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Looter of the Dreamings: Xavier Herbert and the Taking of Kaijek's Newsong Story


Sansom, B, Looter of the Dreamings: Xavier Herbert and the Taking of Kaijek's Newsong Story, Oceania, 76, (1) pp. 83-104. ISSN 0029-8077 (2006) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright 2006 Oceania Publications, University of Sydney

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DOI: doi:10.1002/j.1834-4461.2006.tb03033.x


In his novels and stories of the Australian frontier, Xavier Herbert distances himself from anthropologists whom he resents because they have professional licence to act as looters of the Dreamings. Yet, as 'artist', Herbert is unable to admit the extent to which his own story-forms are taken from Aboriginal productions. In those writings completed after Capricornia and before he finally turns to compose Poorfella my Country, he keeps much of his borrowing secret and his deceptions lead both to a guilty preoccupation with looting as a theme and to the production of stories with missing middles. (Interventions of the Dreamings are left out of the printed versions.) While he acts as cultural broker, honest broking is impeded by Herbert's Romantic self-vision (portrait of the 'creative artist' as a young dog) and by the universalisation that denies cultural difference spuriously to assert the unity of human artistic experience in its stead. I show how Herbert's authorial practise makes him the very semblance of the anthropologist. He, likewise, is a looter of the Dreamings.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Anthropology
Research Field:Social and cultural anthropology
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in human society
UTAS Author:Sansom, B (Professor Basil Sansom)
ID Code:44079
Year Published:2006
Web of Science® Times Cited:4
Deposited By:Riawunna
Deposited On:2006-08-01
Last Modified:2012-09-18

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