Colonialism, Racial Violence and Loss: The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith and The Roving Party
Thomas Keneally’s The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1972) and Rohan Wilson’s The Roving Party (2011) resonate with the violence of the colonising process. The books relate, respectively, to murders that took place in New South Wales in 1901 just prior to Federation, and in Tasmania during the 1820s. Both novels employ elements of the Gothic mode to represent social disorder, and equate systematic racism with the mechanics of moral corruption in a hostile colonial environment. In their efforts to make sense of the past each, in its own way, has something to say about how opportunism and upward social mobility are linked to the possession of whiteness. Each taps into an historical frame of reference in which whiteness is understood, not simply as skin colour, but as something essential to the founding vision of Australia as a nation.
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