Losing control: Catriona Elder, ‘Narratives of national belonging: the domestic, the wild, and the mutant in Australian film’, Social Identities, 2016
Abstract: This article explores understandings of postcolonial national belonging through an analysis of cinematic representations of humans, animals and the environment. It does so by analyzing a series of Australian films about plants, animals or people who are out of place or out of control. The article registers some of the changing representations of Australian flora, fauna and, by association people, as native, domesticated, simpatico, feral and wild; interpreting these shifts as recalibrations of a moral hierarchy of cultural belonging. Films including Lantana (2001) Dir. Ray Lawrence; Razorback (1984) Dir. Russell Mulchay; Rogue (2007) Dir. Greg Mclean; and Black Water (2007) Dirs. David Nerlich and Andrew Traucki are read in terms of political anxieties. Drawing on work ‘that insists humans and animals are currently bound in a complex network of relationships’, I use these films to explore issues of the nation, place, belonging in relation to aliens and natives. Given that in the past 20 years there has been increasing recognition of the history of colonialism and its effects on Indigenous peoples but also a different but related blossoming of environmental nationalism, the key question that animates this research is how these understandings are represented in film and what work animals and plants might have played in filmic cultural representations of national belonging.
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