Gendered Violence in Indigenous Literature of Australia and Oceania: Surveying Archie Weller’s Day of the Dog, Keri Hulme’s the bone people, and Joseph Veramu’s Moving through the Streets

No Thumbnail Available
Byrge, Matthew Israel
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Middle Tennessee State University
Violence in Indigenous communities has often been studied in ways that attribute such violence to colonial conquest—when Indigenous land and autonomy were stripped away and replaced by a set of Western standards and rules. Colonialism and its effects contribute to Indigenous pain and feelings of unbelonging, as seen in many literary texts including the ones in this study; however, colonialism alone does not account for the complex and multi-faceted presence of violence within Indigenous communities and literary texts. The following study discusses three works by Indigenous authors—Archie Weller’s Day of the Dog from Australia, Keri Hulme’s the bone people from Aotearoa/New Zealand, and Joseph Veramu’s Moving through the Streets from Fiji—to demonstrate how literary depictions of the daily lives of Indigenous men offer valuable insights about different ways violence manifests itself in the present. For Weller, critics have misread the violence in his work by isolating it from other lived experiences. While violence and moments of disparity exist, Weller wants his readers to see the beauty and richness of Aboriginal lives that exist alongside violence. Next, Hulme brings attention to ways that the colonial imposition of Western conceptions of gender and sexuality continue to impact expressions of violence. Her novel calls into question the ways that performing and reasserting manhood can contribute to current family violence and explores ways to counter the erasures of non-binary genders and sexualities. Veramu’s novel also sees violence in a gendered context but looks at the ways performativity of gender and messages from the West about what a successful man looks like can affect the ways that young Indigenous Fijian men enact violence in their contemporary communities. While I approach these works as a Western critic, I practice a two-pronged approach of analyzing literary texts by using both Western and Indigenous scholarship in order to locate Indigenous knowledge at the center of the study and address ways that Western knowledge production impacts conversations about colonial and contemporary violence. I juxtapose texts from multiple nations with differing experiences of colonization to facilitate connections across contexts, but I also look at a variety of texts to reflect the rich diversity of experiences, perspectives, and literary production and counter tendencies to homogenize Indigenous men.
Australian literature, Fijian literature, Indigenous, Masculinity, New Zealand literature, Violence, Literature, Australian literature, Pacific Rim studies