Archive for July, 2009

Cameron White will present material on ‘Cultures of Impermanence in Nineteenth Century Australia’.
The readings for the session will follow. Meanwhile, if anyone has material they would also like to nominate for the session, please Vanessa Smith know. It would be great to have a second contributor if possible.

Here is the kind of thing Cameron will be looking at:

Cultures of Impermanence in Nineteenth Century Australia

Cameron White

Nationalist ideologies often work to define the nation-space as singular and
impermeable. In the first half of the nineteenth century a different
understanding of Australia prevailed. Under the auspices of the
transportation system, Australia was viewed internationally as a den of
criminals and thieves. From London to New York to San Francisco Sydney, or
³Sidney², was synonymous with transportation and crime. This understanding
of Australia inevitably shaped the perceptions of people who, whether
compulsorily or by choice, came to live here. Whether they were convicts,
administrators or merchants, they arrived prepared only to do what they had
to do. Australia was a place of transit. Leaving was a perennial fantasy.

The aim of this seminar is to discuss the ways in which the representation
of Australia as a den of thieves combined with a fantasy of leave-taking to
create a culture of impermanence during the first half of the nineteenth
century. While it is tempting to assume that the dominant affect of this
culture was an exploitative attitude towards the environment, participants
are also invited to think about the life of the cities and the streets, the
world of ports, boarding houses and restaurants, and of laments for home in
poetry and song. Finally, participants are also invited to think about the
political significance of a culture of impermanence in light of the ongoing
critique of many of the enduring symbols of Australian identity, combined
with the focus of much contemporary scholarship on transnationalism. The
focus on cultures of impermanence perhaps offers a relevant and useable myth
for Australia in the world for the twenty first century.

Reading 1:

Raymond Evans and Bill Thorpe, Commanding Men: Masculinities and the Convict System


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