Subdivisions of Suburbia: The Politics of Place in Melissa Lucashenko’s Steam Pigs and Amanda Lohrey’s Camille’s Bread


The Australian intelligentsia's critical or ambivalent response to the suburbs and suburbia has been well-documented, though the gender-blindness of urban theorising often goes unremarked (Harman 108). The suburbs represent a particular set of problems for their female inhabitants, a specifically female anomie of isolation, frustration, and alienation that was noted early on by Betty Friedan in The Feminine Mystique, a proto-text of the modern women's movement. These problems are a major preoccupation in feminist fiction. Friedan's diagnosis of a female suburban malaise was located in the 1950s and early 1960s, an era of major expansion in Australian suburban development (Davison and Dingle 7), and prior to the modem women's liberation movement. Today, in the midst of a realignment in the workings and hence spaces. of capitalism (often described as late or advanced capitalism and disguised by the term postmodemism) and nearly thirty years into the modem women's movement and its attempted subversion and transformation of macro- and micro-political structures, how might the current shapes of suburbia be textualised in contemporary women's novels? Using the epigraph from Foucault as a starting point, this essay provides a feminist reading of two recent Australian women's novels that are centrally concerned with space and place, Melissa Lucashenko's Steam Pigs and Amanda Lohrey's Camille's Bread, so as to analyse their imagined spatial histories. The stories they write of the little tactics of habitat are also stories of the greater powers in which their spatial histories are implicated.

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Published 1 November 1998 in Writing the Everyday: Australian Literature and the Limits of Suburbia. Subjects: Aboriginality, Capitalism, Eagleby, Feminism, Feminist literature & writers, Gender roles, Leichhardt, Place & identity, Suburbs, Urban.

Cite as: Henderson, Margaret. ‘Subdivisions of Suburbia: The Politics of Place in Melissa Lucashenko’s Steam Pigs and Amanda Lohrey’s Camille’s Bread.’ Australian Literary Studies, vol. 18, no. 4, 1998, doi: 10.20314/als.20dec33f01.

  • Margaret Henderson — Margaret Henderson is Associate Professor in Literature at the University of Queensland, Australia.