6-9 July 2016, UNSW Canberra and the National Library of Australia

ABSTRACTS DUE by Friday 26 February


Capital-Empire-Print-Dissent will seek to articulate the ways in which the institutions of government, the arts, the universities and the heritage sectors have forged what we now call ‘Australian’ literature; and the relationship between, on the one hand, traditionalists, heritage-makers, administrators and purveyors of cultural inheritance and, on the other, the iconoclasts, dissenters, rebels, and activists equally drawn to centres of governmental, financial, cultural and intellectual power.

Capital-Empire-Print-Dissent assumes the ‘worlding’ of ‘Australian’ literature but looks for structured histories of its formation, not least in the interconnected pasts of Empire and indigenous belonging. More broadly it questions the directions of twenty-first-century ‘postcolonialism’ and explores the ongoing and shifting political relationships between metropolis and (former) empire, colonies and the nation, federations and the state, capitals and their hinterlands, nations and trade zones; and all of their discontents.

Offers for single 20 minute papers considering all aspects of ‘Australian’ literature broadly conceived are welcomed, and could address:

  • The violence of silence and transported guilt: Enlightenment frontiers and industrial wars of settlement
  • Myths of beginning and colonial federalism
  • Antipodean nightmares and colonial utopia
  • Transnational indigeneity, tent embassies and literary sovereignty
  • Settler modernity and the racial state
  • Garrisons of the Republic: The military, the monarchy and literary loyalty
  • Documentalism, institutionalism and the bureaucratic literary
  • Cultures of conflict, memorialism and (post)colonial war
  • Dreams of domesticity and suburban belonging
  • A bush capital and the global city: landscape and streetscape
  • Global empire, migration and the placing of diversity
  • Pigeons and possums: Animal inhabitation and urban ecoscapes
  • Pulp places, urban pleasures and popular readerships
  • Archives of nation-making and the memory of the memo
  • City-sex and suburb-sex
  • Metaphorical territories, penal colonies and off-shore incarceration

Proposals for panels of no more than three speakers with a nominated chair on a shared theme are also welcome.


Topical Masterclasses are proposed for the morning of 6 July on these two topics:

Transindigenous and comparative frames for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writing:

Drawing on the expertise of Professor Chadwick Allen and multi-award winning writer Melissa Lucashenko, this workshop masterclass is open to scholars interested in discussing the ways in which indigenous literature connects beyond, within, through and against national state formations, with specific reference to local and community identified Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander writers.

Archiving the now: Drawing on the outstanding manuscript holdings in the UNSW Canberra Academy Library special collections, this workshop masterclass attends to the recent material past of contemporary Australian literature from the last thirty to forty years. How do we deal with records of literary production that feel immediate and are yet archival? Are there new ways to consider the biographical, historical and material registers of literary culture in both their paper and digital forms? Facilitators include Professor Lyn McCredden and special collections librarians.

Both masterclasses are open to all scholars, but preference will be given to postgraduate and early career researchers, including those without current institutional affiliations. Attendance at Masterclasses is included in conference registration fees.


Please submit titles and 250 word abstracts for proposed papers by Friday 26 February, 2016 to Shirley Ramsay: