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May 23, 2024

Speaking from the South is the thinkfest you shouldn’t miss

If you care about climate change, inequality and other world issues, you’ll welcome perspectives from the Global South. The University of Adelaide is bringing together an impressive group of writers and thinkers, including two Nobel Laureates, for a 6-day thinkfest. And tickets are insanely cheap.

  • Gabeba Baderoon, Fabián Martínez Siccardi, Abdulrazak Gurnah and John M. Coetzee
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  • This article was produced in collaboration with The University of Adelaide.

Arguably, the entirety of knowledge that suffuses social theory is grounded in the experiences and perspectives of those in Europe and North America. In recent years, this has been counteracted by compelling thinking from voices of Latin America, Asia, Africa and Oceania – regions together known as the Global South.


Speaking from the South
Friday, 31 May to Wednesday,
5 June 2024
The University of Adelaide
North Terrace
Adelaide 5000
More info and tickets

One of the voices contributing to this radical alignment is writer, scholar and Nobel Laureate John M Coetzee, who now calls Adelaide home. In support of this rethink, he published his latest book as a Spanish translation by Mariana Dimópoulos, El Polaco, before its release in English as The Pole.

Building on this and as part of its 150-year celebrations, The University of Adelaide is bringing together writers and thinkers from across the Global South and the Southern Hemisphere.

Speaking from the South is a 6-day program of conversations, lectures and more. What makes this thinkfest a real winner is the accessibility of its content and its pricing.

Associate Professor Mandy Treagus, who teaches literary studies at the university, says the School of Humanities team behind the event wanted to emphasise their intellectual work while also delivering a program with broad appeal.

“We’re interested in the role of literature in people’s lives and what they see it doing as we face this uncertain future,” Mandy says. “And we’re trying to change that emphasis from the northern hemisphere.”

Writers at Speaking from the South will reflect on big global problems – like climate change, inequality, the growing use of tech in everyday life and the mass displacement of people – and propose alternative pathways forward.

“It’s an extraordinary opportunity to have this spectacular group of writers here in Adelaide,” says Mandy.

“Audiences who like Writers Week or loved going to the Festival of Ideas – people who are thinking about all of these same things, and are interested in new thoughts and new ideas – they’ll find this absolutely accessible.”

For aspiring and seasoned writers there is a creative writing masterclass and a poetry masterclass with leading writers “from right across the South”, says Mandy. “We’re hoping it’s going to prove to be a really fertile mix.”

The organising team turns out to be incredibly well-connected.

“There are five of us on the team and for most of the people appearing we have connections with through our intellectual networks,” says Mandy.

The roster of writers includes Nobel Laureate Abdulrazak Gurnah, Cameroonian historian and political theorist Achille Mbembe, Indonesian author and feminist academic Intan Paramaditha and Argentinian writer Fabián Martinez Siccardi – to name drop just a few.

Friday to Sunday of the program comprises talks, film screenings, writing masterclasses and public lectures. Ticket prices are tiered for students, unwaged and waged – expect to pay no more than $10 for a session or $20 for a masterclass. Students can pay as little as $1.

This is followed by a free 3-day academic conference that is also open to the public and features “some of the most brilliant minds in literature and philosophy”.

For an event as unique as this, it’s hard to pick and choose what to attend. Mandy’s recommendation is to get along to as many as possible.

“Because we feel like the whole program is a highlight.”

Below is a taster of what awaits, while the full program can be found here.


Opening Panel Discussion
6–8pm Friday, 31 May
Bonython Hall

This is a must-attend for two reasons…

Firstly, the opportunity to hear from the panel of writers – Kim Scott, Intan Paramaditha, Fabián Martínez Siccardi, and Patricia Grace – as they explore the perspectives emerging from the South on issues like inequality, climate change and colonialism.

Secondly, following the panel discussion, Nobel Laureates John M Coetzee and Abdulrazak Gurnah will hold public readings of their works.

To say this is a rare opportunity for Adelaide is understating things.


Film Screening: First Nations Interrogation of the Archive
10am–12pm Saturday, 1 June
Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas

This double feature comprises WINHANGANHA from Wiradjuri artist Jazz Money and 100 TIKIs from Samoan writer Dan Taulapapa McMullen. Both explore the representation of their respective cultures.

“[Jazz] went into the Film and Television Archive and looked at all the material around indigenous people,” explains Mandy. The result is a feature length lyrical journey of archival footage and sound, poetry and original composition.

She says Dan’s film/art piece about Hollywood’s representation of Pacific Islanders is compelling. “He’s gone back to books written about Samoa by missionaries and early colonists. He identifies as queer and faʻafafine, a third gender, and he’s interested in the traces of that history particularly in the 19th century record.”


Panel Discussion: Exploding the Archive
5pm Saturday, 1 June
Bonython Hall

This links back to the film screening and is a chance to hear from First Nations creative artists from Australia and the Pacific as they respond to the relentless archiving of their lives, bodies, and culture by museums, galleries and the like.

Included on the panel is Nurungga poet Natalie Harkin, whose collection Archival Poetics arose from her examination of the State Records and documents relating to her maternal line. “The things they were subjected to is very disturbing, as is the amount of surveillance and judgement on these women who, particularly in the pre referendum era, were absolutely not free,” says Mandy.

Also speaking is Noongar writer Kim Scott, whose novel That Deadman Dance won the Miles Franklin Award. Mandy says for his research he went back to the first records of the ‘friendly frontier’, the southern coast of Western Australia, to look at the eventual souring of relations between the First Nations people and the whalers and colonists.

Others on the panel include the first First Nations artistic director of the Australian Dance Theatre Daniel Riley, Dan Taulapapa McMullin, kids and young adult author Jared Thomas, and South Australian Museum curator John Carty, who’ll discuss the vital process of indigenising archives.


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