Jean Devanny’s Fictional Critique of Whiteness and Race Relations in North Queensland
AbstractDevanny was a largely forgotten and disregarded figure in Australian political and literary history by the 1960s, but the newly revitalised feminist, race-conscious and postcolonial analyses of the 1970s allowed her work a new relevance. Devanny’s first novels were written in Wellington in the 1920s, and some feature Maori men in relationships with white women. Her Queensland novels begin when she visited the North engaged in political support for the Weil’s disease strike, out of which came Sugar Heaven (1936), and then Paradise Flow (1938)—both of which show white women choosing Migrant men (Italian and Jugoslav) over their white husbands—and after that, a planned cane industry trilogy, of which only the first volume, Cindie (1949), in which the white lady of the house has sex with a South Sea Islander indentured worker, would be published. The (also unpublished) “The Pearlers” offers a depiction of a white patriarch in simultaneous relationships with white and Indigenous women on Thursday Island, where she spent some time in 1948. Devanny moved to Townsville in 1950 to live; she published very little after that, although the already written Travels in North Queensland came out in 1951. The paper will consider how far Devanny can be viewed as working with an early style of 1990s “whiteness theory”, and also how, in this regard, one might think about her depiction (often scanty) of Indigenous characters in her north Queensland fictions.
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