Category Archives: Amnesty of Ideas

Raewyn Connell – the pond of small boats

Last night Raewyn Connell gave the first lecture of the Southern Perspectives series at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies. ‘Thinking South: Re-Locating Australian Intellectual Culture’ covered many points about the relation between Australia and the metropolitan centres of the North:

  • Paulin Hountondji’s concept of extraversion and the construction of local disciplines as ‘data mines’ for the North
  • The establishment of humanities in Australia was a bastion of classical languages
  • The new ‘audit culture’ in academics that focuses on the top ranking journals of the North
  • The career of Australian pre-historian Gordon Childe
  • The condition of Australians who go North to conquer the metropole, such as the pre-historian Gordon Childe and Germaine Greer
  • Those who travel in the opposite direction such as those studying Indigenous knowledges
  • Those who work in between the centre and periphery such as Patrick White
  • The emotional attachment to the northern metropole, such as that ‘smoky pub in Oxford’
  • By contrast to Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle, a pond of small boats

It was a full house for her talk, and there were many questions:

  • Impediments for people living in countries like East Timor to access academic journals
  • The role of Australia as a hegemonic power in the Pacific
  • The difficulty of confronting emotional attachments to intellectual authorities

Here she gives a quick summary of her talk, and reflects on the discussion afterwards.

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

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)

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.

After the Missionaries

Please note the following events related to ‘After the Missionaries’ issue of Artlink.

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 related 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 conversation is in association with the exhibition Journey to the Surface of the Earth (22 May – 16 June) featuring Tony Adams, Caroline Banks, Jasmine Cairns, Chaco Cato, Domenico de Clario, Daniel Gustav Cramer, Carla Dinale, Sarah Farquharson, Dean Glanville, Alice Hardie-Grant, Chiho Hasegawa, Madeline Hook, Elliot Howard, Ash Keating, Courtney Lubrooke, Alya Manzart, Dylan Martorell, Charissa Maria, Katarina Matic, Darren Munce, Jacinta Murphy, Lindsay Parkhowell, Roberta Nelson, Anna Noonan, Elizabeth Presa, Joel Ralston, Annie Sumner, Joseph Scott, Lisa Wilson. This exhibition forms the outcome of an inter-disciplinary seminar at the Centre for Ideas (Southbank) taught by Elizabeth Presa and Elliot Howard. This event itself occurs in the context of Evolution – the Festival and the Amnesty of Ideas program of Southern Perspectives.

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).

THEREAFTER ‘After the Missionaries’

There will be an opportunity to reflect on the questions raised by After the Missionaries at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies (early September, date to be advised).

Copies of Artlink will be on sale from 15 June.

Boaventura de Sousa Santos maps the abyss

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Boaventura de Sousa Santos is a professor in the Sociology department University of Coimbra, Portugal. He specialises in issues of law and globalisation, particularly as they relate to the Lusophone South (Mozambique, Brazil, Angola, etc). de Sousa Santos combines his academic life with an active political engagement in World Social Forum.

His essay Beyond Abyssal Thinking offers a broad framework for southern perspectives. It begins with a critique of northern epistemology, which he characterises as a methodology for dividing the world between regions of order and chaos. He offers the example of Amity Lines, agreed on by the Spanish and French in the 16th century as distinguishing those areas where rule of law would apply from the realm beyond where each was free to pursue their interests unhindered. De Sousa Santos links cartography with law and colonisation as part of a fundamental distinction between civilised and savage, cultural and natural and legal and lawless.

As an alternative to this ‘’abyssal thinking’, de Sousa Santos offers an ‘epistemology of the South’ which practices knowledge that is ecologically linked to its context. This grounds thought in both its cultural context and its ethical dimension – as a form of intervention more than representation. de Sousa Santos locates within this epistemology a ‘subaltern cosmopolitanism’ reflecting the diversity of cultures on the periphery (this evokes the ‘world’ that is used to identify non-Western art forms like ‘world music.’)

While de Sousa Santos’ opposition between Northern and Southern epistemologies may seem melodramatic, he is at pains to us it  as a way of opening questions rather than proclaiming answers. His essay concludes with the following questions:

How can we identify the perspective of the oppressed in real-world interventions or in any resistance to them? How can we translate this perspective into knowledge practices? In the search for alternatives to domination and oppression, how can we distinguish between alternatives to the system of oppression and domination and alternatives within the system or, more specifically, how do we distinguish between alternatives to capitalism and alternatives within capitalism? In sum, how can we fight against the abyssal lines using conceptual and political instruments that don’t reproduce them? And finally, a question of special interest to educators: what would be the impact of a post-abyssal conception of knowledge (as an ecology of knowledges) upon our educational institutions and research centres?

Useful references

  • Boaventura de Sousa Santos ‘A Map of Misreading: Toward a Postmodern Conception of Law’ Journal of Law and Society (1987) 14: 3, pp. 279-302
  • Boaventura de Sousa Santos Law and globalization from below: towards a cosmopolitan legality Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005
  • Boaventura de Sousa Santos Beyond abyssal thinking: From global lines to ecologies of knowledges www.eurozine.com/articles/2007-06-29-santos-en.html, 2006
  • Boaventura de Sousa Santos (ed) Another Knowledge Is Possible: Beyond Northern Epistemologies London: Verso, 2007