‘Encyclopaedias and Politics: Whitewashing Australia’s Convict Past’


School of Humanities and Social Science
In conjunction with Umulliko
Indigenous Higher Education Research Centre

‘Encyclopaedias and Politics: Whitewashing Australia’s Convict Past’

Dr Nadine Kavanagh, IASH

Friday, 16 May
10am to 11am
(with morning tea/coffee afterwards)

Cultural Collections Reading Room (near the Information Common)
Level 2, Auchmuty Library,
Callaghan Campus

Encyclopaedias have often been described as mirrors of the societies they are produced in. This metaphor reveals a lack of understanding of the complex politics embedded in the genre. Encyclopaedias are not passive mirrors, but have the power, along with other cultural, artistic and educational products, to subtly control and, paradoxically, to change the societies which produced them.
The aim of this paper is to demonstrate with the example of the Australian Encyclopaedia (1925/26) that the encyclopaedic genre is an ideal instrument for spreading political ideas. An analysis of the Australian Encyclopaedia reveals that the characteristics of the genre allowed the producers to whitewash Australia’s convict past successfully, as a part of their nation building project.

Nadine Kavanagh studied history, German literature and linguistics and the Swedish language in Zurich and Stockholm. She spent two years as a Visiting Research Associate at the University of New South Wales. In 2008, she was awarded her doctorate in history with the accolade ‘summa cum laude’ from the University of Zurich, Switzerland. She was appointed Research Academic to the Institute of Advanced Study for Humanity (IASH) in the same year. Her main research interests are the relationship between knowledge production and power, issues of identity, in particular nation building, and transnational ideas and movements.

Staff, students and members of the public are welcome

Enquiries to:

Victoria Haskins Victoria.Haskins@newcastle.edu.au Ph 49215221

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