Issue Details: First known date: 2003 2003
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

In Dialectic of Enlightenment, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer argue that the autonomy of aesthetic production in a modern society preserves a sense of premodern enchantment. This relationship between aesthetics and enchantment was literalized in periodical literature about indigenous peoples in mid-nineteenth-century Australia. But in this specifically colonial context, forms of aesthetic affect linked to the textual evocation of animism also assumed the anachronistic nature of animism and, by extension, the extinction of the cultures embodying it. This was the precondition for its aestheticization. The production of aesthetic pleasure for a largely urban readership, in other words, both assumed and normalized the epistemic and paramilitary violence of colonization. Because the act of reading located animism in the imaginative experience of modern subjects, where its effectiveness depended upon the suspension of disbelief, it also constituted the literal passing of animistic worldviews as a fundamental condition of its own modernity. This dynamic, I argue, is assumed in Freud's writing on the relationship between animism and the uncanny, and embodied in the work of prominent colonial writers such as Marcus Clarke, Henry Gyles Turner and George Gordon McCrae. Exploring it enables us to offer a very tangible account of the relationship between popular print culture in nineteenth-century Australia and the destruction of indigenous culture at the hands of settler colonialism.(Author's abstract)

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  • Appears in:
    y Textual Practice vol. 17 no. 2 Summer 2003 Z1098901 2003 periodical issue 2003 pg. 317-333
Last amended 4 Mar 2004