I’m back…in the ruins of articulation

by Michelle

Ok, I know, I know, I’ve been neglectful, dismissive, avoidant, and haven’t blogged for two months. Most of that time was spent during a Writers’ retreat in Scotland. I had no wish to write a travelogue/blog, or use this space for thoughtless nonsense; maybe a photomontage might be nice. But here’s a photograph taken at Hawthornden Castle where I was a Fellow with Kenneth Stevens, Liz Almond, River Wolton and Donna Stonecipher (Hamish Robinson, a poet and resident Castle scholar, was the Director). It was a really incredible time and I certainly got some writing done from my room, Boswell, which overlooked a pine forest and the ruins of the original curtain wall.

What strikes one in the UK, is the cultural domination of Europe; its subject positioning. How distant and insignificant Australia seems, the penal colony, the Pacific outpost, a poor copy stranded in the Indian Ocean. I think this altered my appreciation of our cultural cringe, the search for nationalism in our literatures, the chiselling away at language by poets like Wallace-Crabbe, who sculpts a lyric vernacular; or Peter Porter’s and AD Hope’s perspectives.

En-route back to Sydney, via the Arabian Sea, I attended an absolutely awesome conference to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Goa. The Portuguese described it as ‘invasion’, when in December 1961 Indian troops entered Panjim signalling the end of almost 450 years of colonial occupation and the beginning of the end of the empire in Angola, Mozambique, Brazil. The anti-colonial movement was also a struggle for democracy, against the policially repressive Salazar regime. Among the 160 delegates from around the world there was much scholarship and creative work to share. The dialogues and company were fantastic with polyphonies of Portuguese, Konkani, Hindi, English. The vibrant, postutopian luso-colonial ambience of Goa, drew me towards thoughts of forgotten histories, biographies, fictions. I visited my grandfather’s ancestral home in Asagoa, north of Panjim; brought home books, photographs, music and a Konkani primer.

I keep thinking about Spivak’s essay on the subaltern. In Portuguese the subaltern could be described as the desterrado, oppressed by political domination, economic exploitation and cultural erasure. Sound familiar? And I keep thinking too, of Bhabha’s “mimic” man and wonder how the subaltern can speak, how language can be refreshed, renewed, deterritorialised. More on this another day. Suffice to say that Bhabha considers mimicry to be destabilising and ambivalent to colonial discourse, a kind of ” double vision.”

So today, when I came across this video remix of Homi Bhabha and Kate Perry, I couldn’t resist posting, if just to say Hello there, saffron-antipodean-luso-colonial world, I’m back, in the ruins of articulation…