Dynamics of Placement and Displacement in Doris Pilkington’s Under the Wintamarra Tree. Once a ‘Subaltern’, Always a ‘Subaltern’?
Thursday 8 June, 1pm Milgate Room, AD Hope Bldg, SLLL
Doris Pilkington’s Under the Wintamarra Tree (2002) is a sequel to Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (1996), in which we are presented with a story in a confessional tone that reveals the adventures of three indigenous girls (including Doris’ mother Molly) who fled the “Native” settlement that they were forcibly taken to. Both narratives are valuable representations of the ‘stolen generations’ in Australia. In Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence we are mostly presented with Molly’s story. In Under the Wintamarra Tree, Doris reveals her own story in which, through acts of resistance and resilience, she appears to embrace her displaced condition in order to come to terms with her own identity and cultural heritage. The dynamics of placement and displacement are here analysed through a postcolonial perspective. The ‘stolen generation’ is the consequence of domineering and imperialistic acts in which “half-caste” or “mixed race” children were strategically taken away from their families in indigenous communities and placed in “Native” settlements where they were trained and educated to be servants to white families. I make use of Gayatri Spivak’s term the “subaltern” in order to reflect upon Doris’s life and how it had to be constantly renegotiated until, through her writings, she divulged her stories to the world. In such a way, her voice can never be silenced, but serves as a representation of the many lives of displaced peoples around the globe who have been manipulated within the prerogatives of ruthless power.
Lindiane Vieira is currently a Research Fellow at SLLL. She has been working on the project Locating the Displaced: The Female Experience of Migration and Displacement in Contemporary Literature.