patrick brantlinger on the fake and inauthentic of aboriginal literature


Patrick Brantlinger, ‘Notes on the postmodernity of fake(?) Aboriginal literature’, Postcolonial Studies 14, 4 (2011).

This article examines issues of authenticity in Australian culture. From the very beginning, Australia has been plagued and entertained by literary hoaxes. The recent revelation that Mudrooroo, who was for several decades Australia’s leading Aboriginal author, is of African-white and not Aboriginal descent is an extreme yet typical example of the difficulties faced by many authors and artists who want to claim authentic Aboriginality. How does anyone claim such authenticity when there are no longer any authentic Aborigines (in the sense of indigenes whose culture has not been affected by the invasion of Europeans, modernity, and now postmodernity)? The impossible struggles over authenticity of authors and artists like Mudrooroo and Sally Morgan are a perfect (if ironic) fit with the postmodern stress on inauthenticity, or a commodified and globalized capitalist culture in which everything is a copy, nothing is original (let alone Aboriginal). The ‘Ern Malley’ hoax, the basis for Peter Carey’s postmodern novel My Life as a Fake, is one of many that do not involve Aboriginality, but which show that it is not just Aboriginals who struggle with the problem of authenticity.

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