Projects

CASS promotes critical inquiry into the history, theoretical framing, and contemporary legacies of colonialism on a global scale. We foster work that places colonial and settler colonial formations in comparative and connected frames. We welcome inquiries about the centre and its activities.

Contesting Settler Colonialism: Political, Cultural and Artistic Responses

  • SDG10 Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Project Lead

Lisa Slater

Project Description

My work examines Indigenous-settler relations, in all of its messy, complex materiality. Currently there are two key aspects of my work. Firstly, I explore what influences policy- makers, such as government and non-government agencies, industry and ‘progressive’ settlers engagement with Indigenous Australians, and how these driving forces play out in concrete local forms. Secondly, I examine how Indigenous people utilize cultural initiatives to negotiate and contest settler colonialism and reassert their sovereignty and cultural practices. One domain in which I explore these questions is contemporary Aboriginal cultural initiatives, primarily festivals. I ask how are solutions to social problems, wellbeing and the future differently imagined? How do these events challenge and change broader Australia’s understanding of Indigenous lives? Aboriginal cultural initiatives provide a rich focus because ‘Aboriginal culture’ is both celebrated and problematized by settler Australia, but rarely understood on Indigenous terms.

I am currently writing a monograph, Anxieties of Belonging in Settler Colonialism (forthcoming Routledge, 2018), which investigates the cultural politics of ‘recognition’ and ‘equality’ by analysing what ‘well-intentioned’ settler Australians see and feel when they interact with Aboriginal people. My particular interest is in the anxiety that arises when settlers are confronted with what they perceive as politics, when they wanted to learn about ‘culture’. I ask why does Aboriginal political will continue to provoke and disturb? How does settler anxiety shape and inform public opinion and political solutions to Indigenous inequality and issues of social justice?

Project Lead

Jane Carey

Project Description

Caring for the Incarcerated is investigating the history of prison health services in New South Wales – one of the oldest penal health services in the world. Those in custody have overwhelmingly been drawn from the most disadvantaged groups in society and consequently have had, and continue to have, among the highest health needs in our community.

This is a collaborative, interdisciplinary project involving academics from across UOW as well as external partners – particularly the NSW Justice Health & Forensic Mental Health Network and the Black Wallaby Writers group of the South Coast Writers Centre – who are also the project’s Indigenous advisory group.

My contribution to this project will focus on how imprisonment operated as a defining feature of Australian settler-colonialism – for both settler but particularly Indigenous populations.

As with postcolonial societies around the world, Australia has hugely disproportionate rates of incarceration of Indigenous people, particularly of young men. As of 30 June, 2016 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners accounted for just over a quarter (27%) of the total Australian prisoner population. (despite being only  ~2-3% of the Australian population). Although few Aboriginal people were imprisoned in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the broader history of confinement (on missions, reserves and other institutions) is highly implicated in the high rates of Aboriginal imprisonment today. Many Indigenous communities view the shatteringly high rates of contemporary incarceration as a continuation of past invasion and policies of confinement and control that had such a devastating impact.

This work is supported by a University of Wollongong, Global Challenges Grant.

Project lead

Marcelo Svirsky

Project description

For the last decade I have been researching the role the subjectivity of the settler plays in maintaining and reproducing settler colonial domination and privilege, focusing particularly on Palestine. The general aim of my work is to expand settler colonial studies so it is possible to include in the same conceptual proposition the question of settler colonial permanence and that of the settler subject. My outputs range extends from traditional academic publications to short stories, poetry, theatre performances and short video productions, expressed in a number of languages – English, Hebrew, Spanish and Portuguese.

I’m currently working on a book, A Short History of the Israeli Subject, to be published in Spanish. The book investigates the genealogy of subjectivity formation in the life of the Zionist settler colonial project in Palestine since late 19th century.

Project Lead

Cammi Webb-Gannon

Project Description

I am an ethnographer and peace studies expert specialising in Oceanian politics of decolonisation. My research has concentrated on two areas: the West Papua self-determination movement; and the role of the arts and technology in Pacific decolonization struggles. These areas of research expertise are linked both conceptually and methodologically by my application of critical ethnographic and action research methods to arts-based resistance in Pacific identity struggles.

In 2021 I published a book based on my PhD research: Morning Star Rising: The Politics of Decolonization in West Papua (University of Hawaii Press). The research for the book utilised emancipative research methods including critical ethnography and critical grounded theory. I interviewed West Papuan political leaders in West Papua, PNG, Vanuatu, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden and Australia. Against the conventional political grain, I argued that the efficacy of West Papua’s independence movement is not inhibited but rather enhanced by conflict and factionalism. The book offers a critical vision for a peaceful and just West Papua as articulated by West Papuan leaders. I am one of only two scholars to have published on conflict transformation in West Papua and to examine the way in which critical ethnography can function as activism in decolonization struggles. In attracting significant mainstream as well as alternative and social media attention, my work serves to inform public debates and widen awareness about the human rights implications of Australia’s regional relationships. From 2015-2021, I was second CI on an ARC Linkage Grant to examine the ways music, via mobile phones, is being used to foster community mobilisation in Melanesia. Most recently, I have published on the intersection and limitations of human rights and Indigenous rights frameworks in sovereignty struggles, the #PapuanLivesMatter movement, and the role of social media in Oceanian decolonisation. My current research focuses on the special challenges women in or aspiring to leadership face in the decolonisation movements in West Papua and Kanaky/New Caledonia.

Engaging with Indigenous Knowledges for Education and Health

  • SDG3 Good Health and Well-Being

Project Lead

Lisa Slater

Project Description

This UOW Global Challenges Seed Grant was awarded in 2020. In addition to Dr Slater, the project team includes Katharine Haynes (SMAH), Vanessa Cavanagh (SOC/ASSH), Rebecca Stanley (SOC/ASSH), Yasmine Probst (SMAH), Oliver Costello (Firesticks Alliance Indigenous Corporation), Noel Webster (CEO Mudjingaalbaraga Firesticks/NSW Local Land Services South-East) and Don Hankins (California State University).

Project lead

Lisa Slater

Project description

Australia Council for the Arts, 2021-2024

This project looks at the relationship between the KALACC festival and cultural determinants of health. It is a collaboration between the Kimberley Aboriginal Law & Culture Centre (KALACC), Lisa Slater, Cultural Development Network and Mel Marshall (Notre Dame, Broome).

Project lead

Lisa Slater

Project description

Dr Slater is part of a multidisciplinary research team that includes UOW researchers Katharine Haynes (SMAH) and Vanessa Cavanagh (SOC/ASSH). The external partners include Sue Bulger (Brungle Tumut Local Aboriginal Land Council), Shane Herrington (Wolgalu/Wiradjuri, Brungle Tumut), Mal Ridges (NSW Department of Planning Industry and Environment ) and Dave Hunter (NSW Department of Planning Industry and Environment).

The project began as a collaboration with Wolgalu and Wiradjuri First Nations community members, Brungle Tumut Local Land Council, scientists from the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) and academics from UOW. Initially the aim was to revitalise the Wolgalu/Wiradjuri community’s connection to a critically endangered and culturally and ecologically significant species: the corroboree frog (Pseudophryne pengilleyi). Whom Wolgalu call Gyack. The project has developed and deepened. In the words of Wolgalu/Wiradjuri project team member, Shane Herrington, the Corroboree frog/Gyack is just one (important) piece of the puzzle to revitalise Wolgalu/Wiradjuri knowledges and work to put culture at the centre of land management practices.

Project lead

Evelyn Araluen Corr, Luke Patterson, Jade Kennedy, Michael R. Griffiths, Chrissy Howe, Ika Willis, Pascal Perez, Mehrdad Amirghasemi

Project Description

Yaangarra, the Dharawal word for paperbark, is the name of a database and interactive teaching tool for working with Indigenous Literatures from Australia, designed and produced on Dharawal Country at the University of Wollongong. Our team is comprised of literary and Indigenous studies scholars Evelyn Araluen Corr (Bundjalung, Goorie/Koorie) and Luke Patterson (Kaamilaaraay); educator Jade Kennedy (Yuin); literary studies scholar Michael Griffiths; creative writer Chrissy Howe; reception studies scholar Ika Willis; and our partners in the SMART Infrastructure Facility, with the leadership of Pascal Perez and the expertise of IT Architect Mehrdad Amirghasemi. Yaangarra connects knowledge about Indigenous writers to Country, literary genre, time and story.

Women’s and Gender Histories: Colonial Migrations, Resistance and Activism

  • SGD5 Gender Equality

Project Lead

Claire Lowrie

Project Description

Australian Research Council Discovery Project, 2020-2022

In December 2019, Victoria Haskins (University of Newcastle), Claire Lowrie (University of Wollongong) and Swapna Banerjee (City University of New York) were awarded an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant for a project titled ‘Ayahs and Amahs’. The project will explore the history of female domestic care workers from India and China who travelled to Australia, the UK and Europe during the period of British colonialism. Accompanying colonial families along circuits of empire between Australia, Asia, and the UK over two centuries, these were extraordinarily mobile women. By investigating the ayahs’ and amahs’ journeys, experiences, and cultural representations across colonial India and the Asia Pacific as well as through colonial metropoles in Britain and Europe, the project aims to articulate the historical connections between colonialism, carework, and labour mobility. As well as contributing to historical scholarship, the project aims to illuminate the continuing resonances of this history of mobile domesticities for present-day debates in Australia, Britain and Asia on the legacies of empire.

Project lead

Sharon Crozier-De Rosa

Project description

In 2020, Sharon Crozier-De Rosa took up a prestigious National Library of Australia Fellowship to conduct research on Australian political women during the period 1900 to 1960.

The women she will study are those who worked tirelessly for reform and yet whose achievements have been overshadowed by the dominant tale of men’s triumphs, which are far more commonly documented in the history books. In the face of difficult odds, however, these women have managed to preserve their own documents; their own histories.

Fellowship allows for deep dive into feminist history

Colonial Economies, Labour Inequalities and Human Trafficking

  • SDG8 Decent Work and Economic Growth

Project Lead

Julia Martinez, Claire Lowrie and Gregor Benton

Project description

Chinese indentured labour in the colonial Asia Pacific region, 1919–1966, Australian Research Council Discovery Project, 2018-2020 (DP180100695)

This project aims to investigate the abolition of Chinese indenture in the Asia Pacific region after 1919. It intends to investigate whether labour standards set by the International Labor Organization (ILO) were able to influence and overcome the European colonial preference for coerced migrant labour. The project expects to generate new knowledge about Australian, Chinese and global attitudes towards labour migration, by combining a comparative regional approach with detailed case studies of Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Specifically we aim to:

  • investigate the extent to which indenture survived calls for its abolition;
  • understand the role the ILO played in mobilising international abolitionist movements; and
  • revise the historical literature on Chinese indenture which currently renders indenture workers all but invisible in the years after 1919.

The project will be in two parts: locating empirical evidence of indentured labour after 1919; and exploring the discourses and debates in favour of its retention or abolition. Case studies include Malaya, North Borneo, the Netherlands East Indies, Nauru, Western Samoa and New Hebrides. Analysis of these colonies will be situated within a broader comparative framework of regional and global indentured migration.

The debates concerning indenture will be framed by international lobbying by the ILO, the League of Nations, and the United Nations against indenture, to facilitate a global rethinking of the evolution of labour migration practices. The project spans the last decades of the colonial era, starting in 1919, when the system of indenture was supposedly shut down and ending in 1966, by which time the British, French and Dutch colonies under consideration were independent or self-governing.

Project Lead

Simon Ville

Co-investigators:

  • Professor David Merrett, University of Melbourne
  • Associate-Professor Andre Sammartino, University of Melbourne
  • Associate-Professor Pierre van der Eng, Australian National University and Peking University.
  • Professor Geoff Jones, Harvard Business School

Project description

We aim to write the first history of foreign multinational firms in twentieth-century Australia, connecting to, and enhancing, a rich overseas literature on global business.

Foreign corporations have played a critical but poorly understood role here with public and policy opinions polarised between approval for new investment, job creation and innovation against concern for their impact on tax revenue, competition, and economic policy. Through a closer, long term understanding of multinationals – their magnitude, motives to settle here, corporate structures, and adaptation to local conditions – our findings will facilitate better informed public discourses of their economic and business impact, which will assist future policy decisions.

Project lead

Simon Ville

Co-investigators:

  • Prof Simon Ville, Chief Investigator from The University of Wollongong
  • A/Prof Anne Clarke, Chief Investigator from The University of Sydney
  • Dr Robin Torrence, Partner Investigator from Australian Museum
  • Prof Deirdre Coleman, Chief Investigator from The University of Melbourne
  • Dr Elizabeth Carter, Chief Investigator from The University of Sydney
  • Ms Vanessa Finney, Partner Investigator from Australian Museum
  • Dr Jude Philp, Chief Investigator from The University of Sydney

Project description

This project Investigates and reconstructs the trade routes and exchange methods of natural history trading in the nineteenth century. This trade, which involves a diversity of trade and exchange mechanisms, lacks a history; its research will help museum researchers to learn more about the origins and preservation techniques required to maintain rare specimens.

The project is funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage grant.

Project lead

Simon Ville

Co-investigator:

  • Professor Olav Wicken, University of Oslo, Norway

Project description

Most developed economies have transitioned through primary resource production to become a manufacturing nation. This project compares two nations who have taken a different route to modernisation through the continued development of natural resource industries such as mining, energy, and aquaculture. This challenges a stream of literature in economics known as the ‘resource curse’ that assumes all nations must industrialise to modernise.

 

Project Lead

Julia T. Martínez

Project Description

2022 ANU Humanities Research Centre fellowship.

This project, first funded by an ARC Future Fellowship FT120100127 (2013-2017), explores historical narratives surrounding the traffic in women and girls for marriage, concubinage, and the sex industry in the Asia Pacific region. It maps the networks of clandestine traffic, drawing attention to the broader Malay region including case studies from the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, and north Australia. It questions how abolitionist movements, supported by colonial authorities and after 1920 by the League of Nations, led to a greater emphasis on immigration restrictions for Asian women. Regulations that were framed in terms of protecting women often led to their criminalisation, detention and deportation.

Colonialism, Food and the Environment in the Past and Present

Project Lead

Frances Steel and Claire Lowrie

Project Description

This project developed out of a 2018 CASS symposium on Food and Colonialism across the Asia Pacific. We are currently working on a journal special issue that seeks to understand the connected histories of food production, trade and consumption as they evolved under colonial influence across Asia, Australia and the Pacific. Drawing on research in social history, the study of commodities under colonialism, and environmental history, this special issue emphasises the complex ways in which food structured patterns of exchange and interdependence, triggered tensions and conflicts, and shaped perceptions and transformations of climate and land use from the mid-nineteenth century. The special issue includes contribution from CASS members Julia T. Martínez, Lauren Samuelsson and Claire Lowrie.

Project Lead

Lauren Samuelsson

Project Description

Australia has a long history of excessive meat consumption. Colonists were once tempted to Australian shores by the promise of being able to eat meat ‘three times a day’, and commentators in the late 19th century reflected that Australians’ ‘consumption of...meat…is enormously in excess of any commonsense requirements’. Vegetarianism and veganism have been rising in popularity in Australia with around 12 per cent of the population abstaining from meat consumption. The mainstream popularity of these diets is relatively recent, however there have long been segments of the Australian population who have pushed for the uptake of a vegetarian diet, for a wide variety of reasons. This research project aims to shed light on the complex historical relationship between Australian food culture and meat eating to understand cultural barriers to the uptake of vegetarianism in Australia.