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Excerpt from "An Unsettling Affair: Territorial Anxieties and the Mutant Message." The Journal of Commonwealth Literature 40.2 (2005): 65-91.


Some 15 years after publication of The Empire Writes Back (1989) announced the arrival of postcolonial studies, the legitimacy of a postcolonial critical practice seems beyond question. The healthy state of our relatively young practice can be quantified by the increasing number of scholarly journals and monographs directly and indirectly engaged with postcolonial subjects, and by the corresponding number of similarly engaged courses offered each year at tertiary institutions around the world. Often working in concert with other overtly politicized disciplines, we have helped to change the critical purview of commercial publishing houses, academic presses, and universities, mostly for the better I like to think. For our part, we have extended the boundaries of academic and public discourse by engaging with and frequently advocating for those marginalized by colonial history. And we have done so, in general, while attending to the weaknesses inherent in any academic practice that also involves advocacy: trenchant debates over agency, over who can speak for whom and who can speak at all, have legitimized our practice more than undermined it, signalling a healthy level of self-reflexivity and a tendency to discern our discursive positions in relation to our various subjects.

The great irony of our measurable success, one not lost on any self-reflexive postcolonial scholar, is that we are now a valuable part of the institutions we began by resisting from within. While we have helped to change the critical purview of commercial and academic presses, they have changed at least in part because there is profit in postcolonial studies; universities have filled seats and quotas with those drawn by our particular brand of institutionalized radicalism; and we have made alliances and careers for ourselves in those institutions. They now have a vested interest in us. And as we helped redraw the institutional boundaries to admit our disciplinary territory, we have increasingly vested our interests in them. As we have changed them, so they must inevitably have changed us.

The fact of our increasing institutional investment should, then, give us cause to reflect yet again on the state of our practice, to triangulate our positions in relation to our various subjects and to the institutions that enable us. To take a true measure of that practice, we must determine if and how our value within this redefined institutional territory has changed our engagement and our advocacy; put another way, we must account for our collective negotiations of our competing interests in the decolonization of colonial territory and in the consolidation of disciplinary territory. And the best way to determine the efficacy of these collective negotiations is to try to discern them on the frontiers of our practice where the limits of our engagement and advocacy, of what we value and what we do not, are revealed and tested.

This paper focuses on one such negotiation by examining academic reactions to the Mutant Message affair. Marlo Morgan's appropriation of Australian Aboriginality in Mutant Message down Under (1992) and the subsequent resistance registered by the Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation seem ideal subjects for postcolonial analysis, yet they have received relatively little attention. This paper, then, examines the kind of attention they have received as a way of describing the interests and limits of postcolonial engagement and advocacy: it looks at two categorically distinctive academic treatments of the affair-one postcolonial in its trajectory, the other determinedly not-to suggest how these opposing perspectives are similarly marked by territorial anxieties. Finally, it suggests how such anxieties effectively limit the ethical purchase of a postcolonial critical practice.


What I am suggesting in this critique of postcolonial discourse dedicated to the Mutant Message affair may seem unfair. I am, after all, proposing that the modes of production and dissemination ascribed to the articles above actually register a broader postcolonial ambivalence where issues of cultural appropriation of Australian Aboriginality are concerned. [1] And this proposal may seem unfair for at least two reasons: first, because I am reading ambivalence through relative silence; and second, because, assumedly, were it not for the small journals and a few scholars operating on the boundaries of our discipline, the affair would have received no attention at all from the postcolonial academy. Nevertheless, even the scant attention it did receive in those journals and from those scholars registers ambivalence. And its measure is a tendency to marginalize certain Aboriginal voices in the debate, a tendency to remain silent about-at times, even to be dismissive of-certain forms of resistance.

To support and explain this point, I will analyze two more widely circulated and ideologically charged treatments of the affair, right wing missives that make no bones about silencing Aboriginal voices. In fact, L.R. Hiatt's "A New Age for an Old People" (1997) and Roger Sandall's "The New Stone Age" (2001) added to the public and academic dialogue about the affair in ways that none of the articles above did because both explicitly address Dumbartung's campaign of resistance. Hiatt's article, published in the longstanding, right-wing cultural magazine Quadrant , is dismissive of Morgan's appropriations. It dispassionately recounts her narrative, then treats it with playful irony before rounding on Dumbartung and Griffiths, discounting the dangers of the New Age maven's appropriations and the charges that she was motivated by cupidity. Sandall's essay-published in his collection The Culture Cult: Designer Tribalism and Other Essays (2001) and excerpted as "Romancing the Stone Age" in the Sydney Morning Herald 's Saturday insert, "Spectrum" [2]-follows the direction of Hiatt's article to its illogical extreme. He holds the entire affair up as an example of a contemporary tendency to worship stone age values, and he sets Dumbartung's reaction to cultural appropriations quite clearly in that age.

Far from addressing Griffiths's concerns of neglect or Shoemaker's inclusory impetus, then, these articles combine to perpetuate and encourage the continued neglect of the Mutant Message affair: first, by deflecting the discussion away from issues of cultural appropriation; and second, by suggesting that groups like Dumbartung lack the requisite knowledge to form judgments about Aboriginal culture and, therefore, need not be consulted concerning issues of cultural appropriation. What I am suggesting is that these bold dismissive statements about Dumbartung are contiguous with postcolonial occlusions. And the phenomenon underwriting both the attacks and occlusions is territorial anxiety.

To discern the rhetoric of territorial anxiety in contemporary Australian discourse, one must first understand the political reality of post- Mabo Australia, and the unsettling nature of the High Court's decision. Mabo is the popular name for the decade long court case that eventually overturned the doctrine of terra nullius in Australia, which had "automatically and instantaneously extinguished" the indigenous systems that existed prior to European settlement. Mabo , in turn, created the conditions for the 1996 Wik decision, which extended its landmark by granting that "pastoral leases did not necessarily extinguish native title." [3] These important decisions created the legal conditions for Aboriginal land claims throughout Australia, and produced great anxiety amongst a large section of the non-Aboriginal population, who were forced to question the legitimacy of their positions in Australia, and who, according to David Martin, saw the decision as "yet another instance of selective favourable government treatment of Indigenous people." [4]

The unsettling nature of the Mabo decision has manifested itself textually in many ways. Some narratives self-reflexively negotiate the territorial anxieties it inspired. For instance, Anne McGrath's award winning history of Aboriginal and Settler/Invader relations, Contested Ground (1995), negotiates those anxieties in personal yet symbolic terms: "The Mabo debate," says McGrath in her introduction to the revisionist chronicles, "led Australians, with or without mango trees, to fear for the symbolic sanctity of their backyards."[5] Cultural critics Ken Gelder and Jane Jacobs, exploring the politics of the sacred in post- Mabo Australia, explore the anxiety in appropriately Freudian terms: "In postcolonial Australia, and in particular after the Mabo decision in 1992, Freud's 'uncanny' might well be applied directly to those emergent (that is, yet-to-be established) procedures for determining rights over land. In this moment of decolonization, what is 'ours' is also potentially, or even always already, 'theirs': the one is becoming the other, the familiar is becoming the strange."[6] Peter Bishop sees the anxiety manifest in terms of mobility, characterizing the rise in journeys "around Australia" and narratives about them as mobilizations against Mabo and Wik : "By threading places together like a necklace," says Bishop, "the around Australia journey attempts to transform discontinuity into continuity, to produce an idealized coherence of nation."[7]

On the other side of the self-reflexivity continuum, right wing, empirical historian Keith Windschuttle in his controversial The Fabrication of Aboriginal History (2002) reveals his territorial anxieties in his denials of Tasmanian genocide. Situating his argument for empirical literary history against Aboriginal oral history in the context of the Mabo and Wik decisions, Windschuttle attacks the legal judgments of "non-historians" like William Deane [8] and the academic judgments of "politicised historians" like Henry Reynolds [9] because they credit oral narratives more than empirical research would allow. While staking out his historical territory, he also reveals how controlling Aboriginal History is crucial to the legitimacy of the nation: "In short, the debate over Aboriginal History goes far beyond its ostensible subject: it is about the character of the nation and, ultimately, the calibre of the civilization Britain brought to these shores in 1788."[10] His empirical history, then, is informed by a desire to re-establish the legitimacy of a nation wounded by the High Court's decision. I suggest that we situate Hiatt's article and Sandall's book-and their attacks on Dumbartung, in particular-in close proximity to Windschuttle on this continuum of textual production inspired by post- Mabo territorial anxieties.

Hiatt's subtle reading of the Mutant Message affair seems at first very commonsensical. He begins with a tonally reserved summary of Morgan's novel, focusing in particular on her description of the Real People. Then, in an equally reserved tone, he summarizes the objections of Dumbartung, locating the group's challenge to Morgan within a "positivist tradition," and celebrating their attempts to disprove Morgan's truth claims "[i]n a postmodernist age, when anyone's truth is said to be as true as anyone else's."[11] The summary ends with this articulation of Dumbartung's position:

Dumbartung states that Aboriginal people have never needed anthropologists, lawyers, doctors, or non-indigenous authors to tell their story. It notes as a matter of regret that readily-accessible writings by such people may have provided Marlo Morgan with a framework for her falsehoods. The time has come for indigenous peoples throughout the world to protect their cultures against further exploitation. [12]

In this summary of Dumbartung's position lies the territorial threat that surely gave birth to Hiatt's article and through which one can begin to discern post- Mabo anxieties. Dumbartung's Message Stick calls attention to the exploitative history of anthropology in Australia. Anthropologists, who by critical practice collected and contained Aboriginal knowledge within the corpus of European science, were an important arm of Imperial expansion. Intentionally or not, their scientific narratives legitimized colonial expansion by endorsing the European binary between "primitive" Aborigines and "sophisticated" settlers, which in turn led to policies that brought the lives and lands of Aboriginal peoples under settler control "for their own good."[13] Moreover, the collection and theft of spiritual artefacts, coupled with dispossession from the land that is the source of Aboriginal spiritual belief, led to spiritual destitution. As Dumbartung contends, in an increasingly globalized world, the anthropological documents of old are emerging in neo-colonial New Age narratives like Morgan's, exacerbating the damage already done by colonization.

Hiatt reads Dumbartung's statement as an attack on his disciplinary territory in at least two ways: first, in its suggestion that Anthropology, far from being a dispassionate, empirical science, is tainted by Imperial impulse; and second, by suggesting that his empirical science is complicitous with a New Age ethos. His response is to fling Dumbartung's criticism back in its face, tit for tat. First, he undermines the Aboriginal group's activities from an empirical perspective, reclaiming a dispassionate empiricism for Anthropology to resituate his discipline in the camp of reason and enlightenment. And then he argues that Dumbartung's activities are themselves complicitous with a New Age ethos.

In the first volley of his counter attack, Hiatt conveniently misrepresents the nature of Dumbartung's consultations with other Aboriginal groups across the continent. While noting with some irony that the group enlisted the support of anthropologist John Stanton in their campaign,[14] Hiatt suggests that their consultative trek across Australia was unnecessary:

A more exhaustive examination of the record than Dr Stanton was able to make might even have persuaded Dumbartung that an empirical investigation among desert tribes was unnecessary, for nothing remotely like Marlo Morgan's account of Aboriginal cosmology and sacred technology is to be found anywhere in the reputable literature published since the establishment of the British colony in 1788. [15]

Hiatt characterizes Dumbartung's activities as "an empirical investigation" because one part of the consultative process involved verifying that Morgan had not travelled through the various territories they visited. At the same time, however, he glosses over the protocols Dumbartung established to guide them in all consultations-1) involvement of elders of both genders, 2) clearance to enter communities, and 3) privilege of right to represent those communities in the campaign. [16] These protocols, informed by pre-conquest modes of interaction between Aboriginal peoples, are the enabling and legitimizing mechanisms of Dumbartung's consultations. So why does Hiatt gloss over them to focus on the question concerning Morgan's possible travels?

On one level, he can gloss over them because they hearken to an unempirical value system. Hiatt's main point in the passage is that the true repository of Aboriginal knowledge can be found in the corpus of anthropological science: that is, Aboriginal knowledge is to be found in the "reputable literature published since the establishment of the British colony in 1788," not in the oral culture maintained by acculturated elders or the wider Aboriginal community. From his perspective, that Dumbartung even asks the question about Morgan's travels through the central desert is an affront to good sense and empirical science, and a sign that the Aboriginal group knows little about their own culture. "If the Real People really exist," asserts Hiatt, making Dumbartung's question seem laughable, "they are recent arrivals from outer space pretending to be Aborigines and, for whatever purpose, using Marlo Morgan as their agent".[17] In this framework, the anthropological corpus is valuable because empiricism is its mechanism of legitimacy. In other words, Hiatt reads the Message Stick in a way that legitimizes his value system, in a way that privileges a mode of investigation akin to his own disciplinary mode, ignoring the alternative protocols of investigation on the basis of their unempirical value. What is more, he effectively defends Anthropology from charges of Imperial complicity by asserting that the empirical evidence of its "reputable literature" serves the cause of decolonization better than the Aboriginal initiative of oral consultation.

On another level, in Hiatt's neglect of Dumbartung's protocols and his haughty defence of disciplinary territory, we can read anxieties about the legitimacy of the colony itself and its foundational narratives. It is not surprising, then, that he harkens back to the "reputable literature published since the establishment of the British colony in 1788," contrasting it with Dumbartung's Message Stick . It was, after all, an anthropological narrative of sorts that legitimized colonial expansion in Australia with the declaration of terra nullius . Aboriginal Australians were classified as the most primitive form of human life in a social taxonomy akin to but preceding social Darwinism because they did not use land in ways Europeans deemed profitable. Put another way, Aboriginal protocols of interaction with the land-thus, the systems by which territorial relationships and boundaries were defined-had to be disregarded or invalidated if colonization were to proceed with any legitimacy. Therein lies the subtle threat that Dumbartung's Message Stick represents. It represents an alternative to the "reputable literature" that licensed colonization. In documenting their activities-particularly, their adherence to protocols traceable to pre-conquest culture-Dumbartung reaffirmed not only Aboriginal rights to manage and distribute spiritual and cultural knowledge, but also re-enacted protocols of interaction with the land that were inconsistent with the declaration of terra nullius , and the anthropological discourse licensing that declaration. If Hiatt were to give Dumbartung's protocols any status unmarked by disdain, he would legitimize not only their assessment of Anthropology, but the territorial claims implicit in their activities.

Attaching Dumbartung's activities to a New Age ethos, then, is just another way of undermining their alternative narrative and its concomitant territorial claims. While defending Morgan from charges of cupidity in ways that cause one to question his dedication to empirical research,[18] Hiatt also defends the New Age movement from the charge that its "interests in Aboriginal culture are extractive and exploitative in much the same sense as mining interests".[19] While he sees some truth in this position, "it also strikes [him] as basically unfair" because the New Age "rank-and-file" have undeniably good intentions and because New Age notions of spirituality are compatible with Aboriginal spirituality in ways that even Aboriginal peoples have begun to recognize: "Aborigines are beginning to support their political aspirations with religious ideologies which, if not directly inspired by New Age doctrines, are at any rate highly compatible with them".[20] His bizarre and disingenuous defence of the New Age movement on the basis of its compatibility with Aboriginal spirituality, however, comes on the heels of a statement of utter disdain for Aboriginal spirituality. While openly attacking Griffiths for his concerns about the political dangers of tactical alliances between indigenous peoples and the New Age movement, Hiatt subtly undercuts Aboriginal spiritual beliefs, characterizing them as "the metaphysics of the Stone Age".[21] Equating Aboriginal spirituality with the "superstitions" of the Stone Age and the mysticism of the New Age is, fundamentally, a way of containing the threat that Dumbartung's Message Stick represents to the disciplinary territory of Anthropology and the physical territory of Australia. Dumbartung's claims to the custodianship of cultural knowledge, like Aboriginal claims to land, are based on the spiritual principles of the Dreamtime, and the ceremony, oral narrative, and art that re-enact those spiritual principles. By reducing the spiritual component of Dumbartung's claim of cultural custodianship to a political expediency, Hiatt effectively denies the cultural basis on which land claims are being made in Australia's courts.


The scholarly reaction to the Mudrooroo affair is telling in this instance because it not only marginalizes Dumbartung's voice in the debate, but it also suggests how the occlusion of certain kinds of resistance from our critical purview serves a legitimizing imperative. If any literary scandal involving the appropriation of Aboriginality has animated postcolonial scholars of Australian literature, it is the Mudrooroo affair. Though no scholarly monograph dedicated to the affair has yet appeared[22]-in comparison with Demidenko's four-one cannot charge the academy with silence where Mudrooroo is concerned. There are several noteworthy articles from Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal writers and scholars dealing in sophisticated ways with the very sensitive issue of his outing. Surprisingly, however, none has been animated enough to engage in meaningful consultations with Dumbartung about Mudrooroo, though the Aboriginal group coordinated the Nyoongar community's attempts to deal with his claims to Nyoongar heritage.[23] First, Dumbartung represented the Kickett family's concerns to the media after Mudrooroo laid claims of kinship to them through his mother; then, following Aboriginal protocol, they invited him to discuss his claims with Nyoongar Elders; after his refusal to attend that meeting and with evidence of appropriation mounting, they included him on their "Wall of Shame"[24] alongside Marlo Morgan; and finally, they tried to have his books removed from store shelves or at least tagged with warning labels. Presumably, this last course of action-a call for censorship equivalent to that made in relation to Mutant Message -was distasteful to free-thinking academics.[25] Little else can explain the fact that academic consultation with representatives of the Nyoongar community concerning issues that have direct bearing on them has been negligible.[26] Nyoongar reaction provided postcolonial scholars with an opportunity to consider the nature of censorship as a sophisticated mode of resistance, and an opportunity to negotiate the differences between a liberal humanist discourse on knowledge and an Aboriginal one.[27] Instead, the censorship issue seems to have led rather conveniently-perhaps, strategically-to the dismissal of Dumbartung as a fringe group, and its Director, Robert Eggington, as a cultural essentialist and a radical.[28]

In light of Mudrooroo's importance to the academy and the study of Aboriginal literature, his appropriation deserves attention. But in terms of sales and, hence, the widespread impact on perceptions of Australian Aboriginality, his appropriations and his literary corpus must seem insignificant in comparison with Morgan's and her Mutant Message Down Under . So the spate of post-revelation articles, most of which tend to theorize about Mudrooroo's identity in a way that occludes a Nyoongar perspective, highlight a problem in our discipline. Consciously or unconsciously, in attending to the Mudrooroo affair the way we have, we have defended our territorial interests much as anthropologists have defended theirs. We have privileged Mudrooroo's story over the Mutant Message affair because it is our story. His Aboriginality legitimized our critical practice; his authenticity legitimized ours. Moreover, in addressing the issue of his authenticity the way we have, we have resisted threats to the comfortable disciplinary boundaries that allow us to theorize Aboriginal authenticity without consulting Aboriginal groups like Dumbartung, who might censor us or question our well-theorized prerogatives to do so. Finally, while allaying our territorial anxieties, we have displaced a disciplinary imperative of decolonization with an imperative of self-legitimization, undermining any moral legitimacy postcolonial studies may have once had.



[1] While interpreting Bhabha's deployment of the term ambivalence, Robert Young describes its origins in psychoanalysis "where it was first developed to describe a continual fluctuation between wanting one thing and its opposite" (Robert Young, Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race , New York: Routledge, 1995, p. 161). Thus while ambivalence reveals itself through conscious acts, it operates on the level of the unconscious.

[2] See Roger Sandall, "Romancing the Stone Age", smh.com.au: Spectrum , 12 May 2001, <http://www.smh.com.au/news/0105/12/spectrum/spectrum2.html> (22 May 2001). Excerpts from the collection also appeared prominently in The Age and The Australian.

[3] David Martin, "native title", The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture , eds. Sylvia Kleinert and Margo Neale, Toronto: Oxford, 2000, p. 659.

[4] ibid. , p. 660.

[5] Ann McGrath, ed., Contested Ground: Australian Aborigines under the British Crown , St. Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1995, p. xxx.

[6] Ken Gelder and Jane Jacobs, Uncanny Australia: Sacredness and Identity in a Postcolonial Nation , Carlton South, Vic.: Melbourne UP, 1998, p. 23.

[7] Peter Bishop, "Driving Around: The Unsettling of Australia", Studies in Travel Writing , 2 (Spring 1998): 150.

[8] Keith Windschuttle, The Fabrication of Aboriginal History. Vol. One. Van Diemen's Land: 1803-1847 , Paddington, NSW: Macleay Press, 2002, pp. 2-3.

[9] ibid. , pp. 5-6.

[10] ibid. , p. 3.

[11] L. R. Hiatt, "A New Age for an Old People", Quadrant , June 1997: 36.

[12] ibid. , p. 37.

[13] I refer here to two distinctive modes of anthropological study, evolutionist and functionalist. See John Morton, "anthropology" in The Oxford Companion to Aboriginal Art and Culture , eds. Sylvia Kleinert and Margo Neale, Toronto: Oxford, 2000, pp. 521-3. According to Morton, early Anthropology in Australia "was dominated by an evolutionist paradigm in which Aboriginal life was seen as exemplifying one of the most primitive stages of human evolution." The next mode to gain favour was functionalist Anthropology. Functionalist anthropologists were "interested in comparing systemic information about contemporary Aboriginal societies." However, the premises informing their approach differed from evolutionist anthropology in their essentialist premises about Aboriginality: "The implicit assumption was that only 'remote' Aboriginal groups had 'pristine' societies and cultures worthy of scholarly attention, while Aboriginal people in 'settled' areas were thought to have lost much of their culture and to have assimilated to European forms of existence, however imperfectly" (Morton, p. 522). Both modes of anthropological study serve settler hegemony.

[14] The first Message Stick contains a short report by John Stanton, Curator of the Berndt Museum of Anthropology at the University of Western Australia (See John Stanton, "Marlo Morgan's Mutant Message Down Under: An Anthropological Perspective", in Bounuh Wongee: "Message Stick": A Report on Mutant Message Down Under , ed. Robert Eggington Waterford, WA, 1995, pp. 41-44. Reprint, 1997, <http://dumbartung.org.au/stanton2.html>, 24 October 2003). The report is one of many documents Dumbartung used to support their position. Others included testimonials from the wider Aboriginal community, letters of support for the campaign, and media reports.

[15] Hiatt, "A New Age", p. 37.

[16] Eggington, "First Report," pp. 12-13.

[17]Hiatt, "A New Age", p. 37.

[18] Hiatt makes his case based on a report by Susan Wyndham in which she states that Morgan gave away 85,000 copies of her book ("The Mystery of Marlo Morgan Down Under", The Australian Magazine , 29-30 October 1994, p. 26). That figure, like many others bandied about to promote the book, should be questioned. Even if one were to accept the figure, however, one would have to question Hiatt's judgment of Morgan's motivations based on other facts revealed in Wyndham's report: for instance, the article also mentions that Morgan, working on commission for a company in Idaho, used her book to sell tea tree oil as an Aboriginal curative for sore feet until the company told her to desist (Wyndham, p. 54).

[19] Hiatt, "A New Age", p. 39. Here, Hiatt challenges a position articulated by anthropologist Julie Marcus: "Settler attempts to tap into the power of the Rock are seen by local Aboriginal people as simply more of what has gone before-now, settlers are mining Aboriginal culture rather than the body of the land itself" (Julie Marcus, "The journey out to the centre: the cultural appropriation of Ayer's Rock", in Race Matters: Indigenous Australians and 'Our' Society , eds. Gillian Cowlishaw and Barry Morris, Canberra, ACT: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1997, p. 46.)

[20] Hiatt, "A New Age", p. 39.

[21] ibid. , p. 38.

[22] While several of the essays published in Annalisa Oboe's Mongrel Signatures (2003) deal directly with the Mudrooroo affair, the collection itself does not focus exclusively on the issue. See Annalisa Oboe, ed., Mongrel Signatures: Reflections on the Work of Mudrooroo , Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2003.

[23] Maureen Clark has made the most significant contributions to the academic debate concerning Mudrooroo (See "Unmasking Mudrooroo", Kunapipi 23.2 [2001]: 48-62; "Mudrooroo and the Death of the Mother", New Literatures Review , 40 [Winter 2003]: 83-102; "Colin Johnson/Mudrooroo [1938 - ]", Dictionary of Literary Biography: Australian Literature 1950 - 1975 , Columbia, South Carolina: Bruccoli Clark Layman, 2004, pp.168-74). But even Clark cannot be said to have engaged Dumburtung in a meaningful consultation. She does make passing mention of Dumbartung's role in "Unmasking Mudrooroo", if only to suggest that Eggington's stance oversimplifies the issue of Mudrooroo's Aboriginal identity: "Mudrooroo's case should not be confused by this widely published series of non-Aboriginal impostures" says Clark contextualizing his case in light of others. "Nor does it fit neatly within the context of the latest charges brought, in particular, by activist Robert Eggington on behalf of the Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation" (p. 49). Clark reads Eggington's charges in light of his perceived espousal of Australian regulations defining Aboriginality. My meetings and interviews with Eggington between May of 2001 and July of 2004 highlight a different side of his position. First, he asserts that the issue of Mudrooroo's identity is Nyoongar business because the writer claimed to be Nyoongar. It is also family business for Dumbartung's coordinator because Eggington is married to a Kickett. The Kickett family approached him about Mudrooroo's claims, asking for Dumbartung's help, and the Aboriginal Corporation proceeded to deal with the issue following Nyoongar protocol. Clark's reliance on newspaper reports concerning Eggington's position (See Note 6, p. 60) leads to a critical oversimplification of that position: while her reading does acknowledge that meetings were conducted "following the dictates of Aboriginal tribal law" (p. 50), it disregards the centrality of that law to Dumbartung's stance on Mudrooroo. When Clark emphasizes the attention Eggington calls to the fact that Mudrooroo cannot lay claim to Aboriginal identity based on federal regulations, she de-emphasizes the privilege he claims for Nyoongar protocol in determining the writer's status. And in the process, she de-emphasizes Eggington's assertion of Nyoongar political autonomy.

[24] At my last count in 2001, Dumbartung's "Wall of Shame" consisted of thirty 4' x 6' panels dedicated to issues of cultural appropriation in Australia. Ten of these panels are dedicated to the anti- Mutant Message campaign.

[25] Debra Jopson, in an article concerning the Mudrooroo affair, cites this qualified reaction from prominent postcolonial critic Bruce Bennett: "The professor of English at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Professor Bruce Bennett, described Mr Eggington's calls as an 'extreme reaction': 'Forms of censorship of that kind are probably a bad idea,' he said" (Debra Jopson, "Destroy Books: Black Group", Sydney Morning Herald , 25 March 1997, p. 5). More recently, Maureen Clark equated Eggington's call for radical censorship with "a repressive Nazi Germany when the books of 'undesirable' authors were repeatedly burned" (See Clark, "Colin Johnson [Mudrooroo]", p. 174). Clark's comparison of this Nyoongar call for censorship with actual Nazi book burning involves a disturbing revision-perhaps, even reversal-of historical and contemporary settler/indigenous power relations in Australia. In fact, in interviews I conducted with Eggington, he revealed that such calls for censorship were strategic, assertions of the Nyoongar right to define how Nyoongar knowledge is circulated. He knew that "there was probably little possibility . there ever was going to be a result of a ban", but he felt it important to make that assertion anyway (Robert Eggington, interview with author, Waterford, Western Australia, 21 January 2004).

[26] The exceptions are two opinion pieces published in Westerly : Graeme Dixon, "The Mudrooroo Dilemma", Westerly , 41 (Spring 1996): 5-6; and Tom and Lorna Little, "The Mudrooroo Dilemma", Westerly , 41 (Spring 1996): 7-8. Nyoongar elder Rosemary Van den Berg also comments briefly on the affair in an article concerning intellectual property rights (See "Intellectual Property Rights for Aboriginal People", Mots Pluriels 8 [October 1998]: 1-5. Reprinted at < http://www.arts.uwa.edu.au/motspluriels/mp898rvdb.html>.

Other Aboriginal writers and scholars have commented on the affair, such as Ruby Langford Ginibi (See "The Right to be a Koori Writer", The Australian , 7 August 1996, p.12) and Gary Foley (See "Muddy Waters: Archie, Mudrooroo & Aboriginality", May 1997, <http://www.kooriweb.org/foley/essays/essay_10.html>, 10 October 2004). However, neither Langford Ginibi nor Foley are Nyoongar, so while their contributions to the debate are valuable in many ways, especially given that Mudrooroo's case affected the broader Aboriginal literary and academic communities, they should not preclude a meaningful consultation with representatives of the Nyoongar community.

[27] As Stephen Gray suggests, Western notions of censorship can serve Western hegemony. He traces contemporary Western notions of the artist-"as a lone genius, possibly starving in a garret, his or her imagination roaming unfettered across national, racial and sexual boundaries, beyond questions of politics and with a privileged access to truth"-to its liberal humanist origins in the 18 th and 19 th centuries. To a society that values this kind of artist "Censorship is anathema" (Gray, "Black and White", p 107). He notes, however, that indigenous concepts of the artist as a cultural custodian privilege the good of the community over the freedom of the artist: "All stories are owned and have rights and responsibilities attached to them which are more important than the author's theoretical individual freedom. Truth arises from a social reality which entitles the author to speak, and the author's duties to the culture or milieu from which the stories arose is privileged over their individual creativity" (Gray, "Black and White", p 108). And George E. Marcus sees indigenous calls for strict controls over the dissemination of cultural property/knowledge as sophisticated, even radical, gestures tied to political aspirations: "Claims to cultural property have been forged from pre-existing bodies of law concerning cultural property as it applies to national patrimony and to intellectual property law, particularly in relation to artistic production. What makes the claims of indigenous peoples so potentially provocative to Western liberal thought is that they define a form of cultural property that does not respect the nation-state ..." (George E. Marcus, "Censorship in the Heart of Difference: Cultural Property, Indigenous Peoples' Movements, and Challenges to Western Liberal Thought", in Censorship and Silencing: Practices of Cultural Regulation , ed. Robert C. Post, [Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities, 1998], p. 233). Claims to cultural property thus complement claims to political autonomy and self-government.

[28] On two occasions, while engaged with fellow academics concerning Dumbartung's position on Mudrooroo, I have heard Eggington dismissed as a radical.