Performing Aboriginality: Desiring Pre-contact Aboriginality in Victoria, 1886–1901

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Peck, Julia (2010)

This paper re-investigates notions of performed Aboriginality in relation to photographs\ud made at Lake Tyers Mission Station, Victoria, Australia, and argues that\ud Nicholas Caire’s photographs reveal complex Aboriginal subjectivities. The photographs,\ud made originally in 1886 and distributed to tourists, were later reproduced\ud and circulated in book format in 1897. The first presentation of the photographs,\ud whilst focusing on historical Aboriginality, contains traces of cross-cultural hybridity.\ud However, the later presentation of the work reinforces historical and traditional\ud material culture over cross-cultural dialogue. This paper argues that the desire to\ud find historical notions of Aboriginality on mission stations in Victoria was not just\ud due to the establishment of hierarchical racial theories in the latter part of the\ud nineteenth century (generating the idea that Aborigines could not change and\ud adapt to notions of ‘civilisation’) and doubts about the success of mission stations,\ud but also because there was an interest in Aborigines who had experienced little\ud assimilation from more remote parts of the continent of Australia. This curiosity in\ud pre-contact Aboriginality fuelled tourism in Victoria to accessible mission stations\ud such as Lake Tyers.
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