Wenner-Gren 2015 Workshop

Photo by Martin Porr

Decolonisation and Human Origins: Being and Becoming 'Us'

Organisers: Martin Porr and Jacqueline Matthews

This workshop was generously funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation with extra support provided by the UWA Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research’s Office and the UWA Institute of Advanced Studies. The workshop was held at the University of Western Australia on the 29th and 39th of October 2015.

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.

Photo by Martin Porr

Workshop Program 

Organiser Martin Porr introducing Robin Dennell.
Photo Jacq Matthews
The workshop included both local and international researchers from a wide range of interrelated disciplines and was structured around six thematic sessions:
  1. Definition of the human and its colonial legacy
  2. Representation and narratives of human origins
  3. Historical legacies and approaches
  4. Time and origins
  5. Social construction of genetic facts
  6. Ethics and a postcolonial future
If you'd like to read through the full program from the workshop you can download it as a pdf via this link, Decolonisation and Human Origins Workshop Program. The program includes detailed session descriptions, presentation abstracts, and speaker bios.

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