Category Archives: Australia

Ilana Goldstein talks about what Brazil might learn from Australian Indigenous arts

Wauja woven mask

Wauja woven mask

Looking from outside, Australia has been extraordinarily successful in developing an Indigenous cultural industry. This is particularly evident in painting, but is also present in other areas – craft, dance, film and music.

The situation is different in many other countries of the South. The regional cultures of Africa, Pacific and Latin America are quite rich, but the role of Indigenous artists is more marginal than in Australia. There are extremely few Indigenous artists exhibiting their work in Brazil. There are no Mapuche professional dance troupes in Chile. There no school of Khoi-San desert painting in South Africa.

Does the experience of Indigenous arts in Australia have something to offer other countries of the South? And what might these other countries have to give in return? What would be the best means of setting up this kind of exchange? How might this exchange further develop Indigenous arts in Australia? How does a southern exchange differ from the profiling of Indigenous art in centres such as the Musée de Quai Branly in Paris?

The session will explore these questions with a visiting academic from São Paulo, Brazil – Ilana Goldstein. Goldstein is in Australia with the task of understanding how the Australian model might be applied to Indigenous communities in Brazil such as the Tupi. The session will take the form of a conversation about what Australia and Latin American countries might have to share in Indigenous cultures.

Talk by Ilana Goldstein, UNICAMP – Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil

Response by Philip Morrissey, Academic Coordinator of the Australia Indigenous Studies program at the University of Melbourne, will be a respondent.

Event details

Ilana Goldstein ‘From Papunya to Rio: the model of Australian Indigenous art across the South’
Wednesday 31 March 2010, 7:30-9:00pm
Institute of Postcolonial Studies
78-80 Curzon Street
North Melbourne (map)
Tel: 03 9329 6381
Admission – $5 for waged, $3 for unwaged, and free for members

Raewyn Connell ‘Thinking South: Re-Locating Australian Intellectual Culture’ 18 March 2010

The first seminar in the Southern Perspectives series at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies features Raewyn Connell, author of Southern Theory: The Global Dynamics of Knowledge in Social Science. Her book has proven to be a significant and highly controversial intervention into sociology and related disciplines.She has spoken about Southern Theory in academic forums around the world. This is a rare opportunity to address the questions raised by this book at a public forum in Melbourne.

This is the outline of her talk:

Modern Australia was formed by colonial invasion, dispossession of indigenous people, dependent development, and social struggles – framed in turn by the British Empire, the American hegemony, and neo-liberal globalization.  Australian intellectual culture, formed to a large extent around universities whose institutional ideology emphasises a placeless modernism, has had difficulty in locating itself securely.  A tension has long existed, for intellectuals of the settler population, between intellectual extraversion (in Hountondji’s sense) at the price of dependence, and a resistant nationalism that acknowledges place at the price of marginality.  One path beyond this is engagement with the legacy of colonialism and the situation of Australia’s indigenous people now; another is engagement with the structures of world inequality, exploring connections around the global South.  In this session I will sketch our place in a global political economy of knowledge; discuss the intellectual wealth of the periphery; and assess responses by Australian intellectuals to the difficulties and possibilities of our location in the world.

Raewyn Connell is University Professor at University of Sydney. See interview.

Event details

Raewyn Connell ‘Thinking South: Re-Locating Australian Intellectual Culture’
Thursday 18 March 2010, 7-8:30pm
Institute of Postcolonial Studies
78-80 Curzon Street
North Melbourne (map)
Tel: 03 9329 6381
Admission – $5 for waged, $3 for unwaged, and free for members

After the Missionaries events

These events relate to the ‘After the Missionaries’ issue of Artlink, which includes articles about how artists are negotiating their paths through a more reciprocal world. For more information go here.

10 June FORUM Has the world changed?

  • Has the Kyoto Protocol changed how rich and poor countries relate to each other?
  • Is Australia moving away from the Anglosphere?
  • Is the Global Financial Crisis a time to look at alternative economic models?
  • Is ethical the new black?
  • Have artists changed in how they relate to the world around them?

You are invited to join a discussion in real time with live people in the same space. These people will include contributors to the ‘After the Missionaries’ issue of Artlink. With luck, there will also be some copies, hot of the press.

TIME: 6.00 -8.00 pm Wednesday 10 June
PLACE: Domain House, Birdwood Drive, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne
For more information, click here. To submit a question, email here. This event itself occurs in the context of Evolution – the Festival and the Amnesty of Ideas program of Southern Perspectives.

18 June OPENING World of Small Things: An exhibition of craft diplomacy
Craft Victoria, 31 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, opening 18 June 6-8, show open until 25 July
To be opened by Soumitri Varadarajan, Associate Professor of Industrial Design RMIT

20 June LAUNCH After the Missionaries issue of Artlink
The ‘After the Missionaries’ issue of Artlink will be formally launched at Craft Victoria, Saturday 20 June 4pm, by Dr Connie Zheng, senior lecturer in management at RMIT and expert in how Chinese do business. This will be preceded by a forum on working with traditional artisans (for more details, see here).

27 August THEREAFTER After ‘After the Missionaries’
There will be an opportunity to reflect on the questions raised by After the Missionaries at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies, 78-80 Curzon Street North Melbourne.

Copies of Artlink will be on sale from 15 June.

The Impact of the Antipodes on Ecological Thought: Landscape, Evolution, and Sustainability

Friday, 8 May 2009, 1–5pm
Sutherland Room, Holme Building, Science Road, The University of Sydney

Convenor:          Iain McCalman

  • Julia Horne         ‘Landscape and Wonder’
  • Peter Denney    ‘Picturesque Farming: The Sound of ‘Happy Britannia’ in Early Australia’
  • Martin Thomas      ‘Cross-Cultural Exchange in Arnhem Land: The Legacy of the 1948 American-Australian Scientific Expedition’
  • Richard Waterhouse  ‘Taming the ‘Wastelends’: the dream of the yeoman in Australian history’

From the eighteenth century, the discovery by Europeans in the southern hemisphere of new landforms, species and indigenous cultures prompted intense and continuing debate about natural economies (later called ecologies) on both sides of the world. We will explore these issues through papers on comparative art, aesthetics and landscape; on the rise of Darwinian evolutionary ecological theory; and on European scientific and Indigenous Aboriginal conceptions of nature and environmental management.

Nikos Papastergiadis considers a ‘spherical consciousness’

Nikos Papastergiadis is Professor of Cultural Studies and Media & Communications at the University of Melbourne. His recent publications include Spatial Aesthetics: Art, Place and the Everyday (Rivers Oram Press, 2006), Metaphor + Tension: On Collaboration and its Discontents (Artspace Publications, 2004) and The Turbulence of Migration (Polity Press, 2000). He has taught at the University of Manchester and was a co-editor of Third Text. Nikos has been at the forefront of thinking about the political and creative nature of South in articles such as ‘South-South-South’ Complex Entanglements: Art, Cultural Difference & Globalization, ed. Nikos Papastergiadis (Rivers Oram Press, 2003).

What role does South play in contemporary thinking?

The idea of the South has a long history. In the recent past it has been revived as a possible frame for representing the cultural context of not just regions that are geographically located in the South, but also those that share a common post colonial heritage. In this essay I explore the affinities and tensions between the south and parallel terms such as third world, antipodes. I argue that the South can extend the existing debates on cross cultural exchange, and provide a useful perspective for representing what I call a ‘spherical consciousness’ in contemporary art.

How does the current flow of ideas around South connect with the post-colonial discourse fostered by journals like Third Text?

From the outset in 1987 the art theory and art historical journal Third Text contested the terms, questioned the structures and challenged the history of western art. The tone of writing has varied from the academic, poetic to the polemical. While the journal was founded to develop a third world perspective on contemporary art and give voice to artists who have worked in a postcolonial context, and despite the shift in editorial policy which is more sceptical of post-colonial theory,[1] the journal continues to provide an invaluable documentary function that recovers and repositions the artistic practices that was either ignored or marginalised by the dominant art historical institutions. It also plays a leading role in presenting new methods for measuring the value and meaning of art. Art history is more than capable of discovering new entrants into its own canon, but the capacity to re-think the terms of entry and the field of relations that constitutes art is not generated from within, but through an interplay with different theoretical and cultural perspectives. The postcolonial critiques of Orientalism, hybridity and the subaltern that were first developed in literary and historical accounts provided vital stepping stones in this reconfiguration of art historical methodologies. A key challenge that confronted this discourse was to develop new ways of seeing and interpreting the differences between and within cultures. For instance, the introduction of the Derridean concept of supplementarity and Homi Bhabha’s interpretation of the process of cultural translation provided new means for understanding both the tensions that arise from the interaction between different cultural practices, and the emergence of novel forms of expressions. In short, this approach not only provided more evidence of emergent practices and the historical legacies of art from the South, but it also prompted the invention of critical tools for overcoming the classification of the South as exotica, periphery and primitivism.

What do you see as the relation between the geographic South and the Global South? Is it purely coincidental?

I understand the concept of the South as a loose hemispheric term that refers to a series of places that share similar patterns of colonization, migration and cultural mixture. For me the South is also expressive of a cultural imaginary that looks outward from its own national base and against the grain of its colonial past. This appeal to a more open-ended identity is, in one critic’s eye, a betrayal of a deep imperial history.[2] In other words, any use of the language that draws from metaphoric associations with the cardinal points of cartography risks being embedded in the naturalistic discourse of magnetic polarities.

In my mind the South is a more ambivalent concept.  It oscillates between a clarion call for antipodean rebelliousness and the stigmatic expression of the cultural cringe. Throughout Australia’s incomplete pursuit of republicanism the image of the Southern Cross has been a recurring symbol of resistance. It has been the trump card against the cultural imperialism of the North. Refusing to be defined by a measure that favours the North the Southern cultural chauvinist inverts this logic and declares that everything of value is already and always in the South. Peter Beiharz notes that the choices are not confined to the bad options of superior recognition according to metropolitan exclusivity or the provincial self-identification through splendid isolationism. He takes inspiration from the fact, and not just hollow boast, that distance from the North has enabled Australia to figure as the ‘world’s social laboratory of policy experiment.’ Indeed throughout the twentieth century Australia has been at the forefront of reforms and innovations in the three pillars of social welfare—wage arbitration, women’s right and multiculturalism. However, Beilharz’s narrative of the emergence of Antipodean civilizational tropes is bittersweet. While he duly notes that earlier achievements were influential in the Fabian social democratic debates, he is also painfully aware that Paul Keating’s realignment of the Labour Party with neo-liberalism paved the way for Tony Blair’s ‘third way’.[3] Keating’s own southern cultural imaginary that promised to take shape through a nascent republicanism and closer integration with Asia, was soon transformed into the target of populist scorn for the successive generations of political leaders.

In Central and Latin America a similar pattern of ambivalent identification is expressed in examples that stretch from Borges short story of the South as a frontier metaphor, Joaquim Torres Garcia’s corrective claim that the ‘North looks South’, to the analysis of cultural inferiority complexes in the writings of Octavio Paz, Gilberto Freyre and Eduardo Galeano, and more recently, the speech by Hugo Chavez in which he quoted Mario Benedetti’s poem ‘The South also Exists’.[4] Such enduring pathos for regional solidarity alongside the persistent failure to build a common cultural framework prompts a number of questions. Is the concept of the South the best frame or point from which to start, once again, as if for the first time, the endless task of collective identification? Is there any point at which the path of identity splits from the imperial past? Can such a wide spherical concept inflect the debates on planetary and cosmopolitan identity with a different historical texture and geo-political valency?[5]

How does living in Melbourne influence the way you think about the South?

I grew up in Middle Park. My strongest childhood memory is looking down the street and seeing an open horizon—the sea. My idea of the spherical consciousness starts from that view.

How can Australian universities connect with the South?

Less greed and more curiosity. Alan Davies made the call a long time ago. More than two decades ago the Australian political scientists Alan Davies suggested that ‘we should spend less time in awed upward contemplation of the great metropolitan centres and a good deal more looking sideways at the experience of like small nations, whose solutions should be better scaled to our problems, and whose definition of their problems are more likely to help us understand our own’.[6] He imagined a form of cultural exchange that would reveal insights and develop skills that would be more worthy of emulation because their fit would be closer to our own experiences. The transferability of knowledge would not be a form of adopting and applying models, but in the grasping of what Davies called the ‘nuances of likeness’.

[1] Rasheed Araeen, ‘Re–thinking History and some other things’, Third Text, Spring 2001, No 54, p 93

[2] Margaret Jolly, “The South in Southern Theory: Antipodean Reflections on the Pacific”, Australian Humanities Review, Issue 44, 2008, 79

[3] Peter Beilharz ‘Rewriting Australia’ Journal of Sociology 40, 2004

[4] Kevin Murray ‘Uruguay also Exists’

[5] See Paul Gilroy After Empire London, Routledge, 2004, and Ulrich Beck ‘The Cosmopolitan Manifesto’ World Risk Society, Cambridge, Polity Press, 1999

[6] Alan Davies, ‘Small Country Blues’ Meanjin Volume 44, Number 2, 1985, p 248

Australia too far away and not South enough



While this week the G20 summit of world leaders is meeting in London now, last week Chile hosted a gathering of policy thinkers to air ideas of how to go forward. The Progressive Governance conference certainly had political legs. It was hosted by the Chilean President Michelle Bachelet  and had presentations from the British MP Gordon Brown as well as the US VP Joe Biden.

The ideas themselves were hardly revolutionary, but provide extra support to leaders now as they attempt to find a common set of values. You can download their handbook of ideas here, which articulates familiar positions such as the need to resist protectionism, international equity and financial market governance.

In many ways, it was the location of this event as much as its content that made the intended statement. According to the Economist, ‘The fact that the meeting was being held in the southern hemisphere for the first time was also seen by some as a symptom of the world’s changing balance of power.’

The event’s organisers, Policy Network, had hosted four previous events in the north. But with the partnership of Michelle Bachelet, this time choose to locate the discussion on the other side of the world.

Where is this leading? In a discussion between the organisers, Roger Liddle, an advisor to Tony Blair, muses on where to meet next…

Liddle: Where do you think we can go that’s even further away? Australia?

As he chuckles at the prospect, Olaf Cramme quickly tries to quell the offense by turning it into a serious proposition. But it was certainly not intended as one. Prime Minister Kevn Rudd certainly hopes to be taken more seriously in London this week.

This is another example of the challenges Australia faces in finding a place for itself somewhere between the North and the South.

Dark Writing: Geography, Performance, Design by Paul Carter




Paul Carter’s new book is a protest against the dumbing down of imaginative thinking. It champions a common reader who resists being patronised, and who is hungry for a deeper understanding of the places we live in – how they came into being, and how, if their creative origins are remembered, they can be changed for the better.

Carter has a long-term interest in the poetic mechanisms of colonialism – mapping, naming, marking – and in this book he presents a critical philosophy of placemaking that recognises the historical burden of our ‘designs’ on the world. He transforms this into a new language of drawing, writing, and choreographing places into being. This, unlike its colonial predecessors, preserves the possibility of meeting, of something un-prescribed happening.

The key to this is what he calls ‘dark writing’: the elemental marks, historical traces, place associations, and other phenomena that shadow our positivist history of placemaking. But to take agency over our places, we must also relocate our thinking, as this will determine where and how we arrive. The place of Carter’s own thinking – situated, poetic, dynamic, opportunistic, and evolving in the laboratory of professional collaboration – complements his notion of ‘material thinking’. This approach respects the intelligence of circumstances and performs in relation to them.

Disregarding the disciplinary stand-offs that endure in our institutions, Dark Writing moves with ease between historical geography, continental phenomenology, major public artworks he has co-designed, a radical reappraisal of the Western Desert Painting Movement, and a survey of ‘dark writing’ in tomb art, photography and handwriting. But Carter’s goal is clear: to free our senses to occupy public space differently, not as passive spectators but as mobile bodies creatively endowing our environment with meaning.

Paul Carter’s many books include the acclaimed The Road to Botany Bay, The Lie of the Land and Repressed Spaces. He is Creative Director of Material Thinking, a placemaking research and design studio, and is currently designing a public space project in Darwin.

Peter Beilharz

Peter Beilharz is Professor of Sociology at La Trobe University where he edits Thesis Eleven, an interdisciplinary academic journal on theories of modernity. Here he offers his perspective on the way south.

My planned research includes a co-written book on the life and work of the founding mother of Australian sociology, Jean Martin; a book on the peculiarities of Australian modernity across the twentieth century; a shared book on the history of rock music in Australia; and a study of the work of Robert Hughes, to follow on my book on the work of Bernard Smith, Imagining the Antipodes. All this work is animated by the idea of thinking about the antipodes, rather than the south; and by the idea that culture works through cultural traffic . These concerns cross over with some of the agendas of our journal, Thesis Eleven. The Thesis Eleven Centre pursues some of these interests with collaborators in India, the Philippines, Thailand, and New Zealand. We would be very pleased to take them into South America. In addition, I have cause to consider my own location in all this – Australia and el Norte – as we construct the hundredth issue of Thesis Eleven, and begin to narrate our own stories, and as I work with Sian Supski , who is writing about my own work in its antipodean inflexions .

I find Bernard Smith’s thinking both interesting and innovative. Innovation often happens on the edges, and goes unnoticed . For Smith, the antipodes matters as a relationship rather than a place: wherever we are, we are always here and there at the same time. And then, culture is best understood not as emanation of place  but as the negotiation of these relationships .

I can see the effectivity of the idea of the South as a political slogan, but it has limits that cause me to have reservations. Culture does not map neatly onto geography . Much of the south is in the north culturally, and the other way round. What interests me is the traffic between peoples, cities and regions. We have a great deal to learn by looking sideways. I would like to see more dialogue on a southern axis, across Australia, New Zealand, South America, South Africa. But all these worlds are co-constituted by other worlds, and cannot be separated out from these entanglements any more than el Norte can be understood without reference to us. In this context I do not have especial priorities – everything should be open for discussion, where stories can be told in a comparative way, and actors can feel comfortable talking about experience or intellect in ways that get the sparks of imagination flying.

Interview with Raewyn Connell

Professor Raewyn Connell explains the thinking behind her book Southern Theory.

What were your aims in writing "Southern Theory"?

Fourteen years ago, when I began this work, I aimed simply to correct a historical error – the textbook belief that sociology was invented to explain the new industrial society of Europe. I found that the creation of sociology was in fact closely bound up with the cultural problems of imperialism (sociology originally concerned "progress" and centred on a contrast between "primitive" and "advanced" societies). Without intending to, this piece of historical research opened up other questions about the relations between social science and world society.

By the time the book was written, I had two main aims and one subsidiary. First, I wanted to show how mainstream ideas and frameworks across the social sciences, which are usually taken as universally valid, actually embed the specific viewpoint of the global North. I wanted to show in some detail just how this viewpoint works, for instance in shaping concepts like "globalization" or in the ideas of celebrated theorists. I wanted to show how the uncritical importation of Northern perspectives gives a strange twist to the way social science operates in the global periphery, in countries like Australia.

Second, I wanted to show that there are real alternatives. Southern theory isn’t just a pipe-dream, it actually exists – though mainly in texts that are not widely read. So much of the text of Southern Theory is a matter of gathering up social analyses from different parts of the periphery, and thinking about them as social theory – that is, taking them as seriously as we usually take Foucault, Habermas, or Bourdieu. I wanted to get names such as Hountondji, Shariati, Das, Nandy, Garcia Canclini, Mamdani, and others into wider circulation, and persuade readers that the debates they are involved in are crucial for social science. I wanted to argue that the periphery generates important issues and ideas, it doesn’t just receive them. I tried to show that in another way too, by discussing the land as a key issue for understanding society – an issue highlighted by the history of settler colonialism and the land rights struggles of indigenous peoples.

If I could make progress on those two aims, a third became relevant. I wanted to stir up a discussion about what a democratic social science would look like, if we thought about it on a world scale. Discussions about epistemology and the structure of knowledge usually happen in a separate box from discussions about globalization and world politics. But they have to be brought together, if the argument in Southern Theory is broadly correct. In the final chapter I have a go at that problem; it’s sketchy, but at least it’s there.

What has the response been, in the North and South?

It is early days yet, for reviews in academic journals; but the first that have appeared, a review symposium in a UK journal and a regular review in an Australian journal, are very positive. I have been invited to speak on these questions at conferences and departmental seminars – mostly in my own fields of sociology and gender studies – and people in the university world have responded with interest. The International Sociological Association is an important forum for me.

I can’t say that Southern Theory is a runaway best-seller, yet! There have been no reviews in Australian mass media, which disappoints me. But I think it is gradually getting known. A quotation from Southern Theory has been used by an artist as the theme for a poster, exhibited in Germany. The Australian Sociological Association has recently awarded it the Stephen Crook Memorial Prize for the best monograph in Australian sociology 2005-2007 – I shed some tears at the presentation. I have had supportive email messages from people in the periphery, who find the book helpful because it names problems that they also faced, i.e. it validates their experience. Some scholars, in the metropole as well as the periphery, are sending me papers in which they are already building on the ideas of Southern Theory in their own fields. That is particularly exciting for me, as I believe that the growth of knowledge is very much a collective work.

Of course there are criticisms. One is particularly interesting. When I gave a seminar on the ideas at a US university, there was criticism from one colleague who was disturbed at the risk involved. If graduate students were persuaded by Southern Theory to spend their time reading Shariati, Nandy, Hountondji and other exotic authors, they would be distracted from the business of learning the mainstream professional knowledge on which their careers depended. This is a real issue, I take it seriously. There are risks for social scientists in the metropole, in the kind of global re-shaping of social science that I think is necessary.

What do you think are some of the questions raised by the book?

One of the most difficult, constantly raised in critical discussions and reviews, is what is meant by the "South". I say several times in the book that there is no single Southern perspective, and in fact show that in great detail. But it is still a nagging question. The geographer’s "South" is not exactly the same as the "South" in UN trade debates, or the "third world", or the "less developed countries", or the economists’ "periphery", or the cultural theorists’ "post-colonial" world, or the biologists’ "southern world", or the geologists’ former Gondwana – though there is some overlapping along this spectrum. I mainly talk of "metropole" and "periphery", but there is enormous social diversity within each; recognizing the polarity is only the beginning of analysis, not the end.

It seems particularly difficult to think of Australia as "South" – though the name actually means South-ia – probably because it is a rich country in world terms, and likes to think of itself politically or culturally as part of the "West", heaven help us. Partly because of the dominance of the misleading concept of "globalization", which I dissect in the book, we don’t have well-developed concepts for understanding the power of periphery-metropole relations or the complexities of the periphery. So there is work to be done, understanding the economics of primary-exporting economies such as Australia’s, the culture of post-settler-colonialism, and the ways ethnicity, class and gender are shaped in the different societies of the periphery.

Another question raised by the book, at a very practical level, is how knowledge circulates in the periphery. Southern Theory is published in Australia and the UK, in English; and there will be a small edition published in India. There has been some discussion of translations into other languages, but no publisher has undertaken that yet. How would its arguments get known in Latin America, in Africa, or in China? Mainly, by the book being discussed by scholars in the USA and Europe! In fact, the best chance I have of the book becoming known in the global periphery, is if it gets used as a textbook in social theory courses in the metropole. The fact that we still rely on the metropole to circulate ideas around the periphery is a problem discussed in the book, and I don’t know what solutions there may be.

How are you following this line of thought?

Firstly, by discussing the ideas of Southern Theory in as many forums as I can, and trying to get social scientists to read the theorists introduced in it. That would be a success in itself.

Next, I’m trying to apply the perspective in other fields of my work. For instance in 2009 the second edition of my book Gender is being published, which makes more use of Southern research and theoretical work than most of the English-language literature in this field. I have been working on a global sociology of intellectuals, some of which lies behind Southern Theory in fact, and which I hope to sharpen up in the light of the book and responses to it.

Finally, I’m doing what I can to encourage other people, including students, to work on these problems. I don’t think Southern Theory is more than a beginning – a rank beginning in some of the areas it touches, given the problems of language. And of course it’s not the only thing in its field! There have been discussions of these and related issues in Latin America, in Africa and in Asia; so in the papers I write, I try to spread awareness of other texts and debates. The broader the process that unfolds, the better.

Raewyn Connell is University Professor at University of Sydney

Re-thinking the Indian Ocean


11th – 13th March 2009

This workshop will mark the inauguration of a new Indian Ocean research network supported by the University of Technology Sydney. It will aim to work collaboratively with the major Indian Ocean centres of research based in India and South Africa, but it will be innovative in two ways.

  • Firstly it will seek to strengthen the active interdisciplinarity of the field, drawing not only on cultural studies, history, economics and politics but on environmental studies, ecology, geography and the material studies of archaeology and the heritage fields.
  • Secondly it will seek to strengthen an active awareness of the eastern and southern quadrant of the Indian Ocean, namely South East Asia, Indonesia and Australia, tracing these lands’ myriad connections with each other and with the peoples on the African and South Asian shores of the Ocean.

This conference follows on from two conferences already initiated by the Indian Ocean researchers at UTS-“Culture and Commerce in the Indian Ocean” (Leiden, The Netherlands, 25th – 27th September 2006) and “Oceans of Story” (Perth, Australia, 5th to 7th February 2008).

This workshop is the first to emerge from our ARC-funded project that seeks to reassess relationships between colonies in the Indian Ocean area. These relationships were far more important than previous imperial (and anti-imperial) studies have suggested.

We hope that this perspective will lead to a significant new field of research, Intercolonial Studies, based not just on a comparison of settler-colonial experience, but also on the sharing of cultural inventions among colonised peoples. We hope to trace the circulation of people, plants and animals, of commodities, technologies and ideas around the Indian Ocean in a way that was relatively autonomous from imperial centres.

Nor is it only imperial-colonial interactions which interest us, for there were also important sub-imperial connections involving more margjnal European peoples. For example, in the early nineteenth century merchants from the vestigial Portuguese areas in India operated in the interstices of the British framework, enabling them to participate fully in the opium trade to China.

We will focus particularly on sea connections between the land masses of the Indian Ocean, and the cultures and histories of seafaring life, particularly those of the subaltern crews and the lower deck passengers, the cargoes, the stowaways and especially the ideas which travelled with them all.

The themes of this workshop may include

  • Subaltern and creole connections across imperial boundaries
  • Islands in the ocean as sites of heightened connectivity
  • The dissemination of knowledges, especially via printing presses using vernacular languages
  • Comparisons and insights from Atlantic studies
  • The validity of terracentric models and themes for oceanic studies
  • Subaltern people at sea and on land:  stokers, sailors, wharfies, bar owners, prostitutes
  • The adoption, adaptation and transfer of technologies
  • Patterns of religious connections, and ties to Mecca and Rome
  • New epistemologies for Indian Ocean studies and the ambivalent promise of Cultural Studies
  • Indigenous groups flourishing in the entrails of the ‘British lake’ in the nineteenth century
  • Imperial and indigenous literatures:  e.g. Joseph Conrad v. Amitav Ghosh; Wilber Smith v. Abdulrazak Gurnah; Ibn Battuta v. Vasco da Gama

More information here.