30 November -2 December 2020, Australian Catholic University
For ‘Reinventing Australia’ convenors ask the question: what does it mean to ‘be Australian’? In his 1981 book, Inventing Australia, Richard White argued that Australian identity drew from a pastiche of icons – the convict, the digger, the surf lifesaver, the bushranger and the wide-open spaces of the outback. White argued that these ideals were devised to promote an egalitarian myth of the ‘lucky country’, while serving a set of elite interests. There is no ‘“real” Australia’, White argued, just a continual fracturing, questioning and redefinition of national identity as powerful interests compete for authority. It is now nearly forty years since Inventing Australia was published. In this time, Australia’s demography has been changed by high rates of non-European immigration. We have seen multiculturalism as official policy go in and out of favour, an uneven and patchy reconciliation process between First Nations and non-Indigenous peoples, and the entrenchment of a punitive border policy regime. The Anzac legend, with its echoes of a British-Australia that no longer exists, has been reinstated as the premier national mythology, as the nation faces new challenges, including climate change and an escalating American-Sino trade war. This conference poses the question Richard White asked in 1981, taking account of the transformations that have occurred in Australian society, the interests that seek to promote particular versions of ‘Australianness’, and the desire of members of an ‘imagined community’, such as Australia, to shape and define their essence.
EXTENDED: Abstracts now due 31 May 2020