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World Literatures and the Global South Conference

23–25 August 2019

The third international congress of the World Literature Association on 'World Literatures and the Global South' was proudly hosted by the School of Languages and Cultures at the University of Sydney.

Co-convened with the Peking University Australian Studies Centre and the World Literature Association, this international conference engaged with literary production on and from the Global South in their own languages as well as in translation.

The concepts of world literature(s) and the Global South are two widely discussed notions that are continuously being debated and redefined. Australia – shaped by its colonial history and multiethnic, multilingual and transnational population – bears an ambiguous relationship to the Global South, making it an ideal location to explore and interrogate these two unsettled terms.

Through its focus on the ‘Global South’, and on the transnational and postcolonial perspectives implied by the term, we brought together writers and academics, and gave equal billing to presentations in English, Chinese, Arabic, French, Indonesian/Malay and Spanish.


View full conference schedule (pdf, 2.8MB)

Catch up on our talks

Listen to podcasts of our keynotes as well as special and public events.

Gangalidda political leader Clarence Walden gave a short address following a special launch of the documentary Clarence Walden: Gangalidda man from Queensland's Gulf of Carpentaria.

Clarence Walden is a compelling and powerful storyteller who never deviates from his role as a story maker and story keeper in pursuit of justice for his people. His story is about survival, cultural resilience in his traditional homelands, and sheer political determination which includes locking a government minister out of his community.  

Along with friend and author Alexis Wright, Clarence's story was followed by an audience Q&A.

I have seen the hard times and the good times, and sometimes we really wonder how we survived. I’m a survival-of-the-fittest, and it’s been a struggle to this very day. I find it very difficult sometimes to come to the outside world and see what is happening. … I come from the Gulf of Carpentaria. I can take you anywhere – night or day – right through the country: on horseback, on foot, whatever way you like to travel.

— Clarence Walden

Why does storytelling matter for world literature?

Because Clarence is such an important man and such a gifted oral storyteller. I think the oral storytelling tradition is really important for cultures all over the world. We need to be thinking about how to make great storytelling leaders to continue that tradition in the future so that it doesn’t die out with Clarence.

— Alexis Wright

Listen now

Keynote speaker Alexis Wright shared about the tradition of telling stories in Aboriginal Australian society and the South-North division.

Our people talk about following the footsteps of elders, of walking on country, of knowing every place in storyland. They say: we are all one mob, one tribe, to keep the olds’ knowledge strong. ... The close relationship Aboriginal people have with the land is a deep spiritual map in the mind. Yet, despite of the geography, where we exist south of the equator, Australia now – with its global, non-Indigenous population – is included in the economic power division of the Global North. It is an erroneous geographic divide of the world into North and South based on world economics.

— Alexis Wright

Listen now

Keynote speaker Gauri Viswanathan spoke on the formations of literature and the novel in a global network.

Indeed, the productive power of novels to negotiate transnational identities uniquely makes the novel a site of transnational exchange, allowing for the global disseminations of novel reading and novel writing. In its global aspect, the novel is transformed into a discursive site where the relations among nations are actively renegotiated – and it is an ongoing renegotiation.

— Gauri Viswanathan

Listen now

Public event presented by Mascara Literary Review

Performed on 24 August 2019 at the University of Sydney, this reading is a creative submersion into the colloquium themes from diaspora writers and translators who live and work in Sydney, and whose ancestries trace to the Global South. They have lived in the United Kingdom, United States, Germany, Africa, Mexico and Australia. They share resistant imaginaries.

Convened by Dr Toby Fitch, Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Sydney and poetry editor of Overland Journal, with a brief introduction by award-winning poet, Dimitra Harvey.

The writers:

  • Mario Licón Cabrera
  • Anupama Pilbrow
  • Lachlan Brown
  • Debbie Lim
  • Michelle Cahill
  • Christopher Cyrill

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

For more information, visit Mascara Literary Review's website.

Listen now

A public event co-hosted with the China Studies Centre, this special discussion forum was held on 24 August 2019 at the University of Sydney.

We invited the public to join the conversation in this intellectual and literary encounter with renowned writers from China and Australia as they shared their extraordinary experiences. The forum was moderated by SBS Mandarin producer, Dr Xing Dong.

This forum was conducted in Mandarin.

The writers:

  • Liu Shusen
  • Zhao Baisheng
  • Tieliu
  • Chen Qiwen
  • Di An
  • Nicholas Jose
  • Han Jing

Listen now

Keynote speakers

Keynote speaker Alexis Wright

Photo: Vincent Long

Alexis Wright

Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation of the Gulf of Carpentaria. She is an author and essayist writing in fiction and non-fiction. Wright has written widely on Indigenous rights and has organised two successful Indigenous Constitutional Conventions in Central Australia, Today We Talk About Tomorrow (1993) and the Kalkaringi Convention (1998).

Recent publications include the collective memoir Tracker (2017) which was awarded the 2018 Stella Prize for Women’s Literature, the essay What Happens When You Tell Somebody Else’s Story (2016) which was awarded the Hilary McPhee Award 2016, The Swan Book (2013), which was awarded the Australian Literature Society Gold Medal in 2014, and Carpentaria (2006), which was awarded the 2007 Miles Franklin Award. She is the Boisbouvier Chair in Australian Literature in the Australia Centre at the University of Melbourne.

Listen now: A Self-Governing Literature: Who Owns the Map of the World?

Keynote speaker Gauri Viswanathan, Professor at Columbia University

Gauri Viswanathan  

Gauri Viswanathan is Class of 1933 Professor in the Humanities and Director of the South Asia Institute at Columbia University. She has published widely on education, religion and culture; 19th-century British and colonial cultural studies; and the history of modern disciplines. She is the author of Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India (Columbia, 1989; 25th anniversary edition, 2014) and Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief (Princeton, 1998), which won the Harry Levin Prize awarded by the American Comparative Literature Association, the James Russell Lowell Prize awarded by the Modern Language Association of America, and the Ananda K. Coomaraswamy Prize awarded by the Association for Asian Studies.

She also edited Power, Politics, and Culture: Interviews with Edward W. Said (Vintage, 2001). She is co-editor of the book series South Asia Across the Disciplines published jointly by the university presses of Columbia, Chicago, and California under a Mellon grant. She has received Guggenheim, NEH and Mellon fellowships, and was honored with the Mark Van Doren Award for Teaching in 2017-2018. Her current work is on genealogies of secularism and the writing of alternative religious histories.

Listen now: Brokered Sites of Exchange Colonial Education and the Postcolonial Novel

Participating writers

Nicholas Jose has published seven novels, including Paper Nautilus (1987), The Red Thread (2000) and Original Face (2005), three collections of short stories, Black Sheep: Journey to Borroloola (a memoir), and essays, mostly on Australian and Asian culture. He was Cultural Counsellor at the Australian Embassy Beijing (1987–90) and Visiting Chair of Australian Studies at Harvard University (2009-10). He is Adjunct Professor in the Writing and Society Research Centre at Western Sydney University, and Professor of English and Creative Writing at The University of Adelaide where he is a member of the J M Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice.

Cristian Aliaga is a journalist, teacher, poet, and researcher based in Chubut, Argentina. He runs the publisher Espacio Hudson in Lago Puelo and the paper El Extremo Sur. His poetry includes Musica desconocida para viajes/Unknown Music for Journeys (2nd ed., 2009), The Foreign Passion/La pasion extranjera (bilingual edition, 2016) and the anthology Estrellas en el vidrio/Stars in the Glass (2003).

Carlos Gamerro studied literature at the University of Buenos Aires, where he taught until 2002. His novels in English, all translated by Ian Barnett, include The Islands (And Other Stories), The Adventure of the Busts of Eva Perón (And Other Stories) and An Open Secret (Pushkin Press). In addition he has published several other novels and collections of essays on Argentine literature. Along with Rubén Mira he wrote the film script for Tres de corazones (2007), directed by Sergio Renán, and he has translated works by Graham Greene, W. H. Auden, Harold Bloom and Shakespeare. In 2007 he was a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge and in 2008 participated in the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. In 2011 his theatrical version of The Islands premiered at the Teatro Alvear in Buenos Aires, directed by Alejandro Tantanian. He was the co-author of the catalogue of the 11th International Biennale of Lyon, and in 2012 participated at the International Congress of Writers in Edinburgh. He has been translated into German, French, English and Turkish.

Chen Qiwen is a renowned contemporary Chinese writer and member of the National Committee of the Chinese Writers Association. His main literary works include the novels such as The Riverbed, City of Dreams and The Chen Family from Jiangzhou. Representative prose collections include Wandering with the Shore and The Lonely Traveler, and his reportage is also well-regarded. He has won a barrage of important prizes in Chinese belles lettres

Di’an is the pen name of Li Di'an. Born 1983, she is a prolific and prize-winning author as well as the editor of Wenyi Fengshang (Arts and Literary Vogue), one of China’s leading literary publications. She holds an M.A. in Sociology from the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris, and has published seven novels and two novella collections since 2004.

Tieliu is the vice-chairman of the Shandong Writers Association and a well-known author of reportage literature. He is a winner of the Lu Xun Literature Prize, and his documentary works such as A Survey of Private Education in China, Memory of the Nation-A Chinese Legend of the Communist Manifesto, The Secretary and His Village, Witness-The Legend of the Red Communities in Chinese Countryside and the novella Sweet Sophora Flower, have gained him a reputation as a wide-ranging author. Movies based on his award-winning works have been adopted for film and TV productions such as Great Fire and The Defense of Yuanzi Cliff.

Nael el-Toukhy is an Egyptian novelist, essayist, journalist and Arabic translator of Hebrew literature who is currently based in Berlin, one of the main hubs for Egyptian and Syrian writers and intellectuals today. He has published two novellas and three novels in Arabic. The English translation of his second novel, Women of Karantina (AUCPress, 2014), was longlisted for the fiction prize of the 2015 FT/Oppenheimer Funds Emerging Voices Awards. His most recent novel, Out of the Gutter, was published in Arabic in 2018.

Lily Yulianti Farid is the founder/director of Makassar International Writers Festival and a short story writer. She published four short story collections: Makkunrai (2008), Maisaura (2008), Family Room (2011) and Ayahku Bulan, Engkau Matahari (2012). She translated Anita Roddick's Business as Unusual into Indonesian which was published under the same title in 2013 and Linking People: Connections and Encounters Between Australians and Indonesians (2017). She holds MA (2003) and PhD (2015) in Gender Studies from the University of Melbourne, Australia and the winner of Alumni of The Year Award of the Faculty of Arts, The University of Melbourne in 2016 in community leader category. She is the co-founder of Rumata' Artspace and works as a volunteer for the cultural organisation since 2010. Lily received the National Cultural Award 2018 from the Government of Indonesia.

Ju (real name Tin Tin Win) is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Her first novel, Ahmat Ta Ya (Remembrance) (1987), was an instant best seller. Since then she has been one of the most popular and influential writers in Myanmar publishing 21 novels, many of which were made into hit movies. Her stories often feature independent young women who do not rely on men, which reflects the reality of many women in Myanmar, and she is also a keen advocate of keeping the world clean and green. Ju won the Readers’ Choice Award from Ta Ha Ya Book Club (Mogok city) for her novel Thu Min Ko Beh-thawt Hmat (He will never …… you) and a prize from the Tun Foundation for her book on environmental conservation, Kyama Chit Thaw Kaba Mye (My Loving Land in this World). In 2018 she published her latest novel Thet Thant-to Phyint Yet Phwet Chit Thu Yet Chon Hwa (The Blanket Made of Rainbow).

Sabal Phyu Nu is a Yangon-based novelist who is representing up-and-coming writers from Myanmar’s new generation. She began writing short stories in 2006 for Myanmar magazines including Shwe Amyu Tay, Teen and Khit Yanant. In 2013, she wrote her first novel, Myauk Phya Ka Alwan Yadhi (The Sentimental Time in the far North), based on the civil war in her homeland Kachin State, which won her Myanmar’s prestigious National Literary Prize. She has since published four other novels, Khit Yel Achit Yel (Years in Affection) (2015), She She Donka Gant Gaw Pwin-twe (Ironwoods in the Old Times) (2015), Hlat Ywet Hlwint Thaw Kaba (Light and Fluttering World) (2016) and Alwan Hsaing (Longing or Saudade) (2018), and is also well-known for her children's literature series featuring Elni, an eight year old Myanmar girl.

Isa Qala is a New Caledonian writer based in Lifou in the Loyalty Islands Province where she is also a teacher. Hailing from the local Kirinata tribe, Isa Qala contributes through her writing to the production and transmission of cultural traditions. She is the recipient of several writing prizes and a well-known figure in the New Caledonian literary landscape. She has published short stories, including L’Enfant de la route (2015), La Fille aux étoiles (2017) and La Tribu des veuves (2017). She has taken part in a collective volume of folktales (2012) and collaborated with the dance troupe Wetr Kréation on the performance Trenge ewekë (2014).

Maraea Rakuraku is a proudly indigenous storyteller who is very much shaped by her Tūhoe and Ngāti Kahungunu whakapapa and whānau i te wharua o Te Waimana Kaaku. She has been described as powerful, epic and as a force of nature. All of which is reflected in her writing. She brings truth, intellect and heart, whether reviewing (Theatreview, Pantograph Punch), radio broadcasting (Radio New Zealand, Radio Waatea, Te Upoko o Te Ika), podcasting, playwriting or performance poetry.

shane carreon is author of travelbook (2013), History of Consolacion (2014) and Then, Beast (2017). Ze received an Academy of American Poets Prize, Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards Honorable Mention, and the Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature. Hir poems have been nominated for the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Intro Journals Project and appear in places such as Kritika Kultura, Little Things: An Anthology of Poetry, and The Achieve Of, The Mastery: Filipino Verse and Poetry in English, mid-1990s to 2016. Ze is Assistant Professor at the University of the Philippines in Cebu and a Fulbright Fellow at Binghamton University, New York.

Elliott Colla is the author of Conflicted Antiquities: Egyptology, Egyptomania, Egyptian Modernity (Duke University Press, 2007), as well as many articles on modern Arab literature and culture. He has also translated works of contemporary Arabic literature, including Ibrahim Aslan’s novel, The Heron, Idris Ali’s Poor, Ibrahim al-Koni’s Gold Dust, and Rabai al-Madhoun’s The Lady from Tel Aviv. His 2014 novel, Baghdad Central, has been adapted as a Channel 4 television series. He also teaches in the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Georgetown University.

Special events

Introduction by Alexis Wright. Clarence Walden will give a short address at the launch.

When: Friday, 23 August 2019

Gangalidda political leader Clarence Walden takes us on a harrowing and insightful journey through the hardships of growing up in the 1950s and 60s on the remote Doomadgee Mission in the Gulf of Carpentaria, to the enormity of the political struggles with governments and mining companies in the modern era.

He tells the stories of brutal beatings and having his mouth washed out with soap for speaking his own language when he was a child.  A 1950 government report described living conditions in the children's dormitories at Doomadgee as akin to ‘slavery.’

His story is about survival, cultural resilience in his traditional homelands, and sheer political determination which includes locking a government minister out of his community.

Clarence Walden is a compelling and powerful storyteller who never deviates from his role as a story maker and story keeper in pursuit of justice for his people.

More information: Clarence Walden – Other Worlds

On Friday 23 August 2019, our invited writers took the stage to reflect on their works, discuss their relations to the ‘Global South’, and share ideas on the concept of a literary geography and World Literature. Together with conference participants, we came together for this unique gathering of literary voices from across the globe and in different languages. 


  • Vrasidas Karalis (School of Languages and Cultures, University of Sydney)
  • Zhao Baisheng (Institute of World Literature, Peking University)

Writers on panel:

  • Alexis Wright (Australia)
  • Nicholas Jose (Australia)
  • Carlos Gamerro (Argentina)
  • Cristian Aliaga (Argentina)
  • Chen Qiwen (China)
  • Nael el-Toukhy (Egypt)
  • Lily Yulianti Farid (Indonesia)
  • Ju (Myanmar)
  • Sabal Phyu Nu (Myanmar)
  • Isa Qala (New Caledonia)
  • Maraea Rakuraku (New Zealand)
  • Shane Carreon (The Philippines)
  • Elliott Colla (US)


What are the dominant representations past and present, or narratives from and of the Global South? How do literary productions from the Global South participate in renewing and challenging existing Western and Eurocentric representations? What worldviews and perspectives on world issues, including Western societies, emerge from literatures of the Global South?

Topics include:

  • (Re)Inventing the Global South
  • Self-representations of the Global South
  • Representations of the ‘West’ and the ‘North’ in literatures from the Global South 
  • Global perspectives on/from the South
  • Real and imagined spaces

How do world literatures move away from a nation-based understanding of literary production and what models do they assert in its place? What are the historic and emerging modes and methodologies for acknowledging, assessing and exploring transnational literatures?

Topics include:

  • Travel, translation and translatability of cultures
  • Multilingual writers
  • Exophonic writing
  • Diasporic literatures
  • Literary migrations and networks

In what ways are world literatures enriched and/or affected by globalisation in its various forms – notably political, cultural, financial, social and environmental? How is the present resurgence of nationalism and populism across the globe represented in contemporary world literatures? What is the place of world literatures from the Global South in an increasingly digital world? 

Topics include:

  • Ecocriticism from the Global South 
  • Science fiction from the Global South
  • New media in the Global South
  • Digital platforms, new genres and world literatures

What dialogues, interactions and conflicts characterise the relationship between world literatures from the Global South and other art forms (eg. film, visual art, music, dance, etc)? How do these productions participate in challenging traditional understandings of genres and forms? What are the potential new generic and formal avenues offered by contemporary literatures from the Global South?

Topics include:

  • Global South and film adaptations of literary texts
  • The Global South through iconotexts
  • Global South across disciplines

Our people

Professor Liu Shushen, Peking University

Liu Shusen is Director of Australian Studies Centre and Professor of English literature and Translation Studies in the School of Foreign Languages, Peking University. His research areas include the history of Australian Studies in China, early modern history of Chinese translation of foreign literatures, as well as Western missionaries and their literary translation in Early Modern China. His recent publications include more than 40 articles and more than 10 co-authored books in Translation Studies, and American, British, Australian and New Zealand literatures.

Professor Zhao Baisheng, Peking University

Zhao Baisheng is Professor of Comparative World Literature and Transcultural Studies at the Institute of World Literature, School of Foreign Languages, Peking University (PKU). Currently, he also serves as Director of the World Auto/Biography Center (PKU), General Secretary of Center for Cross-cultural Studies (PKU), Deputy Director of Center for African Studies (PKU), President of World Ecoculture Organization and President of World Literature Association.


Headshot of Professor Yixu Lu
Head of School of Languages and Cultures