Writers and their World Seminar Series

12 March

Visions of England and Englishness in E.M. Forster’s Non-Fiction

Professor Trevor Harris

Forster’s novels have attracted much critical attention, and acclaim: not least A Passage to India (1924). But Forster, from the end of the 1920s, also devoted much energy to his non-fiction. This work is of considerable interest in terms of intellectual history. By approaching Forster from this perspective, my aim is to look at his role in diffusing aspects of late-Victorian/Edwardian British political culture deep into the twentieth century. As he seeks to better understand his own attitudes to Empire (especially India) and looks for an acceptable narrative of “nation”, his vision of England proves to be fundamentally ambiguous.

Trevor Harris is Professor of British Civilisation in the Department of English Studies, University of Tours, France. He works on the political and intellectual history of Britain in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and on British foreign policy; as well as the relationship between these in the construction and evolution of British identity. In 2006, he published Une Certaine Idée de l’Angleterre in the collection “L’Histoire au présent” (Paris: Armand Colin).

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Anatomy of Urban Riots: The Case of Great Britain under Margaret Thatcher

Dr. Molly O’Brien-Castro

Urban riots, also known as race riots, were a recurrent social phenomenon in Britain under Margaret Thatcher’s governance, although different measures were taken over the years to prevent further disturbances from sparking off.

1979 saw the advent of the Conservatives, their neo-liberal ideology and punitive policies, as well as that of urban rioting. The first urban riots to occur in post-war Britain date back to 1958, but those which erupted all through the 1980s were far larger and striking – Liverpool, Birmingham, London and Manchester, to name just a few cities, regularly experienced riots bringing into conflict various communities or youths and policemen – and gave rise to various interpretations. The media, for instance, conveyed the impression that urban disturbances always involved violent lawless unemployed Black youths living in the inner city , but the reality was a bit less simple. The thrust of this paper is to argue that the riots should be read in terms of the claim of a section of British society for recognition as fully-fledged citizens of a multi-ethnic and multicultural society.

Molly O’Brien Castro is Senior Lecturer in British Civilization and in translation at Tours University (France). She also works as scientific advisor for the Grande Halle de la Villette Exhibition Centre in Paris. Her doctoral research explored the decline and renovation of inner cities from 1960 to the end of the conservative era in 1997. She has published academic papers on urban policy, and urban social and ethnic exclusion.

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19 March

Afrindian Writing and Indian Ocean Imaginaries

Professor Dr. Frank Schulze-Engler / PD Dr Sissy Helff

Many African nations have had to come to terms with a remarkable ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity. This diversity today comprises millions of Africans of Asian descent whose cultural and political identities have been shaped by complex negotiations of citizenship and diasporic (be)longing.

The first part of this master class (presented by Frank Schulze-Engler) will focus on the constitutive tension between diasporic consciousness and the struggle for citizenship in Indo-African writing from East and Southern Africa. It will look at the legacy of the complex social role of Indians in Africa during colonialism and apartheid, at redefinitions of “national space” to be found in Indo-African literature, and at the concept of “Afrindian literature” recently developed in South Africa. Finally, it will discuss the role of Indo-African literature in the transnational space of “Indian Ocean” culture that in recent years has emerged as a counter model to “transatlantic” models of diaspora.

The second part of the master class (presented by Sissy Helff) will explore the writing of Farida Karodia, the grande dame of Indo-African literature who has always been interested in these conflicting dynamics. Her writing is deeply concerned with the questions of how Indo-African women managed to survive fascist apartheid society and grueling patriarchal family systems. It is against this thematic backdrop that Karodia’s family sagas gain momentum; especially when the narratives seek to illuminate the limitations and the possibilities South African society held in store for Indian women during and after apartheid. While in Karodia’s writing feelings of a diasporic nostalgia for India as the place of origin are often dismissed as trivial memory of the elderly, the dynamic young women protagonists also fail in their attempts of making their new homes in UK or in Canada. It is this meditation of staying, leaving and returning which dominates Karodia’s oeuvre and which eventually throws new light on Karodia’s literary negotiations of India, Africa and the Indian Ocean.

In the discussion we will draw on Peter Nazareth’s novel In a Brown Mantle (1972), the movieMississippi Masala (1991), Farida Karodia’s Other Secrets (2000) and her latest novelBoundaries (2003) as well as on selected essays on Indian Ocean Imaginaries.

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2 April

Giving Writers a Voice

Barry Scott

Barry Scott will talk about the world of independent publishing with particular reference to Transit Lounge and its goal to publish and promote Australian writing that creatively engages with other cultures. How can writers write sensitively about other cultures, especially as an outsider? And how can a publisher best promote works that don’t always present a positive view of Australia and the West, or indeed other countries? He will also discuss the parallels with independent publishing in the US; the varieties of writing that pass his desk every day, the changing outlook for publishing, and the opportunities of the Australian marketplace.

Barry Scott is the co-founder of independent publishing company Transit Lounge. The press has a particular interest in writing that engages with other cultures and since 2005 has published books by writers including Cate Kennedy, Ouyang Yu and Patrick Holland. Barry has a background in literary arts administration and a particular interest in Australian writing about Asia. He is the editor of New and Rediscovered by Vicki Viidikas and the author of Love and Wigs: Poems of Bangkok Bollywood and Beyond. In 2009 with the support of CAL he undertook a study of independent publishers in the US, and has previously been an Asialink arts management resident in India.

7 May

Mudrooroo: ‘Waiting to be Surprised’

Professor Adam Shoemaker

Professor Adam Shoemaker

The 1996 denunciation of Mudrooroo was so powerful, so complete and so all-encompassing that his creative persona literally disappeared from view. His works were all-but-effaced and his memory all-but-erased. The supreme irony is that Mudrooroo’s writing faded away just as the strong, written Indigeneity he had passionately advocated came into stronger focus. For example, the country he left in 2001 had, the previous year, seen the Miles Franklin Award go to Kim Scott for his novel Benang—the first time in its history that the prize had been awarded to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander author. Alexis Wright and (once again) Kim Scott have won the Miles Franklin since then, respectively forCarpentaria (2008) and for That Deadman Dance (2011). Put another way, three times over the past decade Indigenous authors have won the nation’s premier literary award, a remarkable achievement. I argue that Mudrooroo played a central role in that transformation—a cogent increase in mainstream recognition of the merit of Indigenous writers and their work—but he has not been lauded or recognised for it. I also argue that now—after a decade in the sophisticated wilderness of Buddhist Nepal—it is time to reassess his role, his career and the depth of his contribution set against the purported severity of his transgressions.

Professor Adam Shoemaker is Monash’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) and has been extensively published in the areas of Indigenous Australian history, literature, culture and politics. Among his books are Black Word, White Page: Aboriginal Literature 1929-1988(1989/2004), Oodgeroo, a Tribute (1994) and Mudrooroo: a Critical Study (1993). He is currently co-writing a study of international Indigenous cultural flows titled Authenticity? Indigenous Culture and Globalisation. Professor Shoemaker has a Bachelor of Arts with Honours from Queen’s University (Kingston, Canada and a doctorate from the ANU.

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