This week I’m in Adelaide for the feast of history that is the annual Australian Historical Association Conference. Each day I’ll share with you my experience of the conference on this blog.
My first experience of a historical conference was earlier this year at the American Historical Association annual conference in Chicago. Well… I didn’t travel outside Sydney. My experience of this conference was entirely online. The attendees at this conference generated a prolific twitter stream and many blog posts. I was very grateful to the participants for sharing the news of the conference in this way.
In my blog post written at the conclusion of the American conference I enthused about the reporting of the tweeps and bloggers, but recognised it just wasn’t quite the same as being there. It was then that I decided I’d try to attend the Australian Historical Association conference in order to gain the full experience and be one of those who report it online.
With so many concurrent sessions, each person’s experience of the conference will be very different. If you can, follow the conference twitter stream under the #OzHA2012 tag to read the comments of other conference attendees. If you don’t want to follow it live, you can refer to the conference twitter archive that Sharon Howard has established. The beauty of this internetworked era is that you don’t have to be in Australia or an Australian to enjoy this conference. Sharon Howard is following it from soggy England, wishing she was experiencing this conference in an Australian winter (but she can console herself that the English are winning the cricket)!
The conference is really four conferences rolled into one:
- Connections: Australian Historical Association conference;
- Secularism and History: Religious History Association Biennial Conference;
- Emotional connections: ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions 1100-1800; and
- Connections Made & Broken: Intimacy & Estrangement in Women’s History, organised by the Australian Women’s History network Symposium.
I’m mostly attending the Secularism and History sessions. I’ll share my thoughts on these tomorrow when this section of the conference has ended. While I was attending my sessions today I was keeping an eye on the twitter stream – it sounded like there were some fabulous sessions at the Connections conference, particular on Chinese/Australian history. As I was writing this I was hoping that Kate Bagnall would be writing a post on these sessions later this week. I checked the #OzHA2012 twitter stream and found that a paper very similar to the one she presented at the conference today is already on her blog. Hopefully we will see some more blog posts about other Chinese Australian papers presented at this conference.
There are also book launches to attend during the conference. I attended one today at lunchtime which will be of interest to readers who have been reading my book reviews over the last few weeks. It is a history written by Fiona Paisley of another Aboriginal protestor from the 1920s, Anthony Martin Fernando. I say “another” protestor because I reviewed a book by John Maynard a couple of weeks ago which was about an organisation of Aboriginal people called the Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association, which did a lot to raise awareness of white Australians about the appalling treatment meted out to the indigenous Australians.
Fernando was significant because he moved to Europe to protest about the treatment of Aborigines in the 1920s. I am looking forward to reading The Lone Protestor: A M Fernando in Australia and Europe,and writing a review for this blog, but first I need to finish the biography of Miles Franklin I’m reading, a book by Bill Gammage…..
Today we ended with a keynote talk given by Professor Sir Christopher Bayly, titled ‘India and Australia: Distant Connections’. This was a wide-ranging comparison of the histories of these two members of the British Empire. To the surprise of many in the audience Bayly mentioned that at one stage during the nineteenth century Australia was held as an ‘icon’ by Indians agitating for reform. When questioned on this at the end Bayly said that there was a considerable amount of news about Australia in the Anglo newspapers in Calcutta, more so than news about Canada. Bayly surmised that this was due to the shipping connections between Australia and India.
Another member of the audience asked whether historians should be examining trans-imperial connections as well as connections between people living in the same empire. Bayly responded that at the moment we are constrained in doing this because of the need for greater linguistic capabilities. Difficulty in accessing material in the archives would also pose a problem for many researchers. However, Bayly said he expected that the next generation of historians would address this.
So ended a stimulating day. Tomorrow I’ll write about the Secularism and History sessions.
1/8/2012: The Australian Historical Association has made available Professor Sir Christopher Bayly’s paper, ‘India and Australia: Distant Connections‘, on their website. I have corrected the title of this paper in my original post and added a link to it. I strongly urge you to read his paper.