Mudrooroo: Crafty Imposter or Rebel with a Cause


Hillel Schwartz defines imposture as 'the compulsive assumption of invented lives' and impersonation as 'the concerted assumption of another's public identity' (72). This is not to say that one cannot be at once an impostor and an impersonator: the best impersonators are surely the impostors whose secrets we know nothing of. That we 'know them not' is precisely because they are able to manipulate identities that are recognised by others. Imposture is not a state achieved by an individual, but is dependent for its success upon the society in which it is practised and authenticated. Contemporary attempts to understand the subject in terms of authenticity have, however, become as complicated and controversial as its antithesis, imposture. This paper considers the ways in which Australia's racialised social order permitted the writer Mudrooroo to 'pass' as Indigenous, and to gain recognition as the first Aboriginal novelist. Whilst it is not my intention to dwell on already published biographical material, some details are offered in an effort to contextualise my argument that reception is as significant to imposture as the performance itself.

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Published 1 October 2004 in Volume 21 No. 4. Subjects: Aboriginality, Australian identity, Imposture.

Cite as: Clark, Maureen. ‘Mudrooroo: Crafty Imposter or Rebel with a Cause.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 21, no. 4, 2004, doi: 10.20314/als.fb9fcc5664.