Report on ‘Ecologies of Practice: Illawarra’ Symposium

By Anne Collett.

The FLHA Centre for Cultures, Texts & Creative Industries hosted Professor Stuart Walker’s recent visit to UOW (Sept/Oct 2016), and as Director of the Centre, I took on the organisation of the symposium & workshop he nominated as a significant component of his 7-week program. CTC members and other interested parties from TAEM were invited to meet with Prof Walker to discuss shared research interests, and it was out of this meeting that Prof Walker, Prof Sue Turnbull and myself decided to focus the symposium/ workshop on art/design/cultural practice in the Illawarra region, thereby beginning work toward mapping what Prof Walker calls an ‘ecology of practice’. The ‘Ecologies of Practice: Illawarra’ workshop held at UOW on 21/10/16 thus became part of a UK Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project ‘exploring practices that have a very strong origin in local or national culture’, and placed UOW in collaborative relationship with Lancaster and Manchester Metropolitan Universities (UK). Importantly, this workshop has also acted to place Illawarra artists and UOW teachers and researchers of design and culture in relationship to communities as diverse as Santa Fe (New Mexico), Shanghai (China) and Cumbria (UK) with whom Prof Walker is working to produce maps of Creative Ecology.https-%2f%2fcdn-evbuc-com%2fimages%2f24553053%2f53231806418%2f1%2foriginal

The purpose of the symposium/workshop at UOW was to initiate, through collective knowledge of arts and related creative practices in the Illawarra, the development of a ‘Creative Ecology’ map of the region. This map is designed to identify all the ‘extrinsic’ elements that help facilitate and support creative practices in the region. In Prof Walker’s words: ‘Once completed, the Creative Ecology map will provide a visualization of the elements present in the region – and will also help identify areas that might require further development. Hence, the Creative Ecology map also has a diagnostic function’.

Significantly, the symposium and workshop negotiated relationship between UOW and the Illawarra community. This was a ‘gown and town’ initiative that extended institutional relationship with ImaginationLancaster will nurture and develop. Speakers representative of a wide range of perspectives on cultural practice in the Illawarra were sought out and invited to participate. In addition, an invitation was sent out through various channels to include a range of individuals with relationship to UOW and the broader Arts community. Speakers included Michael Organ (local historian and Manger of Repository Services at the UOW Library); Jade Kennedy (Yuin man from the Illawarra; UOW PhD candidate exploring impacts of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage on Engineering project management); Ann Martin (Artist, Wollongong Counsellor and Planning Officer for the Southern Region, NSW); Susan Barnett (Artist and graduate of UOW Creative Arts; cultural events organiser); Denise Russell (UOW honorary fellow; founder and director of the Thirroul Readers & Writers Festival); Trent Jansen (award winning designer and PhD candidate, Creative Arts, UOW); and Lucia Parrella (Print-maker, UOW Creative Arts graduate, Community Arts & Cultural Development practitioner – multi-arts program for women). 23 participants were involved in the mapping project. It was a productive and successful day that we hope to build on over the course of the coming year.

CTC Seminar: Genet’s ‘rituals of the oppressed’ and the main stage

Presenter: Margaret Hamilton
Time/Date: 24 November 2016, 12:30pm-1:30pm.
Venue: Research Hub 19.2072.

In 2013 Benedict Andrews directed Jean Genet’s The Maids at the Sydney Theatre Company. Cate Blanchett (in the role of Claire) and Isabelle Huppert (as Solange) played the maids Genet originally intended to be acted by male performers, and Elizabeth Debicki as Madame performed the object of the maids’ ritual simulation of murder. Genet’s play, a fictionalisation of Christine and Léa Papin’s brutal slaughter of their mistresses in 1933, heightens the experience of theatrical modes of perception in its insistence on role-playing against a backdrop of social stratification. Andrews’s production of Genet’s play exemplifies theatre central to highly charged, polemic public debate concerning the prevalence of adaptation in Australia. According to Andrews the process of translating a text for the stage constitutes interpretation and subsequently a political act. But what, if any, political function does this performance of Genet’s drama have in the context of main stage theatre in Australia and beyond? Is it simply an example of star marketing that fails to correspond to contemporary notions of critical art? What issues are at play for the audiences that see this production? In considering these questions this paper will examine Peter Boenisch’s (2015) theorisation of Regie (directing) as a process of ‘making sense’ rather than consumption and the implications of this conceptualisation for adaptation as an aesthetico-political strategy; celebrity spectacle; and, the question of the commodification of theatre as a cultural form.

Margaret Hamilton is Senior Lecturer in Theatre Studies at the University of Wollongong, Australia. She is the author of Transfigured Stages: Major Practitioners and Theatre Aesthetics in Australia (Rodopi, 2011), and specialises in research on contemporary Australian theatre. Her research has encompassed the emergence of postdramatic theatre in Australia and currently focuses on internationally significant main stage directors and theatre productions as part of a project that analyses the prospect of artistic critique in the context of late capitalism. In addition to critical book collections, her research has been published in a number of journals, including Theatre Journal, Sexualities and Australasian Drama Studies. She is a Chief Investigator on AusStage’s Australian Research Council funded project Phase 5: Australian live performance and the world – global networks, national culture and aesthetic transmission and Phase 6 – Visualising venues in Australian live performance research. For a number of years she developed and managed a major program of contemporary Australian arts in Berlin for the AustraliaCouncil for the Arts and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
PDF Flyer

CTC Seminar: Stone, Voice and the Roman Telephone

Presenter: Ika Willis
Time/Date: 27 October 2016, 12:30pm-1:30pm.
Venue: Research Hub 19.2072.

The last words of the epitaph on the tombstone of Ennius, Rome’ first epic poet, read ‘uolito uiuos per ora uirum’: ‘I live on, transmitted through the air on the mouths of men’. The line, and the medium on which it is inscribed, crystallize an aspect of Latin media theory which continues to be audible/visible throughout the literature of the Augustan period: a knotted and ambivalent relationship between stone and voice as media of cultural transmission. In this paper, I draw on work in media theory and archaeology by Michel Serres and Friedrich Kittler as well as Avital Ronell, in order to map Latin telephonic theories of cultural transmission. I track the interrelationship of oral transmission, inscription on stone, poetic fame, and cultural reproduction through the work of Ovid and Virgil, uncovering a vast telephonic network. I conclude by arguing that just as the figure of the telephone helps reveal the contours of Latin media theory, it also transforms our understanding of the activity of ‘conversing’ with the dead. If we understand our activities as readers of the ancient past as ‘conversing with the dead’, then on what wire – or what wireless network, powered by what transmitter mast – does that conversation take place?​

Ika Willis is Senior Lecturer in English Literatures at the University of Wollongong. She came to Wollongong in 2013 after seven years in the department of Classics at the University of Bristol, where she was Lecturer in Reception. She works across the disciplines of Classics, Cultural Studies and Literary Studies, and has published work on Latin poetry, critical theory and deconstruction, and fan fiction. She is the author of Now and Rome (Continuum, 2011), which uses theories of teletechnology to read the Latin poetry of Vergil and Lucan, and she is on study leave this semester to complete the Reception volume for Routledge’s New Critical Idiom series.​


Ecologies of Practice Symposium


Date/Time: October 21, 8:45am-5pm.
Venue: Faculty of Law, Humanities and The Arts, University of Wollongong. Building 19, 2nd Floor, Research Hub Room 2072.

This multidisciplinary one-day event will examine culturally significant creative practices in the Illawarra and, through a collaborative workshop, develop a Creative Ecology map of the region.

Creative practices include, but are not limited to art, craft, design, writing, poetry, film, traditional practices, and performance. A range of speakers will provide insights into the history, practices, resources and current creative endeavours in the Illawarra.

Preparation: Participants are asked to bring an object, a photograph, a piece of writing or other tangible expression of a culturally relevant practice that is from or related to the Illawarra region. You will be asked to say a few words about your choice – why you selected it and its relationship to the region.


Facilitated by

  • Stuart Walker is a Visiting Professor at UOW, from the University of Lancaster. He has been conducting research in the United States, China and the English Lake District that explores the role of Ecologies of Practice in enabling and supporting culturally significant creative practices. His work focuses especially on tangible artefacts and the practices employed in their making. However, Ecologies of Practice can include performance, oral traditions, writing, and other forms of intangible cultural heritage that are important to people, culture and identity; are connected to place; and are commensurate with personal, social, and environmental aspects of design for sustainability.
  • Anne Collett is an Associate Professor in the English Literatures & Creative Writing Program. She was the Distinguished Visiting Professor of Australian Studies at the University of Copenhagen in 2014/15 and the University of Tokyo in 2011/12, and the editor of Kunapipi: journal of postcolonial writing & culture from 1999-2013 (free online access 1979-2012 at Her research interests lie primarily in the field of postcolonial women’s poetry, with expertise in the Caribbean, Canada and Australia.
  • Sue Turnbull is Professor of Communication and Media Studies and Discipline Leader for the Creative Industries. Her research interests include media education, media audiences and television studies with particular attention to both crime and comedy. Her current ARC Discovery project is entitled Border Crossings: The Transnational Career of the TV Crime Drama (DP160102510). With Kate Darian-Smith (Melbourne) and Sukhmani Khorana (UOW) Sue also holds a current ARC Linkage project (LP 150100202) with partners at the Museum of Victoria and The Australian Centre for the Moving Image examining the role of television in the experience of migration to Australia.

CTC Seminar: How Podcasting is Affecting Narrative Journalism

Presenter: Siobhan McHugh
Time/Date: 22 September 2016, 12:30pm-1:30pm.
Venue: Research Hub 19.2072.

Since its launch in October 2014, the episodic true crime podcast Serial has had over 100 million downloads and triggered media organisations with flagging audiences to seek to emulate this crafted narrative form. Ease of production and dissemination has also seen a proliferation of talk podcasts, which range from interview formats to panel fests and ‘chumcasts’. But only a minority of the 350,000 podcasts on iTunes will find substantial audiences; others will simply ‘podfade’. This presentation examines the emerging aesthetics of podcasting and asks how this medium is changing journalism and the audio storytelling form. It will reference as case study a true crime investigative podcast to be launched in September 2016, on which Siobhan is a consultant producer.

Siobhan McHugh is an internationally awarded audio documentary maker, writer and oral historian, whose current research addresses how podcasting is changing journalism and audio storytelling. She is founding editor of RadioDoc Review, a digital journal where the world’s best audio documentaries, podcasts and features are critiqued by a distinguished board of practitioners and academics. She has recently presented her research alongside the producer of Serial and other key podcasting figures at international media gatherings.

Download PDF

Griffiths and Collett Podcast on Walcott

Recently UOW Staff and CTC members Associate Professor Anne Collett and Dr Michael Griffiths sat down to discuss Griffiths’s recent research on Nobel Prize winning Caribbean poet Derek Walcott in a podcast produced for The Journal of Commonwealth Literature. The related article, published in JCL tracks the development of an unpublished 1979 manuscript that Griffiths uncovered in Walcott’s archive at the University of Toronto as it was revised to become the seminal 1980 poem “The Fortunate Traveller.” This research addresses the way poetry can reflect shifting attitudes to neoliberalism in small countries.

The podcast can be accessed via The Journal Of Commonwealth Literature.

CTC Seminar: James Baldwin and the Sexual Paradoxes of the Celebrity Novel

Presenter: Guy Davidson
Time/Date: 25 August 2016, 12:30pm-1:30pm.
Venue: Research Hub 19.2072.

In a review of James Baldwin’s third novel Another Country (1962), Lionel Trilling asked, “How, in the extravagant publicness in which Mr. Baldwin lives, is he to find the inwardness which we take to be the condition of truth in the writer?” Taking Trilling’s question as a starting point, in this talk Davidson explores the confusions of publicness and inwardness with reference to the representation of homosexuality in Baldwin’s novel-writing career, concentrating on Another Country and Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone (1968). Drawing on Leo Braudy’s recent characterization of celebrity studies as “performer studies,” Davidson considers Baldwin’s celebrity novels as performative expressions in which, as in his media performances, the putatively hidden matters of his own queerness and of homosexuality as a general issue are projected outward.

Guy Davidson’s’s primary research interest is in the interrelations between sexuality, commodity culture, and literary form. He has explored this interest in relation to a variety of specific fields—chiefly twentieth- and twenty-first-century US queer fiction, but also late nineteenth-century British and American literature, and contemporary Australian literature. Guy’s current research project, on literary celebrity and sexuality in the postwar US, is funded by the Australia Research Council as a Discovery Project (2015-2017).

PDF Flyer

CTC Seminar: Ethnicity and/as Sexuality in Chinese Australian Life Writing

Presenter: Wenche Ommundsen
Time/Date: 28 July 2016, 12:30pm-1:30pm.
Venue: Research Hub 19.2072.

The Chinese diaspora in Australia is one of the most diverse in the world. Separated by language, culture and country of origin, Chinese Australians are united by little more than a ‘Chineseness’ thrust upon them by the mainstream population. Their search for something like a coherent identity in diaspora often involves the need to write this ethnicity into being as a means to position themselves in a world where China looms increasingly large in the global imagination.

Using the work of William Yang, Alice Pung, Ouyang Yu and Tom Cho I argue that the unstable identifier of ethnicity is more often than not defined through other markers of identity, such as gender and sexuality. The final part of this paper (still a work in progress) draws on models from feminist, postcolonial and cosmopolitan theory to speculate on the causes and meanings of the sexualisation of ethnic difference at work in these texts.

Wenche Ommundsen is Research Professor of English Literatures at the University of Wollongong, where she was Dean of the Faculty of Arts from 2009 to 2013. She has published widely on multicultural, diasporic and transnational literatures, with particular focus on Asian Australian writing. Her current research projects include an ARC-funded study of Australian literature in languages other than English.

CTC Seminar Schedule 2016


This page will be updated with more information on each seminar as it becomes available.


  • 24/11/16: Margaret Hamilton, “Genet’s Rituals of the Oppressed and the Main Stage: Benedict Andrew’s The Maids at Sydney Theatre Company. [MORE INFO]


  • 2/6/16: Travis Holland & Dion McLeod, “The Ghost of J.K. Rowling: Harry Potter & the Ur-Fan” [MORE INFO]
  • 30/6/16: Melissa Boyde, “Peace and Quiet and Open Air …: The Old Cow Project” [MORE INFO]
  • 28/7/16: Wenche Ommundsen: “Sexuality and/as Ethnicity: Chinese Australian Life Writing” [MORE INFO]
  • 25/8/16: Guy Davidson, “James Baldwin and the Sexual Paradoxes of the Celebrity Novel”. [MORE INFO]
  • 22/9/16: Siobhan McHugh, “How Podcasting Re-Invented Personal Narratives & Audio Storytelling” [MORE INFO]
  • 27/10/16: Ika Willis, “Saxa Loquuntur: Stone, Voice & the Roman Telephone”. [MORE INFO]

‘Peace and Quiet and Open Air…’: The Old Cow Project

DATE: THURSDAY JUNE 30, 2016 – 12:30pm-1:30pm
PRESENTER: Melissa Boyde, Senior Research Fellow, School of The Arts, English and Media

This paper is informed by the statement, cited by art historian Steve Baker in his discussion of the use of animals in contemporary art, that animals are ‘beings’ not ‘ideas’.  It centres on photographs of a particular herd of cattle, from their beginnings in the late 1980s on the outskirts of Sydney to a recent series taken of them by artist Derek Kreckler on the south coast of NSW.  In contrast to the lives of the majority of cattle in Australia, the members of this herd live out their natural life cycle.

The paper is part of a larger project – stories about cattle in Australia called ‘The Old Cow Project’.

Melissa is the Editor of the Animal Studies Journal and co-editor, with Fiona Probyn-Rapsey, of the Animal Publics book series, Sydney University Press.