Saturday, August 26, 2006

Looking towards a medieval Australia

Cultural Translations: Remaking the Early European Past in Australasia
Sponsored by the Network for Early European Research
2-3 November, 2006
State Library of Victoria, Melbourne
Convenors: Dr Peter Holbrook (University of Queensland) and Professor Stephanie Trigg (University of Melbourne)

The Cultural Translations symposium will for the first of its kind: an attempt to think through, across a range of disciplines, the nature of Australasian encounters and engagements with the medieval and early modern British and European pasts.
The symposium has two broad themes. The first relates to the issue of British and European cultural memory in Australasia. What roles have the cultural, aesthetic, literary, legal, constitutional, political-ideological, religious and social discourses and practices of medieval and early modern Britain and Europe played in the settler-colonial societies of Australia and New Zealand? What has been the relation of these societies to the medieval and early European past? what uses have nationalist discourses in these societies found, or failed to find, in medieval and early modern cultural moments? What have been the broader cultural politics of remembering in a multicultural, postcolonial, and globalized twenty-first century Australasia?
A second theme is in some ways more empirical and concerns scholarship, or how the early European past has in practice been reconstructed by scholars and intellectuals in Australia and New Zealand. What precise contributions to the study and interpretation of these key phases in the history of Western civilization have been made by scholarship in Australia and New Zealand? Have there been particular distinguishing characteristics of Australasian scholarship-in any field-on these civilizational moments? What function has the study of Medieval, Renaissance, or Enlightenment cultural and intellectual modes and movements played in the political, social, and cultural life of Australasia? What role have particular scholars, institutions (schools, universities, museums, churches, parliaments), or practices (antiquarianism, collecting, editing and bibliography, curatorship) devoted to the British or European medieval or early modern played in Australia or New Zealand?
All welcome.
Invited speakers include:
Geraldine Barnes (University of Sydney)
Tom Bishop (University of Auckland)
Glenn Burgess (University of Hull)
Conal Condren (University of New South Wales)
Leigh Dale (University of Queensland)
Robert Dixon (University of Queensland)
Louise D'Arcens (University of Wollongong)
John Frow (University of Melbourne)
John Gascoigne (University of New South Wales)
Ian Hunter (University of Queensland)
Andrew Lynch (University of Western Australia)
The combined expertise of this group ranges across such fields as English Literature, Political and Intellectual History, the History of Art, Cultural Studies, Australian Studies, and Postcolonial Studies. In regards to historical reach, its expertise ranges from the medieval period to the Eighteenth Century, and to the history of Australasia. We think it particularly exciting that the symposium will provide an opportunity for members of such a variety of disciplines to talk to each other about the meaning of the European past in Australasia.
Detailed abstracts of the papers will be available on the symposium Web site by the beginning of September. If you would like to be part of the programme as a formal respondent, please let us know.
NEER will provide financial assistance to postgraduate students and early career researchers wishing to attend this symposium.
For any inquiries, please contact the Cultural Translations Administrative Assistant, Helen Hickey University of Melbourne (T: +61 3 8344 5506, F: +61 3 8344 5494, E:

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Alex Buzo dies

Australian-Albanian author Alex Buzo passed away this week. Here's a brief extract from Neverland and makes reference to his views. Alex Buzo’s Norm and Akif The sudden reversal from warm hospitality to cold expulsion evokes a fear of difference that seems buried deep in the Australian psyche. Akif’s own plight had been anticipated in dramatic form by Alex Buzo, who is Australia’s most prominent person of Albanian stock. Buzo’s father was born in the ancient Albanian town of Berat in 1912 and was educated in American schools before arriving in Australia in the 1930s. The name ‘Buzo’ means ‘diver’ in Spanish. Alex Buzo’s mother was of Irish descent. Buzo’s first play, Norm and Ahmed (1968), anticipated the denouement of the Kosovar’s Australian reception. A construction worker asks for a light from a passing Pakistani student. The ocker host tries to loosen up this deferential visitor and introduce him to Australian ways, but he is intimidated by the student’s formal way of speaking. With almost sadistic pleasure, Buzo lures the audience into thinking that there is some real rapprochement occurring. This is swiftly undermined in the final moment of the play, where Norm dispatches the Pakistani with the epitaph ‘fuckin’ boong’. The play was recently revised as Normie and Tuon (1999); the foreigner has become a Vietnamese, who confronts a war veteran. Buzo compares the friendly/hostile switch to the Kosovar story: ‘The big thing in the Kosovar case was the lack of perceived gratitude.’ Despite the parallel theme, and his Albanian ancestry, Alex Buzo has never been called on to speak about the Kosovar refugees. He is better known as an expert on the peculiarities of Australian culture, with publications such as Real Men Don't Eat Quiche and A Dictionary of the Almost Obvious. In this respect, Buzo is a prime candidate for the position of ‘Albanian for the other’. With gentle mockery, he documents the idiosyncrasies of Australian culture. Buzo is a proud nationalist; his 1972 play Macquarie passionately upholds the reputation of Governor Macquarie above the mean-spirited policies of Samuel Marsden. Yet at the same time, there is a fatalism running through Buzo’s writing about the possibility of reconciliation between Aussie and foreigner. His pessimism remains a challenge to the bright-eyed parade of Aussie icons that stands for national pride. (Image to the left is the cover of the Herald Sun when Victoria opened its hearts to the Kosovar refugees. The first, and perhaps only, time that the tabloid has sported a headline in Albanian.} Posted by Picasa