Uncanny Australia: A critical response

Reetvinder Randhawa, Ben Wadham

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Is Australia postcolonial? For Russell Wright, in his affirming review of Uncanny Australia the answer appears to be `yes' -- self-evidently so. But what does it mean to be in a postcolonial nation and for whom is it postcolonial? It seems to us that this claim is not `watertight' in Wright's review of Uncanny Australia, nor in Gelder and Jacob's book itself. Two basic points emerge. Firstly, how is the case that Australia is postcolonial substantiated and secondly, what are the effects of the past on power relations in `postcolonial' Australia?

    Uncanny Australia describes itself as a postcolonial work. It considers that the `uncanny' interaction between binaries such as reconciliation and division, privilege and disadvantage, modern and sacred is postcolonial. While the approach of the book is new (in some senses), the authors have not justified the use of the term postcolonial. The book appears to be one sided and reads like an evaluation of the attitude of white Australia to indigenous people and a catalogue of their grievances. It is, more accurately, a discussion of whiteness in contrast to a discussion of postcolonial Australia. It deals with how white people feel both at home and not at home at the same time and feel menaced by a small indigenous minority.

    All this said, the book gives contemporary practices of racism a less serious feel by theorising about the subconscious of the perpetrators while leaving important issues of power out. The book describes the feelings of those who feel unsettled in their home, yet enjoy all the privileges of a racist society and indeed have the power to label it postcolonial. All when an indigenous minority still appear to be living under colonial rule.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalArena Magazine
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 1999


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