Encountering Difference in the Australian Outback : Kim Mahood's Landscape Memoirs

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Rok publikování 2020
Druh Kapitola v knize
Fakulta / Pracoviště MU

Filozofická fakulta

Popis Australia has entered the 21st century with an ambitious project of Reconciliation which aimed to address the complicated issue of settler-Indigenous relationships. In the face of the revisionist history of violent colonization, Stolen Generations, and Indigenous land claims, some Australians have responded with a sense of spatial anxiety, unsettlement and even unbelonging. Among these were public intellectuals, historians, artists, and writers, most typically associated with white, liberal, middle-class subjectivity, who in their personal non-fiction attempted to articulate the complexities of belonging in a land which was stolen from the First Australians, yet whose landscape and environment they cherish as their home. They combined various genres, such as memoir, travel writing, historical essay or nature writing, to explore the uncanny paradox of their being simultaneously in-place and out-of-place—a marker of Australian postcolony (Gelder and Jacobs 24). One of these public intellectuals is the Australian artist and writer Kim Mahood, one of the contemporary women artists who have contributed to re-thinking the dialectic of whiteness and Indigeneity while foregrounding the aspects of gender. In 2000, she published her first, critically acclaimed memoir Cry for a Dry Lake in which she combined travel writing, biography, regional historiography and diary. Described by critics as the “most complex representations of the Australian Outback” (Lynch 75), one that offers a “new history of the frontier” (Ashcroft, Devlin-Glass, and McCredden 167), this highly complex and creative narrative draws on several recurrent tropes particular to the Australian context: journey to the Outback as a way of searching for spiritual belonging; encounter with Indigeneity as a way of reflecting on whiteness and settler identity; female perspective as a way of commenting on settler Australian gender politics; and also a peculiar love letter to the unique landscape as a way of coming to terms with the haunting past of colonization. My chapter compares this text to Mahood’s recently published “landscape memoir” Position Doubtful (2016) to argue that Mahood, proclaimed by Bruce Pascoe on the back cover as “a writer of country,” elaborates on her life-long project of remapping not only landscapes and memories, as the subtitle suggests, but also the history of gender and race relations in contemporary Australia.
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