Phantom limbs and cultural ventriloquism

Communicating cultural difference as a novelist

Hsu-Ming Teo*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)


This essay considers the 'phantom presences' that shadow attempts by novelists in contemporary Australia to communicate within and across cultures. Cross-cultural communication is haunted by 'phantom limbs' in all sorts of ways: the phantom limb of the revenant white nation, the phantom limbs of various cultures migrants left behind, and the phantom limb of 'home' of 'landscapes [which] ache in all places of departures'. The essay explores technical issues of cultural representation a process which ultimately cannot avoid problematic constructions of self-orientalising ethnicity. I explain the personal context through which my novels Love and Vertigo (2000) and Behind the Moon (2005) were produced and the historical context of the novels' publication. I then consider the content of multicultural/ethnic Australian fiction within the broader context of Australian history, looking at how this legacy a legacy of phantom presences shapes cross-cultural writing as well as responses to this genre of fiction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)521-529
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Australian Studies
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2008

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