Monday 25 January 2016

Wrapping-up the Wenner-Gren 2015 Workshop

As further proof that we didn’t keep our guests
locked away in the university the entire time,
  here’s Robin Dennell setting foot in the Indian
Ocean for the first time! (Photo by Martin Porr)
A quick update to note that we have now completed our reporting to the Wenner-Gren Foundation on the workshop we held in Perth in October last year. The finalised abstract for the event can be found below and we’ve also now updated the workshop pages with photos from the event. There are several publication projects in the works and plans afoot to continue and broaden these conversations, and updates on this continuing work will be posted in due course. Our sincerest thanks to all the workshop participants, who made this such a stimulating event!

A few more important acknowledgements: foremost we would like to thank the Wenner-Gren Foundation for the Workshop Grant that made this possible. We are also grateful for extra support provided by a Special Grant from the UWA Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research’s Office and also the UWA Institute of Advanced Studies who sponsored our public keynote lecture. We’d also like to acknowledge the support of the School of Social Science, particularly our wonderful administrative team, who provided so much behind-the-scenes support that help this event to run smoothly. And finally, we'd like to say a big thank you to Jasmine Waters, Ariane Maggio and Mitch Cleghorn who all volunteered their time to help us run this event and make sure our guests had an enjoyable time in Perth.

All the best,
Martin and Jacq

Decolonisation and Human Origins – Workshop Abstract

The level of interest in human origins research in both academic and public circles has grown substantially through time. However, we have noted that critical postcolonial approaches have yet to make substantial impact on human origins research, despite making significant theoretical and methodological contributions to other areas of anthropology. We believe that this is a problematic situation given that the study of human origins has increasingly significant implications for the relationship between different knowledge systems and can have substantial and negative impacts on the identity of Indigenous peoples. 

This workshop invited participants to reflect on the hypothesis that discussions on human origins operate with largely implicit and uncritical definitions and approaches that carry problematic cultural, political and colonialist baggage on different levels – and what it might mean to decolonise human origins. 

We broke new ground by bringing together a multi-disciplinary group of experts who spoke to each other beyond our usual disciplinary divisions in order to examine the different facets and potentials of a decolonisation of approaches to human origins research. It is our intention that this project will inspire new scholarly engagements, interpretations and re-interpretations to take place as well as new collaborations with Indigenous scholars and community representatives.

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