Gender, Sex, Coloniality: Public Lecture

Next Wednesday, 29 March 5.30 at 215 Franklin Street Melbourne, at the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, I'll be giving a public lecture:


It's free, all welcome!

What it's about: The social science we use in research on health and illness, violence and inequality, is largely derived from European & North American social experience - including the power to draw knowledge from the colonized world.  I'm asking how these issues look if we start our stories, instead, from the process of colonization itself.

I'll try to work this out in three contested areas:
  • the making of Australian masculinities
  • the politics of birth
  • struggles to survive with gender contradiction.
I will reflect on the social science we need, and the social science we are likely to have, in the world of Putin, Xi, Trump and Turnbull.

The title? A variation on lines from an early poem by the great Judith Wright:

     South of my days' circle
     I know it dark against the stars, the high lean country
     full of old stories that still go walking in my sleep.


Australians are, per capita, among the worst polluters in the world.  We have a poor record of energy conservation and environmental protection.  The country’s neoliberal development agenda has prioritised large-scale coal mining for export – producing pollution in other countries.  For the last twenty years our national governments have denied or trivialized climate change, and fiddled with carbon policies that were either ineffective or outright fakes. 
A week ago, members of the current national government brought a lump of coal into parliament and played with it, for the cameras, to show their commitment to the coal industry.  On that day, the weather bureau was predicting over 40 degrees for western Sydney.  This southern summer in Australia, after years of high temperatures, has recorded record-breaking heat, with frightening bushfire conditions.
Yesterday in Sydney, a tremendous thunderstorm came from the west, the interior of the continent.  Another one came today.
I don’t go in for Earth-mysticism.  I have been in a tropical cyclone and under the ash of a volcanic eruption, and they were simply part of what happens.

But these two days, as the lightning flashed and the rain slashed down, it was easy to believe in a message.  I have never felt so strongly that nature was angry.

New papers on Southern theory themes

Two new publications on Southern theory themes:
Takayama, Keita, Arathi Sriprakash and Raewyn Connell. 2016. Toward a postcolonial comparative and international education. Comparative Education Review, vol. 61 no. S2, published online 27 December 2016, OPEN ACCESS at:
This is how it begins:

A moment of deep reflection.  We have put together this special issue to initiate dialogue about the active colonial legacies within the field of Comparative and International Education (CIE), and to show ways of working beyond them. Readers might wonder how CIE, which celebrates and tries to understand the diversity of education around the world, can continue to be influenced by colonial histories and Eurocentrism. In this extended introduction, we explain why coloniality remains a significant challenge to the field and how articles in this collection engage with this challenge. We hope readers will join us in a major rethinking of the norms and knowledge about difference, comparison and research that have been inherited from the field’s history.

Connell, Raewyn, Fran Collyer, João Maia and Robert Morrell.  2016. Toward a global sociology of knowledge: post-colonial realities and intellectual practices. International Sociology, published OPEN ACCESS November 2016, DOI: 10.1177/0268580916676913, at:
Here’s the abstract:
This article discusses changing social perspectives on knowledge, from the old sociology of knowledge to current post-colonial debates. The authors propose an approach that sees knowledge not as an abstract social construction but as the product of specific forms of social labour, showing the ontoformativity of social practice that creates reality through historical time. Research in three southern-tier countries examines knowledge workers and their labour process, knowledge institutions including workplaces and communication systems, economic strategies and the resourcing of knowledge work and workforces. This research shows in detail the contested hegemony of the global metropole in domains of knowledge. It reveals forms of negotiation that reshape knowledge production, and shows the importance for knowledge workers of the dynamics of global change.

An Anniversary: Democracy & Education

Verdun, the aftermath
2016 is the hundredth anniversary of the appalling battles of Verdun and the Somme on the Western Front and the Brusilov offensive on the Eastern Front (the greatest Allied success of the war; 800 000 soldiers dead).  1916 was the year of the Easter Rising in Dublin, and the first conscription referendum in Australia, the only belligerent country that formally voted against the war.  Soon after that year’s end, the people of St Petersburg revolted, the collapse of the European empires began, and the United States joined the slaughter.

From that history of mire and blood, it’s good to be able to report another anniversary – the centenary of a great work of humanist scholarship.  1916 also saw the publication of Democracy and Education by John Dewey, once a high school teacher, at the time professor of philosophy at Teachers College, Columbia University, in New York.
Dewey, when not yet a Grand Old Man
It’s a chunky book in maroon hard covers (I have a copy of the 32nd printing, from 1960), originally published in a textbook series.  It’s subtitled An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education, and much of it dutifully expounds textbook themes: theories of knowledge, school subjects from History to Science, educational aims and values, the nature of philosophy, etc.
But woven through that is an extraordinary vision of what education could be, as the expression of a democratic society.  Dewey gives a sophisticated critique of the authoritarian pedagogy normal in schools at the time, and a hard-headed account of what a democratic outlook means in the practical life of schools.  These are the ideas that made the book an inspiration to generations of teachers, and the bible of the progressive education movement.  It’s still worth reading a hundred years later -  and you can’t say that of many textbooks!
If you never read any other part, read the chapter “Vocational Aspects of Education”.  The title sounds monumentally boring.  In fact it’s a brilliant short account of social change and alienation in industrial capitalism, and the role of education in reproducing, and also contesting, inequality.
Dewey could do this not just because he had a short unhappy experience as a school teacher, but also because he had been a very active academic psychologist and philosopher (the two trades weren’t sharply distinguished then) with a practical interest in teacher training and educational experiment.
In his second academic job he had been the key figure in setting up the famous Laboratory Schools at the University of Chicago.  Soon after publishing Democracy and Education he was one of the bunch of dangerous radicals who set up the New School for Social Research, an experimental university in New York. (Both are still running, though they have become less experimental.)
Dewey, when he was
I find it hard to get bearings on Dewey.  He was a socialist of sorts, certainly a radical critic of Gilded-Age capitalism.  He became a unionist, a member of the American Federation of Teachers.  But he left the public sector University of Michigan for the the new-rich University of Chicago, set up by Rockefeller money.  He then went to the Ivy-League fortress of Columbia University.  Well, many academics have contradictions in their lives, who am I to talk?  I’m happy to celebrate the fact that out of the tensions of Dewey’s life came this great inspiration to good education.
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