'I thought I would begin this talk about the power and purpose of literature by talking about my 1998 book Take Power. The title came from a Gurindji Elder while telling the story of the ten-year battle his people fought against Vestey’s, a British pastoral company that owned the Wave Hill pastoral property in the north-west of the Northern Territory, when in 1966, 200 Gurindji, the traditional landowners, walked off the cattle station where they worked on their stolen lands because of the harsh treatment they were receiving from the management of the pastoral property. Vincent Lingiari, who led his people off Wave Hill, said: ‘We can’t go back to that Vestey’s. Vestey’s been treating me like a walagu (dog). Make mefella worry.’ The Gurindji kept telling their story straight, and eventually they achieved land rights over part of their traditional lands.' (Introduction)
In Capital Volume 1. Marx (1976: 925-6) proclaims that -'[[i]f money...'comes into the world with a congenital bloodstain on one cheek.' capital comes (Into tne world] dripping from head to toe. from every pore, with blood and dirt." This dictum comes at the end of a long section on "primitive accumulation." a term Marx coins to describe the primordial foundations of modern industrial capitalism. One of the sites of "enmity° accumulation" that Marx identifies, alongside the European transition from the feudal order and serfdom via seventeenth- and eighteenth century enclosures with the concomitant creation of a proletariat awaiting the industrial revolution, is the seizure of the wealth of the New World in the Americas. India and Africa (Marx 1976: 915). It is interesting to set alongside Marx's glimpses of colonial forms of "primitive accumulation" Joseph Conrad's more pointed equivalent of the same process in Heart of Darkness (2010: 47): "The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much." In this chapter, I take Marx's "dirt" and Conrad's -"earth" at face value, reading them over-literally as Freudian dream-language might do: dirt not only as moral stiltedness, the earth not only as the globe, but both as that which is dug out of the ground in what is perhaps the most primeval of colonial forms of exploitation since the arrival of the Spanish in the Americas (Galeano 1997). Colonialism in its primordial and least developed form begins with the extraction of precious minerals and the co-optation of natives to do the "dirty" work of mining. "Primitive accumulation." says Marx, begins. In its most primitive phases. with the discovery of gold and silver in America, (and] the extirpation. enslavement and entombment in mines of the indigenous population of that continent" (Marx 1976: 915). In a dual and complementary movement. resources are extracted from the ground by enslaved natives laborers who take the place - Iiterally, spatially - of the minerals they have excavated. In a metaphoric process of exchange. the laborers become dirt, the waste products of mineral extraction. "entombed" in the very heaths left behind by the ore that has been transported to Europe. But the process of "entombing" also involves "encryptment" in the sense of Abraham and Torok (1994). where something is both buried and rendered indecipherable. remaining present however as an Irreducible influence despite its putative consignment to I he past at the moment of its always imminent excavation and extraction, it reasserts its uncanny contemporaneity in the present.' (Introduction)
his essay on travelling gardens of (post)colonial time opens with two iconic images of floating gardens in contemporary postcolonial literature: Will Phantom’s bio-garbage rafter, which saves him in the midst of a cyclone in Carpentaria (2008), by the Aboriginal author Alexis Wright, and Pi’s carnivore island-organism in Life of Pi (2001), which cannot save him from his shipwreck, by Canadian writer Yan Martel. These floating, hybrid gardens of the Anthropocene precede the real travelling gardens of both Michael Ondaatje’s The Cat’s Table (2011) and Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis Trilogy (2008-2015), two authors who both indirectly and directly tell the story of botanical gardens in Asia, and of plant and seed smuggling and transplantation (“displacement”) also hinting at their historical and economic colonial implications. For, after all, botanical gardens imply a very specific version of care, Cura (Robert Pogue Harrison 2009), while embodying a precise, imperial scientific and economic project (Brockway 2002; Johnson 2011).
Postcolonial ecocriticism has emerged gradually over the last couple of decades as the differences between postcolonialism and environmentalism have been overcome. Those differences have centred on an assumed conflict in the way the two discourses see the world. However, the colonial roots of environmental degradation and the growing postcolonial critique of the effects of imperialism have seen a growing alliance focused in the discipline of postcolonial ecocriticism. Postcolonial critique and environmentalism have found common interest in the role of imperialism and capitalism in the rapidly degrading anthropocene. However critique has not often led to a clear vision of a possible world. This paper suggests a new alliance – between postcolonial critique, environmentalism and utopianism – one that emerges from the postcolonial realisation the no transformation can occur without the hope inspired by a vision of the future. The paper asks what literature can do in an environmental struggle in which colonized peoples environmental struggle in which colonized peoples are among the worst affected. The role of postcolonial literature provides a model for the transformative function of the creative spirit in political resistance. No true resistance can succeed without a vision of change and literature provides the most powerful location of that vision – no transformation can occur unless it is first imagined.
'The first decades of the twenty-first century have been beset by troubling social realities: coalition warfare, global terrorism and financial crisis, climate change, epidemics of family violence, violence toward women, addiction, neo-colonialism, continuing racial and religious conflict. While traumas involving large-scale or historical violence are widely represented in trauma theory, familial trauma is still largely considered a private matter, associated with personal failure. This book contributes to the emerging field of feminist trauma theory by bringing focus to works that contest this tendency, offering new understandings of the significance of the literary testimony and its relationship to broader society.
'The Poetics of Transgenerational Trauma adopts an interdisciplinary approach in examining how the literary testimony of familial transgenerational trauma, with its affective and relational contagion, illuminates transmissive cycles of trauma that have consequences across cultures and generations. It offers bold and insightful readings of works that explore those consequences in story-Alison Bechdel's Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2006), Hélène Cixous's Hyperdream (2009), Marguerite Duras's The Lover (1992), Pat Barker's Regeneration Trilogy (1999), and Alexis Wright's Carpentaria (2006) and The Swan Book (2013), concluding that such testimony constitutes a fundamentally feminist experiment and encounter. The Poetics of Transgenerational Trauma challenges the casting of familial trauma in ahistorical terms, and affirms both trauma and writing as social forces of political import.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.
Wright describes what drove her to write her novel Carpentaria, stating that 'For a long time while I was exploring how to write Carpentaria, I tried to come to some understanding of two principal questions: firstly, how to understand the idea of Indigenous people living with the stories of all the times of this country, and secondly, how to write from this perspective.'