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A Short History

Joan Clarke OAM

This short history attempt to capture some of the struggles, hopes and realizations of the Institute of Postcolonial Studies (hereafter IPCS), Melbourne, Australia, over the twenty year period between 1996 and 2016. With no government funding, directors, a benefactor, donors, members, and friends helped renovate the building and, against the odds, foster a creative intellectual community that has drawn contributions from individuals and groups representing all ages, different cultures, backgrounds and disciplines. Along the way, it has established the Postcolonial Studies Journal, now published four times a year and an international book series, published several occasional papers, organised a number of major public events, two semester seminar series each year, students’ forums, and conferences and symposia.

The Foundation Stage & Building

Many of the Institute’s members can relate first hand stories of acquiring the building, differences over ideals and definitions and their participation in events. Such recollections help us understand the IPCS’s written and unspoken aims. Importantly they look to the future and orientate new members.

Now to the frequently articulated question, what does postcolonialism mean as a discipline or focus of study? It is generally understood as a theoretical approach in various disciplines concerned with the lasting impact of colonialism in former coloines. A comprehensive response was provided in the first Postcolonial Studies Journal’s editorial. The editors wrote:

[It’s] a breaking down of boundaries that have defined postcolonialism as a safe discipline within the academic setting. The real excitement lies in its desire and determination to theorize those ‘dangerous terrains’ that academic knowledge feels either uncomfortable with or unwilling to accommodate. It is a place to forge a new working relationship with circuits of knowledge that are marginalized, anthropologised or used as footnote fodder in the western academy. …. [The IPCS] appreciates those ‘blurring moments’ when new knowledge formations … momentarily upset the disciplinary ‘apple cart’ and offer portents of other ways of seeing and doing. To remain disruptive … postcolonialism must keep moving. It is in this mobility, flexibility and heterogeneity that a tactical space is opened up … to tip intellectual debate sideways by tilting the intellectual ‘spotlight’ away from established names and arguments and toward the politics of the everyday.

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