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Reorienting the Postcolonial Symposium: Sunday 10 July to Wednesday 13 July at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies, Melbourne

July 10, 2016 @ 8:00 am - July 13, 2016 @ 5:00 pm


Reorienting the Postcolonial Symposium

The Institute of Postcolonial Studies, in partnership with the Australia India Institute, is hosting a symposium from the evening of Sunday 10 July to Wednesday 13 July to mark the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the IPCS. Strong support has been provided by Arena Publications, the Church of Mark the Evangelist in North Melbourne and the Australian Centre for Latin American Studies at ANU.

The focus of the symposium will be on postcolonialism applied, meaning an approach to knowledge interested in the doing, that is, action-oriented and grounded in its practices. For some years there have been calls for postcolonialism to move in this direction—from the word to the world, from past to present, from exceptional moments to the everyday. Recently they have gained traction. For instance, the Times Higher Education of 28 January 2016 featured an opinion piece entitled ‘Post-colonial studies: time to step out of the comfort zone?’ Our own initiative is perhaps less of a response to immediate events, evolving as it has over a longer time frame. From quite early in its history the Institute has been branching out from its more narrowly academic agenda.

Symposium themes

  •  Alternative traditions and independent scholarly communities

In conversation, Ashis Nandy (Centre for the Study of Developing Societies) will discuss neglected approaches to the political, often embedded in culture and myth, and attempts to challenge the hold of modernist thought.

Aparna Devare (University of Hyderabad) will look at the life of Bal Gandharva, who chose to enact feminine roles in Marathi musical plays. This is a case in which transgressing gender lines was socially acceptable both in terms of the artist’s life journey and the manner in which he was received by the Marathi public.

  • Literature, the humanities and the problem of Global Capital

Amit Chaudhuri (novelist, critic and musician) will speak on possible histories of the literary, rejecting the idea of an ‘alternative history’. Key terms will be ‘winning’, ‘losing’ and ‘celebration’.

Paul Carter (RMIT) has entitled his talk: ‘Topology and grace: the future in the humanities’. He will suggest that the humanities have been politically ineffective because of their failure to articulate the distinctive ground on which they stand.

  • The relationship between Indigenous peoples and whitefella’s Australia

Arena Publications has organised a team of five speakers to discuss postcolonial dilemmas of Indigenous Australia in two related sessions.

Philip Batty (Museum of Victoria), Gary Foley (Victoria University) and Melinda Hinkson (Deakin University) will discuss self-determination and beyond. Jon Altman (Deakin University) and Tony Birch (University of Melbourne) will take up questions about Indigenous practices and the future of the planet.

In addition, Emma Kowal (Deakin University) will deliver a paper: ‘ Haunting biology: science and Indigeneity in Australia’. Contributing to postcolonial science and technology studies, she will bring the absent past to bear on present biological research.

John von Sturmer (IPCS) has chosen as his subject ‘How I write/wish to write’: ‘The extent of our colonisation can be gauged by the extent and insistence of the censorious voice…The colonial will not be overcome by arguing in its terms or through its semblances of “reasonableness”.’

  • The radicalism of creative practice: exploring the ways affects might recast the ruling conventions of politics

Michael Dutton (Goldsmith College, University of London) will argue that the political in China is a channelling of affective flows brought together with an intensity that in part he traces back to undercurrents of a peasant tradition.

Dean Brink (National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan) will explore how Taiwanese poets responded to Japanese colonial rule, drawing on clips from a documentary film he directed that includes selections of interviews with a number of poets

  • The disillusionment of young people with politics as we know it

The two presentations directly addressing this theme also contribute to the symposium’s concern with developments on the Indian sub-continent.

Rosinka Chaudhuri (Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta) will speak on ‘Who sings against the nation-state? University politics and definitions of nationalism, Delhi 2016’. Drawing from the recent speech by Kanhaiya Kumer, the student union president at JNU that has so electrified social media, linked as it is to the dalit unrest at the University of Hyderabad, Rosinka will discuss what seems to be a new imagination at work in the volatile student and national arenas.

In a joint paper with Jane Dyson (Geography, University of Melbourne), Craig Jeffrey (director of the Australia India Institute) will present: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world: youth social action in India’.

There has been a remarkable rise in the number of social movements in which young people try to ‘prefigure’ the world that they want to exist. Drawing on long-term ethnographic fieldwork among youth in north India, it is argued that young people’s efforts to ‘be the change’ are having important effects in the social landscape.

  • Reconfiguring development

Heloise Weber (University of Queensland) will offer an account of concrete struggles ‘otherwise’, taking account of the global food sovereignty movement as well as Indigenous peoples’ struggles for the ‘rights” of nature. She will argue that these decolonial projects pose substantial challenges to postcolonialism.

April Biccum (ANU) will examine attempts to reframe development education to advance social justice – now branded “global education”. It is April’s contention that decolonial critiques of global education would be strengthened by being situated in the rubric of empire.

  • On the performance side, Fregmonto Stokes (artist and performer) will give an updated version of his alter ego, mining magnate Twiggy Palmcock, a personal friend of former Prime Minister Tony Abbott. There will also be a presentation by choreographer Russell Dumas (IPCS), six dancers and dance academics Sally Gardner and Elizabeth Dempster. The work is concerned with how forms of knowing relate to forms of becoming, as well as with the possibility of creativity in performance practices.
  • Sponsored by the Australian Centre for Latin American Studies, Raoni Rajâo (Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil) will be presenting at the symposium. His research focuses on the history and practices of technoscience in the Brazilian Amazon. An abstract is expected shortly and will be posted on this website.


Full: $180      Student: $75

The above includes entry to all sessions, including the opening cocktail party, and morning and afternoon teas.

Individual sessions: $20

Symposium buffet dinner (Tuesday 12 July) $50

To book please send us by email (postcol@netspace.net.au) your name, email address, and the sessions you would like to attend.

Payment can be made by cheque or direct deposit:

BSB number: 083-355

Account number: 66-810-2402

Account name: Institute of Postcolonial Studies

(If you are paying by direct deposit please include your name in the transaction.)



July 10, 2016 @ 8:00 am
July 13, 2016 @ 5:00 pm
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Institute of Postcolonial Studies
78-80 Curzon St
North Melbourne, 3051 Australia
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