Big-hearted, moving and richly rewarding, That Deadman Dance is set in the first decades of the 19th century in the area around what is now Albany, Western Australia. In playful, musical prose, the book explores the early contact between the Aboriginal Noongar people and the first European settlers.
'The novel's hero is a young Noongar man named Bobby Wabalanginy. Clever, resourceful and eager to please, Bobby befriends the new arrivals, joining them hunting whales, tilling the land, exploring the hinterland and establishing the fledgling colony. He is even welcomed into a prosperous local white family where he falls for the daughter, Christine, a beautiful young woman who sees no harm in a liaison with a native.
'But slowly - by design and by accident - things begin to change. Not everyone is happy with how the colony is developing. Stock mysteriously start to disappear; crops are destroyed; there are "accidents" and injuries on both sides. As the Europeans impose ever stricter rules and regulations in order to keep the peace, Bobby's Elders decide they must respond in kind. A friend to everyone, Bobby is forced to take sides: he must choose between the old world and the new, his ancestors and his new friends. Inexorably, he is drawn into a series of events that will forever change not just the colony but the future of Australia...' (From the publisher's website.)
Unit Suitable For
AC: Year 12 (Literature Unit 4)
culture, Language, loss, nature, relationships, spirituality
Critical and creative thinking, Ethical understanding, Information and communication technology, Intercultural understanding, Literacy
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures
'Percy Bysshe Shelley once described poets as the 'unacknowledged legislators of the world'. If this is true, Australian political scientists have shown curiously little interest in the role that literary figures play in the nation's political life.
'Novel Politics takes the relationship between literature and politics seriously, analysing the work of six writers, each the author of a classic text about Australian society. These authors bridge the history of local writing, from pre-Federation colonial Australia (Catherine Spence, Rosa Praed and Catherine Martin) to the contemporary moment (Tim Winton, Christos Tsiolkas and Kim Scott). Novel Politics unpicks the many political threads woven into these books, as they document the social world as it exists, while suggesting new possibilities for the nation's future. As political commentators of a particular kind, all six authors offer unique insights into the deeper roots of politics in Australia, beyond the theatre of parliament and out into the wider social world, as imagined by its dreamers and criticised by its most incisive discontents.'(Publication summary)
'In 'That Deadman Dance', Kim Scott draws on Noongar vocabulary and ontology to im merse readers in a world where rain cries and chuckles as it structures the land according to its own designs. This essay positions Scott' In 'That Deadman Dance', Kim Scott draws on Noongar vocabulary and ontology to immerse readers in a world where rain cries and chuckles as it structures the land according to its own designs. This essay positions Scott's novel as one manifestation of his ongoing commitment to the recovery of repressed Noongar knowledge, and it formulates a framework of ecospectrality to focus attention on the recovery of repressed knowledge of the nonhuman. It contends that Scott adapts the form of the novel to circulate this knowledge to local and global readers, offering it as a resource to shape the future rather than resolve the past. s novel as one manifestation of his ongoing commitment to the recovery of repressed Noongar knowledge, and it formulates a framework of ecospectrality to focus attention on the recovery of repressed knowledge of the nonhuman. It contends that Scott adapts the form of the novel to circulate this knowledge to local and global readers, offering it as a resource to shape the future rather than resolve the past.' (Publication abstract)
'Native title was increasingly being seen as a regime of limited property rights that could be curbed by governments at a whim. [...]while many Aboriginal people have certainly benefited from native title determinations 3 since the Native Title Act was passed in 1993, Mabo-based native title offers no recompense to the majority of Aboriginal people living in Australia today, because most of them have been dispossessed of their traditional lands, or their native title rights have been extinguished by land grants to settlers. For Watson, the gains of native title have been "meagre at best, illusory at worst" (284). [...]as the Mabo decision and the native title claims process have proved increasingly disappointing for more Aboriginal people in their aspirations for justice and land rights, attention has returned to sovereignty, something that was expressly denied them in Mabo. The recognition of native title rights in the Mabo decision of 1992, while "truly a catalytic political event" (Russell 279), also provided no advances on the question of sovereignty. [...]all three of these state initiatives from the early 1990s functioned, in effect, to displace calls for a treaty and indigenous sovereignty for a number of years. Wright's narrator explains that "Aboriginal Law handed down through the ages since time began" provides the foundational basis for living on the land (2). [...]the machinations and the history of the "white" nation-state are subordinated to Aboriginal Law early in this novel, and the carriers of Aboriginal Law are established as sovereigns of this place.' (Publication abstract)