<< Interiors >>

Australian National University, Canberra

9-11 February 2017 


We are pleased to announce that the 2017 Conference of the Australian Association for Caribbean Studies will be held at the Australian National University, Canberra, 9-11 February. The Thursday and Friday should be full days of presentations, and we expect Saturday to be a half-day. The conference dinner will be on the Friday night, and other events may be scheduled. Please check the conference website for updates:

The conference is being organized jointly by Laurence Brown, Barry Higman and Consuelo Martinez Reyes. Please direct any questions to them at:

Information regarding registration, travel, accommodation and local points of interest will be provided later. As the capital city of Australia, Canberra is the home of major cultural institutions such as the National Gallery of Australia, the National Museum, the National Portrait Gallery and the National Library, all of which stage significant exhibitions. There is also Parliament House. The Australian National University has its own special features.

Canberra is the biggest Australian city without a beach. It is surrounded by rural countryside, with a good number of vineyards and wineries nearby. The weather should be hot and dry.

Call for papers

The conferences of the AACS have in recent years followed a theme, and presenters are encouraged to offer papers related to the theme or think about how perspectives suggested by the theme might play out in their own research and writing. In 2015, the Wollongong conference took as its theme “Land and Water”, the sound of the surf on the city’s beaches almost audible. Canberra is the only inland site at which the AACS has held conferences. There was one here in 2001. Inland cities are also rare in the Caribbean, but every island has its inner life. So, for 2017 we will adopt as our conference theme “Interiors”.

The idea of the “interior” can be investigated in many ways and in many fields. We would not wish to confine the concept, and hope presenters will give it free play. To start the ball rolling, there is of course the geophysical character of the Caribbean, the economic significance of distance from the coast, and the perception of the in/land. Some think of “interiors” immediately as suggesting interior decoration and architecture, and there are indeed numerous glossy books displaying the opulence of the planter’s great house, and the lesser glories of the middle classes, and occasionally the poor. The same theme can be explored in literature: one thinks of the houses described in rich detail by John Hearne, or the newspaper-plastered interior of the House of Mr Biswas – “Amazing scenes were witnessed when …”. We can think also of the interiors of gaols and mental institutions, for example. Literature scholars have a direct line to the study of interiors and interiority in fictional, dramatic, theatrical, poetic and autobiographical characterization. The writing of biography always involves a balance or struggle between the exterior and interior lives of the subject. This runs us quickly to the psychological interior of the individual Caribbean person, related to ideas of personhood, identity, “inscape” (an idea counterbalancing that of “landscape”) and livity and I-nity. The interior life of the soul, religion and possession; the headspaces in which crimes are conceived; secrets and lies. These are just a few ideas that come to mind, all of them open to study using social science, historical, literary and natural science methods.

So, we would like to see presentations on “Interiors” in terms of:

► the geographical: the Caribbean as inland, inland cities in the Caribbean

► the spatial: haciendas, homes, the urban, the countryside, theatre, plazas, old city centres, institutions

► the personal: biographies, literary representations of the self or the nation

► any other aspect.

If your research and writing does not seem to fit with the “Interiors” theme, your paper will still be welcome. Indeed, the AACS conference is a small interdisciplinary meeting where the more diversity of subject and approach the better.

Offers of papers should be made no later than 1 December 2016. Please send a short abstract of no more than 200 words and a brief (25 words) personal biography, to Barry Higman We will let you know as quickly as possible if your offer is accepted.

When your abstract is accepted, you may present the paper at the conference after you have paid registration and membership fees.

Membership of AACS

Membership can be established at the conference itself, the fees paid as part of registration. Alternatively, please contact the AACS Secretary/Treasurer Sue Thomas,


Two postgraduate bursaries of AU$1,000 each are available for attendance at the conference. To apply, please email the AACS President Anne Collett at, briefly outlining your need for financial support. A decision on bursaries will be made in early December 2016.


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