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Thinking the Antipodes
Australian Essays

By Peter Beilharz


‘Reading this collection, we are better able to appreciate the sustained intellectual commitment, breadth of sympathy, and responsiveness to changing cultural and political priorities, that characterises Beilharz’s work.’ — Graeme Davison, The Journal of Sociology, 1-3(2017)

Thinking the Antipodes brings together essays across a wide intellectual terrain articulating views about Australian social, historical and political understanding beyond mainstream conventions…it is very much to be welcomed.
Lionel Orchard, Labour History, Number 110, May 2016

This collection of essays is an important Marxist hymnbook dedicated to the intellectual struggle of imagining what it is to be Antipodean.
Phillip Hall, Plumwood Mountain Online Journal

In 1956 Bernard Smith wrote that we in Australia were migratory birds. This was to become a leading motif of his own thinking, and a significant inspiration for Peter Beilharz. Beilharz came to argue that the idea of the antipodes made sense less in its geographical than its cultural form, viewed as a relation rather than a place. Australians had one foot here and one there, whichever ‘there’ this was. This way of thinking with and after Bernard Smith makes up one current of Beilharz’s best Australian essays.

Two other streams contribute to the collection. The second recovers and publicises antipodean intellectuals, from Childe to Evatt to Stretton to Jean Martin, who have often been overshadowed here by the reception given to metropolitan celebrity thinkers; and examines others, like Hughes and Carey, who have been celebrated as writers more than as interpreters of the antipodean condition.

The third stream engages with mainstream views of Australian writing, and with the limits of these views. If we think in terms of cultural traffic, then the stories we tell about Australia will also be global and regional in a broader sense. Australia is the result of cultural traffic, local and global.

About the author

Peter Beilharz is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Thesis Eleven Centre for Cultural Sociology at La Trobe University. He has published 24 books and 200 papers across five continents. His major works include Imagining the Antipodes (1997) and Sociology – Antipodean Perspectives, with Trevor Hogan (2012). He has been affiliated with Harvard, Yale and Leeds universities, and in 2015 will work at STIAS in South Africa with Sian Supski.

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