One of the strongest trends in Australian historical writing over the last two decades has been a drive to emphasise the nation’s connectedness with the rest of the world. Across a range of historical genres and topics, we have seen a new enthusiasm to explore entanglements between Australian history and that of other places and peoples. The history of travel has been an important contributor to this line of inquiry, but it is at the more intellectual, imaginative and emotional levels that the greatest gains are sometimes claimed for the study of what has become known as ‘transnationalism’. This trend to emphasise international networks in history has been drawn on by historians in the essays that follow. It reflects and contributes to an international flourishing of histories emphasising mobility in the context of empires and globalisation. But where does this leave the idea of ‘the nation’ as a factor in thinking through post-white settlement Australian history? And are some of the claims made for the explanatory impact of transnationalism exaggerated? In a recent article on the ‘transgressive transnationalism’ of Griffith Taylor, Carolyn Strange nodded to the ‘path-breaking’ recent works of Australian historians who have led a ‘transnational turn’, but her conclusion was partly corrective: ‘whether or not transnational thinking was transgressive, strategic or otherwise in the past, and whether or not our historical subjects were progressive or regressive are questions for contextual analysis, in which the nation will continue to matter’.
In March 2012 a number of historians gathered at a workshop in the Alfred Deakin Research Institute, Deakin University, to discuss the standing of nationalism and transnationalism in Australian historical writing. All of them had been involved in the production of transnational history in various ways and they took the opportunity to both reflect again on their own work and to critically examine current debates. This collection has been developed from papers presented at that workshop. The five articles here are deliberately short and, hopefully, punchy. Rather than offering a detailed survey of this large field, they seek to stimulate debate and to suggest future intellectual directions.
Field of Research
210303 Australian History (excl Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History)
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