Linguistics Seminar – “After Shaka: IsiZulu Language in Ideology and Social History”

Fri 23 Aug 2019, 3.30pm 
Basham Seminar Room, BPB Level 1, ANU

IsiZulu, a major language of South Africa, is not a static monolith, except as some people’s ideologies of language have so imagined it. This presentation traces some major historical events and changes, starting in the early nineteenth century, that have affected Zulu ways of speaking and in which they have been entangled, including the identification of “Zulu” as a unity distinct from cognate linguistic varieties in the region.

Judith Irvine first considers the dramatic expansion of a powerful Zulu kingdom under Shaka Zulu, from 1818. Shaka’s language policy was tied to the centralization of the Zulu state, and had consequences for dialectology, standardization, and ethnicity, especially as interpreted by missionaries in their own linguistic projects. Judith then turns to the forms of respect vocabulary and honorific utterance, with their specific principles of linguistic construction.

These deference forms were entwined with the role of language in the Zulu army, and involved both men and women. Yet, after the British annexation of Zululand in 1887 and the subsequent intensification of colonial rule, the colonizers identified these forms of verbal deference with folklore and gendered social roles. Comparing indigenous and colonizers’ varying conceptions of what language is and how to enlist it in social projects – their ideologies of language – can help bring out some sociolinguistic aspects of the colonial encounter and its aftermath.

More details.


“Becoming a Wrestler on the Outskirts of Khartoum, Sudan”

Date and time: Friday 23 August, 3–5pm
Speaker: Paul Hayes (PhD Candidate in Anthropology, ANU)
Location: Milgate Room, Level 2, A.D. Hope Building (#14), ANU

This post-fieldwork seminar examines the bodily practices and related material culture of young men in Khartoum, Sudan, who practice ‘Nuba wrestling’, a combat sport indigenous to Sudan. Based on 12 months of collaborative photography and first-hand sporting apprenticeship with wrestlers, I attempt to understand the magnetism of the sport through its concrete corporeal practices and material relations. I analyse the wrestlers’ material and bodily repertoires, not only for what they might mean as symbolic rituals or communicative signs, but also for what they do to the wrestler-subject. Through a microphysics of becoming a wrestler, I show how the doing of ‘corporeal-matter-in-motion’ leads to the creation of a specific being: an uneasy subject, caught between Sudan’s nascent pan-ethnic neoliberal modernity, and the racist vestiges of the Sudanese Islamist state.

“Just Exhaustion!”: Motherhood, Work, and Human Capital Investment in Senegal

Date &Time: Friday 16 August, 3pm-5pm

Location: Milgate Room, A.D. Hope Building #14, Australian National University

Abstract: Over the past two decades, the Senegalese state has reimagined national commitments to care for children and families as a politics of investment. Senegalese families today have unprecedented state support for their children following the creation of Senegal’s national early childhood care and education system in 2000. Case des Tout-Petits centers offer an array of public education and child welfare activities, including heavily subsidised preschool for children aged three to six. Development specialists, education theorists, and feminists have widely argued that affordable childcare helps “relieve” women of unpaid domestic work and “empower” them to pursue opportunities outside the home. Why, then, have many Senegalese mothers claimed that little children are now more exhausting than ever? This talk explores the problem of women’s fatigue by investigating how human capital investment projects like Senegal’s preschool system complicate motherhood in unexpected ways. Rather than presume that motherhood inherently entails forms of work, the presentation examines how attempts to naturalise motherhood into mothering work are negotiated and contested, with broader implications for how anthropologists might theorise neoliberal interventions into family life. 

Speaker: Kathryn E. McHarry is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on global childhood policymaking and post-millennial transformations of age, care, and labor in Africa. Her dissertation, Entrepreneurs of the Future: Speculative Care and Early Childhood Education in Senegal examines the politics of human capital interventions and the economisation of family life.

Putting Africa Back into the Politics of British Decolonisation

Anthony Low Commonwealth Lecture 2019

This annual public lecture – in honour and memory of Professor Anthony Low AO, ANU Vice-Chancellor (1975-82) distinguished scholar and university administrator in Africa, Australia and the United Kingdom – will focus on Professor Low’s acute observation that African decolonisation owed as much (if not more) to local African agency as to the high global winds of change in the aftermath of World War II. Drawing from not merely recently released British State Papers, but the ‘lived experience’ of colonial Central Africa, this lecture will explore certain ‘dissonances’ between African social dynamics and global narratives of the demission of European power in the African colonial empires.

Speaker: Emeritus Professor Deryck M Schreuder was born and educated in Africa before taking up a Rhodes Scholarship to New College, Oxford. He has twice been an Australian Vice-Chancellor (University of Western Sydney and The University of Western Australia).

Date & time
Tuesday 03 September 2019, 5.30pm–7pm

APCD Lecture Theatre, Ground floor, Hedley Bull Building #130, corner of Garran Road and Liversidge Street, ANU

More information and registration


The Good Migrant: Gender, Race, and Naturalisation in Early Twentieth-Century South Africa and Australia

Speaker: Rachael Bright, Keele University
Wed 14 Aug, 4.15–5.30pm, McDonald Room, Menzies Library, ANU

What does a good migrant look like? How do migration officials identify ‘good’ migrants and how do potential migrants navigate this process? This paper will explore the development of early twentieth century migration laws and bureaucracies in South Africa and Australia in order to address these questions. It will particularly focus on Jewish and female migrants, drawing on a range of official migratory documentation and private diaries of those who sought to regulate and control the migratory process: as migrants, interested charities, and bureaucrats.

Rachel Bright is Senior Lecturer in Global and Imperial History at Keele University, UK. She specialises in migration and identity in the British settler colonies, especially South Africa and Australia. Her PhD from King’s College, London was followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of East Anglia, and lecturing at the London School of Economics and Goldsmith’s College, London. Rachel is currently a Visiting Fellow at ANU researching female naturalisation in the early twentieth century, with funding from Keele University’s Institute of Social Inclusion and an Australian Bicentennial Research Fellowship from the Menzies Centre of Australian Studies, King’s College London.

Further details.

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