Nuwhju and the Archive: Recuperating the History of Aboriginal Australian Performance Practice

Maryrose Casey

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter examines Aboriginal Australian performances documented by white settlers and amateur ethnographers in Queensland in the nineteenth century in order to recuperate practices of non-European performances in the colonial cross-cultural environment. Previous Eurocentric accounts and the histories of performance that drew on them relied on narratives of colonialism that framed indigenous peoples as primitive (Oxford 1977: 96; Murdoch 1992; for further discussion see Casey 2004: 10–14) . Within this framework, the performances for entertainment under discussion, drawing on Aboriginal traditions of fun performances, have been styled as contaminated by European culture because they are topical performances and therefore incorporate the European presence. These performances that mock and satirize everyday subjects have been on this basis either erased or seen as derivative because of the premises of European cultural domination that have been part of colonialism. However, once these premises are set aside a rich part of the embodied encounter between Aboriginal people and settler colonists becomes apparent.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Methuen Drama Handbook of Theatre History and Historiography
EditorsClaire Cochrane , Jo Robinson
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherMethuen Drama, Bloomsbury
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781350034310 , 9781350034303
ISBN (Print)9781350034297
Publication statusPublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameMethuen Drama Handbooks
PublisherMethuen Drama, Bloomsbury


  • Aboriginal Australian performances
  • Indigenous Australian performances
  • Theatre -- History
  • Corroborees
  • Queensland -- History -- 19th Century


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