Demographics, Culture and Epistemology in Sally Morgan's 'My Place'

Topics: Indigenous Australians, Indigenous peoples, Culture Pages: 6 (1777 words) Published: March 10, 2013
Seminar Paper



Course Code: BHE 502

Course Title: Contemporary Literature


Submitted by:
ENROLL. NO. A0706110041

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"Sally Morgan's 'My Place' plays an important role in Australian Aboriginal literature because for the first time it provides non-Aboriginal readers with knowledge of hidden indigenous history."[1] It gives them an insight into the lives of their ancestors and the atrocities suffered by them through the individual experiences of Morgan's mother Gladys, grandmother Daisy (Nan), and her brother (Arthur Corunna). The book relies much on oral historical accounts of Morgan's family which can very much be extended to the experiences of the Aboriginal population of Australia in general. The inflow of migrants into Australia affected the demographics, culture and epistemology of the native people as it sidelined their beliefs in order to provide a stronger foothold for the faith, beliefs and philosophies of the migrants who drove the natives out of their peaceful and serene lives.

Before we proceed further, we need to understand the key terms in this paper - demographics which is related to demography which means "study of characteristics of human populations such as size, growth, distribution and vital statistics,"[2] so demographics roughly refers to the population aspects in the novel, culture meaning "a totality of socially transmitted behaviour patterns, arts, beliefs, institutions and all other products of human work and thought,"[3] and epistemology which refers to "the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity."[4] So, here it will refer to how the intrusion of the Europeans affected the beliefs, suppositions and philosophies of the native Aboriginals.

Talking about demographical aspects of My Place, a book comes fully alive when a readership is ready for it. My Place was somewhat fortunate in this regard. It appeared in 1987, close to a time when Australia was keen to set on a journey of 'Reconciliation' with the natives who had been wronged. The supposedly reconciliatory drift of the text has made it a subject of mainstream praise and Aboriginal criticism. It is about an Aboriginal family that refuses to acknowledge their identity since the young generation are made to believe a lie that they are Indians. It recounts Sally's, Gladys', and Arthur's personal experiences and engrosses the reader who tries to link these stories to the greater population of the Aboriginal families who suffered due to the invasive, partial and marginalizing policies of the government of the white man.

The book talks of how the native population was affected. The 'half-castes' as they were called, were taken away from their parents in the name of being granted good education. The government then placed them in what was called 'homes' and brutal treatment was meted out to them there. There are accounts of this in Arthur's, Gladys' and Daisy's stories. Morgan says in the book, "I mean, our own government had terrible policies for Aboriginal people. Thousands of families in Australia were destroyed by the government policy of taking children away."[5] All three of the them had been taken away and recount how learning the white man's language and ways destroyed their links with their own families. The result was that Arthur rarely got to see Daisy and Gladys spent most of her childhood away from her mother who needed her daughter's companionship very much in those years. The separation of brothers Arthur and Albert also suggest how native Australian close-knit families were broken up badly by the adverse policies of the white government in a blind bid to establish...
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