Atlas of Denial: Australian Landscape and the Settler-Colonial Structure of Feeling

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Copyright: Bergo, Costanza
My project articulates and examines the notion of a settler-colonial structure of feeling through visual analysis of landscape in Australian film, art and popular culture from post-World War II to the present day. The focus of such an investigation is not the overt intentions of representations of landscape, but rather the unrepresentable tensions they aim to conceal. The thesis theorises a relationship of interdependence between the physical occupation of territory and the production of images that represent those territories as landscape. It considers the role of landscape representation within the ongoing performance of possession that settler colonies rely upon for the (re)production of sovereignty. As Tuck and Yang argue, land is the main preoccupation of settler colonialism. Landscape representation, in turn, indexes the settler-colonial cultural perception of land. The very concept of an Australian landscape is rooted in the epistemology of colonialism: the settler-colonial nation relies on its subjects to continuously conceptualise its national landscape not as occupied territories belonging to Indigenous peoples but as an undisputed sovereign white nation called Australia. Settler-colonial landscape is one of the tools through which the settler colony circulates and enacts the denial mechanisms it depends on. My project brings together Wolfe’s articulation of settler-colonialism as structure with Williams’s notion of structures of feeling. It does so to theorise and analyse a settler-colonial structure of feeling—the inherently ambivalent network of unconscious drives that both uphold and disrupt the settler-colonial project. My project maps settler denial through various terrains. Chapters 1 and 2 examine the co-constitution of anxiety and pleasure in representations of the landscape within the settler imagination. Chapter 3 focuses on land as property and examines the settler home and garden to disentangle the complex relationship between care and violence that characterises everyday life in the contemporary settler state. Finally, chapter 4 moves to the coast and beach to examine the death-line of the border. Each chapter builds its argument through visual analysis of diverse media, ranging from tourism advertisements to feature films and artworks, all analysed from a perspective that brings together art history, settler-colonial studies and cultural studies.
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PhD Doctorate
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