What roles for artists in the coming disaster?
The number of “natural” disasters are increasing globally. Yet, disaster research is often trapped in a reductive paradigm couched in paternalistic and technocratic language of “solutions”, which are complicit with exclusionary approaches that re-entrench the very processes that exacerbate pre-disaster vulnerability. In addition, much of this research as well as mainstream media continue rely on colonial narratives that infantilize, dehumanize, and strip disaster-affected people of their identities.
The panel asks how can different creative practises and mediums offer epistemological alternatives to the dominant rhetorics through which disasters are framed, providing new vocabularies and imaginations for talking about the relationship between catastrophic events, histories, and processes of recovery. How might the arts help us to access alternative perspectives and human-centred understandings of disasters, which might provide spaces for disaster-affected people to exercise their political agency and voice to construct counter narratives to dominant discourses? The speakers will draw on their experience working with video games, graphic illustration, theatre, drawings and animation.
Staying with Antigone
Antigone is the protagonist of Sophocles’ Greek tragedy, paying with her life the choice of rebelling against an ethically inadmissible law. Her tragedy highlights the question of disobedience when human dignity and life are at stake.
Last year, in response to the refugee crisis, Giuseppe Massa directed Ubah Cristina Ali Farah’s Antigone Power, performed in Palermo, Italy, with professional and non-professional actors, mainly from a migrant and refugee background. Antigone’s defiance remains a powerful example, in literature and beyond, from Captain Carola Rackete who disobeyed the orders of the Italian Minister of Home Affairs to enter the port of Lampedusa with her salvage ship Sea-Watch 3 to the much-admired teenager and environmental activist Greta Thunberg, urging us to stand up and address the climate emergency on a global scale, among many more.
Our panel will explore how Antigone, writing, and collective performance allow us to imagine rebellion and challenge what is morally unacceptable. It will also discuss how artists and academics can facilitate the creation of novel syncretic spaces where culture, myth and storytelling can be in dialogue with each other, inspiring new forms of artistic and political intervention, identity, and belonging.
Postdevelopment in practice
25 years ago postdevelopment critique destabilised the concept of development, challenging its assumptions and aims, but it has been necessary to push beyond theory to uncover alternatives in practice.
“Postdevelopment in practice critically engages with recent trends in postdevelopment and critical development studies that have destabilised the concept of development, challenging its assumptions and exposing areas where it has failed in its objectives, whilst also pushing beyond theory to uncover alternatives in practice. This book reflects a rich and diverse range of experience in postdevelopment work, bringing together emerging and established contributors from across Latin America, South Asia, Europe, Australia and elsewhere, and it brings to light the multiple and innovative examples of postdevelopment practice already underway. The complexity of postdevelopment alternatives are revealed throughout the chapters, encompassing research on economy and care, art and design, pluriversality and buen vivir, the state and social movements, among others. Drawing on feminisms and political economy, postcolonial theory and critical design studies, the ‘diverse economies’ and ‘world of the third’ approaches and discussions on ontology and interdisciplinary fields such as science and technology studies, the chapters reveal how the practice of postdevelopment is already being carried out by actors in and out of development.”
Join Elise Klein (Uni. Melbourne), Katharine McKinnon (La Trobe Uni.), Carlos Eduardo Morreo (ANU) as they discuss alternatives to development and how postdevelopment is already being done, together with Jon Altman as chair.
Decolonising governance / Archipelagic thinking
“Power may be globalized, but Westphalian notions of sovereignty continue to determine political and legal arrangements domestically and internationally: global issues–the legacy of colonialism expressed in continuing human displacement and environmental destruction–are thus treated ‘parochially’ and ineffectually. Not designed for dealing with situations of interdependence, democratic institutions find themselves in crisis. Reform in this case is not simply operational but conceptual: political relationships need to be drawn differently; the cultural illiteracy that prevents the local knowledge invested in places made after their stories needs to be recognised as a major obstacle to decolonising governance. Archipelagic thinking refers to neglected dimensions of the earth’s human geography but also to a geo-politics of relationality, where governance is understood performatively as the continuous establishment of exchange rates.”
Paul was in conversation with John Cunningham, Curator and Creative director, Melinda Hinkson, Anthropologist and Director of IPCS, and Priya Srinivasan, Performance Studies Scholar
Paul’s latest book Decolonising Governance was published by Routledge as part of the Institute of Postcolonial Studies’ Writing Past Colonialism series.
“Is eating a settler-colonial act?” History, justice, and the future of food
“If you eat, you are involved in agriculture” is a popular saying among agrarian and alternative food advocates. It is often attributed to the American poet and farmer Wendell Berry who wanted to draw attention to the way eaters are intimately connected with growers. By thinking of eating as an agricultural act, Berry believes eaters will join with growers to help co-create a more just food system that respects the environment, farm workers, animals and planetary health.
Understanding the connection between eating and growing food is a pressing issue today. But what about the past? Both eaters and growers are often ignorant of the entanglement of agriculture and settler-colonial violence. As Patrick Wolfe observed, agriculture “progressively eats into Indigenous territory” for the reproduction of the settler population, while simultaneously curtailing “the reproduction of Indigenous modes of production” and justifying violent dispossession.
If eating implicates one in agriculture, and agriculture is implicated in colonial violence, then eaters, not just farmers and graziers, are implicated in this history.
“If you eat, you are involved in settler-colonialism”. How should we respond to this claim? What does food justice look like that recognises past injustices associated with agriculture? How would such food justice be enacted in urban farms and gardens of inner-city Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane or Perth? What would it look like in our kitchens, restaurants and supermarket aisles? Or to borrow a question from Indigenous food sovereignty scholar, Michelle Daigle, “what do everyday practices of responsibility and accountability look like for settler food actors as they live and work on contested and occupied Indigenous lands?”
Ghassan Hage & Jessica Gerrard, “Toxic Whiteness”
Building on the argument of his recent book Is Racism an Environmental Threat?, Ghassan Hage traces the transformation of White ethno-nationalism into a toxic ecological problem, diffused through all aspects of society. As racism has become a pervasive environmental threat what is the impact of academic critique? Should academics fight, rather than just discuss and analyse? If so, how? Jessica Gerrard asks: what are the practices of inequality and injustice that belie the intensification of far-right politics and violence? She tracks the exclusion and expulsion of particular categories of people as structural conditions of capitalism’s idea of ‘the good life’. Liberal progressive politics paradoxically risks replicating the violence of exclusion by identifying racism as the product of ignorance and poverty—the fault of the ‘uneducated’—rather than the product of elitist (and well educated) power.