Call for Expressions of Interest in the Southern Perspectives 2010 seminar series

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‘I have a different idea of a universal.’
Aimé Césaire

Expressions are sought for a series at the Institute for Postcolonial Studies that explores Australia’s place in the emerging south-south conversations. This ‘call’ in Australia will be followed by a ‘response’ in 2011 from elsewhere in the south.

‘South’ is used here as a trope to frame new conversations that are emerging beyond the transatlantic metropolitan grid. In the colonial ‘hub and spokes’ model, non-Western countries needed to connect to the colonial centres in order to engage with each other. But recently there have emerged alternative south-south networks for academic dialogues.

The concept of the Global South developed in the 20th century as an attempt to represent the fundamental divide between rich and poor countries, with an argument that the wealth of the North was dependent on the low wages and prices for resources of the South. While this reading continues in south-south dialogues, there is also discussion about the reformulation of knowledge to reflect conditions unique to the South, particularly in regard to Indigenous cultures.

Australia’s intellectual engagement with the South has been partly through postcolonial theory. This has involved rich dialogue between the centre and periphery about the impact of colonisation, not only in economics but also in cultural identity. While this dialogue continues, an important question emerges: How do we engage with the emerging south-south conversations? These are not to be found in the expected places or heard through familiar voices.

So what is Australia’s relation to south-south? Though geographically very much at the bottom of the world, Australia’s orientation in culture and economy seems mostly of the North. Is there a ‘middle path’ parallel to that taken by Australia in diplomatic relations? What does it mean to be the ‘most Asia literate nation in the collective West’?

The Southern Perspectives seminar series is designed to explore the emerging south-south discourse. It begins by reviewing Australia’s place in the world, with particular regard to its engagement with the Global South, including Africa, Latin America, South Asia and the Pacific. From this basis, it will be possible to explore the new (and old) thinking here that engages with south-south. Then some of the new southern voices themselves can be heard.

Topics include:

  • Extension of Indigenous Studies into ‘mainstream’ disciplines such as law and medicine
  • Ways of transmitting and storing knowledge that are alternative to the book
  • A way of understanding knowledge ‘ethically’ in terms of the impact it has on the world
  • Forms of exchange that are alternative to Western commodification
  • Modernism as a local phenomenon
  • Thinking adapted to the conditions of the South, including tropics, El Niño, climate change, sea level rising, etc.
  • The concept of ‘southern theory’
  • The impact of geo-politics on knowledge

This first step is a call for expressions of interest in participating in the series. We are interested not only in those who would like to participate directly, but also requests for issues or voices that might benefit from this platform.

Please send responses by 31 January 2010 to [email protected].


The image above is from the cover of El Trecero Mundo, La Unctad III y los Trabajadores (Santiago, 1972)

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