Discursive Belonging: Surviving Narrative in Migrant Oral History

Bryoni Trezise

Abstract

This article examines the performativity of textual remnants and oral histories in constituting the cultural identity of migrants in Australia, specifically the “non-British” New Australian migrant, circa 1950. It specifically analyses the rhetorical construction of New Australians in one oral history collection held within the State Library of New South Wales, to argue that migrants to Australia become caught within an impossible politics of discursive belonging. In this, the migrant must rely upon culturally acceptable narratives of survival in order to access representational visibility, at the same time as they attempt the survival of these normative narratives themselves. I use a performative writing methodology to restage the contingency of what can be understood as a national history of migrant identity in Australia.

Keywords

Migrant; cultural memory; oral history; performative writing; survival narrative; Australia

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