Visiting Professorships

Public Lecture: 2017 Returning Harvard Chair in Australian Studies

Indigenous sovereignty: Activism and the imagination

2017 Returning Harvard Chair in Australian Studies Lecture, Professor Philip Mead FAHA

The recent ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’ (May, 2017), and the Final Report of the Referendum Council (June, 2017) are significant expressions of a rapidly evolving discourse on sovereignty in Australia.

Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book (2013) is a futuristic meditation on the limits of sovereignty from an Indigenous perspective: what if national borders disappear under the rising waters of global warming? What if national governments are superseded by global rule?

The Swan Book explores these scenarios in a complex interplay of utopian and dystopian modes. This lecture argues that Alexis Wright’s work is an instance of how the Indigenous world novel can address real world issues of Indigenous rights and national sovereignty.

Philip Mead is Chair of Australian Literature at the University of Western Australia, and Director of the Westerly Centre. Philip was the 2016 Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser Visiting Professor of Australian Studies at Harvard University. During his time at Harvard, Philip completed three book projects which are currently in press: Antipodal Shakespeare: Remembering and Forgetting in Britain, Australia and New Zealand, 1916-2016 (with Gordon McMullan; Arden Bloomsbury); The Social Work of Narrative: human rights and the cultural imaginary (ed. with Gareth Griffiths; Ibidem/Columbia University Press); and The Literature of Tasmania: A Brief Introduction (Fullers Publishing). Philip’s research is at the intersections of national and transnational literary studies, cultural history and theory, poetics, literary education, and digital humanities. Philip is also a CI on the ARC Discovery Project grant for 2016-19, ‘Investigating literary knowledge in the education of English teachers’.

Event Details: 6.00 – 7.00pm, Wednesday 20 September

Theatre B (129), Ground floor, Old Arts , University of Melbourne, Parkville

Admission is free. Seating is limited. Bookings are required. To register visit:

For more information please contact Amanda Morris, or phone 03 9035 5280

This lecture is presented by the Australian Centre, University of Melbourne, with the Harvard University Committee on Australian Studies and the Harvard Club of Victoria.