News - 2012

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Reorienting diverse space: neighbourhoods, identity and citizenship

Reorienting diverse space workshop19 December 2012

An MnM Centre workshop, City West Campus. The contemporary western city has emerged as a new postcolonial frontier where intense everyday social and cultural encounters have disrupted the purist homogeneous notions of the nation-state and with it the notion of a shared community and culture as the basis of citizenship. At the level of the neighbourhood, displaced cultures have struggled to make claims to inhabit the city and for recognition of their histories and identities.

For large numbers of Muslim migrants to contemporary western cities, the lived experience of displacement and re-territorialisation as a spatial practice remains understudied. Indeed, mainstream depictions of Muslim neighbourhoods still conform to contemporary narratives of the multicultural city. These narratives are rooted in the deterministic and over-simplified urban ecology model of ethnic enclave, slum and ghetto in which deprivation, urban degeneration and race conveniently converge. This urban model maintains the status quo of exclusionary spatial practices where the frontier between West and non-West is clearly defined.

Yet there is a growing recognition in the social sciences of the disruptive politics of difference that is challenging these fixed hierarchical notions of who belongs and who doesn’t, which spaces they occupy and which spaces they don’t. This workshop was about understanding these disruptions through the process of territorialisation of urban space, and its symbolic and visual expressions of identity. Participants engaged in a Muslim ethnography of neighbourhoods that revealed the sense of place and cultural meaning; the social construction of urban identity; and the nature of territory, boundaries and frontiers in the city where they experience the everyday.


Reorienting democracy

Re-orienting democracy17–18 December 2012

An international symposium presented by the MnM Centre, City West Campus. The various uprisings in parts of Muslimistan that are often labelled somewhat problematically the ‘Arab world’ have not only unnerved certain regimes and their international supporters, but have also raised questions about the exceptionality of Islamicate societies and their purported immunity from democracy. At stake in these deliberations and fears is not only the relationship between Islam and democracy, but also the question of the universality of democracy. The supplement to this question is the relationship between democracy and the West. At one time the relationship between the idea of the West and the idea of democracy was almost isomorphic (as long as no-one mentioned colonialism or racism).

In the last twenty years in some ways democracy has been hollowed out in the West, where democratic slogans run alongside increasing restrictions on individuals in the name of safety and security. Recent scholarship has begun to deconstruct the axiomatic relationship between the West and democracy and, in so doing, to challenge the way in which we have understood what it means to be democratic. Are there different paths and types of democracy or must all democracies follow the path pioneered by western democrats on the shores of the Atlantic? This symposium will invite scholars to explore decolonial readings of democracy in the context of a post-Atlantic world that is less and less able to be organised around the hierarchy between the West and the Rest.

Speakers

  • Prof John Keane, University of Sydney, Australia  
  • Prof Patricia Springborg, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy
  • Prof Samina Yasmeen, University of Western Australia, Australia
  • Prof Ali Riaz, Illinois State University, USA

Program (PDF 555kb)


MnM Centre mentioned in World University Rankings

The Times Higher Education World University Rankings contains a short description of the University of South Australia. The MnM Centre is the only centre or school it mentions.


Looking through the mashrabiya: colonial visuality and the Muslim question

mashrabiya26 October 2012

Dr Chloe Patton, MnM Postdoctoral Research Fellow, presented this Hawke Research Institute Seminar at City West Campus.

The enduring hegemony of western imperialism after the formal end of European colonial empires owes much to particular ways of visualising time and space. While visual cultural theorists have mapped out what is often termed a 'scopic regime' that is peculiar to western modernity, its foundational relationship with what is deemed non-European is often overlooked within visual studies. Expanding on recent historical work in visual cultural theory that places the colonial experience at the very heart of the development of this western way of seeing, I begin this paper by exploring the theoretical significance of religion within visual modalities of coloniality. Working through the motif of the mashrabiya, the decorative lattice screen that is an iconic element of Islamic architecture, I then analyse an example of what I term 'scopic coloniality' in the form of French efforts to unveil Muslim women. The Algerian haïk and the niqaab currently favoured by a small minority of French women, like the mashrabiya, simultaneously enable and deny vision. I argue that resistance to the panopticism of the face-covering veil in both contexts throws into relief the operations through which scopic coloniality is produced and reproduced.


Lecture on Indians in Australia

23 October 2012

On 18 October Dr Nahid Afrose Kabir delivered a lecture at the Department of Sociology, Gujarat University in Ahmedabad, India. Nahid discussed the fact that a large number of Indians have settled in Australia and many Indians are successful in their professions. In her recent visit to India, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the Order of Australia for the Indian cricket player Sachin Tendulker, and the Pandit Ravi Shankar scholarship, which will be awarded to an Indian student. Nahid told her Indian audience that some good things are happening in the relationship between Australia and India, but three recent issues have deeply disturbed some people in both countries. She discussed Dr Mohammad Haneef’s case in 2007, the racist attacks on Indian students in 2009 and an ad posted by a supermarket, '[Store requires] no Indians or Asians please. [Workers] must speak English', in 2012. Nahid said that, while at the government level steps are being taken to improve relations with India, the recent incidents against some Indians are setbacks. Nahid also spoke about the Australian cultural etiquette that newly arrived Indian students should know. Sometimes cultural misunderstandings can slow down the process of social cohesion.


Reorienting diaspora symposium

4–5 September 2012

The UNESCO Chair in Transnational Diasporas and Reconciliation Studies and the Hawke Research Institute with the International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding (MnM) presented this symposium on 4–5 September 2012 at City West Campus.

Program (PDF 588 kb)

Presenters
With presentations by leading Australian and international Indigenous educators, this symposium was an important opportunity for delegates to network with colleagues to explore the field of diaspora studies. Presenters included:

Symposium content
Empirical arguments suggest that diasporas have proliferated as a consequence of globalisation, which has apparently weakened links between places and peoples. Over the decades 'diaspora' has been used to refer to migrant communities of all kinds. These might include transnational communities with longstanding historical roots, such as those created during the colonial period or even older periods of globalisation, whose members may identify only in the loosest terms with a common point of origin 'overseas'. Alternatively, these might include newer communities, created by new pressures for displacement and dislocation, and often compelled to move by new processes embedded within the conditions of contemporary, globalised coloniality. Yet the presence of such communities, and the resulting crisis of liberal politics in responding to this presence, also raises new scholarly opportunities; namely for reorienting scholarship around the large-scale migrations associated with modernity, from the colonial period to the conditions of contemporary coloniality.

The field of diaspora studies is not exhausted by the enumeration of an ever-expanding list of the communities that are considered to be diasporic. This is because underlying this empirical expansion is the possibility that we are in a new post-national terrain, which means not only a loosening of links between place and people, but also a condition marked out by a deterritorialisation of political subjectivities. In other words, diaspora refers not just to some groups who no longer have 'homelands' but to a generalised condition of 'homelessness'.


Eid al-Fitr celebration

22 August 2012

The International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding hosted an Eid al-Fitr celebration on 22 August. Eid is not only a celebration for those who have fasted for the preceding month of Ramadan, nor is it a reward for those who had to endure the fasting of friends and colleagues: it is also a means for broadening our understanding of what many people hold important.

Staff from the centre were joined by over 100 representatives from a large cross-section of our community, by leaders of religious faiths, and senior representatives of the South Australian government and the University of South Australia.

After a prayer from the Imam, Sheikh Suleiman, the university’s Deputy Vice Chancellor: Academic, Professor Joanne Wright, and the Honorable Jennifer Rankine, Minister for Multicultural Affairs, used their speeches to reflect on the value of diversity, of multiculturalism and of driving community change.


Workshop: Culture and conflict in the war on terror

15 August 2012

The International Centre for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation organised a workshop on 15 August 2012. The theme of the workshop was 'culture and conflict in the war on terror’. It was facilitated by Warren Chin, visiting scholar at the MnM Centre. The purpose of the event was to understand why and how the notion of culture has become such an important element in this war and to explore why better cultural understanding may not be the silver bullet many hoped it would be in bringing this conflict to an end.

There were six presentations on the day which looked at the following themes:

  • Has the importance of religion as a component of cultural understanding been neglected and has this undermined our ability to understand both the drivers of this war and the means to resolve it?
  • What do we mean by the notion of the Muslim community and why have national security strategies failed to win the hearts and minds of this group, causing anger and resentment amongst many Muslims?
  • How can we refine the analytical skills of intelligence analysts so that information leads to a better understanding of where the threat is coming from and a more proportionate and targeted response in counterterrorism?
  • How do you create organisations capable of adapting and learning so that they can shift from war-fighting to winning hearts and minds in overseas military operations?
  • Is it possible to develop knowledge of other cultures in an accessible and easy-to-use form that can be employed by the military when operating in other countries?
  • Will a better culture of understanding make any difference and why have we come to approach the war in this way? Is our focus on culture an unconscious attempt to recreate the West’s colonial past in the present and the future?

Visiting scholars

14 August 2012

Dr Brian Klug joined the centre as a visiting scholar in August and September 2012. Dr Klug is Senior Research Fellow in Philosophy at St Benet’s Hall, Oxford, a member of the philosophy faculty of the University of Oxford, Fellow of the College of Arts & Sciences at St Xavier University, Chicago, and Honorary Fellow of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations, University of Southampton. While at MnM Brian taught a seminar on ‘Wittgenstein on culture and religion’.

Brian has published extensively on ‘race’ and ethnicity, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, Jewish identity and other subjects. His most recent books are Being Jewish and doing justice: bringing argument to life (2011) and Offence: the Jewish case (2009). He has lectured widely and taken part in several BBC (Religion and Ethics) programs. Brian has two degrees in philosophy from the University of London and a doctorate in social thought from the University of Chicago. He is Associate Editor of the journal Patterns of Prejudice and co-founder of the UK group Independent Jewish Voices.

Read Brian's profile

Brian delivered a talk at the Beit Shalom Synagogue on 19 August 2012. His talk, ‘Living in the world: the chosen people and the pursuit of justice’ explored the idea that the Jewish people are ‘the people of God’. At the heart of this idea is the pursuit of justice.

Lecture transcript (Word 74 kb)

Dr Warren Chin joined the MnM Centre as a visiting scholar during July and August 2012. He teaches international politics, war, strategy, defence economics and military history in the Defence Studies Department of King’s College, London. His current research focuses on terrorism and counter-insurgency and he is writing a book on the UK’s strategy and operations in the war on terror. During his time at MnM he rana workshop titled ‘Culture and conflict in the war on terror’, jointly sponsored by MnM and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation.


DVD project a key to understanding Muslims and building better communities

DVD project7 August 2012

The MnM Centre is pleased to announce that it has won $98,004 from the Attorney General’s Department Building Community Resilience Grants Program for a project titled 'Everything you always wanted to know about Muslims but were afraid to ask'.

The centre will use the grant to develop and produce a 40-minute DVD, and accompanying teaching material, aimed at secondary school students. This project will be a natural extension of the centre’s research to address the key misunderstandings that circulate about Muslims. The DVD will distil the centre’s research into an interactive format that increases student and community engagement with the key issues that undermine community resilience.

The primary objective of the DVD is educational, as it will empower people to address the various factors that lead to violent extremism, and address its broader long-term causes. The DVD will contest the grounds on which mythical claims are made about Muslim citizens, and provide both Muslim and non-Muslim communities with the means to critique misunderstandings. Further, the DVD will provide an entry point through which often avoided subjects can be debated as part of a democratic ethos. The DVD has the capacity to pioneer critical thinking and make the benefits of scholarly research available to encourage and empower our Australian community to counter extremist ideologies.

Read more


Lecture on Muslims in Australia

31 July 2012

On July 24 Dr Nahid Afrose Kabir delivered a lecture on Muslims in Australia at the Department of Islamic Studies at the Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi. Nahid spoke about Muslim migration to Australia, from its origins in the journeys of camel drivers in the mid-nineteenth century to the demographic situation today. She also told her Indian audience about the outcomes of incidents that had caused tensions between Australia and India, including the spate of racist attacks on Indian students in Australia in 2009, the same year that the MnM Centre was established.


Award for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding

students on steps17 July 2012

The centre is pleased to announce that nominations for the inaugural Award for Muslim and non-Muslim Understanding are now open. The award, developed in conjunction with the Australia Day Council of SA, is part of the centre’s continuing endeavour to develop solutions to address the basic lack of understanding and increasingly hostile tensions between Muslim and non-Muslim worlds. The recipient of this annual award will be an individual or organisation that has done the most to improve relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in Australia. The award will:

  • widely disseminate good practices that make a significant contribution to improving relations between Muslim and non-Muslim people
  • publicly acknowledge and reward good works and inspirational role models
  • act as a catalyst for public debate and engagement.

Afghan youth forum: active citizenship

Afghan Youth Forum26 June 2012

On Tuesday 26 June 2012 the MnM Centre and UnitingCare Wesley Port Adelaide (UCWPA) held a forum at City West Campus to engage young Afghans in conversation on active citizenship. Most of the young participants were recent immigrants or asylum seekers, while some of them had experienced hardship during their journey here by boat or lived in detention centres for some time. While settling in a new country, these young people are trying to adjust to two environments: their home and the wider community.

Some say they feel content settling in their new country, but they face challenges trying to convince their parents they are not abandoning their culture, for example, or demonstrating to the wider society that they are also a part of the community.

The forum was attended by 160 people throughout the day, including about 130 students from five state and private schools and participants from several agencies, and 30 academics, government and non-government officials, and community members.

In the morning session, His Excellency Lieutenant Governor Hieu Van Le shared his experiences as a 'boat person', describing how he and his family fled war-torn Vietnam in the 1970s, and how he gradually settled in Australia. Some of the young Afghan participants also spoke about their settlement experiences in Australia. This was followed by my talk on Afghans in Australia from a historical perspective. I mentioned that the early Afghans were the founders of Islam in Australia. They built the first mosques in Australia including the Adelaide Mosque which was built in 1890. Afghans also played a pioneering role in building the infrastructure of Australia.

The following panel session was very productive. Panel members included four young Afghans. The young people shared their personal and professional experiences, and their definition of active citizenship was integration, that is, be a part of the Afghan community as well as the wider society through dialogue and communication.

In the afternoon attendees broke into small groups to discuss assigned topics including racism, culture and communication, employment, anger management and mental health. Participants concentrated on devising concrete solutions to the problems they say young people in their community experience. Recommendations to deal with employment issues, for example, included establishing networks so that young Afghans can take up voluntary work in the local community and encouraging young Afghans with low literacy skills to seek help with job applications through migrant resource centres.

By Nahid Afrose Kabir

 


New publications

29 May 2012

Dr Nahid Afrose Kabir has recently published a review article and a book chapter:

  • Review article published in Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, vol 26, no 2, 2012, pp 315–323.
  • Book chapter (with Lelia Green, principal author), 'Australian migrant children: ICT use and the construction of future lives' in Leopoldina Fortunati, Raul Pertierra and Jane Vincent (eds), Migration, diaspora, and information technology in global societies, Routledge, London, 2012, pp 91–103.

Radio interview with Nahid Afrose Kabir

1 May 2012

On Sunday 29 April 2012 Nahid Afrose Kabir appeared on Radio Adelaide’s A Peace of the Action program. Nahid spoke about early Muslim arrivals to Adelaide, among them the renowned Afghan herbalist Mohamet Allum and the cameleers who contributed to the establishment of the Little Gilbert St mosque more than 100 years ago. Nahid also responded to questions about her recent work on Muslim youth identity in Australia, the UK and the US and the impact of 9/11 on these communities.


MnM Research Fellow wins the Division of Education, Arts and Social Sciences ECR award

8 March 2012

Congratulations to Dr Gilbert Caluya, South Australian Research Fellow in the MnM Centre. Gilbert was (joint) winner of the Early Career Researcher award at the 2011 EAS Research Awards. This award recognises Early Career Researchers who have demonstrated excellence in the following areas: research outputs; research supervision; community engagement.

In 2011, Gilbert was also awarded a Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DECRA) and, as part of that, has now begun his research project titled 'Borders, Burqas and Babies'. We wish Dr Caluya every success with his research, and acknowledge the significant contribution he makes to the intellectual milieu of the centre.


Elizabeth Ho honoured with awards

2 March 2012

The centre is very pleased to announce that Elizabeth Ho, Executive Director of the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre and a key figure in the development and advancement of the MnM Centre, has recently been honoured on the national stage. In January, Elizabeth was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for service to education through the Hawke Centre, and to women. More recently, Elizabeth has received a Prime Ministerial appointment as a People of Australia Ambassador, and on 21 February 2012 the Hawke Centre became the proud recipient of a 2011 Governor's Multicultural Award. The centre is absolutely delighted for the well-deserved recognition that Elizabeth receives and wishes her the very best for her inspirational work.


Muslims in Western Australia: parenting and family life

29 February 2012

A seminar presented by Eduardo J Farate, PhD student in the Centre for Muslim States and Societies, University of Western Australia. 29 February 2012, MnM Centre.

This paper presented the preliminary findings of a research project into the experiences of a cohort of Muslim families that have settled in Western Australia, in particular how settlement affected family dynamics and parenting. Participants interviewed for this research originated from Africa, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia and Australia. The interviews involved a total of 32 adults, which included six couples. Ten of the participants arrived as refugees within the last five years.

The findings of this research are grouped under the key themes of children’s education and socialisation, family relationships, parenting, community relationships, religious practice and access to social/settlement services. Linking these themes is information that shows how Muslim parents handle the challenges of parenting and family relationships in a western society. Initial findings suggest that their ability to handle these challenges and negotiate the new social reality is influenced by such things as their journey into Australia and their experience in their country of origin. Parents who originated from more ‘westernised’ societies, such as South Africa, or were born or raised in Australia, appeared to have a more relaxed parenting approach, but still in-keeping with Muslim values and norms.

Participants were also asked to provide their views on the best way to assist fellow Muslims to adjust to the reality of life in their new country. This generated some simple, but practical suggestions, on how families settling in a new country, Muslim and non-Muslim, could be assisted to adjust to the new social reality. Some of the participants felt that, whilst social or settlement services were important, migrant families from ethnic minority groups would thrive in a welcoming community environment and with adequate access to education and employment opportunities.

Areas of study and research

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