I am a Professor of Germanic Studies with specialisation in modern German literature and history. My main reason for joining the University of Sydney was my desire to teach German literature in German.
The University of Sydney is one of the very few lucky places in Australia where world literatures can still be taught in their own languages – not just in English translation.
After a number of years in both teaching and research with the Department of Germanic Studies, I assumed the role of Head of School at the School of Languages and Cultures in January 2015.
Literature is the breath of the human spirit. It connects our culture to other cultures from the present to the past. It offers individuals the chance to express their own unique experiences and to make them accessible to others who are in search of a broadening of their own life-worlds.
It is through a plurality of literatures – literature from all around the world that come in a variety of languages – that we gain understanding of other cultures and connect with the myriad ways of life and living which make up our society. Our School has the greatest range of literatures taught in their own languages of any Australian institution.
It is through a plurality of literatures – literature from all around the world that come in a variety of languages – that we gain understanding of other cultures and connect with the myriad ways of life and living which make up our society.
Generally speaking, ‘Global South’ is a term of convenience initially borrowed from economics and political sciences. It has been used mainly to differentiate the many types of literary production and works in Asia, Africa and Latin America from those in the European or Western sphere.
We want to look at literature and other creative endeavours that are not part of the traditional Western hegemony, but those that may claim to their own spheres of influence. The Global South is not a concept set in concrete – rather, it is a means of exploring literary worlds outside the dominant paradigms of the Western tradition.
Both writers and literary scholars want to see their various literatures become more widely disseminated and their value recognised. As the third international congress of the World Literature Association, the World Literatures and the Global South Conference provides the opportunity for writers and scholars to connect, exchange views and work together to achieve this end. It brings together writers and scholars from all continents and many different cultures. It is a true intercultural collaboration.
Another aim of the conference is to demonstrate and showcase the diversity of languages and their interaction for both literary creation and academic scholarship. People often separate multiculturalism from multilingualism, but the reality is that they cannot be easily treated apart. Our School is a strong advocate for multiculturalism and multilingualism – we want to show through this conference the beauty of creativity and scholarly enquiry in different languages.
People often separate multiculturalism from multilingualism, but the reality is that they cannot be easily treated apart.
Essential to multiculturalism and multilingualism is the recognition of indigenous literary production. Indigenous writers and advocates from Australia, New Zealand and other Pacific nations have a strong presence in our conference.
Our line-up of writers includes keynote speaker and award-winning author Alexis Wright, who is a member of the Waanyi nation of the Gulf of Carpentaria and recipient of the 2018 Stella Prize for Women’s Literature for her collective memoir, Tracker (2017). She has written widely on Indigenous rights and organised two successful Indigenous Constitutional Conventions in Central Australia, Today We Talk About Tomorrow (1993) and the Kalkaringi Convention (1998).
We will also host Columbia University author and professor Gauri Viswanathan as another keynote speaker. She has published widely on education, religion and culture including 19th-century British and colonial cultural studies, and the history of modern disciplines.
We would like to demonstrate that ‘marginalised’ peoples are the ‘centres’ of great creative energy – it is us who should go beyond our narrowly defined understandings.
People generally accept that Australia is a multicultural society, but there is a great difference between knowing it and living it. Multiculturalism must be lived in the public space – and universities are eminently public spaces. It is only through living multiculturalism that we can develop tolerance, understanding and compassion, and make our society a better place for all. Universities can be theatres for lived multiculturalism.
Part of the mission of our University – and especially at the School of Languages and Cultures – is to promote and present living multiculturalism. Literatures in many languages are a great example of diversity in the community of humanity. That’s why we work together here and that’s why we have our conference in different languages.
The University of Sydney will host the third international congress of the World Literature Association on World Literatures and the Global South from 23–25 August 2019.
The conference includes a special public event on 24 August 2019 featuring Mascara's Global South Salon. The reading perfomance is a creative submersion into the colloquium themes from Sydney-based diaspora writers and translators whose ancestries trace to the Global South. All are welcome with free entry – Register now.