Span: Journal of the South Pacific Assoc for Cwlth Lit and Language Studies
Number 32, 1992
Edited by Jenny de Reuck & Hugh Webb

Postcoloniality and Mudrooroo Narogin's Ideology of Aboriginality

John Fielder

Colonial Nomenclature

As the signifiers postcolonialism and postmodernism become more widely mobilised, the need to explain and reassess colonialism and modernism has become increasingly important. But what has emerged as of greater political significance than the move to signal the movement past or beyond colonialism/modernism (accentuated by the hyphenated versions of post-colonialism and post-modernism) is the complicity of these terms. This is, in part, due to the fact that the politics of the "post" are more visible, foregrounded, "up front," whereas the coalition of postmodern-postcolonial culture impulses is a more insidious network of power relations. The insidiousness comes from the fact that, in many ways, colonialism and modernism work hand-in-hand to establish a hierarchy that privileges "the metropolitan centre over the 'underdeveloped' periphery, Western art forms over Third World ones [and] . . . 'masculinist' forms, institutions, practices over . . . 'feminist' . . . ones."1 However, the fact that some critics see postmodernism as countering the Eurocentrism and phallocentrism of modernism, while others regard it as a continuation of these imperialist tendencies, means that it is difficult to make generalisations that assume postmodernism is a singular, homogenous object. To add further complexity to the contestation over nomenclature, Hebdidge points out that "the links between post-structuralism and postmodernism are in places so tight that absolute distinctions become difficult if not impossible."2 Further, within postcolonialism, there are those who draw on poststructuralist-postmodernist theory, and those who reject these theories for much the same reasons as those postmodernists who seek to dismantle the modernist-colonialist traditions.

Having made such sweeping brushstrokes in drawing the global battle lines of cultural theory, it is important to analyse particular colonial power relations to resist totalising social and cultural critique that whitewashes (and this term is a telling one) differential localised contexts. As Spivak has recently argued, "postcoloniality in general is not subsumable under the model of the revolutionary or resistant marginal in metropolitan space."3 To take this comment one step further, postcoloniality, "in general," masks differences between and among colonised and post-colonised nations and peoples. This is one of the reasons that the concept of the Fourth World has been mobilised: to distinguish between Third World majority peoples and indigenous minorities. Like Marx's lumpenproletariat (the urban poor or underclass), indigenous minorities (the peoples dispossessed of the land they belong to by colonialism of genocidal intensity) are often marginalised within postcolonialism because of their minority status, because of their lack of potential revolutionary action. In fact, one of the major concerns for Fourth World peoples is that they are, increasingly, "lumped in" with the lumpenproletariat. This concern is not derived from bourgeois revulsion of the "waste" capitalism itself produces - the inextricability of the "low" in the valorisaiton of the "high" - but from the continued erosions of their cultural identity: the distinctive social practices that constitute their culture, their Law. To actively work against the neo-colonial forces of white, middle-class culture involves the use of tactics of resistance. The purpose of this paper is to examine the tactics of resistance outlined in Mudrooroo Narogin's notion of "the ideology of Aboriginality" in Writing From the Fringe.


The fact that an homogenised Aboriginality has been imposed upon groups of people who, prior to colonisation, regarded themselves as different and distinct peoples has been emphasised by a number of commentators.4 But, amidst the many destructive effects of this colonial strategy, Aborigines have developed some positive tactics of resistance that have exploited the Anglocentric totalisation of "others." The red, black and yellow Aboriginal flag, as Shoemaker points out, symbolises the emergence of a pan-Aboriginal identity, and, more precisely, a politicised identity derived from the land rights campaign.5

So how has this notion of Aboriginality been defined and assessed by cultural theorists? Robert Ariss, in his article in Past and Present: The Construction of Aboriginality, describes Aboriginality as "a pervasive and shared sense of experience. It is the existential experience of being Aboriginal that lies at the base of Aboriginal constructions"; this shared experience links "the traditional and the contemporary via the common suffering of all Aborigines at the hands of the European instrusion, and through that to project a course for the future."6 In this article, Ariss, like Kevin Gilbert, Mudrooroo Narogin and Eric Michaels, emphasises the political nature of Aboriginality, and this is markedly different to conservative (neo-colonial) constructions of primitive innocence that foreground quaint cultural niceties, or the more liberal preoccupation with proper or enlightened attitudes. And attitude is all too often mobilised as a liberal abstraction, a moral imperative that seeks to prescribe a proper and pure disposition. But attitude and disposition are always fleshed out - they can be understood and assessed in material ways: social practices, discourses, styles, codes of behaviour. In other words, we must be wary of the "attitudinalisation of Aboriginality," an overdetermined moral response to the material effects of colonial practices. In contrast, a materialist conception of Aboriginality involves more than skin colouration, more than simply racial or genetic identity. This is not to deny the fundamental determinations of culturally-encoded meanings attached to epidermal difference, but rather to emphasise specific cultural knowledges and practices as fundamental to questions of identity-subjectivity. The fact that Narogin, as we will see in a moment, focuses on politics, pedagogy and epistemology shows that Aboriginality must be lived and learned - a cultural practice that means much more than racial inheritance in itself.

Narogin's formulation of Aboriginality demonstrates an acute awareness of imperial forces in mainstream white culture that work to impose European practices, traditions and values on fringe cultures. In particular, he addresses the function played by dominant literary standards and aesthetics:

The term Aboriginality has arisen because it provides an ideology by which Aboriginal literature may be judged. It is much more than this however, for it provides a lifeline by which dissociated individuals may be pulled back to their matrical essence. It is the promise of a coming-into-being of not only an Aboriginal aesthetic, but of new social entities which will reflect the underlying humaneness of Aboriginal being. Essentially, it is not a static ideology based on fixed traditional ways of expression and culture, but is as Kevin Gilbert declares in his introduction to Living Black (1978) a way of building a contemporary Aboriginal culture, a radical re-education of Aborigines by Aborigines and at the direction of Aborigines.7

In this sense, promoting an ideology of Aboriginality operates as a tactic of resistance aimed at subverting elitist notions of a universal and fixed literary canon, and also to foster, reconstitute, and conserve localised, alternative Aboriginalities. So Narogin's focus on writing is not confined to the "textual," is not based on assumptions that writing is a discrete, metaphysically-oriented realm; rather, he stresses that art is a social act and that social commitment is integral to Aboriginality.

Eric Michaels points out that there is a version of Aboriginality that is prescribed and preached by the bureaucrats, the authorities. This official version, while often on the surface appearing liberal and understanding, promotes centralisation and homogenisation, and ultimately demands compliance with "the State's objectives of ethnicisation, standardisation, even aboriginalisation, at the expense of local language, representation, autonomy."8 Michaels is well aware of the threat posed by ostensibly sympathetic politicians and bureaucrats, whose increasingly ideologically sound rhetoric (for example, Robert Tickner's) is not matched by appropriate policies - that is, policy directions formulated by local Aboriginal groups. Strong advocates of Aboriginal communities fiercely protecting their autonomy, self-determination, and retention of local Aboriginal languages and Law, Michaels and Narogin concur on two crucial issues: (1) "attention to traditional forms...encouraging their persistence into modern life...[the intention being] to specify the place of the Law in any struggle by indigenous people for cultural and political autonomy,"9 and (2) the awareness that "a cultural future can only result from political resistance."10

Accordingly, in Writing From the Fringe, Narogin upholds the tradition of "activist literature" (14) - "a literature of Aboriginality based on traditional forms" (13). Narogin's political rationale perhaps can best be described with reference to Michel de Certeau's conception of the tactics of the relatively powerless that enable them to make "space" in the "place" of the powerful.11 De Certeau concentrates on the marginality of a silent majority, Narogin on a silenced indigenous minority. In this sense, de Certeau's account of how the marginalised or consumers or dispossessed make space or operate or survive in the place controlled or owned or colonised by the powerful can be applied to colonial power relations. De Certeau touches on this in reference to Spanish colonisation of the indigenous Indian cultures. Similarly, Narogin emphasises that he must make his theoretical moves on terrain that is now owned and controlled by alien forces: "I am not writing about a national majority, but an indigenous minority encapsulated and at the same time living on the fringes of an intruder majority"(23). In short, for dispossessed Aboriginal people, survival is the name of the game. And, for the Aboriginal writer/theorist/activist, the game rules are set by European law, European logic - institutionalised European forces. What else is there for the fringe-dweller to do other than to exploit the rules, question the umpire, and make the place as habitable as possible. My metaphor may seem harsh, but it is on these terms that the game is played.12


One of the primary tactics deployed by Narogin is to operate oppositionally within the European system (one foot in one foot out). He works to reveal the politics of "literary" aesthetics; in fact, he develops what can be described as an anti-aesthetic. An ideology of Aboriginality contests the institutionalised forces that seek to preserve hegemonic "literary standards" that simply perpetuate the Western canon. "By doing this," says Narogin, "by pursuing this line, they relegate all other literatures to the fringe, except for those authors in good standing, and by this I mean those who produce works which approximate most to what the Metropolitan critics consider literature should be" (31). It is because of this imperial logic of the literary formation that "Aboriginal writers must be aware that if they choose to use white forms [they] are in effect 'thinking white'; that by using these forms [they] are leaving [them]selves open to be[ing] judged purely by white standards" (45). Hence, he regards the place for the development of literature based on Aboriginal forms as "among people least affected by assimilation" (30).

Assimilation is the key issue here, for the imposition of elitist western literary aesthetics has been a primary colonising strategy. Indeed, this very strategy has produced what Muecke describes as the "out of repression, expression" notion that "seem[s] to inform many liberationist accounts of the rise of Aboriginal Literature conceived as expression."13 His critique of this simplistic theory of literary production is based on Foucault's analysis of the "repressive hypothesis" in The History of Sexuality. Foucault argues that, rather than being repressed, there has been an "institutional incitement to speak about [sex]...a determination on the part of agencies of power to hear it spoken about, and to cause it to speak through explicit articulation and endlessly accumulated detail."14 Muecke equates this process with the eagerness to publish writing by Aboriginal people over the past two decades: "The Aboriginal writer is no longer unheard of or radically unacceptable, but is rather called upon to speak on all occasions and on every occasion, partly because Aboriginality stands as a social 'truth' which must be uttered."15

This link between the expression of Aboriginality and speaking social truths, argues Muecke, is linked to an "Enlightenment and Romantic idea which in giving fullness and primacy to the voice elevates a general human capacity for expression to the status of philosophy. As a general idea it is singular rather than plural, voice rather than voices, expression rather than local inscriptions."16 Muecke's concern is that, in most cases, writers' expressions of their Aboriginality are far more strongly influenced by European forces of literary production and consumption than by certain traditional Aboriginal practices. One of the political consequences of this tendency is that the voice of social truths, and expressions of Aboriginality, are articulated predominantly in ways that pander to a need to exculpate "our" conscience - which amounts to another case of dealing with Aboriginal people on "our" terms. Indicative of this is the liberal-humanist rhetoric of "understanding and reconciliation." But, as Muecke puts it, "we cannot claim mutual liberation as long as social conditions remain different for whites and Aborigines, [so] what we do is talk the same way as one another, we produce the same discourses."17 Literary theory and criticism, of course, is one of the key sites in which this "talk" proliferates.

So, on the consumption side of the processes that constitute the literary formation, particular reading practices are privileged, in fact pedagogically produced. We learn at school how to read "properly": how to appreciate literary texts, how to identify what is of aesthetic value, and how we can develop "self" understanding by reading about "others." There is, then, a particular liberal readership that is actually looking for "others" to express the truth of their identities. On the production side of the equation, "Aboriginal speakers are in a bind where theoretical protocols have been inscribed in advance and they have used the ones that seemed best to serve their cause at the time."18 Muecke asserts that expression, rather than being regarded as a victory over repressive forces, is channelled, managed, and harnessed by institutional forces that demand "different sorts of different groups, [meaning that] Aboriginality tends to be defined in advance."19 These are the forces at work that prompt Michaels' scepticism about an official Aboriginality that is sanctioned and promoted by the authorities. What I suggest is that Narogin's radical conception of an ideology of Aboriginality is a tactic of resistance that can tackle the colonial mentality of the dominant literary formation - recognising, of course, that this is only one dimension of the cultural battle.

The social and political relevance of Narogin's literary intervention can be appreciated if we use Tony Bennett's definition of literature to break down the conventional separation - and in many ways polarisation - of literature and society. Bennett describes literature "as an institutional site providing a specific set of conditions for the operation of other social relations, just as those relations, in turn, provide the conditions for its own operation."20 This institutional definition of literature counters the notion of "the 'literary' as a property of texts...[and alternatively] regard[s] it as a sphere of social and cultural action that is produced for those texts nominated as literary by virtue of the ways in which they are constituted within the institutional and discursive space of criticism."21 One of the main objectives of Writing From the Fringe is to emphasise the racialist and imperialist institutional forces that have silenced and denigrated Aboriginal cultural production, and, thus, played a significant part in the dispossession of Aboriginal land and concomitant destruction/repression of Aboriginal culture. Narogin's literary theory is most potent when he identifies the institutional regulation and correction of reading and writing practices.

Aboriginality: a Radical Re-education

If I keep reiterating the political, the institutional, the social, it is to underline the brute materiality of the forces that teach/discipline/punish/ inscribe narrowly aestheticised and textualised conceptions of the literary, such as the Romantic notions of self-expression, transcendence, and the liberating power of art. So, going back to Narogin's description of the ideology of Aboriginality (48), it is important to emphasise the "radical re-education of Aborigines by Aborigines" to combat the indoctrination of white cultural values. As Narogin points out, "Assimilation, although discredited, still operates through government education and employment policies" (14). To escape the institutional web of pastoral power that mobilises the western ideologies of individualism and Romanticism and undermines Aboriginal cultural values, there needs to be a strategic intervention that educates and affirms alternative social practices derived from the logic, law and order of a culture vastly different to mainstream western society. It is now very clear that sympathetic whites, with our self-righteous rhetoric, are not going to change much. For an ideology of Aboriginality to strengthen, the "re-education of Aborigines by Aborigines" must counter the systematic destruction of their culture through the deployment of specific indigenous (I use this term to avoid the problematic "authentic") technologies of behaviour and forms of human management. This seems to be the intent of Michaels' emphasis on the function of "strong Law."

Narogin outlines some of the European institutional practices that must be combated. Because he focuses on reading and writing practices, it is pedagogic practices that are foregrounded. However, since education is ultimately dependent on government funding and policy directives, the broader issue of public policy concerning Aboriginal people cannot be ignored (land rights, sacred sites, employment, health, housing, etc.). This is where a fundamental commitment to self-determination and genuine autonomy is crucial.

One of the central components in the constitution of cultural identity is the preservation of language. The focus on language as a foundation for cultural identity opens up a number of possibilities depending on the specific context and aims. In many cases, this may mean teaching indigenous languages, whilst in others it may mean the mobilisation of an array of Aboriginal words and phrases as a way of hybridising "proper English." Narogin argues strongly for the retention of the Aboriginal sociolect. He demonstrates how the white editor's or framer's manipulation of texts written by Aborigines erodes them of their "Aboriginality of style or discourse" (91), as does the forward or introduction that apologises for the language of the text or authenticates the Aboriginal writer. The imposition of "proper English" functions to devalue "incorrect" or "inferior"" language usage. As a response to this canonisation of Standard English, many marginalised groups now celebrate and deploy their own sociolect as a tactic of subversion. Narogin affirms such practices, recognising that "the use of a language or a specific dialect is a political act" (92).

For Aboriginal writers to be able to determine their own conditions of artistic production - the choice to use particular dialects and so on - ownership and control of their publications is essential. Narogin argues that "it is away from the printing houses of the established publishers that an originality of Aboriginal writing is to be found" (29). The role of publishers such as Magabala Books is crucial to the development of a literature of Aboriginality based on traditional forms, rather than literature that panders to markets determined solely by dominant white reading formations. Such publishers will encourage texts that disrupt dominant white generic codes and expectations, fostering the "mixture of genre, or an ignoring of genre" that Narogin prescribes for a typically Aboriginal form of writing (153).

This typical form of Aboriginal writing to which Narogin refers is not some pure or fixed textual artefact or ideal form, but rather the ways in which Aboriginal texts are produced: the social practices that determine forms of Aboriginal storytelling. The notion of storytelling is a "telling" one, for it is only recently that Aborigines have begun to write their stories for white consumption which, as Kateryna Arthur points out, "has placed [them] a complex political relationship with the dominant culture and its discourses."22 Because of this inscription of stories that have primarily taken an oral form, Aboriginal writing addressed to white audiences will always be something of a compromised, hybridised process. Nevertheless, knowledge of Aboriginal cultural codes challenges many dominant western notions of textual production - particularly that of the Romantic notion of the author as creator, as the great imaginative force. Muecke contrasts this with "the production of Aboriginal texts...where 'custodianship' tends to displace 'authorship,' where individual subjects are socially positioned as the repeaters of traditions rather than the sources of original or creative material."23 Mindful of this, when Narogin writes of Aboriginality working as "a lifeline by which dissociated individuals may be pulled back to their matrical essence" (48), he emphasises the process of becoming, the dynamic nature of cultural knowledge that render constructions of an unchanging, pure, primitive past as idealist fictions.

Colonialism in the Classroom

The very fact that, in the school system, western literary forms are assumed to be universal underlines the politics of education. Narogin asserts that an understanding of Aboriginal artistic production inevitably requires knowledge of specific cultural codes (37). For example, Narogin likens the reliance on dreaming techniques - a traditional method of creation that is an integral part of artistic production - to European surrealism "which sought inspiration from the unconscious" (37). Among other things, Narogin, here, is contesting the institutional fixation on the provision of a normative knowledge of the text. Bhabha explains that this knowledge assesses the "mimetic adequacy" of a text, by which "the 'image' must be measured against the 'essential' or 'original' in order to establish its degree of representativeness, the correctness of the image."24 Through this reading logic, a regime of truth operates that privileges, universalises, and naturalises a particular western reality. The colonising power of such methods of regulation is evidenced by the process of assimilation engineered by this dominant reading strategy. Without specific knowledge of Aboriginal cultural codes, Aboriginal texts will be read according to dominant white reading strategies.25

To focus on institutionalised reading and writing practices is to recognise that Narogin's warning that to use white forms is to think white is of primary concern. Recognition of this fact moves us beyond debates grounded on representationalist theories that get tangled up in mimetic concerns about the "relation between the text and a given pre-constituted reality."26 As Bhabha points out, the content-oriented focus of such theories regard the text as essentially reflective or expressive, and hence tend to get caught up in arguments centred on whether certain representations are true or real. In terms of the representation of race, this approach often results in a rather simplistic obsession with positive and negative images.27 One of the clearest ways to demonstrate the problem with this approach is to consider the way positive images of blacks are generally mobilised in schools. The tendency is for the well-intentioned, sympathetic white to counter stereotypes of Aborigines with representations that focus on middleclass blacks who are "normal-just-like-us," or "tribal" Aborigines in a different world from us. Often, the tone is moralistic, paternalistic and patronising: the "other" is read sometimes as deserving pity, sometimes as deserving admiration for making the middle-class grade, or sometimes as possessing some kind of essential primitive goodness or purity we have lost. Briefly, the underlying problem is that the other is read within the cultural logic of high-low, sophisticated-simple, positive-negative. Because of this logic, the values inscribed by bourgeois institutional discursive practices override and undermine the attempts to express or reflect a positive representation or content.


What emerges with the identification of neo-assimilationist practices disguised beneath the benevolent rhetoric of pastoral power is the perpetuation of destructive colonial forces. Supposedly enlightened government policy, that has appropriated the language of liberation and self-determination, has in many ways been more harmful by promising what it was/is not prepared to deliver. Part of the process has been the systematic ensnarement of many key Aboriginal leaders - seduced into the security of well-paid government employment. Fanon and Spivak both make reference to the indigenous elite, and Narogin addresses the issue in this way:

In fact with increased education and job opportunities there is an impetus towards a merging into the majority culture, identified here as Anglo-Celtic. Thus the stage of active struggle for an independent identity may be passing. Assimilation, although discredited, still operates through government education and employment policies.... It might even be said that Aboriginal affairs is entering a stage of post-activism in that any separate goals are being replaced for those of equal opportunity in the wider Australian community. (14)

Further on, Narogin suggests that "activist literature has moved to a literature of understanding. A literature not committed to educating individuals as to their place in Aboriginal society, but one committed to explaining Aboriginal individuals to a predominantly white readership" (14). In view of this process, it is important to identify the hegemonic impulse of supposedly liberating liberal-humanist social reforms (such as equal opportunities, education and employment incentives, etc.) and rhetoric (understanding, respect, dignity and reconciliation, etc.). These progressive social practices, divorced from the radical difference of Narogin's ideology of Aboriginality, have perpetuated colonial power relations and functioned hegemonically to advance individual ("deserving" and compliant) blacks within white society.

However, Narogin points out that no simple or singular solution exists for Aboriginal people: total assimilation is impossible, as is a complete return to a "traditional" past:

If it is impossible for many Aborigines to assimilate completely into the majority culture, I ask myself if it is possible to escape back into traditional society. From what I have seen, traditional society has either become transitional society, or been made over into an artefact. It has become fossilised and the young people have turned away from the fossilised remains. (145)

Because of the devastating consequences of colonisation, Narogin describes Aboriginal people as belonging to a fringe culture: dispossessed, marginalised, ghettoised. To say that Aboriginal people are caught in between two cultures is a simplification, but a simplification that broadly identifies the polarised "acceptable" forms of Aboriginality: totally "civilised" (successful assimilation) or totally "tribalised" (remaining the primitive other  "out there"). Clearly, colonial strategies set the majority of Aboriginal people up for failure, condemning them to an anomalous, ambivalent existence on the fringe.

Narogin explains the consequences of this ambivalence for Aboriginal writers:

The Aboriginal writer exists in ambiguity. White people assume that he or she is writing for the white world, the world of the invader. It is a curious fate - to write for a people not one's own, and stranger still to write for the conquerors of one's people....

The assimilated writer has succeeded after much effort in making Standard English his own. Now he or she can only fully express himself or herself in it; while all the time supporting Aboriginal languages and clamouring for the complete use of Aboriginal discourse. (148)

Given the institutional forces that work against non-Standard Englishes and Aboriginal languages, the tactics that Narogin advocates in Writing From the Fringe centre on the resistant, and often subversive, process of drawing on traditional forms and celebrating hybridised writing and reading practices. Moreover, Narogin emphasises that there is an array of tactics available within the rubric of an ideology of Aboriginality: "Often it is assumed by Europeans that there is a single and unified Aboriginal response to white dominance in Australia. This is far from true, and the ambiguity and divisiveness in the response is mirrored in the discourse structures of Aboriginal [writers]" (43).

Decolonising Nomenclature

It is Narogin's recognition of the multiplicity of tactical responses to colonial strategies that needs to be applied to the deployment of postcolonialism. Several theorists have recently pointed out that we must be wary of the political dimension of postcolonialism being masked by the tendency to focus on the aesthetic and textual. In fact, Webb is sceptical about the way the term "post-colonial" is used in the context of colonial power relations in Australia: "Whose social and political needs are fulfilled by the claim that what was the 'colonial' is of the past?".28 Further, Webb shares Mishra and Hodge's criticism of The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures when he comments that "the 'practices' of the colonising group are almost invisibly subsumed within the fetishised concepts of 'language' and 'culture' that are deployed as realist summaries of the colonial-contact situation or, at least, as fractions of a truth-telling summary of social experience."29 Mishra and Hodge's concerns include the homogenisation of post-colonial cultures, the post-colonial's rise as an academic industry, "the crossing over of post-colonialism into postmodernism" - exemplified by the tendency of The Empire Writes Back , and "an uncritical adulation of pluralism, which leads, finally, to postcolonialism becoming the liberal Australian version of multiculturalism" .30 To redress these tendencies, they make these (and other) recommendations: to acknowledge "the fact that we are really talking about not one 'post-colonialism' but many postcolonialisms", to make distinctions between "the different histories of the white settler colonies", and to recognise "the fundamental, non-negotiable category of the oppositional postcolonial is race. To claim otherwise or to collapse postcolonialism with other tendencies found in the postcolonial-linguistic rupture, syncretism, hybridity and so on - is to belittle the social struggles which underlie postcolonial writing". 31

The positions taken by Webb, and Mishra and Hodge are responses to the debate that I outlined in my introduction. My purpose has been to outline how Narogin's ideology of Aboriginality functions as a tactic to challenge neo-colonial reading and writing practices, and how it also provides the basis of pedagogic practices that need to be instituted themselves so that Kevin Gilbert's, and now Narogin's, objective of "a radical re-education of Aborigines, by Aborigines and at the direction of Aborigines," can be realised. Accordingly, in terms of an ideology of Aboriginality and the obviously colonial Australian conext, the presumption and connotation that we have moved beyond colonialism - signified in the hyphenated form of "post-colonialism" - must be recognised and refuted.

My reading of Narogin's Writing From the Fringe, rather tentatively seeks to account for, on the one hand, a Foucaultian recognition of the web of power we are immersed in - a web of power that seeks to tighten the disciplinary controls and apparatuses of regulation and correction - and, on the other, a "de Certeauian" recognition of the ever responsive counter-tactics of those tangled in the web - whether those tactics are simply for survival within the system, or whether outrightly oppositional, antidisciplinarian, or seditious. Narogin's, and other Aboriginal activists', argument for an ideology of Aboriginality is a response to the fear that "simply surviving" may be a recipe for slow cultural death. The advocacy of oppositional tactics is aimed at fostering an ideology of Aboriginality initiated and directed by Aboriginal people, and resistant to the neo-colonial strategies of an ostensibly benevolent liberal society.

Murdoch University


1 Dick Hebdige, "Postmodernism and 'The Other Side'," Journal of Communication 10.2 (1986), p.81.

2 Ibid.

3 G. Spivak, "Poststructuralism, Marginality, Postcoloniality and Value," Literary Theory Today eds. P. Collier and H. Geyer-Ryan (Cornell UP, 1990), p.228.

4 K. Hampton, Survival in our Own Land: "Aboriginal" Experiences in "South Australia" Since 1836, eds. C. Mattingley and K. Hampton (Wakefield P, 1988), p.306, and B. Attwood, The Making of the Aborigines (Allen and Unwin, 1989), p.x.

5 A. Shoemaker, Black Words, White Pages (U of Queensland P, 1989), pp.120-1.

6 R. Ariss, "Writing Black: The Construction of an Aboriginal Discourse," Past and Present: The Construction of Aboriginality, ed. J.R. Beckett (Aboriginal Studies Press, 1988), pp.131-46.

7 M. Narogin, Writing From the Fringe (Hyland House, 1990), p.48. Subsequent references cited parenthetically in the text.

8 E. Michaels, For a Cultural Future (Art & Text, 1989), p.16.

9 Ibid., p.70.

10 Ibid., p.78.

11 M. de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans S. Rendall ((U of California Press, 1984), pp.36-7.

12 These guerilla tactics can operate in everyday life, but also in the 'literary' domain. See H. Webb, "Poetry as Guerilla Warfare: Colin Johnson's Semiotic Bicentennial Gift," New Literatures Review, No.17 (Summer South, 1989), p.43.

13 S. Muecke, "Aboriginal Literature and the Repressive Hypothesis," Southerly, 48.4 (1988), p.405.

14 M. Foucault, The History of Sexuality, trans Robert Hurley (Penguin, 1981), p.18.

15 Muecke, op.cit., p.413.

16 Ibid., p.406.

17 Ibid., p.407.

18 Ibid., p.408.

19 Ibid., p.417.

20 T. Bennett, Outside Literature (Routledge, 1990), p.108.

21 Ibid., p.218.

22 K. Arthur, "Beyond Orality: Canada and Australia", Ariel 21.3 (July 1990), pp.23-36.

23 Muecke, op.cit., p.406.

24 H. Bhabha, "Representation and the Colonial Text: A Critical Exploration of Some Forms of Mimeticism," The Theory of Reading (Harvester Press, 1984), p.100. (Bhabha's emphasis.)

25 See Muecke's examination of how particular reading formations condition the "confessional" production and reception of Sally Morgan's My Place and Glenyse Ward's Wandering Girl in the already cited "Aboriginal Literature and the Repressive Hypothesis."

26 Bhabha, op.cit., p.99.

27 Ibid., p.105.

28 Hugh Webb, "Doin' the Post-colonial Story? Neidjie, Narogin and the Aboriginal Narrative Intervention...," Span , in this issue.

29 Ibid.

30 Vijay Mishra and Bob Hodge, "What is Post(-)colonialism? Notes Towards a Debate," forthcoming in Textual Practice, 5.3 (Autumn 1991).

31 Ibid.

New: 30 December, 1996 | Now: 11 April, 2015