I first read Toni Morrison’s Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination (1992) as an adult with an established career in the arts and culture sector, an emerging practice as a writer myself, and as a long-time critic of race relations in Australia. Morrison’s critique of the American literary canon resonated deeply with my own experiences as a racialised person working in and experiencing Australian culture. This collection of essays (converted from a series of lectures given by Morrison at Harvard University in the early 1990s) sparked a contemplative evaluation of what I saw being produced within the constructed borders of ‘Australia’, both physical and ideological. I began to consider how Australian Literature was representing racialised peoples in its texts. What influence do such representations have on the Australian national psyche? Conversely, what does this literature reveal about Australia itself, whether consciously or unconsciously?
Embrace Australia’s finest writers: subscribe to Meanjin
Subscriptions start at just $5 a month — which goes directly towards our writers’ fees.