Extended families: politics and practice in family history
- Date: Monday, 4 December, 2017
5.30pm – 7pm
Te Ahumairangi (ground floor), National Library, corner Molesworth and Aitken Streets
- Contact Details:
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Love it or loathe it, the business of family history is booming. But how does this passion for genealogy change the way we read, understand and respond to history?
Some say family history democratises the past, making it available to everyone. Others worry that instead it reinforces existing hierarchies, giving those who are already privileged the additional luxury of a pedigree, while families whose ancestors’ lives were ruptured by poverty, forced migration or colonial conquest may search in vain for missing links. Some say family history encourages empathy for past lives and struggles; others worry that instead of giving life to dead ancestors, we now demand that they give meaning and identity to us.
As a historian who has fallen victim to the family history craze, in this lecture Penny will show how enthusiasm for genealogy - even of the white colonising kind - may embrace an expansive understanding of history, and how a single family can serve as a window onto an unequal, complex and contested past.
About the speaker:
Penny Russell is the Bicentennial Professor of Australian History at the University of Sydney. Professor Russell’s work on nineteenth-century New South Wales and its wider context explores the political intricacies that lie in private writing and social intimacies. She is fascinated by snobs and social climbers, scandals large and small, and the mysterious ways people lived, loved and learned in times past.
Her most recent book, Savage or Civilised? Manners in Colonial Australia (NewSouth 2010) won the NSW Premier’s Award for Australian History and was shortlisted for four other awards in 2011, including the Prime Minister’s Prize for Australian History. In 2016-17 Penny Russell was the visiting chair in Australian Studies at Harvard University.
Penny is visiting New Zealand to participate in the ‘Garrison Towns in the Nineteenth-century Empire’ Symposium at Victoria University of Wellington Te Whare Wānanga o Te Ūpoko o Te Ika a Māui. Her visit is supported by the Australian High Commission.