“Since , O Mazda from the beginning, Thou didst create soul and body, mental power and knowledge , and since Thou didst bestow to mankind the power to act , speak and guide , you wished that everyone should chose their own faith and path freely.”

Zaratostra - Yasna 31, Verse 11

One who always thinks of his own safety and profit, how can he love the joy-bringing Mother Earth? The righteous man that follows Asha's Law shall dwell in regions radiant with Thy Sun, the abode where wise ones dwell.”

Zaratostra Yasna, Verse 2

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Abstract for the Symposium by Associate Professor Peter Eckersall

Port B: ‘site as stage’—the audience runs amok in the archive

Since 2003, when Port B was founded by Takayama Akira, this Tokyo based company have made interdisciplinary art works at the borders of what we generally accept as theatre. These include experimental theatre productions, art installations and works called ‘tour performances.’ Documentary performance techniques are used; techniques that use documents, interviews and site research to create new information and uncover hidden aspects of the past. Documentary performance often dwells on the connections that people have to places and tells personal, in many cases, revelatory stories. 

This paper examines ‘The Complete Manual of Evacuation—Tokyo’ (Takayama, 2010) an artwork taking as its central image the 34.5 km Yamanote train line circling around Tokyo. At each of its 29 stations an evacuation zone was established. ‘Evacuation—Tokyo’ is described as:
A communicational system that enables the audiences to come into contact with communities that usually remain unseen in the shape of our present-day cities …. The dialogue starts via Internet and then spreads to several districts in Tokyo. (A venture with the aim of disrobing theatre.) A theatrical architecture, designing a new form of encounter.
Participants register on line and complete a questionnaire (still available at: http://hinan-manual.com/); depending on their answers, they would be directed to one of the 29 stations.  Once there, they could meet ‘communities’ such as homeless people and migrants and explore the buried histories and cartographies of each site.

In ‘Evacuation—Tokyo’ an interactive network of temporary ‘sites as stage’ is created and the role of the audience is cleverly transformed.  Who is an audience in these works?  There are paying ticket-holders, people who interact with them at evacuation sites, and even the people in the teeming city that surround them.  And how does ‘Evacuation—Tokyo’ narrate transcultural identity? Jacques Derrida writes in Archive Fever: ‘There is no political power without control of the archive, if not of memory.’[1]  He indicates that the stakes are high over the memorialisation and excavation of sites and people’s histories.  This paper will explore how ‘Evacuation—Tokyo’ might enable the countering of such a fulsome ideological contest where dominating powers put their singular claims on identity.  Participating in this carefully created ‘site as theatre’ enables the audience to run amok and see artefacts and people in different relationships to space and power.

Peter Eckersall is Associate Professor in Theatre Studies in the School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne.  Peter’s research interests include contemporary Japanese theatre, experimental performance and dramaturgy. His major publications include Theorizing the Angura Space: avant-garde performance and politics in Japan 1960-2000 (Brill Academic, 2006) and forthcoming Kawamura Takeshi’s Nippon Wars and Other Plays (Seagull Books, 2011).  He is dramaturg for Not Yet It’s Difficult whose performance and media works are well known in Australia, Asia and Europe.  Peter is presently a visiting fellow at the International Centre, Interweaving Performance Cultures at Freie University, Berlin. 

[1] Jacques Derrida Archive Fever, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), 4, note 1.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Abstract for the Symposium by Dr Mammad Aidani

We are sedimented: Perceptions and identity amongst the Iranian Diaspora

Centered on the idea of sedimentation this paper discusses the displaced narratives of Iranians in Australia and the ways in which they perceive and give meaning to the positive and negative emotions which they have
formed about themselves, their experiences of displacement, and cultural Otherness. 

The paper argues that these perceptions and the meanings attached to the experiences are the sedimentation of geography, culture,history and linguistics. This sedimentation has shaped the psyche, memory and emotions of Iranians living in the diaspora. I argue that the perceptions of the Iranian diaspora are not only rooted in a sedimented cultural identity but also in the body’s perceptions of phenomena.

Dr Mammad Aidani is an interdisciplinary scholar specializing in phenomenological philosophy and narrative existential psychology. He is based in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne.  He is also a playwright and theatre practitioner . His research examines the cultural meanings of suffering and the types of identities and modes of belonging that shape the local world of diaspora communities. He is the author of Welcoming the Stranger: Narratives of Identity and Belonging in an Iranian Diaspora (Common Ground 2010). His plays have been staged both in Australia and internationally.  His recent Journal articles have been published in the Journal of Intercultural Studies ( Routledge, 2010)   and The International Journal of the Arts in Society (Common Ground 2010).  His current research focuses on “ sedimentation, perception, consciousness and the body:  The ways of suffering amongst Iranian diaspora men.”

Abstract for the Symposium by Dr James Oliver

Ways of Seeing, Being and Becoming: identity as performance of place and belonging

This paper explores how people act on and do identity in contexts (or sites) of place-based belonging, with particular focus on contexts where colonial contact has informed a legacy of cultural (and territorial)  assimilation, appropriation, and alienation; including processes of population decline and migrations.

With a particular focus on embodied and spatial negotiations of place, this paper explores the ontology of ‘being in place’ as a modality of identity that informs and subverts the national imaginary, where sites of identity are a stage (as both platform and process) of understanding and informing identities.

The paper employs examples of identity, place and alienation in an ethnographic journey from the Scottish Hebrides to the Australian continent.

Dr. James Oliver, McCaughey Centre, School of Polulation Health, The University of Melbourne.

James is a Research Fellow in the School of Population Health at The University of Melbourne. He was awarded his PhD in 2003 at The University of Sheffield, where he was supervised by social anthropologists Sharon Macdonald and Richard Jenkins. The thesis explored the identity negotiations of young people in relation to the Gaelic language, culture and place, in Scotland. This work was funded by UK’s Economic and Social Research Council, as was his subsequent postdoctoral fellowship at The University of Edinburgh. Subsequent to this he has worked across a range of projects and practices broadly relating to place, culture and identity; including, amongst homeless people in Glasgow, in arts development for the Scottish Arts Council, and more recently amongst marginalized communities in Melbourne. His work is developing with increasing reference to arts practice and research, with continuing relevance to the social relations and productions of culture, place and identity.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Abstract for the Symposium by Dr Dvir Abramovich

Aussie Sabras: The Israeli migrant community in Melbourne

While the state of Israel was established to allow Jews to end their perennial narrative of wandering and persecution in the Diaspora, since its founding in 1948 more than one million Israelis have chosen to go abroad and settle there.  Given that Israel was built on the pillars of immigration, Israeli emigrants encompass within their midst a complex and variegated array of identities, as well as multivalent links to social groups within and outside Israel. The latest figures from the Israeli Interior Ministry report that there are about 20,000 Israelis living in Australia and it is this group that forms the centre of this presentation.
 It is lamentable that there are almost no local studies of the Israeli emigrant population, perhaps owing to the thorny and controversial nature surrounding the subject matter of Israelis leaving their homeland. As such, a broad spectrum of themes and issues associated with this community has not been scrutinized by the academic community.

The focus of this paper will be to examine the small sized, highly westernized Israeli migrant population in Melbourne, which at present constitutes the largest community of Israelis in Australia. Analysed and dissected will be issues such as: reasons for emigration, models of economic adaptation, the relationship between the Israeli community and the local Jewish community, the durable connections to the country of origins, patterns of communal organization and ethnic and religious identity. Based on ethnographic materials, the paper weaves together theories from the extensive field of migration and Diaspora studies.

Dr. Dvir Abramovich is the Jan Randa Senior Lecturer in Hebrew & Jewish studies and Director of The University of Melbourne Centre for Jewish History and Culture. He was president of the Australian Association of Jewish Studies for 5 years and editor of the Australian Journal of Jewish Studies, the only peer-reviewed journal in Australia devoted to the field of Judaic studies for eight years. A regular contributor to national media, he is co- editor of the book Testifying to the Holocaust (2008) and author of the book Back to the FutureIsraeli Litearture of the 1980s and 1990s published in 2010.

Abstract for the Symposium by Associate Professor Gocha Tsetskhladze

'Colonial Encounters': Ancient Greeks Overland

Contacts between Greeks and locals come in different shapes and sizes and
were transmitted in a variety of ways - objects, ideas, practices,
lifestyles, etc. - and different societies showed different ways of
accepting and displaying new ideas. What they accepted, they did so
deliberately because the new had to complement something already existing
within the receiving/accepting society. The question is always that of who
initiated the process. I shall explore the situation in the Mediterranean
and the Black Sea, focusing on prestige objects in local societies as well
as Greek features in the architecture of local settlements, sculpture.

Gocha Tsetskhladze is a Classical Archaeologist with two doctorates
(Moscow and Oxford). He is a specialist in the archaeology of the
Mediterranean, Anatolia and the Black Sea in the Archaic and Classical
periods, Greek colonisation, the relationship between Greeks and locals,
etc. He has published over 250 articles, chapters and books. He is founder
and editor-in-chief of the journal Ancient West & East and its monograph
supplement, Colloquia Antiqua. He has excavated extensively around the
Black Sea and is now Director of the University of Melbourne Excavations
at Pessinus in Central Anatolia.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A few observations about Carlton Housing Estates's Harmony Day

 On 17 March 2011, the Research Network participated in Harmony Day Ceremonies at the Carlton Housing Estates at the Suggestion of one of our members, Dr. Sara Wills. The Carlton Housing Estates is a planned development to supply housing to the disadvantaged, located in the middle of a neighbourhood surrounded by Melbourne University and gentrified upscale housing. Harmony Day, celebrates diversity in Australia.

Research Network Members Mammad Aidani, James Oliver, and Louise Hitchcock enjoy the festivities

The day featured various cultural events such as African drumming and a dance troupe from the Vietnamese community, Kurdish and Turkish residents, Somalian women groups and many others. There were very lively activities on the Housing Estate Centres Around the Childrens' Playground

Adam Bandt, the Green Pary Federal MP for Melbourne spoke of the changing ethnic landscape in Melbourne, which has more recent migrants than any Australian city. We were struck by the point that he stayed around to speak with the community long after the soundbite moment and photo op ended.