White Vanishing: A Settler Australian Hegemonic Textual Strategy, 1789-2006.

Tilley, Elspeth Nina (2007). White Vanishing: A Settler Australian Hegemonic Textual Strategy, 1789-2006. PhD Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, University of Queensland.

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Author Tilley, Elspeth Nina
Thesis Title White Vanishing: A Settler Australian Hegemonic Textual Strategy, 1789-2006.
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2007
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Professor Alan Lawson
Abstract/Summary This thesis conducts a discourse analysis of the ‘white vanishing trope’—stories about white Australians who become lost or disappear—in white Australian texts from 1789 to 2006. Working mostly from a basis of postcolonial theory, with a broader theorisation of bodies, time, and space where helpful, the analysis identifies four persistent semiotic commodities that have prevailed in these texts over this period. They are: a fetishised representation of indigenes that constructs them as a declining and landless race (I call this construct ‘black displacements’); a colonialist but also patriarchal and class-based representation of white characters that constructs—and limits—them as civil and legitimately landed white settler subjects (I call this ‘white presencing’); a linear rhetoric of chronology and progress that, while disrupted by the act of white vanishing, is ultimately restored and strengthened by the trope’s teleological narrative structure (I call this ‘temporal trouble’); and a similarly monologic and Eurocentric construct of space that is likewise strengthened rather than subverted by the texts’ representations of the spaces of white vanishing as uncanny and unreliable (I call this spatial construct ‘entering terra nullius’). Together, these four repeated discursive categories shape the white vanishing trope as a strong and consistent meta-narrative of ‘anti-conquest’. That is, the white vanishing trope narrates a specific, and remarkably constant, relationship between indigenous bodies, white bodies, time, and space, in which white settlers are victims and survivors, whose occupation of Australia is constructed as inevitable and right. The white vanishing trope is, simply put, a hegemonic textual strategy of white settler mythmaking in which the ideological legacies of colonialism remain culturally pervasive and largely unrecognised.

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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 15:28:20 EST