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39 - Migrant Writing and the Invention of Australia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 June 2023

David Carter
Affiliation:
University of Queensland
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Summary

Writing by migrant authors constitutes the bulk of Australian literature, yet more often than not ‘migrant writing’ is used as a de facto label to indicate writing by non-anglophone authors. A further distinction is made with refugee writing, which is treated as a discrete subcategory within the larger field of migrant experience. This chapter restores migrant status to that of Australian settler writing, highlighting the ways in which Australian settler identity is formed through the repression of its migrant origins. It locates this impulse to distance settler identity from migrancy in the founding doctrine of terra nullius (used to justify the British colonisation of Australia), suggesting that this might be considered as a collective trauma, a mechanism that erased not only the country’s Aboriginal history but also its migrant past. Through a comparative analysis of works by Aboriginal authors Claire G. Coleman and Alexis Wright, migrant writers J. M. Coetzee and Felicity Castagna, and the refugee journalist and autobiographer, Behrouz Boochani, this chapter demonstrates the extent to which Australia has been invented by migrants and the migrant experience.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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