‘Little Difference between a Carcass and a Corpse’: Ecological Crises, the Nonhuman and Settler-Colonial Culpability in Australian Crime Fiction

Rachel Fetherston


In 1997, Stephen Knight described Australian crime fiction as a genre that is ‘thriving but unnoticed’ (Continent of Mystery 1). While in recent years Australian crime fiction has gained more attention amongst both academics and reviewers, it is still missing from an area of study in which I believe it demands more notice—that is, ecocritical discussions of Australian fiction. In this paper, I investigate the idea of Australian crime fiction as a largely underexplored representation of the modern environmental crisis, discussing how modern Australian crime fiction often portrays the troubling relationship between human violence and the settler-colonial decimation of Australia’s natural environments and nonhuman animals. Such a relationship indirectly alludes to the impact of a changing climate on Australian communities and ecosystems and suggests that popular genre fiction can contribute in profound ways to broader environmental considerations. With this ecocritical framework in mind, this paper analyses the representation of drought, bushfire and the nonhuman in Jane Harper’s The Dry (2016) and Chris Hammer’s Scrublands (2018), and what such texts reveal to readers about the criminal nature of anthropogenic climate change and the settler-colonial destruction of Australian habitats.


crime fiction, nonhuman, climate change, ecocriticism, postcolonial literature

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