
necessarily fails to produce a whole. This might be the most threatening of
possibilitiesforawhitereader.Thatis,theendlessmovementthatforSlemonisthe
dialectic never results in full knowledge. The dialectical is a recognition of the
uncertainty of all knowledge. So, unlike the conventional trope of magical realism
which ultimately resolves two worlds or forms, and beyond Slemons important
intervention in that tendency which nevertheless suggests a movement in a
particular directionthat is, towards knowledgeinstead we might think not of a
continualmovementbetweenknowledges,notusingonetofillinagapintheother,
butthegapinallknowledge.Ifthisistrue,whitescannothopetolooktoanotherto
fill in the gaps in their own knowledge, of themselves or their others. There are
things an other knows (there are objects that are made) that we will never
know/see/hear.Thequestionofhowtoread,then,becomesthis:howtobearsuch
partialvision?
A TREE CAN ACT VERY STRANGELY, IF IT WANTS

InprevailingwhiteAustraliandiscourses,IndigenousLawisstillreadasifitwerea
formoffiction,aninfantile,navefictionholdingnoexplanatorypower.Byfiction,I
meananunreconstructednotionoffictionasanactoftheimaginationthatbearsno
truth, as against knowledge held to be factual. Indigenous Law is read in this
unreconstructed sense of fiction. It is translated as legend, or myth, or childrens
story;64orastheDreamingwhereDreamingistakentobethekindofdreamingone
doesononespillow,afantasmaticdistortionofeverydaylifewithoutgeographicor
historical coordinates.65 Anothers epistemologies are reduced to an irrational or
primitivenaivety,beliefratherthanknowledge,loreratherthanLaw.
For an Indigenous author interested in referring to the Law in her fiction,
thiskindofinterpretationofLawposespeculiarproblems.Howwillherfiguringof
the Law be read by white Australia? Does it once more risk being dismissed as
fantasmatic,ornave?Thisisespeciallysoiftheauthorisalsoattemptingtofigure

210

VOLUME16 NUMBER2 SEPT2010

distortion,thefantastic,thefabulousandthedreaminherfictionasWrightseemsto
bedoinginCarpentaria,forhowwouldareaderdistinguishsuchplayfulnessfrom
representations of Indigenous Law if she already reads the Law itself as only a
dream,afantasticstoryofmagicpowers,anavestoryoforigin?So,whileonecritic
warns us against reading Indigenoussigned fiction ethnographically because, she
says, there is no ethnic authenticity in its pages, we might counter with another
claim:thatthedangermightlieelsewhere,inwhitereadingstrategiesthatpersistin
producingotherknowledgesasalreadyakindoffiction.66
Against the idea that Indigenoussigned texts cannot be read
ethnographically and against, too, the idea of Indigenous Law as a nave
epistemology, Frances DevlinGlass urges us to read Carpentaria as a powerful
contribution to understanding of indigenous knowledge.67 According to this critic,
white readers can acquire new knowledge of Indigenous Law from the pages of
Carpentaria. This new moveto read Carpentaria as a true representation of
Indigenous Lawpresumably comes out of a desire to take seriously the claims
madebyIndigenousauthorsthemselvesthattheirtextsareAboriginalrealism,say,
or true story, or as Alexis Wright is quoted as saying of Carpentaria: It was the
voice that Australians have never listened to. Its the voice of Aboriginal elders
speakingaboutpeopleandcountry,talkingaboutwhatAboriginalcultureis,whatit
means and how it might work in the future.68 And, for sure, the idea that
Indigenoussigned texts might in some way inscribe Indigenous Law, where
Indigenous Law itself inscribes sophisticated knowledges, is often too much for
literarycritics.DevlinGlassscriticalmovealsocomesoutofanexplicitinterestin
whatisanethicalnecessityforapostcolonialistcriticandthatistoreadIndigenous
narratives not as primitive knowledge but, following anthropologists such as
Deborah Bird Rose, as the complex encoding of ecology and natural history.69
DevlinGlasswantswhiteAustraliatotakeIndigenousnarrativesveryseriouslyas
importantformsofknowledge.
So, why shouldnt whites read Carpentaria in the way that DevlinGlass
proposes?WhynotreadCarpentariaasapowerfulcontributiontounderstandingof
indigenous knowledge, as a text that mobilises and modernises indigenous
narrativesoftheGulfofCarpentaria,inparticularthemultifariousRainbowSerpent
and associated mythological beings of the region?70 After all, the great serpent is

Alison RavenscroftDreaming of Others

211

representedonthebookscoverinanimagereproducedfromtheskinofIndigenous
activistandWrightscountrymanMurrandooYanner:thisishistattoo.Theserpent
is there in the opening pages where the narrator makes his claims that in a tidal
riverintheGulfofCarpentaria,thegreatserpentlivesstill,itsbodytakingbreaths
that are the size of tides. Its moods change the rivers course, with its intake of
breath it draws the tide inland, towards the gorges of a limestone plateau, and its
exhalationturnsthetidebacktothegiantwaterbasisseparatedfromtheopensea
by a foldingin of the mainland. This river snake is the ancestral serpent that still
livesdeepdownunderthegroundinavastnetworkoflimestoneaquifers.Theysay
itsbeingisporous;itpermeateseverything.Itisallaroundintheatmosphereandis
attachedtothelivesoftheriverpeoplelikeskin.71Thisserpent:
came down those billions of years ago, to crawl on its heavy belly, all
around the wet clay soils in the Gulf of Carpentaria. Picture the creative
serpent, scoring deep intoscouring down throughthe slippery
underground of the mudflats, leaving in its wake the thunder of tunnels
collapsing to form deep sunken valleys. The sea water following in the
serpentswake,swarminginafrenzyoftidalwaves,soonchangedcolour
fromoceanbluetotheyellowofmud.Thewaterfilledtheswirlingtracks
toformthemightybendingriversspreadacrossthevastplainsoftheGulf
country.72
According to DevlinGlass, this serpent is an expression of the Waanyi
Rainbow Serpent and the novel elaborates, from a Waanyi point of view, an
understanding of the Indigenous sacred.73 This Waanyi point of view emerges for
her, she claims, out of her familiarity with Indigenous knowledgesshe can
recognisetheWaanyiimaginationanditsrepresentationalformsbybringingthese
into proximity with ethnographic material not with the Waanyi as it happens but
with the Yanyuwa, whom she says share songlines in the Gulf of Carpentaria with
Waanyi, especially secret and sacred womens business and Rainbow Serpent
ceremonies.Itisalegitimatemanoeuvresheclaims,toreadthisWaanyinovelin
thelightofYanyuwamaterialsincetheyshareRainbowSerpentsonglines,andin
particularthestoriesofBujimalaandWalalu,theWhirlwindSerpent,bothrelevant
inthisnovel.74

212

VOLUME16 NUMBER2 SEPT2010

Well,isit?WhoisitthathaslegitimatedamovethatcollapsesWaanyiand
the Yanyuwa? Where does this legitimation lie? These questions, though, I have to
put to the side. The question I can ask, the question I will insist on, is this: how
wouldawhitesubjecteverbeabletoreadeitherYanyuwaorWaanyinarrative,to
readthecountry,toreadskinandtattoo,toreadthecountryasWaanyimight?To
gobacktoargumentsIhavemadeelsewhere,howdowesee,orknow,orimagine,
fromaWaanyipointofview if we are not Waanyi?75 The answer that many white
criticsareofferingisthis:whitesdontneedtothinkBlack,asW.E.H.Stanneronce
wished we mightitself an impossible and fanciful wish. Instead, whites can
refigureIndigenousthinkingasourown:inthisformulation,ourothersthinkingis
likeoursafterall,itisashadeofwhite.Thatis,wearecalled,bythesecritics,intoa
beliefthatwecanpushIndigenousknowledgesintotheshapeswecansee,intothe
shapesofourownthinking.
Toaccomplishthis,however,whitereadersmustinstallthemselvesintothe
text,rewriteitsothatitoncemorebecomesanotherversionofourownstories.So,
for instance, DevlinGlass is one of Carpentarias critics who insists on likening
Alexis Wright and Xavier Herbert, so that Wrights alleged insistence on the
congruenceofscienceandmythologicalknowledgeisseentobesimilartoHerberts
inPoorFellowMyCountry.76XavierHerbert,AlexisWrightandbyextensionDevlin
Glass can each stand in the same place in relation to Indigenous mythological
knowledge.
DevlinGlasss approach is reminiscent of standpoint theory where
researchers seek to position themselves in relation to their material: I need to
position myself in relation to this material, she says.77 She has worked for over a
decade with Aboriginal elders, mainly women, from a neighbouring community in
the Gulf of Carpentaria, the Yanyuwa Ive been instructed in womens business,
mostrecentlyin2004forthepurposeofproofingawomensceremonygrounding.
However, the socalled standpointthe coordinates by which the researchers
positionisknownarealwaystheonesthatareknowable,visibletotheresearcher
herself.Thisistheparadoxofstandpointtheory.Thismethoddoesnt,cannot,aimat
the researchers blindspots, which are disavowed. The coordinates that one can
namearealwaysinthefieldofonesownmaking,thefieldonecansee,thefieldthat
ones own epistemologies describe. Such a declaration of a position cannot render

Alison RavenscroftDreaming of Others

213

visibleonespositioninthefieldoftheother.And,whatstandpointisitthatawhite
criticcouldpossiblytakeupinordertounderstandwhatAlexisWrightsaysithas
takenheralifetimetounderstand,thestorieshergrandmothertoldabouttheGulf
country,storiesaboutplacesandpeopleandthings:Apersoncouldbesomething
else; a tree could behave very strangely, if it wanted to.78 I wonder what a white
readercanmakeofthat.
My argument here is that Indigenous Law cannot be seen from a Waanyi
pointofviewifoneisnotWaanyi,andthattimeandagaintheLawfallsoutofthe
scene of white Western imagining, it falls out of the scene we can see or know.
IndigenousLawremainsasafragment,distortedbythelightcastbythescenewe
can see; in our scene it cannot appear. It makes no sense in a white Western
epistemology,andatbestitstracesaretranslatedintoEnglish,intomodernWestern
discursive frames such as ecology or natural history or science. That is, it is
translatedintoourownnexusofintelligibilityaprocessthroughwhichIndigenous
Lawasanobjectofknowledgeismadeintoadifferentobject.So,ratherthantaking
Wrights representations, as DevlinGlass saysrather than seeing for instance
river and cyclone as an expression of the Waanyi Rainbow Serpentwe might
betterlookathowthistextpositionsawhitereaderinrelationtotheseandother
storiesofDreamingandIndigenousLaw.Ratherthanpresumingtoknowhowthe
RainbowisimaginedbyYanyuwa,byWaanyi,byAlexisWright,wemightbebetter
puttoexaminingthelimitsofourownimagining.
Rather than reading Carpentaria as a resource from which we can know
othersasethnographypurportstobe,forinstancewemightreaditasanovel
thatpresentsawhitereaderwithitsownquitespecificqualitiesofunknowability,
andundecidability.Wecannotreaditethnographically,butnotforthereasonsthat
Maria Takolander suggests, not because it has no ethnic authenticity in its pages.
Wecannotreaditforitsethnicauthenticitybecausewecouldnotrecognisethisso
called authenticity if it bit us. But as white readers, we do not need to read
ethnographically to allow the Law a place in the critical production of Indigenous
signed texts. We do not need to know the answer that DevlinGlass poses, for
instance:Isthisnewrubbishislandaplayful(anddeeplyserious)reformulationof
Bralgu (or in Yanyuwa, Garrwa and Waanyi, called Jingkula), the spirit land,
located in an indeterminate place in the Gulf where the spirits of deceased people

214

VOLUME16 NUMBER2 SEPT2010

travel?79 How could she or I know? And even if we were given an answer, would
thatmeanthatwewouldnowknowanymorethanwedidbefore?
Rather, the Law might be better admitted into white readings as an
enigmaticpossibility,one thatcannotbeanchoredtothemeaningsawhitereader
canproduce.Thatis,theLawisverypreciselyunreadabletoawhitereader,andour
effortsattranslationmustalwaysfail.For,howdoIknowwhatitmeanstosaynot
onlythatIndigenousLawislawinthesenseofprotocolsthatmustbefollowed,the
lawsthatorderthesocialbond,butalsothelawofthecountryitself,forcestowhich
alllivingthingsaresubject,80aconceptionoftheLawasinevitable,irrepressible?81
MyworldandtheworldfromwhichIndigenousLawemanatescannotbemelded,to
use DevlinGlasss word, because they are incommensurable. We cant assume, as
DevlinGlass seems to do, that because the narrator uses the lexicon of the
Indigenous sacred at one moment (Serpent, Spirit, Dreaming) and the lexicon of
moderngeology,meteorologyandmarinebiologyinthenextthatthisrepresentsa
hybridisation of these respective epistemologiesor that the language of modern
scienceisatranslationofIndigenoussacredtermssuchastheSerpentbecausethe
mobilisation of either lexicon is an act of translation, into English, of Indigenous
knowledges. Whether the narrator speaks of the serpent or of the movement of
water through limestone aquifers, in either case he is translating Indigenous
knowledges,includingIndigenousLaw,intoEnglish.
Thisisnottoarguethatbecauseawhitesubjectcannotknow,forinstance,
Waanji cultural texts as a Waanji might that a white subject should not approach
these;itisnottoargueforthatkindofsilencebetweenIndigenousandsettler.Itis
important to keep moving towards Aboriginal culture, art and law, but this is a
movement towards understanding rather than an arrival. This is to argue for
knowledge as always provisional, not a thing one possesses but a positiona
situation.
Indigenoussigned literary figuring of Indigenous Law presents a white
readerwithananamorphoticform:thatis,anobjectwhichwecannotsee.Forthe
Lawcannotappeartous,itbelongstoanotherscenethantheoneofourabiding,the
oneofourformationassubjects.Inartagain,inTheAmbassadorssay,orinRohs
hopesforapostexpressionisticartpracticetheunseeableismadetoappearasa
fragment, an aura, an echo of another scene altogether. Art points to this other

Alison RavenscroftDreaming of Others

215

scene,itdoesnotrenderit,itcanonlyrefertoit.Itcannotberendered:itcannotbe
seen,itsexistencecanonlybepointedto.Thisisonewayofthinkingaboutart:itis
one way of thinking about Carpentaria: as art, as art that makes the gap in all
knowledge,andcruciallythegapinourown,appear,butasagap.Theholescannot
befilled.
It is very tempting to put anthropological discourses into proximity with a
novel such as Carpentaria, as DevlinGlass has done, and look for onetoone
correspondence:tolookfortheobjectsofknowledgefromoneworldthatwillfillin
the gaps in another. If we resist that temptation, though, ethnography and
anthropologycanofferliterarycriticssomethingveryimportant,andthisisasense
ofourownprofoundbewilderment,theplaceswhereourownknowledge,ourown
senses, our own capacities to see and imagine as another does, must fall. Consider
whatDeborahBirdRosereportsforinstanceofYarralinembodiment:
mybrotherisequivalenttomyrightcalf;mysistertomyleftcalf.Myright
thigh is my mothers brother; my mother is my left thigh. My mothers
mother and mothers mothers brother are my forehead (brain); my
mothers father is my belly (indicating liver); my breast is my child (and
sisterschild),andmychin(whiskers)ismyfather.82
Whatbodyisthis?Itsnotmine.Idontliveinabodyarrangedthus.WhenIsaythat
thedeathofalovedonemeansIvelostapartofmyself,Idontfeelittobelocatedin
my right calf, or my thigh. Similarly, I dont know what the manngyin is for the
Yarralin.Manngyin,asBirdRosetellsus,isconnectedtofleshandorgansandwhen
a person dies and is buried it gets up again!83 What strangeness is this? How do I
signify it? Perhaps within the Western notion of spirit? It would be easy to start
connotingthesekindsofaccountsofthelivingandthedeadwithWesternnotionsof
bodyandspirit,buttodosowouldsurelymeanthatwehaveoncemorefalleninto
WesternmindbodydichotomiesandWesternreligiousnotions.AsBirdRosegoes
ontosay,spiritcannotbutsignalabodysouldichotomywhichisinappropriateto
the Yarralin context.84 Translation fails, and into the gap so easily slips our own
vocabularyandgenericcodes:magicandsuperstition,mythandmagicrealism.We
make others objects of knowledge magic in a move that paradoxically tames and
familiarises.

216

VOLUME16 NUMBER2 SEPT2010

To close, I turn to a highly personal account of contact with Indigenous


magicalobjectsfromanotherworldthattheculturalhistorianTomGriffithsgives
inHuntersandCollectors:TheAntiquarianImaginationinAustralia.85Thestorythat
GriffithstellsisabouthisexperienceoftransportingAboriginalartefactstotheState
LibraryofVictoriabutitmightspeakalsoofwhitereadersofCarpentariaandour
wishes to invest anothers objects with magical powers, while divesting them of
theirdifference:
Evenparcelledinadustyboxtheywere,Isuspected,stillfullofpower
DuringthelongdrivebacktoMelbourneIfeltincreasinglyconsciousofthe
boxesinthebackofthestationwagonenclosingthesecret/sacredobjects.
Whose were they? What meanings did they hold? What processes had
broughtthemhere,aprocessthatnowimplicatedme?Ithoughtofascene
at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, a film about the archaeologist
adventurer Indiana Jones, where the immensely powerful ark of the
covenant is casually wheeled into the vaults of a state museum. Was I
participating in the dispossession of a people and the disenchantment of
theworld?86
KenGelderandJaneJacobshavearguedthattheenchantment,power,andcharisma
thatGriffithsfeelstheseobjectshold,andwhichperhapsaretransmittedtoGriffiths
himself,occurnotbecauseoftheplacetheseobjectshaveintheiroriginalworldof
meaningbutbecauseoftheirpositionnowinGriffiths.87Accordingtothisview,the
thrillGriffithsfeels,then,wouldarisefromhispossessionoftheserareobjects:from
his power rather than theirs. The others power is translated into a Hollywood
cinematicversion,atranslationinwhichGriffithsfiguresaspossessoroftheothers
magicalpowerratherthanpossessedbyit.
Thisisanambivalentmoment,forwhateverpleasurewemightrecognisein
thisscene,pleasureisnotallthereis.Thescenehasitsterrifyingaspects,too.These
magicalobjectsfromanotherworldaresoveryproximatetoGriffithstheysitjust
behindhisbackinthesmallenclosedspaceofhiscarwherehecannotseethembut
he reports feeling their power. This is not entirely benign, surely; these strange
objectsthatseemtopossesspower?Whatmightbetrulyterrifyinginthissceneis
notthepowerthatawhitesubjectseesintheothersobjectsbutwhathecannotsee,
evenifheweretocranehisneck,lookbackoverhisshoulder.Thatis,whatmightbe

Alison RavenscroftDreaming of Others

217

most unbearable before anothers objects is ones own necessarily partial and
imperfectvision.

Alison Ravenscroft teaches in the English Program at La Trobe University,


Melbourne.HerbookThePostcolonialEyewillbepublishedin2011.

NOTES
1AlexisWright,Carpentaria,Giramondo,Sydney,2006,p.1.
2JoanCopjec,ReadMyDesire:LacanagainsttheHistoricists,AnOctoberBook,MITPress,Cambridge,

Massachusetts;London,1994,p.18.
3IanSyson,UncertainMagic,Overland,no.187,2007,pp.856;FrancisDevlinGlass,AlexisWrights

Carpentaria,Antipodes,vol.21,no.1,June2007,pp.824;FrancesDevlinGlass,BrokenSongsand
Ecology:WritingontheGulfofCarpentaria,Tin,no.44,pp.289,andFrancisDevlinGlass,APolitics
oftheDreamtime:DestructiveandRegenerativeRainbowsinAlexisWrightsCarpentaria,Australian
LiteraryStudies,vol.23,no.4,2008,pp.392407;KatharineEngland,SmalltownDreaming,
Advertiser,30September2006,p.W10;JaneSullivan,FromHeretoCarpentaria,Age,9September
2006,p.26;Anon.,AGreatDivideNewFictionfromAustralia,TheEconomist,3March2007,p.382;
MichaelFizgerald,CrossingtheGulf,TimeInternationalSouthPacificedition,2October2006,issue
39,p.62.InAnon.,AmbitiousProseDrawsonRichTradition,CanberraTimes,23July2006,p.B4,
PeterPierceisquotedassaying:
Wright'sargumentisthatshe'stryingtodoAboriginalmagicalrealismanduseoraltradition...
It'saveryboldeffortandit'smoreorlesssuccessful.Whatpeopledon'tseemtorealiseisthat
oneofthethingsshe'sdoingisrewritingXavierHerbert's[1938novel]Capricorniaas
Carpentaria.Isitbreakingnewgroundinsomeway?InsomewaysCarpentariafollows
Capricornia.
4DevlinGlass,AlexisWrightsCarpentaria,p.84.Criticsandreviewers,too,tendtonodrespectfullyin

thedirectionofthepublisher,IvorIndyk,attributingtohimacreativeinfluencethatisrarelycredited
toapublisherofwhitesignedtexts.SeeforinstancePeterPierce,OnceAgainAllCredittoGiramondo,
CanberraTimes,23July2006p.B4;SusanWyndham,Undercover,SydneyMorningHerald,30June
2007;Anon,AGreatDivide;JasonSteger,HumanitysVoiceRises,Age,23June2007,p.2;Michael
Fitzgerald,CrossingtheGulf.

218

VOLUME16 NUMBER2 SEPT2010


5MicheleGrossmanisanimportantexceptionamongreviewers.Risk,RogueryandRevelation,

Australian,4October2006,p.10.
6InUncertainMagic,IanSysonraiseshisownexperienceofgrowingupasawhiteboyinMtIsaasa

basisforjudgingthetextspowers.
7Imaketheargumentthatinreadingpracticesaracialisedandgenderedreaderis(re)made,and

potentiallyimperfectlyso,inWhoistheWhiteSubject?,AustralianHumanitiesReview,no.42,August
2007.
8IanSyson,UncertainMagic,p.85:

IamleftuncertainastowhattothinkofCarpentaria.IsitaramblingshowingoffofWrights
undoubtedliteraryskills?Isitamerepasticheofgoodideas?Isitabookthat,despitewhatcan
betakenforflawsandimpasses,endsupapleasingandimportantdocumentofourtime?Ijust
dontknow.ThefactthatwhenreadingIkeptdrawingcomparisonswithPatrickWhitesTreeof
Manespeciallyinrelationtothesenseofsatisfactioninhavingfinishedwhatfeltlikeat
Australianepicleadsmetobelievethelatterperhaps.
DonAndersonalsoadmitstonotknowingwhereeitherthebookorheweregoing,butdoesnot
mistakethisforafailureofthebook.Insteadheseesitastheresultofhisownselffashioningasa
whitewesternreader,lookingforlinearnarrativeandrealisticdetail,inBoundforGlory,Bulletin,12
June2007,vol.125,no.24.
9DevlinGlass,BrokenSongsandEcology.ThesamecriticismsweremadeofAlexisWrightsfirst

novel,PlainsofPromise.
10Syson,DevlinGlassandDavisoneachrefertothenovelsmagicrealistqualities.Stegeraskswhether

itisaformofindigenousmagicrealism.Dreamisoftenused,forinstanceseeDartsreview,Alexis
BookHelpsBreaktheMould,andJaneSullivan,FromHeretoCarpentaria.Sysonusestheterm
dreamscape,DevlinGlassmagic(inBrokenSongsandEcology);DeniseCarterreferstoIndigenous
lore,inNovelIdeaPaysOff,CairnsPost,18August2007,p.35;Dreamtimebeliefisusedby
KatharineEngland,SmalltownDreaming;LiamDavisonreferstoDreamtimelegends,ancestraltales
andbiblicalstoriesofepicproportionsinPhantasmagoricalTaleFillsaLegendaryLandscape,Sydney
MorningHerald,16September2006,p.32.
11AsStephenSlemonhasargued,magicrealismmightworkas:

oneoftheparadigmaticcriticaltropesforjustifyinganignoranceofthelocalhistoriesbehind
specifictextualpracticesandforsecuringfirstworldpostmodernismsnaturalizationofthat
casual,unmooredinternationalaudiencewhichclaimseverythinginthewideworldas
somehowitsown.
Slemon,MagicRealismasPostcolonialDiscourseinMagicRealism:Theory,History,Community,edited
andwithanintroductionbyLoisParkinsonZamoraandWendyB.Faris,DukeUniversityPress,
DurhamandLondon,1995,pp.4089.

Alison RavenscroftDreaming of Others

219


12Forexamples,seeGeoffHancocksintroductiontoHancock(ed.),MagicRealism,AyaPress,Toronto,

pp.715;MaggieBowers,Magic(al)Realism:TheNewCriticalIdiom,Routledge,LondonandNewYork,
2004;AmaryllBeatriceChanady,MagicalRealismandtheFantastic:ResolvedVersusUnresolved
Antinomy,Garland,NewYork,1985.ZamoraandFarisspeakoftheproductionofathirdliminalspace:
Thepropensityofmagicalrealisttextstoadmitapluralityofworldsmeansthattheyoftensituate
themselvesonliminalterritorybetweenoramongtheseworlds.ZamoraandFaris(eds),Magic
Realism,p.6.
13FranzRoh,RealismoMgico,postexpressionismo:problemasdelapinturaeuropamasreciente,trans.

(fromtheGerman)FernandoVela,Madrid:RevistadeOccidente,1927.RohsoriginalworkisNach
Expressionismus,MagicherRealismus:ProblemederneuestenEuropischenMalerei,Leipzig,Klinkhardt
andBiermann,1925.TranslatedfromSpanishtoEnglishbyWendyB.FarisMagicalRealism:Post
Expressionism,inZamoraandFaris(eds),MagicRealism,p.16.
14SigmundFreud,TheUncanny,inPenguinFreudLibrary,vol.14.ArtandLiterature,GeneralEditor,

AngelaRichards,trans.JamesStrachey,Penguin,Hammondsworth,England,1976.
15MariaTakolanderassociateswhatshecallsotherssuperstitiousbeliefswithsubeducation.

Takolander,CatchingButterflies:BringingMagicalRealismtoGround,PeterLang,Bern,2007.
16PatrickWolfeOnBeingWokenUp:TheDreamtimeinAnthropologyandinAustralianSettler

Culture,ComparativeStudiesinSocietyandHistory,vol.33,April1991,pp.197224.
17Wolfe,OnBeingWokenUp,p.210.
18JuliaKristevausesthistermtomeanapermanentalternation:nevertheonewithouttheotherin

AboutChineseWomen,trans.AnitaBarrows,MarionBoyars,London,1977,p.38.
19MaggieAnnBowerscitesRobertoGonzalesEchevarra,Islaasuvuelafugitiva:Carpentieryel

realismomgico,RevistaIberoamericana,vol.40,no.86,p.35,inBowers,Magic(al)Realism,p.91.
20Slemon,MagicRealismasPostcolonialDiscourse,p.407.
21GabrielGarcaMrquezandVargosLlosa,LaNovellaenAmericaLatina,Dialogo,Universidad

NacionaldeIngenieria,Lima,1967,p.19,quotedinBowers,Magic(al)Realism,p.92.ItiswhatAlexis
Wrightmightalsobeinsistinguponwhenholdingreservationsaboutthetermsapplicabilitytoher
ownwriting:Somepeoplecallthebookmagicrealismbutreallyinaway,itsanAboriginalrealism
whichcarriesallsortsofthings.WrightquotedbyDart,AlexisBookHelpsBreaktheMould.
22ZamoraandFaris(eds),MagicRealism.
23Forexample,TakolandersparaphraseofCarpentiercausesotherpeoplesrealtobedelusional,or

marvellousbywhichshemeansakindofunreal;marvelous[sic]phenomenathatpeoplebelieveto
bereal,inCatchingButterflies,p.88.
24SeeStephenMueckesverydifferentapproachtomodernity,indigeneityandinnovationinMuecke,

AncientandModern:Time,CultureandIndigenousPhilosophy,UniversityofNSWPress,Sydney,2004.

220

VOLUME16 NUMBER2 SEPT2010


25ToniMorrison,Rootedness:TheAncestorasFoundationinMariEvans(ed.),BlackWomenWriters,

AnchorBooks,NewYork,1984,p.342,andquotedinP.GabrielleForeman,PastonStories:History
andtheMagicallyReal,MorrisonandAllendeonCall,inZamoraandFaris(eds),MagicRealism,p.342.
26AlexisWrightisquotedassayingthatCarpentariamightbeanexampleofAboriginalrealismbyDart,

AlexissBookHelpsBreaktheMould.
27Morrison,quotedinThomasLeClair,TheLanguagemustnotSweat,NewRepublic,21March,1981,

p.25,andcitedinForeman,PastonStories,p.300,myemphasis.
28Bowersdistinguishesbetweenmagicrealismwhich,asthetermsinventorputsitreferstothe

mystery[that]doesnotdescendtotherepresentedworldbutratherhidesandpalpatesbehinditand
magicalrealism,understoodbySalmanRushdieasthecomminglingoftheimprobableandthe
mundane,quotedinBowers,Magic(al)Realism,p.3.
29Slemon,MagicalRealismasPostcolonialDiscourse,p.409.
30ForanilluminatingdiscussionoftheskullinTheAmbassadorsfromaLacanianperspective,see

ParveenAdams,TheEmptinessoftheImage:PsychoanalysisandSexualDifference,Routledge,London
andNewYork,pp.10921.ForanimportantmobilisationforAustralianliterarycriticismofLacanian
ideasonmodernartandemptinessseeKateFoord,TheFantasyoftheModernAustralianNation:
TravellingtotheEmptyCentre,AustralianFeministStudies,vol.18,no.42,2003,pp.27383.
31Bowers,Magic(al)Realism,p.93.
32Takolanderexplicitlyarguesagainstreadingmagicalrealismasarepresentationofanothercultures

reality,ormarginalrealism.Shearguesagainst
manycriticsandwritersofmagicalrealism,includingGarcaMrquez,[who]havesuggested
thatmagicalrealistfictionissorelevanttoitsculturaloriginsastobeinherentlyspecificand
mimeticallyfaithfultothem.Thisisaprominentmisconceptionaboutmagicalrealistwriting.
[CatchingButterflies,p.17]
TakolanderisnotsympathetictoadvocatesofaCarpentieriantheoryofthemagicalmarginswho,in
CamaydFreixaswords,typicallyleantowardsanethnologicalversionofMagicalRealism,amagical
realismthatissuesfromanalternateworldviewonemightcallprimitivewhichisuniquetoa
particularethnicandculturalenclave,CamaydFreixasquotedinTakolander,CatchingButterflies,p.
159.
33Takolander,CatchingButterflies,p.170
34BaylesquotedinTakolander,CatchingButterflies,p.170.Baylescontinues:[T]hisattemptby

Morrisontotransformblackfolkloreintopainlessenchantmentcomesdangerouslyclosetoreviving
thespiritofantebellumnostalgia,updatedasaDisneycartoonfullofyamspinningdarkieswithdroll
names.BaylesinTakolander,CatchingButterflies,p.170.
35ThisisakindofwritingthatmightbewhatAlejoreferredtoaslorealmaravillosowhichhe

distinguishedfromsurrealismorthefantasticonthegroundthatitdoesnotexploreanotherorsecond
reality,butratheramplifiestheparametersofourpresentreality.QuotedbyForeman,Paston

Alison RavenscroftDreaming of Others

221


Stories,p.298.Inthissense,CarpentiermightbetakentoreferbacktoRoh,andtheideathattheso
calledmagicisanotheraspectofreality;thatis,CarpentiersclaimswoulddelivertheIndigenous
signedtextintoanotionofrealityasalwayshavingthesetwoparts.
36Wright,Carpentaria,pp.556.
37Wright,Carpentaria,p.58.
38Wright,Carpentaria,p.57.
39Wright,Carpentaria,p.62.
40Wright,Carpentaria,p.63,originalemphasis.
41Wright,Carpentaria,pp.823.
42Wright,Carpentaria,p.73.
43Wright,Carpentaria,p.59.
44Wright,Carpentaria,p.58.
45Personalcommunicationwiththeauthor.CapricorniaandCarpentariamight,AlexisWrightsuggests,

bereadproductivelytogetherforthehistoricaldifferencestheyfigure.
46Wright,Carpentaria,p.276.
47Wright,Carpentaria,p.303.
48Wright,Carpentaria,p.467.
49AccordingtoKatharineEnglandinSmalltownDreaming:

NormPhantom,whohasdifficultydifferentiatingbetweendeadandlivingvisitorstohisfish
room,subscribestoawonderfulsynthesisofscripturalChristianityandDreamtimebeliefs,and
WillPhantomiscalmlylecturedduringatownrazingcyclonebyanimpossiblesuccessionof
beaniecladelders.
ForJaneSullivan,too,inFromHeretoCarpentaria:theoldpeopleinbeaniesaremore[Wills]
hallucinationthanreality.
50Wright,Carpentaria,p.519.
51Wright,Carpentaria,p.186.
52Wright,Carpentaria,p.206.
53Wright,Carpentaria,p.209.
54Wright,Carpentaria,p.210.
55Wright,Carpentaria,p.119.
56Wright,Carpentaria,p.144.
57Wright,Carpentaria,p.119.
58Wright,Carpentaria,p.120.
59Wright,Carpentaria,p.226.
60Wright,Carpentaria,p.228.
61Wright,Carpentaria,p.343.

222

VOLUME16 NUMBER2 SEPT2010


62Wright,Carpentaria,p.344.
63Inmagicrealism,thetwoparts,fantasyandrealism,aredescribedbySlemonas:

eachworkingtowardthecreationofadifferentkindoffictionalworldfromtheother.Sincethe
groundrulesofthesetwoworldsareincompatible,neitheronecanfullycomeintobeing,and
eachremainssuspended,lockedinacontinuousdialecticwiththeother,asituationwhich
createsdisjunctionwithineachoftheseparatediscursivesystems,rendingthemwithgaps,
silencesandabsences.
MagicRealismasPostcolonialDiscourse,p.409.
64FordiscussionofIndigenousstorypopularisedaschildrensstory,seeJohnMorton,Tiddaliks

Travels:TheMakingandRemakingofanAboriginalFloodMyth,AdvancesinEcologicalResearch,vol.
39,2006,pp.13958.
65Wolfe,OnWakingUp.
66Aboriginalwritersbecomepeddlersofamabanrealitywhich,accordingtoTakolander,sitsvery

closetoacapitulationtothepressuresofpublishinghousescommercialinterests,includingtheselling
powerofmagicrealism,ratherthanarepresentationofsubjectivitythatarisesinanothercultural
location,Takolander,CatchingButterflies,p.171.Takolandersconfidencethatthemagicaleventsin
magicalrealistnovelsdonotarisefromanyculturalbeliefsystem(p.201)shecitesthereturnofthe
deadchildinBelovedasanexampleputsanotherkindofpressureonreadingIndigenouswriting.The
socalledmabanormagicrealistelementsshefindsinIndigenouswomenslifestoryforinstanceshe
referstoMorgan,Ginibi,andSykesaredismissed.Takolanderisnotsympathetictoadvocatesofa
Carpentieriantheoryofthemagicalmarginswho,inCamaydFreixaswords,typicallyleantowardsan
ethnologicalversionofMagicalRealism,amagicalrealismthatissuesfromanalternateworldview
onemightcallprimitive,whichisuniquetoaparticularethnicandculturalenclave,CamaydFreixas
quotedbyTakolander,p.159.
67FrancesDevlinGlass,APoliticsoftheDreamtime,p.392.
68WrightquotedinKatharineEnglandandDeborahBogle,PlaceofHopeandDesperation,Advertiser,

30June2007,p.W8.
69DeborahBirdRose,DingomakesusHuman:LifeandLandinAustralianAboriginalCulture,Cambridge

UniversityPress,Cambridge,2000.
70DevlinGlass,APoliticsoftheDreamtime,p.392.
71Wright,Carpentaria,p.2.
72Wright,Carpentaria,pp.12.
73DevlinGlass,APoliticsoftheDreamtime,p.394.
74DevlinGlass,APoliticsoftheDreamtime,pp.3945.
75AlisonRavenscroft,ComingtoMatter:TheGroundsofOurEmbodiedDifference,Postcolonial

Studies,vol.10,no.3,2007,pp.287300.
76DevlinGlass,APoliticsoftheDreamtime,p.397.

Alison RavenscroftDreaming of Others

223


77DevlinGlass,APoliticsoftheDreamtime,p.394.
78WrightcitedbySullivan,FromHeretoCarpentaria.
79DevlinGlass,APoliticsoftheDreamtime,p.401.
80DeborahBirdRoseontheconceptionoftheLawamongtheYarralinoftheGulfofCarpentaria:Law

isaseriouslifeanddeathbusinessforindividualsandtheworld;ittellshowtheworldhangstogether.
TodisregardtheLawwouldbetodisregardthesourceoflifeandthisistoallowthecosmostofall
apart.DingoMakesUsHuman,p.56.
81Wright,Carpentaria,p.11.SeeDeborahBirdRosesstoryaboutthelawthatisbeinginthegroundin

DingoMakesUsHuman,p.56.
82BirdRose,pp.589.
83BirdRose,p.71.
84BirdRose,p.58.
85TomGriffiths,HuntersandCollectors:TheAntiquarianImaginationinAustralia,CambridgeUniversity

Press,CambridgeandMelbourne,1996.
86Griffiths,HuntersandCollectors,pp.2789.
87Thereis,theysuggest,adramaticarticulationofcharismaticpowercharismagainedthroughthese

dustyobjects,notbecauseoftheirlocationintheAboriginalsystem(theirauthenticlocation)but
becauseoftheirpositioninthebackofGriffithsstationwagon.KenGelderandJaneM.Jacobs,
UncannyAustralia:SacrednessandIdentityinaPostcolonialNation,MelbourneUniversityPress,
Melbourne,1998,p.84.

224

VOLUME16 NUMBER2 SEPT2010