The problem(atics) of post-colonisation: the subject in settler post-colonial discourse
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis concerns aspects of settler post-colonial discourse, examined through fictional and non-fictional prose writing from Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Major works discussed have been published between the 1970s and 1990s. These include fiction by Kate Grenville, Elizabeth Jolley, and Sally Morgan, from Australia; Alice Munro, Audrey Thomas, Aritha Van Herk and Rudy Wiebe, from Canada; and Stevan Eldred-Grigg, Patricia Grace, Keri Hulme, Witi Ihimaera and Ian Wedde, from New Zealand. Section One of the thesis begins with an Introduction which contextualises the following discussion in relation to background issues of definition of the term 'post-colonialism', and then describes the scope, method and selection of texts in the thesis. The argument is briefly stated and expanded upon in discussion of the theoretical perspectives. Chapter One suggests a reading of Empire as (M)Other in relation to Britain's settler colonies, and the status of the latter, within the terms of the familial metaphor, as extensions of Empire. The ambivalence of that status – as extension and as autonomous being -- is explored in consideration of affective relations between colonies and Empire. Also considered are the consequences of this 'familial'-colonial background for the attainment of 'autonomous' Nationhood, imaged as 'self-hood' according to a masculine model of the self. Analysis of discourses of (national) identity reveals 'subjective sovereignty' to be a discursive illusion, disturbed by two sources of 'disunity': 'neo-imperialism' is suggested as an 'external' threat to sovereignty, while post colonialism constitutes the difference within', akin to the functioning of the unconscious in relation to the subject. The chapter concludes with an analysis of subjective processes in three fictional texts. Section Two introduces a focus on how subjectivity is articulated through post-colonial discourses. Chapter Two explores the post-colonial textual mediation of relationships to the land, including the representation of land and landscape in writing, and the resultant facilitation of settler appropriation of the land -- of belonging. It concludes with a reading of post-colonial fictional critiques of colonisation and textuality as the basis of an authentic relationship to the land. Chapter Three considers discourses from indigenous and 'other' subject-positions which, rather than subsuming the land under their own identity, seek to gain and express their identity in relation to the land, attempts at elision of the alienating intervention of textuality. It concludes with discussion of texts which problematise the authority of textuality. Chapters Four and Five more fully examine the subject-positions of 'self' and 'other' in the context of the settler post-colonial ambivalence of authority and authenticity. Chapter Four considers strategies of privileging and appropriating the discursive place of the 'post-colonised' in order to authenticate the authority of the 'post-colonisers'. Chapter Five addresses the 'authorising' of the 'other' into a 'self', or a subject in discourse, and entry into the discursive market as the ambivalent attempt both to accede to subjectivity and to articulate it with the integrity of authenticity. The problems with this invoke the subjective problematic of hybridity which is introduced at the end of Chapter Five. The third section develops the preceding exploration of discourses into a consideration of subjective and discursive problematics, informed by an understanding of post-colonialism as a condition of instability resulting from the re-introduction of what the dominant (National) discourse constitutively excludes. In its phallocentric subjective moment, the exclusion is shown to be that of the maternal body and thus any possibility of a feminine sex; in its imperially-informed cultural moment, it is difference and heterogeneity which are submitted to and subsumed under the colonising gaze: they are disavowed, and the disavowed objects repressed to the 'national' unconscious. Chapter Six posits an analogy between the productions of sexual and colonial difference. Similarly in that chapter the return to, and reconsideration of, motifs and analyses in the thesis enact the thematic-analytic focus on the return of the body and its contaminations of unity, purity and linearity. In Chapter Seven, the theory of the abjection of the subject is employed to suggest a reading of the non-autonomy and non-integrity of settler post-colonial subjectivities and cultures: the settler post-colonial subject is abjected by the internal difference of its own heterogeneity -- the body-difference for which the metaphor of the land (as mother) is used -- and by the perceived radical cultural otherness or externality of post-modernism. However, it is argued that these others are constitutive of the post-colonial self, and that cultural and political agency must therefore relinquish its privileging of purity and sameness, principles which themselves re-play the dynamics of imperialism. Chapter Seven concludes with an argument against the imperialism of identity and against the identity of a text. Chapter Eight concludes the third Section, and the thesis as a whole, with the exploration of a textual-cultural 'case-study' in the discourses and problematics which have constituted the preceding discussions.