Challenging settler nationhood through music: Stephanie B. Guy, ‘Bodies, Myth and Music: How Contemporary Indigenous Musicians are Contesting a Mythologized Australian Nationalism’, eSharp, 2015


Abstract: This article focuses on two Australian myths: terra nullius and the „noble savage‟. These myths have their nexus with the absence and presence (respectively) of Indigenous beings. This article argues that these myths formed the foundation of colonial nationhood, and that their repercussions are reverberating within post-colonial imaginings of Indigenous Australians today. The myth of terra nullius, empty land, enabled the construction of a nation at the expense of the Indigenous „other‟. Furthermore, the ways in which colonisers repressed Indigenous subjectivities was to essentialise them as „noble savages‟; a figure who is relegated into mysticism and obscurity, consolidated into a “melancholic anthropological footnote” (La Nauze 1959) of Australia‟s colonial triumph. Grounded in this understanding, this article will consider the ways in which these myths are being broken down by dynamic, engaging and distinctly visible Aboriginalities through the case study of contemporary Indigenous musicians. Contemporary Indigenous musicians occupy mainstream stages and screens with diverse, meaningful, accessible and modern Aboriginal identities. These didactic and exigent bodies are revoking the myth that Australia was vacant prior to 1770, and that its First Peoples are incapable of being modern. As such, this essay explores the deconstruction of terra nullius and the „noble savage‟, as a result of Indigenous presence within contemporary public realms.

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