How has national belonging and association been represented in film, language and new technologies? What is the image and representation of being Australian and who has been iconically represented, who has been marginalised, and how has the representation of belonging worked to bolster or transgress formal citizenship and participation in the life of the nation?

Event details

When: 1.30-3.00pm (AEDT), Thursday 17th November 2022
Where: Art Gallery of Ballarat



Associate Professor Sarah Collins

Belonging as Contagion

With pandemics in mind, this paper explores the idea of belonging as a form of ‘mimetic contagion’—a contagion that engages the aesthetic categories of sympathy, affect, and judgement as a way of parsing those who are the same from those who are different. I discuss how this contagion has been historically attributed to particular organs of sensation (especially the ear and the eye), and examine historical examples from the stage (theatre and opera) and screen (film animation) in order to locate belonging within a genealogy of ideas pertaining to art and representation. 

Sarah Collins is a cultural historian who has published on the relationship between music and literary aesthetics and broader intellectual and political currents in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. She is the author of Lateness and Modernism: Untimely Ideas about Music, Literature and Politics in Interwar Britain (Cambridge UP, 2019), and The Aesthetic Life of Cyril Scott (Boydell, 2013); editor of Music and Victorian Liberalism: Composing the Liberal Subject (Cambridge UP, 2019); and co-editor with Paul Watt and Michael Allis of The Oxford Handbook of Music and Intellectual Culture in the Nineteenth Century (Oxford UP, 2020). Sarah lectures in musicology at the University of Western Australia. She has held visiting fellowships at Harvard University, the University of Oxford and Durham University, and has received competitive research funding from a range of sources including the British Academy, the Australian Research Council, and the European Research Council. 

Professor Jane Lydon

One People? A Visual Language of Australian Citizenship

After World War II the legal category of Australian citizenship was created through the Nationality and Citizenship Act 1948, but continued to overlap with British status. A ‘new language’ of photography actively constituted ideas about Australian citizenship through three interlocking discourses centring on the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a new assimilationist policy for Australia’s Indigenous people, and a migration program which advanced a powerful visual language of whiteness. The universalising language of the ‘family of man’ took on distinctive vernacular forms as officials sought to define an ‘Australian way of life’ through new photographic formats, including pamphlets, highly-illustrated periodicals, and media stories. As mapped by these visual projects, the universalising and inclusive rhetoric of human rights shaped international aspirations as well as Australian assimilation policy during these post-war years, yet both featured notable ‘blind spots’, or exclusions, that define the limits of citizenship.

Professor Jane Lydon is the Wesfarmers Chair of Australian History at The University of Western Australia. She currently leads the ‘Western Australian Legacies of British Slavery’ project, with Jeremy Martens, Paul Arthur, Zoë Laidlaw, Georgina Arnott, Catherine Hall, Keith McClelland and Alan Lester, which seeks to analyse Australian legacies of British slave-ownership by tracing the movement of people, capital and culture from the Caribbean to the settler colonial world. Her most recent books include Imperial Emotions: The Politics of Empathy across the British Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2020) which examines the role of the compassionate emotions in creating relationships spanning the globe, and Anti-slavery and Australia: No Slavery in a Free Land? (Routledge, 2021). This book explores the anti-slavery movement in imperial scope, arguing that colonization in Australasia facilitated emancipation in the Caribbean, even as abolition powerfully shaped the Settler Revolution. Abolition posed problems to which colonial expansion provided the answer, intimately linking the end of slavery to systematic colonization and Indigenous dispossession.

Twitter: @LydonJane 

About the Symposium

Questions of citizenship and belonging have long featured in Australian public life. From the rights and citizenship of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples through to exclusionary immigration policies, from internment of ‘enemy aliens’ to citizenship controversies of the Australian parliament, from demands of loyalty from diaspora groups to cancelling the citizenship of terrorists, their widows and orphans.

Citizenship is both an externally protective and projective mechanism, and a marker of ‘who belongs’. Around the world, notions of citizenship are often divided between so called ‘civic’ and ‘ethnic’ principles. Australia’s own experience shows that forms of national belonging are more complex than this binary suggests.

The 53rd Annual Symposium will explore themes of loyalty and nationality, internationalism, mobility and how these interact with questions of participation, affiliation and the politics of ‘nativism’. Moving beyond legalistic approaches, it will imagine a new and unique Australian civilisational compact – a substantive kind of citizenship for a multicultural society with deep trans-national and diaspora connections and a reimagined polity negotiated with First Nations concepts and rights.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Australian Academy of the Humanities recognises Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the traditional owners and custodians of this land, and their continuous connection to country, community and culture.