Review of Prosthetic Gods: Travel, Representation and Colonial Governance, by Robert Dixon

A popular cliche in the field of postcolonial theory is the observation that the master's tools will never be able to dismantle the master's house. This neat piece of rhetoric has always irked me. It may make the point rhetorically, but as anyone who actually works with tools knows, the spanner you use to tighten the nut is also the first one to reach for if you want to loosen it. In theoretical (if not practical) terms we could call this a paradox, and it's one which Robert Dixon's Prosthetic Gods: Travel, Representation and Colonial Governance illustrates perfectly. For the key to Dixon's unwriting of a range of accounts of Australian modernity on the loose in Papua New Guinea is the high modernist Sigmund Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents. Or, more precisely, Freud's speculation that the technological appurtenances of modern civilisation had replaced the gods of the ancients with the contemporary figure of Man as a ' Prosthetic God ' .

The full text of this essay is available to ALS subscribers

Please sign in to access this article and the rest of our archive.

Not a member? Subscribe now from only $24/year

Published 1 May 2004 in Volume 21 No. 3. Subjects: Travel fiction & writing.

Cite as: Barrett, Lindsay. ‘Review of Prosthetic Gods: Travel, Representation and Colonial Governance, by Robert Dixon.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 21, no. 3, 2004. https://doi.org/10.20314/als.8c75f52b7d.