Beneath the camouflage: mimicry and settler false consciousness in the fiction of Murray Bail

Ackland, Michael (2011) Beneath the camouflage: mimicry and settler false consciousness in the fiction of Murray Bail. Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies, 17 (2). pp. 72-90.

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Abstract

[Extract] Mimicry has long held an important place in the analysis of imperial legacies, especially with regard to the life-choices and defensive strategies adopted by disempowered, subjugated peoples. Within this broad topic, two wide-spread patterns of response have afforded crucial insights into the complexities generated by colonial conditions. One influential approach to mimicry concerns its role in acculturation, and the insidious internalization of metropolitan codes and values, documented by Ngugi (437-45). This ranges from docile, essentially ad hoc efforts to align oneself with authority, to structured, institutional indoctrination, which makes mastery of an imperial mother-tongue and a transplants culture keys to individual success and social advancement. Amounting to "epistemic violence," according to Spivak, these aggregated pressures lead to "obliteration of the trace of that Other in its precarious Subjectivity" (25). Equally enlightening is the destabilizing concept of mimicry, outlined by Homi Bhabha, which focuses on the unforeseen consequences of white overlords demanding, in effect, a slavish aping of their attitudes. For this mandated mimicry could prove a fertile source of subversion, if replication of the original undermined its claims to authority, or when subtle deviation from it constitutes an implicit critique as well as evidence of native insubordination and inventiveness. To date, however, mimicry and its effects have been examined primarily within contexts of racial subjugation and the imposition of a governing minority's standards in alien lands—mimicry's relevance to white settler societies, like Australia's, is less clear. The following essay addresses this shortfall by focusing on the exploration of invader/settler identity in the fiction of Murray Bail, one of Australia's most acclaimed contemporary writers (^1), which reveals how mimicry, in different guises, has worked as relentlessly in his homeland against the formation of a free, innovative society as in communities built overtly on structures of oppression.

Item ID: 20599
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
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ISSN: 1073-1687
Date Deposited: 06 Mar 2012 02:46
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2005 Literary Studies > 200502 Australian Literature (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Literature) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 100%
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