'Through a close reading of Kim Scott's Benang: from the heart, this thesis interrogates what whiteness in an Australian colonial context looks like from an Aboriginal perspective. Its central proposition is that Scott's narrator, Harley, discovers whiteness as a consequence of discovering his Aboriginality...' (Source: Abstract)
Kim discusses some of the processes that he used to research, draft and edit Benang.
Anna Haebich investigates how the West Australian Department of Indigenous Affairs archives (1898-1972) have been utilised by Indigenous writers/researchers.
'‘[I]t is far, far easier for me to sing than write, because this language troubles me, makes me feel as if I am walking across the earth which surrounds salt lakes, that thin earth upon which it is best to tread warily, skims lightly…’ (Scott, Benang 8). In these words, drawn from the opening lines of the Noongar author Kim Scott's Benang (1999) which won the Miles Franklin Literary Award, the English language is shown to destabilize the narrator’s relation to the land, rendering it tenuous and fragile. My account of teaching the novel is therefore founded on the premise that the issue of sovereignty and its relation to language is a key node in the network of resources we use to teach Indigenous Australian literature. Taking as its point of departure Fiona Nicoll's 2004 argument on sovereignty and critical whiteness theory, my essay explores the way that the recognition of Indigenous sovereignty is performed by the relation between text and reader set up by all Scott's novels. In his work, land and storytelling, ownership and history are inextricably connected. I propose that in Benang this performance comes about through the novel's initial withholding of hospitality, in conjunction with the reader's responsibility for seeking hospitality through acts of introduction, as well as the reader's willingness to accept the text's right "not to enter into relationships, to 'not be with me" (Sara Ahmed qtd. in Nicoll). By recognizing all these relations teachers of Scott’s work may be able to reintegrate the ‘socio-historical’ and ‘literary theoretical’ approaches to Indigenous writing that have been separated and hierarchized (e.g., the idea that historical and cultural understand must precede theoretical analysis) by some recent reflections on the ethics of teaching Indigenous literatures (Ballyn 44). My own teaching practise bears out the need to acknowledge the ways in which historical, legal, and literary discourses have sustained, performed, and masked the process of colonial dispossession and its attendant violence in Australia. However, thematization of reading, writing, and storytelling in Benang, the experimentality of Scott's work, and his virtuosic use of language ultimately demand that we engage that work as literature, not as social history, for all that social history will offer us entry into, and be opened up in turn by, an understanding of certain aspects of Aboriginal experience at particular moments in the settling of Australia. ' (Introduction)
An analysis of Aboriginal 'dreaming' through Kim Scott's Benang : From the Heart.
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