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EcCentric Visions

Re Constructing Australia

By Gaile McGregor
Subjects Social Science, Anthropology, Ethnography, Literary Criticism, Cultural Studies
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Paperback : 9780889202290, 336 pages, May 1994
Ebook (PDF) : 9780889207004, 336 pages, January 2006


What this book represents is, quite literally, a “slice” of (white) Australian life. By noting the patterns and parallels that emerge in a random sampling of social phenomena of widely varying types, from soap operas to political behaviour, Gaile McGregor has constructed a model that, in its challenge to uniformitarianism, is a test case in ethnographic theory. Using methods ranging from the hermeneutic through the structuralist to the psychoanalytic, McGregor deploys the self-evidence of communal life and language to establish not only that all cultural phenomena are “patterned,” but that this patterning is unique to and consistent across the entire system.
Further, it not only influences but constrains the way the Australian conceptualizes, codifies and expresses his/her existential position. Hence the Australian predilection for icons of intermediacy: the verandah in architecture, the bush in literature, the beach in folk culture, the middle ground in landscape painting, the pub in everyday life. This identification with buffer zones between inside and outside not only mimics the Australian’s real bracketing between desert and ocean, but embodies his/her sense of disablement vis-à-vis both culture and nature, art and techne, super-ego and id, all of which are coded as feminine.


A stimulating and provocative analysis of Australia as one of the English-speaking post-frontier cultures....Its originality lies in the claim (and demonstration) that a substantial range of Australian `cultural phenomena' (films, novels, official histories, landscapes, television, political culture, etc.) are deeply patterned and structurally consistent across an encompassing `system.'

- Fred R. Myers, New York University, editor of CulturalAnthropology

Stimulating, perceptive, and extraordinarily accurate in its homing in on the crucial cracks in the fictions and myths Australia has composed for itself.... Easily the best book by a non-Australian on Australia that I have read.

- Graeme Turner, University of Queensland, co-author of Myths of Oz

There have been a number of interesting attempts ... in recent years to convert the travel account to scholarship. This is by far the best and most accomplished effort I have seen. Both the analytic and [the] descriptive writing are excellent.

- George E. Marcus, Rice University, co-author ofAnthropology as Cultural Critique