Collective Trauma, Storytelling, and the ‘Wounded Aboriginal Child’: Reading Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book Through the Lens of Judy Atkinson’s Trauma WorkJoanne Faulkner (University of New South Wales)
C2.05 Burwood Campus. ic2.108 Waurn Ponds. *VMP 522 39354
221 Burwood Highway
The paper explores an understanding of trauma and healing in the context of [post]colonial Australia, as it emerges in Alexis Wright's dystopic novel The Swan Book, and in dialogue with Judy Atkinson’s use of storytelling to address intergenerational trauma. I argue that the image of the ‘wounded Aboriginal child’ — upon which Wright’s novel centres through its protagonist, Oblivia — is symptomatic of a forgotten history of colonial violence, but also represents the trauma that continues to be borne by First Nations peoples through colonisation. The conception of collective trauma Wright elaborates through this figure is sharpened by Atkinson's analysis and therapeutic approach to intergenerational trauma, which situates healing in relation to traditional Indigenous cultural practices and social ontologies elaborated through storytelling. From these writers, the paper draws attention to story as a methodology that addresses the marginalisation of First Nations knowledge formations, and in so doing also draws lessons for how critical theorists might interpret and analyse images of wounded Aboriginal childhood that are encountered in popular and news media.
Dr Joanne Faulkner is ARC Future Fellow at Macquarie University. She researches the ways in which representations of childhood circulate in Australia to manage anxieties about national identity and history; and, particularly, the specific meanings attributed to Aboriginal children as sites of mediation, intervention, and impasse between settler-colonial and First Nations peoples. Most recently she is the author of
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