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Issue Details: First known date: 2017... 2017 ‘Little Gunshots, but with the Blaze of Lightning’ : Xavier Herbert, Visuality and Human Rights
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'Xavier Herbert published his bestseller Capricornia in 1938, following two periods spent in the Northern Territory. His next major work, Poor Fellow My Country (1975), was not published until thirty-seven years later, but was also set in the north during the 1930s. One significant difference between the two novels is that by 1975 photo-journalism had become a significant force for influencing public opinion and reforming Aboriginal policy. Herbert’s novel, centring upon Prindy as vulnerable Aboriginal child, marks a sea change in perceptions of Aboriginal people and their place in Australian society, and a radical shift toward use of photography as a means of revealing the violation of human rights after World War II. In this article I review Herbert’s visual narrative strategies in the context of debates about this key historical shift and the growing impact of photography in human rights campaigns. I argue that Poor Fellow My Country should be seen as a textual re-enactment, set in Herbert’s and the nation’s past, yet coloured by more recent social changes that were facilitated and communicated through the camera’s lens. Like all re-enactments, it is written in the past conditional: it asks, what if things had been different? It poses a profound challenge to the state project of scientific modernity that was the Northern Territory over the first decades of the twentieth century.'  (Publication abstract)

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon Cultural Studies Review Reprise vol. 23 no. 2 2017 13424389 2017 periodical issue

    'This issue includes a special section, guest edited by Liz Conor, that revisits, evaluates and repositions the figure of Xavier Herbert, a controversial Australian novelist and activist.

    'Elsewhere in this issue are two essays focused on question of language and culture. Michael Richardson writes about the complex relationships between political speechwriters and speechmakers, while Prithvi Varatharajan is concerned with the public utterances of contemporary Chinese-Australian poet Ouyang Yu, broadcast on Australian public radio. In a different register, Nicole De Brabandere explores the rich materiality of ordinary domestic figurines and dinnerware, while a contrasting sense of interiority pervades Vahideh Aboukazemi’s history of revolutionary Iran. And, as always, our reviews will repay your attention.' (Introduction)

    pg. 87-105
Last amended 23 Mar 2018 10:03:45
87-105 ‘Little Gunshots, but with the Blaze of Lightning’ : Xavier Herbert, Visuality and Human Rightssmall AustLit logo Cultural Studies Review
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