Fluid boundaries: politicising purity in Ghana

Location: Milgate Room, AD Hope Building, ANU
Time: 2pm, Friday 27 July
Speaker: Kirsty Wissing, CHL

By exploring Akwamu values and ritual uses of water, blood and other fluids in Ghana, this presentation will revisit the politics of purity and pollution. Rather than seeing categories of cleanliness and dirt as solidly bounded, I argue that for the Akwamu people in Ghana, it is instead fluids that are key to transitioning people, places, and states from pollution to purity, as well as from the secular to sacred, and vice versa. As unstable entities with multiple meanings, fluids also offer people opportunities for political creativity and challenge.

Drawing on thirteen months of ethnographic field research, I will unpack how ritual flows of certain fluids are imagined to uphold and/or collapse relationality between people and between people and their broader (physical and spiritual) environment. In this vein, I will consider what flows are thought to socially purify, and what flows threaten to pollute and endanger Akwamu socio-environmental relationality in correlation or competition with national interests. By considering shifts in the ritual value of water, blood and other fluids, I will ask just how bounded and/or collapsible are traditional categories of purity and pollution, or of good and bad, and question who stands to gain what from categorical manipulations.

The Role of Traditional Authorities in Conflict Management: Cameroon

Presenter: Emmanuel Lokohko Awoh (PhD Candidate, University of Melbourne)
Location: Milgate Room, AD Hope Building, ANU, Canberra
Time: 3pm-5pm, Friday 13 July

This presentation is based on my PhD thesis where I examined the role of traditional authorities in conflict management and peace building in the North-West of Cameroon. I compared two sites within the region (Kom and Bali administrative areas), which have had rather different experiences regarding ethnically coloured conflicts and attempts to diffuse it. Attempts to co-opt formal and informal state actors in Cameroon have led to the creation of hybrid political systems where the state is confronted by multiple political orders. These political orders are captured in terms of neo-patrimonial rule and customary governance where the ‘modern’, legal-bureaucratic state is interfused by intertwined rationalities, values, norms and practices both at the local and national levels. This creates the potential for uneasy coexistence with the different normative systems of governance. Where the fields of jurisdiction between the different political orders overlap, it produces tensions and conflicts within local communities with regards to issues such as land governance. I argue that the legitimacy of the state in mediating such conflicts becomes critical when analysing the formal state authority in certain policy fields, while informal state actors like traditional authorities appear to be relevant in processes of local conflict management within local communities only if they remain legitimate. Informed by over eight months of ethnographic research conducted in Cameroon in 2015, I explored the everyday encounters between traditional authorities, local communities and state bureaucrats to explain the nature of how legitimacy is built and recognised by different audiences. In the process to establish control and ownership of land, traditional authorities, the state and the local population become engaged in processes where specific aspects of the different sources of legitimacy are borrowed, reproduced, altered and or co-opted. It is through these local interactions, I have argued, that it is easier to understand legitimacy because one gets to learn what traditional authorities do as custodians of land and what their actions mean to their communities. Set out to understand how traditional authorities gain and sustain legitimacy and the role that they play in conflict prevention/ management at the local level, the findings of this thesis show that different sources of legitimacy will matter in conflict management depending on the policy field in question. However, once a traditional leader loses his moral legitimacy with the grassroots, he does not only undermine his power to mediate community conflicts, he also creates a situation of conflict.

Report on Australia’s trade and investment relationships with the countries of Africa

Australia’s trade and investment relationships with the countries of Africa

21 June 2018

The report of the Senate Committee is available at


The report can be viewed as a single PDF file or as the following separate downloadable parts:

Committee Membership (PDF 25KB)
Recommendations (PDF 37KB)
Chapter 1 – Introduction (PDF 553KB)
Chapter 2 – Australian mining in Africa (PDF 206KB)
Chapter 3 – Barriers and impediments to trade and investment (PDF 105KB)
Chapter 4 – Opportunities to expand trade and investment (PDF 113KB)
Chapter 5 – The role of government in increasing trade and investment with Africa (PDF 386KB)
Chapter 6 – Aid and achieving the sustainable development goals (PDF 111KB)
Chapter 7 – Conclusions and recommendations (PDF 64KB)
Appendix 1 – Submissions (PDF 8KB)
Appendix 2 – Tabled documents, Additional information and Answers to questions on notice (PDF 9KB)
Appendix 3 (PDF 39KB





(From Professor Helen Ware, UNE)

A celebration of the the life of Eddie Funde was held at Sydney Trades Hall on 19th June 2018. The venue was very appropriate because this was where Eddie established the African National Congress office after his arrival in 1983. After the breakdown of apartheid, Funde relocated to Johannesburg in 1992 and was appointed to a number of leading positions in the newly emerging democratic South Africa, initially as the chair of the South African Broadcasting Corporation.

The Commemoration opened the with a stirring rendition of Nkosi Sikelel’ Africa by the Sydney Trade Union Choir.

Daren McDonald, a close friend, was the MC and had attended the funeral in South Africa from which he had brought back striking excerpts expressing the whole Nation’s loss.

Helen McCue, co-founder of Union Aid Abroad APHEDA, and Audrey McDonald, former National Secretary, Union of Australia Women, delivered a joint Eulogy with personal anecdotes.  The deeply felt response came from Her Excellency Beryl Sisulu, the South African High Commissioner. Messages of Support came from Adam McCarthy, the current  Australian High Commissioner in Pretoria,. Anthony Albanese MP, Tanya Plibersek MP, and Senator Jenny McAlister

In this setting, it was striking to remember what a vital role Eddie played in bringing the evils of Apartheid to the forefront of the consciousness of  both Australian politicians and women and men in the street. Common themes raised by several speakers were that whilst Eddie was personally humble he was very proud on behalf of the people of South Africa; that there was a period when in Australia Funde was a better known name than Mandela and certainly much better known than the official Ambassador of Apartheid South Africa, who later paid him the tribute of acknowledging that Eddie had far outshone him in every area of access to the media.  All agreed Eddie had immense courage from the time when he first joined the ANC, to the very end despite the accident which rendered him a paraplegic.

This was a rare occasion to celebrate the life of a major historical figure and for an older generation to relive past glories as trenchantly recalled by Kolin Thumbadoo, former President of the Australian Anti-Apartheid Movement. If only the Palestinians in Australia had an advocate with Eddie’s powers of persuasion.

Eddie’s autobiography, which is soon to be published, including the story of how his political juggling act resulted in the granting of the Freedom the City of Sydney to a still-imprisoned Nelson Mandela.

According to the Obituary in the Sydney Morning Herald of 31 May by McCue and McDonald:

‘Funde was instrumental in building an extraordinary array of support networks, among them the Luthuli group in Canberra which helped support a scholarship program with the ANU. The New Zealand ANC support committee was launched in 1988 as was the Australian Nelson Mandela Foundation with former prime ministers Bob Hawke and Malcolm Fraser as patrons.’


The Luthuli Group of Canberra was an anti-apartheid organization for the liberation of South Africa and Namibia with strong links to the ANU. See