The University of Sydney has been the proud host of the first Mellon Sawyer Seminar to be held in Australia. The seminar ran from March 2009 to August 2010, and consisted of seven special seminar sessions and one international conference.
The Sydney Sawyer Seminar explored the history of how the Antipodes - and especially the Indo-Pacific lands and oceans - has constituted a laboratory for the Atlantic world over a broad intellectual, geographical and temporal scale. Our seminar covered three centuries from 1700 to 2009, and focused on Atlantic-derived conceptions and experiences within the Antipodes, especially on the themes of humanity and cultures, of sovereignty and imperialism, and of environment and ecology. Our prime method was comparative: the intellectual and social colonization of the Antipodes was never a simple one-way process of control and exploitation. Ideas also flowed in reverse, moving from periphery to metropole, from Indo-Pacific fields to Atlantic worlds, and with consequences that could be conservative, subversive or much else. In short, the series examined the reciprocal exchange of selected discourses and practices between these two great geo-political spheres from the early modern period to the present. At the same time we investigated whether, and to what extent, local concerns and ideas have been able to achieve autonomy from the long reach of Atlantic influence.