Abstract: On 21st June 2007, Alexis Wright won Australia’s most prestigious literary award, the Miles Franklin Prize, for Carpentaria (2006) and received broad national attention as the first Indigenous Australian to be its sole recipient. This recognition of Indigenous cultural output coincided with the Federal decision to intervene the highly troubled, dysfunctional Aboriginal population in remote communities of the Northern Territory with a military and police task force. This paradox of recognition-repression highlights the tense edges of the Indigenous/non-Indigenous interface in contemporary Australia and reveals the continuing gap between Indigenous fact and fiction, reality and hope for a better future. As a textual locus of Indigenous cultural regeneration, Carpentaria questions the invasive nature of the Federal intervention in several ways. Not only does the novel stand out for bending Western literary genres into an Indigenous story-telling mode, but also for having “Dreamtime Narrative” critically engage with the neo-colonial management of Australian resources and human relations. Mainstream readers are exposed to the “strange cultural survival” (Bhabha 1990: 320) of the Indigenous diaspora that proposes drastic solutions for the devastation wreaked upon the Australian land through capitalism and its cultural corollaries. This article contextualises Wright’s fiction within wider developments in recent Indigenous literature and history, and traces how her awarded novel Carpentaria activates an Aboriginal epistemology of understanding human and country which defies mainstream politics of I/intervention and beckons towards a fresh beginning for Australia through a profound change of paradigm.

Keywords: Alexis Wright; Indigenous Australian literature; Northern Territory Intervention

Copyright © Martin Renes 2011. This text may be archived and redistributed both in electronic form and in hard copy, provided that the author and journal are properly cited and no fee is charged.