Negotiating the “Drunken Aborigine”: Alcohol in indigenous autobiography

Sam Dalgarno

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article approaches the question of how Aboriginal Australians describe their own experiences of drinking alcohol, sometimes to excess, and how they recover, through a reading of seven autobiographies alongside the scholarship on Aboriginal drinking. The evidence contained in these life stories stresses personal factors and adds to the picture we glean from the scholarship, whether academic or governmental, epidemiological, anthropological or historical, which explains Aboriginal drinking habits in more social terms. Thus, the autobiographies themselves make an important intervention into the scholarship on Aboriginal drinking. Beyond this, negotiating with the stereotype of the “drunken Aborigine” is unavoidable for Aboriginal people who write about their drinking and these autobiographies represent a challenge to this popular image. This article examines a previously unexamined discourse on Aboriginal drinking that goes some way towards undermining the public representation of a drunken Aboriginal culture while simultaneously giving individual Aboriginal Australians greater voice in describing their past and current experiences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-64
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Australian Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2018


  • Aboriginal
  • Alcohol
  • Alcoholism
  • Autobiography
  • Drinking

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