Water over skin
: a postcolonial analysis of the transformation of cultural identity

  • Daphne Geraldine Cazalet

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    My research project is grounded in my personal experience of migration and diaspora as an ‘Anglo-Indian’ woman of mixed-race descent. The research for my studio practice explores the metaphor of water over skin. My quest for identity is a journey resembling water that flows over lines of demarcation. The female body is a recurring theme. I see the female body inscribed within personal, psychological and physical boundaries involving landscape, domesticity and clothing. The studio practice employs a range of media including painting and screenprinting. Imagery is appropriated from Indian art and mythology; colonial history and family photographs from India and England. The work incorporates text from my own writing and a personal imaginative language based on Hindustani script. During the course of my doctorate the studio practice has shifted from individual paintings and printmaking to installations that are intended to evoke the experience of identity in transformation. The work has resulted in a major exhibition entitled Water Over Skin II.

    The exegesis embraces an interdisciplinary approach including history, cultural studies and autobiography. I draw upon the work of both visual artists from non western and Indigenous ethnic minorities and from film theory and literature. Embarked on a struggle for self discovery I have drawn on personal memory and history to engage in a critical interrogation of cultural identity from a postcolonial perspective. Issues of difference both racial and cultural form the basis of my research focused around the key themes of shame, the ‘third space’ of hybridity, race and gender. By referring to certain autobiographical elements and experiences from childhood, the transformation from a political assimilationist perspective is explored, deeply shaped by personal shame. Grounded in postmodernism and postcolonialism the exegesis draws upon wide ranging theoretical perspectives to provide a framework and context for my studio practice.
    Date of AwardSep 2009
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorSylvia Kleinert (Supervisor) & Sarah Scott (Supervisor)

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