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Decolonising the Colonial Archive: Learning to Read the Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science | Anna Johnston (SCA) | UQ HAPI

Thursday, 20 October 2022




UQ St Lucia, Forgan Smith Building - E302

Central to the process of truth-telling demanded by the Uluru Statement from the Heart is a scholarly reckoning with the complexities and complicities of the colonial archive. This paper conducts an experiment in reading Australia’s first scientific journal, taking seriously recent challenges to decolonise archives, including those of natural science. The Tasmanian Journal of Natural Science was established in 1841 under the auspices of the Tasmanian Philosophical Society, steered by the ambitions of Jane Franklin. This innovation in print culture was hailed locally and in the imperial metropole although, like most of the Franklins’ colonial experiments, it proved controversial. Reading across the 8-year run of the Tasmanian Journal provides rich evidence of competing agendas inflected by race and gender, of aspirant settlers using print culture to ‘become colonial’. So, too, palawa people used science to negotiate new imperial literacies: these, alongside their own innovations with religious and humanitarian discourses, marked the history of Australian scientific print culture with Indigenous knowledge.

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