Johanna Gondouin, Suruchi Thapar-Björkert and Ingrid Ryberg
AND THE POLITICS
OF REPRODUCTION IN TOP
OF THE LAKE: CHINA GIRL
Jo ha n na G ond ouin, Suruc hi Thapar- Björ k ert
a nd I ngr id Ry berg
op of The Lake: China Girl (Australia, Jane Campion, 2017) is the sequel
to Jane Campion and Gerard Lee’s crime series Top of the Lake from
2013, directed by Campion and Ariel Kleiman. After four years of absence,
Inspector Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) returns to the Sydney Police Force
and comes to lead the murder case of an unidentified young Asian woman,
found in a suitcase at Bondi Beach
microcosm. They have dramatised her negotiated bid for selfhood and status within what might be called the national house, that is, within
the inherited and correlated structures of both family and nation-state.
This chapter will address how three very diﬀerent postcolonial women
writers, each one a ‘daughter’, if lost or prodigal, to one or other nation, have
written themselves into the national family script, or redrafted the daughter’s
relationship to the national father. The novels in question are: the expatriate
Australian Christina Stead’s The Man Who Loved Children
others and our
earthly environs, and I explore the potential contribution of literature to
this cultural work of ‘deep sustainability’.
The ‘transdisciplinary’ research programme advocated by Fischer et
al. is modelled by the article itself, which arose from a multi-perspectival
workshop on sustainability hosted by the Australian National University’s
Fenner School of Environment and Society. Its seventeen co-authors include
physicists and ecologists, geographers and engineers, agricultural scientists
and conservation biologists, along with the co-founders of Australia’s
exile, they use the critical distance of narrative to denaturalise or ‘de-doxify’ the neocolonial system of truth (where ‘doxa’ represents
received public opinion).20 In this regard the practice of the African and South
Asian writers discussed in this book departs interestingly from that of contemporary novelists in, for example, postcolonial Australia. As in Peter Carey’s
Illywhacker (1985) or Murray Bail’s Eucalyptus (1998), national signiﬁers, no
matter how self-reﬂexive and postmodernly arch, are deployed in sizeable
numbers not merely to signify but eﬀectively to
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Lorde, A. (1984). Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. London: Sheba Feminist
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Washington, D.C. Chicago: University of
these elite-generated narratives,
Jameson’s thesis is almost a necessary hypothesis, as Neil Lazarus has argued;
or, at least, a self-fulﬁlling prophecy.36 Yet these metaphors and allegories are,
I would say, discernible in most novels that collude with and condone processes
of nationalist self-determination – such is the insight of Jameson’s hypothesis.
Take only such examples as Peter Carey’s rewriting of Rushdie for Australia in
Illywhacker (1985), Don de Lillo’s Underworld (1997), which charts a ‘halfcentury’ in the ‘soul’ of American culture, and Ian McEwan
into a historical place in modernist Scottish writing but also representing new
and exciting work in the freshness of readers’ responses. But they also provide a
warning. The disappearance and reappearance of women in history and in
writing – the surges of activity in the last two hundred years, the reinvention of
commitment and analysis of women’s position, is echoed in the writing of
women, each generation forgetting and losing the work of the generation before
last. Might this cycle recur in Scotland and elsewhere (in Australia, Canada,
Ireland or the US, for
vulnerable trans lives. Gondouin et al.’s chapter on the TV series Top of
the Lake: China Girl (Australia, Jane Campion, 2017) sheds light on the
conflicting discourses of reproductive rights and reproductive justice, and
how white and non-white vulnerabilities carry different affective weights in
popular narratives about transnational commercial surrogacy.
In addition to the human rights discourse on vulnerability as an issue
of structural differences between groups and exposure to risks, the proliferation of the language of vulnerability is also evident in
of unclear recording. The builders kindly donated the objects to
the local heritage centre but details were not collected at the time.
24 A date for the shoes was kindly provided by staff at the Boot and Shoe Collection
at Northampton Central Museum and Art Gallery.
25 My gratitude must be extended to Alan Massey for permission to use his unpublished
26 Merrifield, Archaeology, p. 182. Many witches from the US, Australia, Europe and
England have informed me via email that they use witch-bottles. The contents in
some cases are identical to early witch