Document Type

Book Chapter


In constructions of 'Australianness', the cast is, historically, male dominated. Archetypal and heroic, hyper-masculinised, white and heterosexual-figures such as the stoic bushman, brash bushranger, or the fearless ANZAC soldierl are routinely resurrected in cultural celebrations of Australian nationhood. Writing from culturally hybridised spaces such as Malaysia and Australia, Hsu-Ming Teo addresses the raced, gendered and sexualised basis of such constructions of nationhood in her second and most recent novel, Behind the Moon (2005a; hereafter referred to as BM). The novel articulates a politicised poetics of resistance through its renegotiation of an institutionalised and singularised model of Australian identity, one that focuses on these deeds of, and relationships between, white, heterosexual males. The narrative makes central a dysfunctional and triangulated 'mateship' between characters who have been traditionally 'othered' in stories of nation. Teo's critique of normative models of identity and the centring of characters whose countenance is not favoured, or desired, under the policing eye of whiteness because they are of Asian or African American ancestry, are gay or overweight, are too dark or too light-characters who are definitely and defiantly not like white-signals a timely arrival on the Australian literary scene. The novel is important in its examination of how individuals negotiate the gendered and raced binaries underscoring the concept of mateship while presenting this site as one of much needed complication and disavowal.