Blood call and ‘natural flutters’: Xavier Herbert’s racialised quartet of heteronormativity
journal contributionposted on 10.05.2022, 02:31 by Liz ConorLiz Conor
National belonging for Xavier Herbert was intimately tied to interracial sexuality. ‘Euraustralians’ (‘half-castes’) were for Herbert a redemptive motif that could assuage the ‘awful loneliness of the colonial born’ by which he hinted at the land claim of settler-colonials as spurious. Herbert’s exposure of the spectrum of interracial sex—from companionate marriage to casual prostitution to endemic sexual assault—in his novels Capricornia (1938) and Poor Fellow My Country (1975) was unprecedented and potentially game-changing in the administration of Aboriginal women’s sexuality under the assimilation era. But his deeply fraught masculinity was expressed through a picaresque frontier manhood that expressed itself through this spectrum of relations with Aboriginal women. For all his radical assertions of a ‘Euraustralian’ or hybrid nation, Herbert was myopic and dismissive of the women attached to the ‘lean loins’ he hoped it would spring from. He was also vitriolic about the white women, including wives, who interfered with white men’s access to Aboriginal women’s bodies. In this article I examine how Herbert’s utopian racial destinies depended on the unexamined sexual contract of monogamy and the asymmetrical pact to which it consigned white men and white women, and the class of sexually available Indigenous women, or ‘black velvet’, it rested on in colonial scenarios of sex.