AustLit logo
Issue Details: First known date: 2009... 2009 Star Traveller: Celebrity, Aboriginality and Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines (1987)
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.

AbstractHistoryArchive Description

Author's abstract: Within the international field of contemporary Anglophone travel writing Bruce Chatwin looms large as a celebrity traveller and writer. This paper tracks Chatwin's celebrity through various fields, examining his most enduring and controversial book The Songlines (1987) to analyse how its representation of Aboriginality contributes to the mythologization of the author. The essay makes two claims. The first is that the discourses through which Songlines values Aboriginality coincide with those employed to represent its narrator and author, and consequently contribute to the celebrity persona of 'Bruce Chatwin'. Moreover, the representation of Aboriginality and celebrity in Songlines is compatible with a discourse within contemporary consumer culture that putatively eschews consumerism and gestures nostalgically to romantic notions of self and other even as it exploits the exotic manifestations of Aboriginality as cultural commodity. The second and related claim is that Chatwin's celebrity performs a specific function within the context of the postcolonial field of cultural production. Chatwin's celebrity functions to resolve the dissonance created by competing regimes of value through which Aboriginality as a symbolic commodity is defined. In this regard, Chatwin, as celebrity traveller, performs a role akin to that Pierre Bourdieu ascribes to cultural intermediaries. As such, Chatwin does not necessarily provide non-Aboriginal readers with 'knowledge' about Aboriginal culture; rather, his public persona provides his readers with an example of how to manage the conflicting values attributed to Aboriginality within national and transnational postcolonial public spheres.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

  • Appears in:
    y separately published work icon Postcolonial Studies vol. 12 no. 2 2009 Z1590305 2009 periodical issue 2009 pg. 229-246
Last amended 19 May 2009 11:04:07
229-246 Star Traveller: Celebrity, Aboriginality and Bruce Chatwin's The Songlines (1987)small AustLit logo Postcolonial Studies
Subjects:
Newspapers:
    Powered by Trove
    X