Sydney Conference

Call for Papers: The Private Lives of Empire: Intimate histories of the settler colony, 1800 to the present day, University of Sydney, 16-17 April 2015.

While much of the ‘new’ imperial history has worked to deconstruct the cultures and ideas – the ‘discourse’ – of empire, far less attention has been paid to the ways in which those same ideas were ‘lived’ in the private worlds of individuals. The power of colonial regimes shaped social realities – but never absolutely. Nor was the coherence of ideology ever neatly replicated ‘on the ground’. This conference seeks to bring together work that investigates the ways in which settler colonialism was given human life and affective charge from the nineteenth century to the present day. We welcome work that focuses attention on the social spaces of the everyday (the home, the street, the school, the workplace) and on the interior, imaginary worlds in which discursive abstractions such as race and empire were rendered ‘real’ (the story, the encounter, the sensation, the dream). In so doing, our aim is to develop recent research on race and the social and cultural history of settler colonies, broadly defined. By focusing on the nineteenth and twentieth century, we wish to work across the rise of settler colonial nationalism and self-governance, with attention to the degree to which such political shifts shaped the social worlds of individuals. We are especially keen to hear work that speaks to the following themes:

  • Families, relationships and the history of the emotions How did race figure in the emotional power plays that shaped lives across and between racial bounds? What are the possibilities for foregrounding humiliation, pride and disdain, estrangement and despair in the histories of the settler colony? And how do histories of love and desertion, of affection and abuse enrich our understanding of settler colonialism?
  • Discourse and the everyday How might concern with the overtly political have obscured the apparently innocuous discursive field of the everyday? How was ‘character’ articulated, for example, in distinguishing between ‘the settler’, ‘the native’ and ‘the undesirable’ in the settler colony? How does a focus on the sensory registers of sight and smell, touch and taste advance our understanding of the experiential history of race? And how was race, power and difference constructed through languages of euphemism and allusion?
  • Failure, marginality and historical neglect How might we attend to actors and agents who continue to be neglected in settler-colonial historiography? How, for example, might a focus on the very young or the very old develop an account of race across the colonial life course? What does an emphasis on disability and deviance do to complicate colonial categories? What is the social significance of the loser, the repatriate, the delinquent, the renegade, the freak?

Confirmed keynote speakers:

Angela Woollacott (Australian National University)

Deborah Posel (University of Cape Town)

Charlotte MacDonald (Victoria University of Wellington)

Damon Salesa (University of Auckland)

To enter a proposal, please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words and a CV to Jean Smith: j.p.smith@leeds.ac.uk before the 15th December, 2014.

The conference forms part of a collaboration between the Race and Ethnicity in the Global South project (REGS) and the Department of History, School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry at the University of Sydney and the School of History at the University of Leeds. It is made possible by support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and REGS.

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