Making Empire Visible in the Metropole

Comparative Imperial Transformations in America, Australia, England and France

3 - 4 July 2008

Conference Abstract

Conference Photo 5

Through five plenary panels during a two-day colloquium, we will explore empire's role in the transformation, not of the colonial periphery, but of empire's epicenters–in effect, turning the telescope of foreign area studies into a microscope for a closer study of metropolitan histories. In this effort to make empire visible in the metropole, panels will compare two societies that have made colonialism central to their national narratives, England and France, with two that have obscured, even denied its influence, America and Australia.

Reflecting the presence of American specialists in Sydney for the biennial ANZASA conference, the first two panels will combine monographic studies of empire's impact on specific areas of US colonial governance–police, public health, constitution, environmental management, and race–with a broad interpretative discussions exploring an intriguing paradox. How could the fragmentary empire of island colonies have had such a profound impact upon a large continental nation? Interrogating a similar case of post imperial denial, a parallel panel will explore Australia's interaction with its comparable island empire arcing across the Southwest Pacific.

Subsequent panels will invert these gross geographic proportions to explore how vast global empires impacted upon the history of smaller European nations, England and France. Through these comparisons, binary and quadrilateral, participants will consider whether making empire visible in its metropoles adds significantly to our understanding of these national histories and the wider post-colonial world