Engineering Internationalism: UNESCO’s Victory in Nubia

TOPIC  Engineering Internationalism: UNESCO’s Victory in Nubia

TIME AND VENUE: Wednesday 19 September, 12-1pm |

VENUE:  Sir Roland Wilson Building, Conference Room, 1.02

SPEAKER: Lynn Meskell is Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University, and Honorary Professor in the School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa.


“A great deal has been written about UNESCO’s Nubian Campaign, from the heroism and humanism promoted by the agency’s own vast propaganda machine, to the competing narratives of national saviors whether the French or Americans, to Nubia as a theatre for the Cold War, right down to individual accounts by technocrats, bureaucrats and archaeologists. It would seem therefore that there is little new to say. Yet if one recenters UNESCO’s originary utopian promise, coupled with its technocractic counterpart international assistance, then add the challenge of a ‘one world’ archaeology focused on the greatest civilization of the ancient world, there might be a new slant on a future in ruins.

What crystallized in UNESCO’s midcentury mission in Egypt was a material attempt to overcome the fissures that were already appearing in their postwar dream of a global peace. Portrayed as a vast international co-operation with unrivaled grandeur and romance, saving Nubia potentially relegated the crisis of Suez to history, manufactured much-needed harmony in the Middle East, demonstrated once and for all that culture could contribute to a Kantian perpetual peace and, acquisitively, it would recapture the materialities of civilization for the West. Humanity as a whole could claim its inheritance from Egypt, thus reinforcing UNESCO’s lofty ideals of world citizenship: a common humanity in the past paired with a common responsibility for the future. Being poised for futurity requires a certain mastery of the past, as Utopians had long realized. Despite having no initial plan to do so, this meant that UNESCO had to embrace large-scale and transnational archaeology, bringing archaeological research into a monumental project with a predominantly conservation agenda.

While only fleeting, and not entirely successful, this foray into field archaeology would mark both its apogee and demise at UNESCO and, in some respects, a wider intellectual landscape. Archaeology would soon become the handmaiden of heritage, subservient to the more calculable metrics of physical preservation and restoration, the global rise of conservation ethics and the marketable glamour of ancient monumentality. People too would be relegated by these grand designs, as thousands of Nubians were relocated with the rising waters. And this ever-increasing combination of infrastructural development, monumental preservation and the secondary status of people with their own living heritage would become the hallmark of the modern conservation industry.”

All welcome!

This presentation is supported by The Centre for Archaeological Research.

Indigenous Women in International Law

Veronica Fynn will be presenting her work on “Indigenous Women in International Law” and will be graduating from NCIS PhD program on the 19th July 2019.

18 July, 12.00, National Centre for Indigenous Studies,
Level 3 Conference Room, John Yencken Building, ANU

Abstract: The respect for human rights in international law entails a basic principle for our existence in a globalised world where socio-legal, economic, cultural and physical boundaries are polarised and fluid. Innovative concepts and new developmental approaches are emerging to augment gender equity and equality for all. The growing recognition of women’s leadership roles in diverse sectors at local, regional and international levels is indicative of a need to bridge the chasm by prioritising the gender justice agenda, especially regarding the effect and role of international law on Indigenous women. This specifically refers to the efforts made by Indigenous women in the Global South (which includes Africa, Asia and South Africa) who are charting their own course in international law while resisting Western hegemonic dominance to engineer social change, warrants examination, support and understanding. Referencing the effect of colonial history on Indigenous feminists in the Global South, this lecture adds to existing discourse on the prospects of Indigenous women’s engagement with international law. It concludes that while their future in international law is grim, a focus on creating a new generation of young leaders is recommended.

Mortality in Africa and elsewhere

ANU School of Demography Seminar

Date and Time: Tuesday 2 July 2019 – 11.30am – 12.30 pm

Location: Jean Martin Room, Beryl Rawson Bldg #13, Ellery Crescent, ANU

Presenter: Dr Sam Clark, Ohio State University

Title: A General Mortality Model & Moving Verbal Autopsy from Research to Routine Use

This seminar will have two parts. First, presentation of a formal mortality model, and second, discussion of efforts to rapidly improve information on cause of death where there are few data describing how people die.
High quality data describing all-age mortality are not available for many low and some middle-income countries, but almost all have good estimates of child mortality. I will present a general mortality model that uses child mortality to predict mortality at all ages in one-year age groups.
The distribution of deaths by cause and cause-specific mortality rates are fundamental to understanding and improving population health. About half of global deaths are unrecorded and a larger fraction do not have a meaningful cause assigned. I will discuss efforts to transform verbal autopsy from a bespoke research tool into a reliable method to assign cause of death in routine mortality surveillance at national scale in countries without well-functioning vital statistics systems.

Bio note
Sam Clark is a formal demographer who works on the demography and epidemiology of Africa and developing new methods for population sciences. Right now he is working on:
• Improving the ‘verbal autopsy’ method used to quantify the burden of disease for populations without full coverage vital statistics systems – work with colleagues at The Ohio State University, the University of Washington, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the CDC, the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, the WHO, and the ‘Data for Health’ Initiative
• Mapping child mortality at the subnational level through time using household survey data in countries without full coverage vital statistics systems – work with colleagues at the University of Washington and UNICEF
• Developing new population indicator measurement strategies and statistical methods to implement them – work with colleagues at the University of Washington
Fertility and Mortality: variety of projects investigating levels and trends in fertility and mortality, mostly in Africa, and sometimes building models of age schedules of fertility and mortality that can be used widely as inputs to other analyses.

Gareth Evans on “The Responsibility to Protect in Africa”

On May 24, The Herbert and Valmae Freilich Project for the Study of Bigotry partnered with The Humanities Research Centre to host ANU Chancellor and former Foreign Affairs Minister, the Hon Gareth Evans, for the 2019 Africa Week lecture, on the topic “The Responsibility to Protect in Africa.”

Further details and photos are available on the Freilich Project website, and the full transcript of this lecture is available from Prof. Evan’s personal website.


African Studies Reading Group – Thursday 27 June 2019 – Water Access and Agency in West Africa

ANU African Studies Reading Group
Water Access and Agency: Thinking through Thresholds of Control

Standpipe in Bauchi, northern Nigeria (source:

As the African continent, and the world, becomes more globally interconnected, scholars and politicians alike have come to speak in terms of “flows” of people, things, technologies, and ideas. One particularly productive material to think through such flows is water. “Water is life,” and as an essential and intrinsically social resource, its containment can both reflect and produce politics of inclusion and exclusion. Although seeping across national borders and easy to scale-up, this presentation instead returns to the politics of the everyday and experiences of local communities. Looking at two very different case studies – standpipes (potable water) in Nigeria and traditional shrines (housing sacred water) in Ghana – the presenters explore links between water access, authority and ethics. By thinking through the threshold of taps and traditional shrines, we ask who wields the power of water, and for what profit?  The presenters encourage comparison and conversation about how points of water access elicit power in cases across Africa.

Adegboyega Adeniran – Fenner School of Environment, Australian National University
Kirsty Wissing – School of Culture, History and Language, Australian National University

Date and time: Thursday 27 June 2019, 5pm
Location: Lady Wilson Room, Sir Roland Wilson Building, ANU (map)

Refreshments provided / All welcome

2019 AFSAAP Conference and Student Travel Grants

42nd AFSAAP Annual Conference
Africa: Diversity and Development
26-27 November 2019, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

The African Studies Association of Australasia and the Pacific (AFSAAP) invites submissions for its 2019 conference from academics, researchers, students, practitioners and policy makers, and the diaspora community, with interests in African studies, both on the African continent and in the Australasia and Pacific region. In 2019, the conference theme is ‘Africa: Diversity and Development’. The conference seeks to explore the richness of the continent and its diversity in a wide range of social, economic, political and cultural dimensions, while simultaneously discussing development options, challenges and experiences.Papers from all disciplines considering African issues in a broad range of topics, such as culture, history, literature, physical, social and economic development, environment, politics, geography, ecology, demography, health, education, migration, media, aid, climate change, natural and human-induced disasters, civil society and gender are welcomed.

Abstracts due 30 June 2019; Postgraduate travel grant applications due 30 August 2019.

Seminar: Fluid Boundaries: Politicising Rituals of Purity in Ghana

Presenter:  Kirsty Wissing (PhD Candidate in Anthropology, ANU)

Title:  Fluid Boundaries: Politicising Rituals of Purity in Ghana

Date:  Friday 14 June, 3-5pm.

Venue:  Milgate Room, A.D. Hope Building (Building 14)

Abstract:  In this presentation, I will analyse how flows of fluids and people shape each other in southern Ghana. They do so both literally and metaphorically, as landscapes and people are defined, sorted, contested, and manipulated in projects of inclusion, exclusion, and containment.  In Akwamu understandings, water, as well as blood and alcohol, are attributed qualities of cleanliness and/or purity and, by extension, moral value.  These ideas of purity and pollution, I suggest, are often generated and expressed in ritual. By exploring the ritual uses of water, blood and alcohol, I will consider how fluids connect people to spiritual powers and are thought to transition a person, place or situation from pollution or danger into cleanliness, order and morality. I will also ask how, in ritual practices, fluids are used to maintain or subvert power relations defined in terms of purity. However, liquids also hold the potential to spill and slip through human control, in both material and metaphorical ways. By focusing on the threshold of flows and blockages, I will consider how multiple, co-existing ideas of cleanliness/purity can become politicised and ask just how bounded fluids and people really are.


Revised 13 May 2019

8 May, 2019, 6-8 pm,
Speaker: Prof Kwandiwe Kondlo, University of Johannesburg
Topic and Abstract The Myth + Reality of Nelson Mandela Venue.
Professor Kondlo followed this well- attended presentation with a discussion with the ANU African Studies Reading Group on May 9th about the South African elections.

10 May, 12.30 -2pm. Water in Africa—Transnational and Interdisciplinary Approaches (Wissing, Aderinan, Abraham). One of the highlights of this talk was a slide showing the scary shrinkage of Lake Chad


16 May. 4-5.30 p.m. Dr Beyongo Mukete Dynamic, ‘Regulating Chinese Investments in Africa’ (at the at the China in the World Centre)

16 May. 4-5pm. Banks Tea Room, Ground Floor, School of Archaeology and Anthropology. A 28 minute Screening of ‘Laamba’ a film about Senegalese wrestling preceded by a short introduction by Paul Hayes (

May. Africa Week Panel Discussion. ‘Africa is the future’. Contributions by diplomats and ANU students. POSTPONED Updates will be on

24 May. Chancellor Gareth Evans, ‘The right to protect’ in Africa’. 5-7.30 pm, Sir Rowland Wilson Building

30 May Dr Bonnie McConnell on African music (To be confirmed, see )