Translations, an autoethnography

Migration, colonial Australia and the creative encounter

By Paul Carter

Translations, an autoethnography


  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-5804-8
  • Pages: 336
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: December 2021
  • BIC Category: Humanities / Australasian & Pacific history, Society & social sciences / Anthropology, Anthropology, Anthropology, HISTORY / Australia & New Zealand, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Anthropology / General, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Emigration & Immigration, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Ethnic Studies / Australian & Oceanian Studies, Historical Geography
  • Series: Anthropology, Creative Practice and Ethnography


Translations is a personal history written at the intersection of colonial anthropology, creative practice and migrant ethnography. Renowned postcolonial scholar, public artist and radio maker, UK-born Paul Carter documents and discusses a prodigiously varied and original trajectory of writing, sound installation and public space dramaturgy produced in Australia to present the phenomenon of contemporary migration in an entirely new light.

Migrant space-time, Carter argues, is not linear, but turbulent, vortical and opportunistic. Before-and-after narratives fail to capture the work of self-becoming and serve merely to perpetuate colonialist fantasies. The 'mirror state' relationship between England and Australia, its structurally symmetrical histories of land theft and internal colonisation, repress the appearance of new subjects and subject relations. Reflecting on collaborations with Aboriginal artists, Carter argues for a new definition of the stranger-host relationship predicated on recognition of Aboriginal sovereignty. Carter calls the creative practice that breaks the cycle of repeated invasion 'dirty art'.

Translations is a passionately eloquent argument for reframing borders as crossing-places: framing less murderous exchange rates, symbolic literacy, creative courage and, above all, the emergence of a resilient migrant poetics will be essential.


Prelude: Broken Relations, migrant destiny
1 Movement Forms, migrant prehistory
2 Native Informants, enigmas of communication
3 Walking the Line, the endless arrival
4 Flow Paths, topologies of coexistence
5 Dirty Art, decolonising public space
6 The Prodigal Son, parables of return
7 Story Lines, creative belonging
8 Silenced Relations, migrant poetics
Postlude: Human Symbols, doubled identities

Works discussed


Paul Carter is Professor of Design (Urbanism) at RMIT University, Melbourne and author of The Road to Botany Bay

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