The story of the vulnerable white person vanishing without trace into the harsh Australian landscape is a potent and compelling element in multiple genres of mainstream Australian culture. It has been sung in “Little Boy Lost,” brought to life on the big screen in
Picnic at Hanging Rock, immortalized in Henry Lawson’s poems of lost tramps, and preserved in the history books’ tales of Leichhardt or Burke and Wills wandering in mad circles.
A world-wide audience has also witnessed the many-layered and oddly strident nature of Australian disappearance symbolism in media coverage of contemporary disappearances, such as those of Azaria Chamberlain and Peter Falconio.
White Vanishing offers a revealing and challenging re-examination of Australian disappearance mythology, exposing the political utility at its core. Drawing on wide-ranging examples of the white-vanishing myth, the book provides evidence that disappearance mythology encapsulates some of the most dominant and durable categories at the heart of white Australian culture, and that many of those ideas have their origin in colonial mechanisms of inequality and oppression.
White Vanishing deliberately (and perhaps controversially) reminds readers that, while power is never absolute or irresistible, some narrative threads carry a particularly authoritative inheritance of ideas and power-relations through time.
Elspeth Tilley lectures in the Department of Communication and Journalism at Massey University (Wellington campus), and is an established postcolonial studies researcher with numerous journal and book chapter publications. She has won several awards for her research.
”The issues with which this book grapples are central to Australia today, and in particular to the unfinished business of colonialism. […] I thank Elspeth Tilley for explaining many of the things about the white-vanishing trope which have long puzzled me, and for offering me a new pathway through Australian literature.” — Emeritus Professor Lucy Frost,
University of Tasmania
Table of contents
Preface and Acknowledgements
The Lost-Child Trope in White Australian Narrative
Black Displacements: The Semiosis of Indigeneity in the White-Vanishing Trope
White Presencing: Contamination Politics and the Policing of White Subjectivities in the White-Vanishing Trope
Temporal Trouble: Sequential Disturbance, Ambivalence, and Inscription of Linear Time in the White-Vanishing Trope
terra nullius: The White-Vanishing Trope and the Contest for Australian Space
in situ: The Semiosis of Replacement in Five Australian White-Vanishing Texts