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Since 2019, the ANU School of Culture, History & Language has been successfully organising its annual flagship event program, which represents the diversity and depth of the School’s research expertise and knowledge base. Particularly against the tumultuous backdrop of 2020—when COVID-19 transformed the face of events altogether—the School has had to reinvent itself to continue the program with the same degree of intensity, enthusiasm and interaction as witnessed in 2019.
In 2021, one of the flagship events hosted was a unique offering—Identity & Ways of Knowing. The scholars who call CHL home are unique in the variety and depth of their research on Asia & the Pacific. This flagship was dedicated to answering several questions: How can we harness our unique intellectual ecosystem and drive Australian conversations on our region forward? How does this environment shape us as individual educators and researchers? How can we think about language (in research and teaching) as a method of deeper engagement with culture?
These questions engaged many of the disparate fields and regions of study together on the theme of Identity & Ways of Knowing. The objective was for an extended conversation to engage members of the CHL community that might not regularly get the chance to work with their colleagues outside of their individual disciplines or regional areas of study. The visionaries of the program, Dr Chris Diamond and Dr Stephanie Majcher, are keen for CHL to lead the national Australian conversation on this topic and position itself as the intellectual home for this conversation.
What was originally planned as a face-to-face, interactive event onsite at the Australian National University soon became a virtual webinar as a consequence of the ACT COVID lockdown. However, this did not hamper the spirit or intent of the program. In fact, the online-only nature of the event seemingly encouraged a higher number of participants who were able to dial in easily and contribute to the discussion. The event included pre-recorded keynote speeches and post-event online discussions. These multiple modes of engagement have enabled the creation of lasting impact in which collaborators at ANU and further afield will be able to interact over a longer period of time.
Day 1 kicked off with a plenary discussion between scholars who represent the disciplinary depth and regional breadth of the CHL community. They reflected on the ways in which academic and stake-holding language and cultural communities have interacted in their own careers and identified the tools and methods by which their work could contribute back to ‘home’ communities. This discussion set the tone and direction for the three main ‘conversation’ clusters of the flagship—Digital Humanities, Digital Communities, The Unheard Voices of Language & Culture Research and Education, and Knowledge Systems in Time.
Digital Humanities, Digital Communities
This conversation considered the tools, techniques, and repercussions of being a ‘digital scholar’ in non-English spaces across Asia and the Pacific. Included in this conversation cluster was a discussion of digital repatriation of items and knowledge of significance to communities in Asia and the Pacific.
The Unheard Voices of Language & Culture Research and Education
In their experiences as researchers and educators in the fields of language and culture (in many disciplines), many of their interactions and experiences are invisible after the publication of scholarly materials. Talking with archivists, personal connections to communities, negotiating outsider statuses, and many other unspoken communications in classrooms and on sites of research remain in the realm of anecdote. This conversation cluster considered how the research and academic community at CHL can reflect on and renegotiate these experiences in a meaningful way that can have a lasting impact on research and stakeholder communities.
Knowledge Systems in Time
What happens when traditional and modern language knowledge systems collide? How do we know the languages and texts we teach, and how do we explore this through research or in the classroom? While other ‘conversations’ considered the distance of space, this cluster focused on the distance created by time in classrooms and research spaces focusing on historical traditions.
The flagship was graced by several academics from CHL and beyond, with everyone having a critical role to play in each of the conversation roundtables as well as the plenary discussion. Overall, the event was as resounding success.
Here’s what some of the participants had to say:
“This CHL flagship 'identity & Ways of Knowing' was the highlight of this year for me. It provided a deep listening space for panelists and audience to come together and share diverse thoughts on this critical topic. Its format was different and refreshing giving panel members the opportunity to first interact with videos of Keynote speakers and then interact with them again online delving deeper into the subject. This flagship provided a wealth of information important to understanding identity and the diverse ways in which knowledge is produced and improvements for the future in this space as well. The organizers Chris Diamond and Stephanie Majcher did a splendid job! So, a big thanks to them.” – Jenny Homerang, Tok Pisin Language Program, CHL
“The format of a keynote with responses in the form of a panel discussion was a great way of drawing out interconnections between speakers and stimulating spontaneous responses.” – Dr Natasha Fijn, Research Fellow, CHL
“It was impressive how much linguistic and cultural expertise was gathered in each roundtable. All of the conversations successfully brought together scholars of notably diverse backgrounds who engaged in productive dialogues--there were no dull moments. Although it is hard to pick a favourite, I especially liked the final panel, which responded to Esther Klein's keynote. The discussion of knowledge systems and ideologies of tradition and modernity, and how to deal with these topics in both research and teaching, was enormously helpful for my own thinking, and it concluded the event on a high note.” – Associate Professor Matt Tomlinson, Anthropology, CHL
You can experience the Identity & Ways of Knowing flagship program for yourself through recordings of the entire program via the event’s digital platform, ANUBhasha. ANUBhasha, playing on the Sanskrit word for ‘conversation’, is a collective of scholars of premodern South Asia, working at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, Australia. This group works to promote the usage of digital tools to engage scholarly and cultural communities in the study and use of manuscripts and literature. Currently, this includes several long-term projects focusing on different linguistic and cultural communities of the South Asian past.