The Somerton Man: An Unsolved History

Ruth Balint


The case of the unknown man who died mysteriously at Somerton Beach in South Australia in 1948 remains an open police investigation, although the trail today has grown fairly cold. Revisiting the case, and the responses the mystery of his person have elicited, enables a special historical insight into Australia’s postwar society, and the ways in which the past is continually reshaped by the subjectivities of the present. Further, an unsolved case such as this provides for a unique kind of historical project. The limitations of a history without a coherent centre are myriad, yet so are the possibilities.  In this article, I explore the possibilities of an ‘unsolved history’, a history of dead ends, and argue that it is the very unknowable-ness of the Somerton Man that allows for a perception of history as multi-dimensional and complex.

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