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Judging a book by its cover: some reflexions on the portrayal of betrayal

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journal contribution
posted on 02.06.2017, 01:13 by Crinall, Karen
This paper reflects on the process of viewing and constructing meaning about a book cover illustration which appears on a collection of Stolen Generation stories edited by Carmel Bird. The grainy black and white photograph, portraying six young girls of part Aboriginal descent, originally appeared under the heading "Homes are sought for these children" in a Darwin newspaper during the 1930s. It is an iconic representation of the betrayal of innocence, signifying the human suffering caused by the inherent racism of the then Australian government’s Aboriginal assimilation policies. It is also an ironic image, communicating the incongruence between the meaning of social justice at the beginning of the twentieth century and at its end. Guided by Michel Foucault’s oft-repeated caution that, "not everything is bad, but everything is dangerous" (Foucault 1991: 343), my intention is to share a subjective reflexion, and thereby raise some issues about the way we interact with, and invest truth in visual objects, such as photographs and the discourses which embed them in historical, social, political and cultural contexts.


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