Exciting exchange

MANY SCHOLARS and students of Australian and postcolonial Studies were disappointed to have missed the address of Bill Ashcroft (of "The Empire Writes Back" fame) at the first international conference organised by The Indian Association for The Study of Australia (IASA).

Ashcroft is an icon of postcolonial studies and a theoretician who along with two of his colleagues has authored "The Empires Writes Back" and "The Postcolonial Reader". His latest works are "Postcolonial Transformation" and the recently released "Postcolonial Future".

Ashcroft spoke on the need for reconciliation and reconciliation as transformation in the Australian context. He spoke from the perspective of painting and explained how till recently aboriginal art was not considered contemporary or saleable.

The aboriginal artist Lin Onus' paintings were poignant visuals used by Ashcroft to prove his point.

Another interesting figure was Alf Taylor, an aboriginal poet who came as a representative of the marginalised. He regaled the audiences with stories of the stolen generation to which he belonged and won the hearts of all.

Others present were Robin Pollard from the Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, who spoke on Internalisation of Higher Education; Jennifer Strauss, the academician and writer, who along with Prof. Bruce Bennet, has edited "The Oxford History of the Literature of Australia". She spoke about the Australian poetess Mary Gilmore.

Writers Judith Rodriguez and Inez Baranay also shared their views.

The Indian side was represented by distinguished academicians from related fields. Padma Subrahmanyam presented the cultural perspective.

The response to the three-day conference was overwhelming as there were about 80 papers representing a wide spectrum of the culture, society and polity of Australia. Of these 69 were by Indians. Of these, 29 were on aboriginal literature and only 16 on mainstream literary subjects.

This raised an interesting comment by a participant "that at this conference the marginalised had become the dominant". Judith Rodriguez, who put the entire conference in perspective ended on the cordial note that "this momentary invasion of Chennai deserved a return."


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