The Australian Country Girl: History, Image, Experience

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  • Catherine Driscoll, University of Sydney, Australia
  • The Australian Country Girl: History, Image, Experience offers a detailed analysis of the experience and the image of Australian country girlhood. In Australia, 'country girl' names a field of experiences and life-stories by girls and women who have grown up outside of the demographically dominant urban centres. But it also names a set of ideas about Australia that is surprisingly consistent across the long twentieth century despite also working as an index of changing times.

    For a long period in Australian history, well before Federation and long after it, public and popular culture openly equated 'Australian character' with rural life. This image of Australian-ness sometimes went by the name of the 'bush man', now a staple of Australian history. This has been counterbalanced post World War II and increased immigration, by an image of sophisticated Australian modernity located in multicultural cities. These images of Australia balance rather than contradict one another in many ways and the more cosmopolitan image of Australia is often in dialogue with that preceding image of 'the bush'.

    This book does not offer a corrective to the story of Australian national identity but rather a fresh perspective on this history and a new focus on the ever-changing experience of Australian rural life. It argues that the country girl has not only been a long-standing counterpart to the Australian bush man she has, more importantly, figured as a point of dialogue between the country and the city for popular culture and for public sphere narratives about Australian society and identity.
  • Contents: Introduction: ‘the Australian country girl’. Part I Assembling Australian Country Girlhood: Becoming a country girl (Gough, Kate, the CWA, and me); Miss Showgirl (rural girlhood and representation). Part II History, Image, Experience: The bush-girl (a pastoral); The country town girl (a soap opera). Part III Place and Practice: Subjects of distance: (country) girl culture capital; Home economics (nowhere to go, nothing to do); Ex-country girls (a human geography). Bibliography; Index.
  • About the Author: Catherine Driscoll is Associate Professor of Gender and Cultural studies at the University of Sydney, Australia. She is the author of Teen Film: A Critical Introduction (Berg Publishers); Modernist Cultural Studies (University Press of Florida) and Girls: Feminine Adolescence in Popular Culture and Cultural Theory (Columbia University Press).
  • Reviews: ‘From the romantic nostalgia extended to the bush girlhoods of yesteryear to the challenges facing young rural women today, the significance of the Australian Country Girl within national culture illuminates the gendered and spatial dimensions of Australian experiences. This rich study by Catherine Driscoll draws on historical and ethnographic perspectives to explore the varied and complex lives of country girls, and makes an original and important contribution to our understandings of Australian national identity.’
    Kate Darian-Smith, University of Melbourne, Australia

    'The Australian Country Girl weaves a captivating analytic trail that encourages us to think again about what constitutes the rural and the significance of place, time and gender for researching and theorizing young femininities. Deploying an “interdisciplinary empiricism” that exploits the potential of reflexive place-based ethnography, cultural studies and political historical archives, Driscoll creates a rich and dynamic assemblage of how “country” and “girl” travel in and across policy, practice, film, popular culture and in the everyday lives of girls themselves.’
    Emma Renold, Cardiff University, UK

    'Drawing on an extraordinarily diverse range of primary and secondary sources including film, television dramas, radio, fiction, policy documents, statistics and data drawn from the author’s ‘working ethnography’ (p.11) in eight fieldwork locations, each section of this book weaves an intricate analysis … The text is theoretically sophisticated, nuanced and critical. Foucault, Latour, Bourdieu Delauze and Guattari are all used and to great effect.'
    The Australian Country Review

    'Catherine Driscoll … provide[s] an in-depth, honest, and reflexive discussion that strives to push through current clichés and capture a more authentic view on the Australian country girl.'
    Children, Youth & Environments

    'This rich study makes an important contribution to Australian cultural history…'
    Australian Historical Studies