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Italian Indigenous Relationships: Towards a Decolonial Approach


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Booked out. If interested, please contact paolo@coasit.com.au and I shall let you know whether any spots have become available.

Image: Tidda Murrup, Paola Balla, 2013 (in collaboration with Rosie Kilvert), digital photographic image on photo rag paper.

Discussant: Joseph PUGLIESE

• Paola BALLA, Disrupting Artistic Terra Nullius: Situating the Ways in which First Nations Women Art-ists and Activists Speak Blak & Back to Colonial Australia
• Francesco RICATTI, Decolonising the history of Italian migration to Australia
• Federica VERDINA & John KINDER, Selvaggi or nativi? European and colonial perspectives on the encounter with the other in the experience of two missionaries
• Matteo DUTTO, Alessandro Cavadini and the Indigenous Land Rights Movement: Filming across Two Laws
• Maria PALLOTTA-CHIAROLLI, Personal Lives and Intimacies Between and Beyond “Mobs” and “Wogs”: Some Realities and the Questions They Raise

Paola BALLA, Disrupting Artistic Terra Nullius: Situating the Ways in which First Nations Women Artists and Activists Speak Blak & Back to Colonial Australia

As a First Nations woman who identifies as Wembawemba and Gunditjmara raised by Aboriginal women in country Victoria, “on Country,” and predominantly away from my father’s Italian, city based family my sense of identity and knowing has been informed by what Moreton-Robinson calls “relationality.” It also means that I simultaneously experienced “double” racism for my Indigenous identity and my Italian “otherness,” which included bullying and sexual violence. Aboriginal women have and continue to be the most marginalised, and subjected to various forms of violence, both historical and ongoing in Australia. Though always at the forefront of political, psychosocial and cultural resistance and survival, our knowledge and practices are often omitted and rendered invisible in academic and public forums. My arts practice, writing and community activism are all informed by my deep sense of Indigenous identity and experience of migrant “outsider” status also. My PhD creative project aims to create a body of work and exegesis that documents and disrupts the invisibility and asserts and situates Aboriginal Sovereign women’s contributions to practices of survival in academia and public spaces. Informed by Indigenous ways of knowing, doing and being and through practice led inquiry I will produce a new body of work with a public exhibition as an outcome. The exegesis will weave together the knowledge produced from these processes of how Aboriginal women speak blak and back through art in Sovereign and non-colonial acts of disruption.

Francesco RICATTI, Decolonising the history of Italian migration to Australia

The history of Italian migration to Australia needs to be reframed by acknowledging the nature of Australia as a settler colonial nation. What are the implications, challenges and opportunities of researching Italian migrants’ complex roles in the process of settler co-lonialism? Why such roles have been largely rendered invisible in the historiography of Italian migration? How can we redress such gross amnesia? The paper suggests the importance of focusing on the racialized position of Italian migrants as a permeable buffer in-between the colonisers and the colonised, in Australia and in many other settler colonial societies. This ap-proach can be categorised around four main areas of critical research:
1. The perception and study of Aboriginal and Tor-res Straits Islander Peoples by Italian adventurers, journalists, geographers, anthropologists and missionaries.
2. The colonist roles of Italian migrants in Austra-lia, and their complicity with settler colonial ide-ologies and practices.
3. The oppositions to such practices by a number of Italian, Italian-Australian and Italian-Indigenous intellectuals, artists and political activists.
4. The personal and intimate relationships between Italian migrants and Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander people, as they emerge through complex decolonial, transcultural and Indigenous practices that are situated beyond the traditional boundaries of academic research.

Federica VERDINA & John KINDER, Selvaggi or nativi? European and colonial perspectives on the encounter with the other in the experience of two missionaries

The earliest encounters with the Indigenous peoples of Australia and New Zealand was a complex and dynamic experience for Catholic missionaries from Italy and other European countries. The initial impetus was simple enough, one that had driven missionaries since the early Middle Ages, to “convert and civilise” the inhabitants of lands that had not been touched by the Christian message. The encounter with such difference, however, required many missionaries to realign their understandings of the peoples they met and of the forms of interaction they could meaningfully sustain with them. Everything was made more complex by the political context in which these relationships developed: the British colonial project. Catholic missionaries worked to position themselves both within the colonial framework, in order to gain maximum benefit for their missionary work, but also to maintain a critical distance, as ethnic and religious outsiders. We will examine these intricate cultural exchanges through an analysis of the writings of two Benedictine monks – the Spaniard Rosendo Salvado, who led the mission of New Norcia in Western Australia from 1846 to 1900, and the Italian Felice Vaggioli, who worked in New Zealand from 1879 to 1887. We will focus on a lexical analysis of the words these two missionaries used to refer to the Indigenous peoples with whom they lived. The presence of a variety of terms including selvaggio, the term mostly used in Romance languages, native, which was a key term in British colonial vocabulary, and a range of other terms including in the New Zealand case Maori, is indexical of the multi-layered nature of these earliest encounters between Italians and Indigenous peoples in Australia and New Zealand.

Matteo DUTTO, Alessandro Cavadini and the Indigenous Land Rights Movement: Filming across Two Laws

Stories of encounters between Italian migrants and Indigenous Australians have rarely been portrayed in film and documentary form by either Italian or Australian filmmakers, reflecting a lack of interest that is not incidental but can be better understood as constitutive to how migrants’ sense of belonging and identity is negotiated in contemporary Australia. Yet, while on-screen representations of these stories are mostly notable for their absence, things change drastically if we focus instead on “behind the camera” collaborations, like those established by Italian film-maker Alessandro Cavadini with the Indigenous land rights movement and with the Indigenous communities of Redfern, Palm Island and Borroloola (Northern Territory) through his landmark documentaries Ningla A-Na (1972), Protected (1975) and Two Laws (1981). Part of a larger project dedicated to the analy¬sis of Cavadini’s works and of their transnational impact, this presentation focuses on Two Laws, the ground-breaking documentary shot by the Borroloola Indigenous community, in collaboration with Cavadini and Australian filmmaker Carolyn Strachan, to support their land claim and keep Borroloola history and law alive. I investigate how by refusing to replicate the colonial gaze of previous non-Indigenous ethnographic productions, Cavadini and Strachan decided instead to “surrender control” of the camera and of the production to the community itself. I argue that the result is a collectively authored reflexive documentary that mixes oral testimony and dramatic re-enactment from within Borroloola law and aesthetics, a unique documentary that foregrounds the creative and decolonising power of encounters between Indigenous and Italian activists and artists.

Maria PALLOTTA-CHIAROLLI, Personal Lives and Intimacies Between and Beyond “Mobs” and “Wogs”: Some Realities and the Questions They Raise

This presentation presents some life stories and family histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island (ATSI) peoples with Italian heritage or associated with Italian communities, culture and Catholicism. Via these autoethnographies of personal lives and intimacies, which are a preliminary part of a larger research project, the following questions are raised and explored:
1. the intersections, conflicts and connections between ATSI and Italians: the roles Italian migrants played in influencing and condoning, as well as questioning and confronting, racist and colonialist ideologies on familial and interpersonal levels;
2. how personal lives, intimacies and interpersonal relationships were framed/constrained by colonial, racist and multicultural national and state policies, and colonial, racist and multicultural socio-cultural perspectives and practices eg whether Italian migrants “imported” colonial and racial attitudes from their homelands and colo-nies (such as Italian colonies in North Africa), and/or did they learn these from Australian employers, neighbours, churches, schools and media?
3. everyday strategies of resistance, re-definition and re-clamation that remain buried in colonial, racist and multicultural versions of Australian history: how ATSI perceive, understand, re¬sist or connect with Italian migrants on familial and in-terpersonal levels.
Throughout this presentation, I will also explain the application of decolonizing research practices in the telling and documenting of both excruciating and exhilarating interpersonal memories and realities of everyday living between and beyond “mobs” and “wogs”.

Paola BALLA. A Wembawemba, Gunditjmara and Italian woman, Paola Balla is an artist, curator and writer who founded the Indigenous Arts and Cultural Program and Wominjeka Festival at FCAC. A lecturer based at Moondani Bal-luk Indigenous Academic Centre VU, she is a PhD candidate focussed on Aboriginal women's art and resistance, and is the inaugural Lisa Bellear Indigenous Research Scholar. Her writing appears in Etchings Indigenous, The Lifted Brow, Peril Magazine, Weather Stations for Tony Birch and the Victorian Writer and is a regular guest speaker and cultural commentator, including key note addresses for the WOW Festival 2017 and Emerging Writers Festival. Recent group exhibitions include ReCentre Sisters at City Gallery, State of the Na¬tion at Counihan Gallery and In Good Company with proppaNOW at Roslyn Smorgan Gallery. In 2015, Paola curated Executed in Franklin Street at City Gallery, and in 2016 co-curated Sovereignty at ACCA with Director Max Delany.

Dr Francesco RICATTI is Cassamarca Senior Lecturer in Italian Studies, School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics, Monash University (Melbourne). His main area of research is the history of Italian migration to Australia. Francesco’s approach to history is creative, multidisciplinary, and particularly interested in the study of emotions, memory, transculturality and decoloniality. His most recent book is Italians in Australia: history, memory, identity (Palgrave, forthcoming 2018). His first YA novel, Him and me, co-authored with Gary Crew, will also be published in 2018 by Harbour Publishing House.

Dr Federica VERDINA has recently completed a PhD at the University of Western Australia. She has published on the history of the Italian language in the 19th century, with particular reference to the early presence of Italians in Australia and the Catholic missionary Church.

Associate Professor John KINDER was born in New Zealand and teaches Italian at the University of Western Australia. After studying various aspects of the Italian language in recent migration to Australia, he is now studying evidence of the use of Italian in Australia before mass migration. This is part of a wider project to uncover and document the multilingual history of colonial Australia.

Dr Matteo DUTTO is a Teaching Associate and Research Assistant in Film and Screen Studies at Monash University’s School of Media, Film and Journalism, where he recently completed his PhD. His thesis focuses on Indigenous multimo-dal and transmedia history-making practices and demonstrates how Indigenous screen production can be understood as a contemporary act of cultural resistance that reveals the ongoing Indigenous struggle for recognition of sovereignty. His current research revolves around Australian Indigenous filmmaking and transnational Indigenous documentary. His work has been published in Studies in Documentary Film and on Fulgor and he recently collaborated to the production of the Australian Indigenous Film and Television Digital Bibliography.

Dr Maria PALLOTTA-CHIAROLLI teaches, writes, researches and is a community activist on social jus¬tice, diversity and equity issues in education and health. Her primary areas of interest are the interweavings of cultural diversity, gender diversity, sexual diversity and family diversity. She is a Founding Member of AGMC (Australian GLBTIQ Multicultural Council), an umbrella organisation supporting culturally and religiously diverse GLBTIQ communities, services and organisations in Australia. Maria also sits on two Victoria Police Priorities Communities Reference Groups: the LGBTIQ Reference Group and the Multicultural Reference Group. Maria’s most recent publication was: “Supporting Multicultural, Multifaith SSAGD Young People” for the Victorian Minister for Equality and the Minister for Multicultural Affairs; and her current research is “Wogarigines”: Family Histories of Indigenous People with Southern European Heritage”. Author and editor of 14 academic and non-academic books, Maria has won two Lambda (GLBTIQ) Literary Awards in the USA and been shortlisted for a third. She has also gained international recognition for writing Australia’s first AIDS auto/biography, Someone You Know, and publishing Australia’s first autoethnography addressing gender, sexual diversity and migration in 5 generations of her Italian family: Tapestry.

Professor Joseph PUGLIESE is Research Director of the Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. He has published widely on: colonialism and decolonisation, migration, refugees and asylum seekers, race, ethnicity and whiteness, cultural studies of law, state violence, and bodies and technologies. Selected publications include the edited collection TransMediterranean: Diasporas, Histories, Geopolitical Spaces (Peter Lang, 2010) and the monograph Biometrics: Bodies, Technologies, Biopolitics (Routledge, 2010) which was short-listed for the international Surveillance Studies Book Prize. His monograph State Violence and the Execution of Law: Biopolitical Caesurae of Torture, Black Sites, Drones (Routledge, 2013) was nominated for the UK’s Hart Socio-Legal Book Prize 2013, the US’s Law and Society Association Herbert Jacob Book Prize 2013, was awarded the MQ Faculty of Arts Research Excellence Award 2013 and it received High Commendation in the MQ Research Excellence Awards 2014 and 2015. In recognition of his research on social justice, race, ethnicity and racism, he was nominated for the Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize, Brandeis University, USA. He is co-founder, with Professor Suvendrini Perera, of Researchers Against Pacific Black Sites.