Monday, May 11, 2009

Transformations At The Cultural Interface: Contemporary Aboriginal Cultural Dynamics In South-East Australia: Call for Papers

A conference organised and hosted by Macquarie University’s Centre for Research on Social Inclusion (CRSI) and Warawara Department of Indigenous Studies, in cooperation with the South East Australia Network of Anthropologists (SEANA).

‘Transformations at the Cultural Interface: Contemporary Aboriginal cultural dynamics in south-east Australia’

To be held at Macquarie University Sydney on Monday 7 and Tuesday 8 December 2009.

Conference Aims and Rationale

This conference aims to explore questions of how social and cultural change is to be interpreted in post native title contexts. Australian Aboriginal people have had to continuously re-imagine themselves under ever changing conditions. Research in Australia, however, has seldom dealt with phenomena related to cultural change including the process of re-imagining kinship systems, cosmologies or economies, let alone cultural identities in the everyday world. New spaces for the imagination as well as new ways of imagining have been created by colonisation and modernisation. The specific study area of this conference is south east Australia, where Aboriginal languages are being revived, ceremonies are re-emerging and being re-imagined, and there is a resurgence of painting, dancing and other performative activities.

Most of these dynamic expressions and representations of identity are widely supported by the state and by a generally sympathetic and interested public. In the wake of ongoing attempts at recognition of Aboriginal land and heritage rights, there are few cultural spaces that are not touched by the need, or indeed desire to imagine Aboriginality in some way. Education, health, the arts, employment all struggle with ‘two-way culture’ and ‘culturally appropriate’ initiatives and methods. While these activities and initiatives are ubiquitous, there is little agreement about what to call them, how to describe them or, how to interpret them. In some cases local communities are in dispute over who should exercise authority over cultural representations. Common talk of Aboriginal values, Aboriginal ontology and other ways of speaking about ‘an’ Aboriginal cultural domain can mislead as they try to recognise difference and where identities are never clear cut or sharply divided. We are interested in rigorous research based on concrete examples that will allow complex and varied representations of re-emergent cultural practices, new inventions and re-worked identities.

The condition of being thought settled - or unsettled - requires that research focuses on the conditions of settlement -governance, race relations, hybridity, violence, cross cultural communication, power relations. This disparate collection of terms, and indeed this conference, is intended to cover a series of contradictory ways different people have approached and experienced these issues.

Conference Themes

The organisers are calling for papers based on original ethnographic research in communities in south-east Australia. The conference is inspired by ideas that have emerged from ethnographic work which inevitably raises questions that are not apparent in the more copious research undertaken in the centre and north of the continent. The following questions offer a guide to the themes to be addressed by papers for the conference.

How is the reification and essentialising of Indigenous culture impacting on the everyday lives of people?

How are the policies and practices of government agencies implicated in the kinds of cultural production that is occurring?

In what ways are relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people being denied in the interest of an unambiguous identity?

Why is the public face of Aboriginality still dominated by images from the centre and north of the continent despite most Aborigines residing in the south east?

Is the anchoring of Indigenous identity in notions of tradition and remoteness still apparent in SE Australia?

What traditions are people choosing to celebrate and why?

Should academics describe phenomena which is claimed by Aboriginal people as re-possessed culture from another time?

Call for Papers and Abstracts

Please forward paper title and abstract of no more than 200 words to the conference co-ordinators by Friday May 22, 2009. Please provide your contact details including institutional/organisational affiliation.

Accepted proposals will be advised following a selection process.

Registration details will be posted by end June, 2009 on the Macquarie
Arts Faculty website.

Conference Co-ordinators

Lorraine Gibson, Centre for Research on Social Inclusion.
+61 (0)2 9476 1645

Kristina Everett, Warawara Department of Indigenous Studies.
+61 (0)2

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