Issue Details: First known date: 2012 2012
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'New Zealand-born director Jane Campion's two feature films set in Australia, Holy Smoke (1999) and Sweetie (1989), each construct the desert or outback as a site of spiritual renewal. Set in contemporary contexts, both films reproduce the cultural myth of the Australian desert as the nation's 'spiritual' centre. For Holy Smoke, it is an imposed site of recovery and renewal following the enticements of the protagonist's decision to join an ashram on the tourist trail in India, whereas in Sweetie the desert is an escape from the neurosis inspired by suburban familial dysfunction. For both films, the desert 'heart' functions as a spiritual repository and site of transformation accessible to disillusioned, grief-stricken, suburban women. This article argues that these films construct white Anglo-Celtic women's embodiments as sites of anxiety about the limits of secularism and cultural space. Importantly, the narrative construction of barren, tasteless suburban homes and familial dysfunction produces a particular and partial representation of suburbia as banal, neurotic and exclusively occupied by white Anglo-Celtic 'mainstream' families. By focusing on the figure of grief and emptiness borne by women that underpins this representational strategy, I explore the ways in which the Derridean conception of proleptic mourning serves as a useful model for understanding links between secularism, space and loss. Here, secularism is negotiated through the construction of real, imagined and anticipated loss, including losses of patriarchal, white Christian hegemony within Australian cultural politics. In this sense, the desert is spatialized as an incursion upon melancholic anguish about the opening up of cultural space to difference.' (Author's abstract)

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Last amended 18 Jan 2013