'In the mid-1840s, a thirteen-year-old boy, Gemmy Fairley, is cast ashore in the far north of Australia and taken in by Aborigines. Sixteen years later, when settlers reach the area, he moves back into the world of Europeans, men and women who are staking out their small patch of home in an alien place, hopeful and yet terrified of what it might do to them.
Given shelter by the McIvors, the family of the children who originally made contact with him, Gemmy seems at first to be guaranteed a secure role in the settlement, but there are currents of fear and mistrust in the air. To everyone he meets - from George Abbot, the romantically aspiring young teacher, to Mr Frazer, the minister, whose days are spent with Gemmy recording the local flora; from Janet McIvor, just coming to adulthood and discovering new versions of the world, to the eccentric Governor of Queensland himself - Gemmy stands as a different kind of challenge, as a force which both fascinates and repels. And Gemmy himself finds his own whiteness as unsettling in this new world as the knowledge he brings with him of the savage, the Aboriginal.' - Publisher's blurb (Chatto & Windus, 1993).
'This article focuses particularly upon David Malouf’s novel Remembering Babylon as it examines Malouf as a spiritual writer whose works explore the liminality of space in Australia and the boundaries between worlds, both real and literary. The article moves between the classical studies of John Keble and the philosophy of Martin Heidegger to establish the place of the sacramental in Malouf’s writings, a novelist and poet who bears comparison with the French poet Yves Bonnefoy.' (Publication abstract)
‘David Malouf’s novel Remembering Babylon (1993) enjoys a prominent place in the contemporary Australian literary landscape and raises a number of intriguing ideas about pedagogy and whiteness, which this essay explores. The essay does so on the premise, admittedly open to examination, that literature has a role to play in enabling connections across cultures, even cultures (or perhaps particularly cultures) that would seem to have much in common, like Australia and the United States: the English language, a history of British colonization, democratic forms of government, popular cultures promoted by global corporations. By focusing on Malouf’s novel through the calibrated lens of critical whiteness pedagogy, students are offered some distance, or difference, that will allow discussions of whiteness that can then be interrogated in the students’ own learning and social contexts, including but also extending beyond personal experience. This approach aligns with observations in pedagogical literature that an emphasis on individual circumstances alone ‘effectively limits any systematic challenge of the systemic structures’ (Solomon et al. 161). Engagement with Malouf’s novel additionally provides students with the opportunity to enter into a fictional space that invites extratextual immersion in a culture or cultures other than their own. This challenge raises the issues of power and knowledge that Malouf’s novel subtly thematizes and that can be a close reading of the text coupled with contextual material.’ (Introduction)
‘A fire hydrant on a street corner in Carlton, in inner-city Melbourne, carries an ephemeral stencilled graffito : ‘terror nullius.’ The graffito is a pun on the legal doctrine of terra nullius, Latin for ‘nobody’s land,’ which dictated that any territory found by a colonizing power could be occupied and claimed if it was deemed not to be inhabited by prior occupants. Typically it was deployed by the British, for example, in a number of rulings in the mid- to late – nineteenth century, (Reynolds, 'Frontier History' 4) to legitimize their colonial conquests around the so-called New World, in particular in Australia. Its hegemony as a legal fiction was ended by the Australian High Court’s historic Mabo ruling of 1992, which deemed that so-called native title, that is, Indigenous possession of Australia, had existed before and after British occupation and the declaration of sovereignty in 1788 (Butt, Eagleson, and Lane).’ (Introduction)
'The post-war Australian literature offers multitude in terms of ethnicity. The talk of Aborigines, the stories of the whites, the psychological state of a migrant mind, the idea of home, the civilization and savagery, superiority and inferiority, rationality and sensuality, these all share the pages of Australian literature…' (75)
In a society where migration plays a significant role our identities become ambivalent to ourselves and only partly legible to others. This article will reflect on the role of the written word, political, social, and literary, as a narrative of multiple homes. Among the issues which determine the discourses and narratives of ‘multiple homes’ and ‘unhomely belonging’ are language and language politics (situational or real), beliefs about identities as solid and identifiable, constant border-crossings as central to many people’s lives, and the collision of social and cultural codes in the meanings and practices assigned to ‘the foreigner’.
This article examines the portrayal of settlers as consciously differentiating their whiteness from what they regard as inferior races and cultures and discusses white Australia's process of reconciliation with Aboriginal Australia.