Brisbane Free University Radical Reading Group

***PLEASE NOTE: We have decided to postpone the reading group for Wednesday 15th March. We will update the reading list to reflect the changed dates.  We’ll be meeting as usual at the Hope St Cafe next Wednesday (22nd March) at 5.30pm.
Please see below for the draft calendar and reading list for the Brisbane Free University Reading Group.  We’ll keep updating and uploading content as the term progresses.
Wednesdays, 5.30pm – 6.45pm, Hope St Cafe, Boundary Street, West En
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Thinking in the present:

Critical theory, philosophy and contemporary political thought”


The focus of this reading group will be on counter-canonical works; writing by and about Indigenous, queer, black, POC, anti-capitalist and feminist ideas and theories. We want to create a space where we can read things collectively in order to use it strategically.  This isn’t an abstract learning exercise, though those too offer a powerful kind of resistance to the status quo.  This is a deliberate space for thinking philosophy, theory and politics in relation to the material, social, economic, aesthetic and emotional conditions of our lives.

These discussion groups will be open to everyone, regardless of whether or not you want to read in advance. We’ll upload content every few weeks, so there should always be the possibility of reading ahead and reading back.  We’ll also do our best to upload discussion questions, so that anyone who wishes to engage with the content can do so regardless of whether you’ve read the suggested literature. These kinds of projects should be fun, accessible, fumble-friendly. Please let us know if they’re not!

We acknowledge that we are writing, reading and thinking on unceded Indigenous lands.  We acknowledge and thank the traditional owners of the lands we inhabit. We work to remedy the wrongs of colonialism, and their ongoing legacies. Sovereignty never ceded.


Part 1:


The goal of the first three weeks of the reading group is to locate our reading in the social and political context of settler-colonialism, and to build the critical scaffolding for the rest of the group. We want to find ways to figure out what it means to be, read, think, organise, celebrate, love, party, travel, work and exist on unceded Indigenous land. How do we work to address the legacies of colonisation in our daily lives? What does decolonisation look like? What is whiteness? What do we mean when we talk about “Indigeneity,” “colonialism” or “whiteness?” And for those of us who benefit from colonisation and its contemporary manifestations, how do we locate ourselves in relation to struggles for Indigenous sovereignty, dignity and resistance?


Week 1: Indigenous feminism, postcolonialism and the politics of representation

Wednesday January 25th, 5.30pm – 6.45pm
Aileen Moreton-Robinson, “Talkin’ Up to the White Woman”
Introduction: Talkin’ the talk
Chapter 6: Tiddas Speaking Strong
Irene Watson, “Power of the muldarbi, the road to its demise”
Celeste Liddle: “How to show solidarity with Indigenous Australians this Invasion Day”
Amy McQuire: “All feminists are created equal, but some are more equal than others”
Oodgeroo Noonuccal: “Racism” | “I am Proud” | “Then and now”
Alexis Wright, “Carpentaria,” (Chapter 1)
No discussion questions – broad conversation about the purpose of the group, the role of radical reading, what we’ll “do” with these knowledge/s.

Week 2 – Orientalism, representation and the Other

Wednesday February 1st, 5.30pm – 6.45pm
Edward Said, “Orientalism,” pp 1 – 57
Franz Fanon, “The Wretched of the Earth,” pp 1 – 62
Zoe Samudzi: “The Women’s March and the difference between unity and solidarity”
bell hooks, interviewed by i-D, “A discussion of the black female and modern day feminism with bell hooks”
Maya Angelou, “Still I rise”
Junot Diaz, “How to date a brown girl (black girl, white girl, or halfie)”
“Colonialism” – Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy
You can find the full text of each of the readings in the following google drive folder:
1. What is the relationship between colonisation and decolonisation? Can they co-exist?
2. Fanon writes: “the colonist and the colonised are old acquaintances. And consequently, the colonist is right when he says he “knows” them. It is the colonist who fabricated and continues to fabricate the colonised subject. The colonist derives his validity, i.e. his wealth, from the colonial system.”
What is the relationship between “coloniser” and “colonised?” How do we (individually and collectively) locate ourselves in relation to these terms?
3. Both “Orientalism” and “Wretched of the Earth” talk a lot about the “Encounters” with “the Other.” What do those terms mean, in relation to colonisation and decolonisation? What does it mean to encounter the Other? Consider this in relation to Junot Diaz’s short story, “How to date a brown girl (black girl, white girl, or halfie)” and Maya Angelou’s poem, “Still I rise.”
4. In the context of bell hooks’ interview, do you think that the “imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” is an identity? Or is it a set of practices? To link back to Fanon and Said – is one *always* going to be colonised? Is one *always* going to be a colonist?
5. On the basis of these readings, how can we understand the political idea of “solidarity?” What does “solidarity” look like in relation to de/colonisation? In the context of the article by Zoe Samudzi, why do you think attempts to prioritise “unity” in mass movements can be so (ironically) polarising?
6. What is the relationship between colonisation and capitalism? Does “decolonisation” require a rejection of capitalism? Can they co-exist?

Week 3 – Decolonisation, research and the production of knowledge

Wednesday February 8th, 5.30pm – 6.45pm
Linda Tuhiwai Smith: “Decolonising Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples.” Especially chapters 2, 3 and 4.
Standing Rock Syllabus – Explore as desired!
Liz Connor: “The Climate Movement is Indigenous-led”
Akala interviewed on poverty, gentrification, creativity, immigration controls, and beyond…
Poetry works will be uploaded separately.
The full text of Decolonising Methodologies can be found in the google drive:
1. In her opening sentence, Smith argues that “from the vantage point of the colonised, a position from which I write, and choose to privilege, the term ‘research’ is inextricably linked to European imperialism and colonialism.” Why do you think this is? What does this mean for us as readers and ‘thinkers’?
2. Also in the introduction, Smith references F Wilmer’s text ‘Indigenous voices in international politics,’ to argue: “indigenous peoples represent the unfinished business of decolonisation.” What do you think this means?
3. The second chapter of the book starts with a quote from black feminist writer Audrey Lorde: “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” What do you think this means in the context of the conversations we’ve been having over the past few weeks, about Indigenous feminism, orientalism, black consciousness and decolonisation?
4. In writing about the role of “history-telling” in the production of knowledge about Indigenous people and communities, Smith writes that “under colonialism…we have often allowed our ‘histories’ to be told and have then become outsiders as we heard them re-told.” Similarly, postcolonial feminist theorist Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak wrote a paper posing the question “can the subaltern woman speak?” in which she argues that there is no “outside” to representation; it cannot be wholly avoided merely by privileging the oppressed voice.
Phew! What do we think of this? What might it mean to “decolonise” representation?
Reflective thinking…
Part of the goal of these first three weeks of reading was to attempt to locate ourselves as individual and collective ‘readers’ in relationship to place. How do you feel about your role in learning and thinking? What relevance does this thinking have to your life in Australia? How comfortable do you feel locating yourself in relation to Indigenous philosophy, theory and activism? What limits are you experiencing? How do you hope to push against them?
Reading break

Part 2:


The following set of readings is designed to interrogate deep-seated notions of “nature” and “naturalness,” to ask what sorts of political, ethical and philosophical implications these ideas have on our day to day lives. We are interested in thinking through questions about what nature really is, how we access it, and what it means to think critically about questions of “naturalness.” Dipping into feminist theory, Indigenous and critical race theory, queer ecology, eco feminism and beyond, we’ll be posing some big provocations around ideas of nature, the material world, and our relationships to, with and in it.

Week 4 – “Natural” bodies

Wednesday March 1st, 5.30pm – 6.30pm
Judith Butler, “Bodies that matter,” pp 1 – 55
Donna Harraway, “Simians, Cyborgs and Women: the Reinvention of Nature,” especially chapters 1 and 4
Malcolm Shanks and khari jackson, “Decolonising Gender: A curriculum”
Kayo Chigonyi: ’Four poems on naturalness’
Full copies of the readings are available here:
  1. What is nature? What does it mean to be natural?
  2. In the introduction to “Bodies that Matter,” Butler quotes French philosopher and linguist Jacques Derrida in writing “There is no nature, only the effects of nature: naturalisation and denaturalisation.” What do you think this means in the context of a broader discussion about political implications of the idea of “the natural?”
  3. Where does “nature” come from? How do we understand and access it? And what, if anything, does the discourse of “nature” conceal about the conditions under which “nature” is produced, reproduced and catalogued?
  4. What is the relationship between “nature” and “morality?” What are (some of) the political implications of the idea of “naturalness”?

Week 5 – “Natural” violence

Wednesday March 8th, 5.30pm – 6.45pm
Eduardo Kohn, “How Forests Think,” pp 1 – 25
Carmen C Gonzalez, “Environmental Justice, Human Rights and the Global South”
Andy Smith, “Ecofeminism through an anticolonial framework”
Nnedi Okarafor, “Poison Fish” (short story and recording)
Isaac Cordal, installation, “Follow the Leaders”
Lindsay Nixon, “Eco-feminist appropriations of Indigenous feminisms and environmental violence”
  1. What are we talking about when we talk about the “environment?” Are we part of the environment?
  2. What happens when we apply broader philosophical notions of “naturalness” (like those we discussed last week) to the material world? What kinds of worlds and systems and ideologies become visible and/or invisible when we frame our ideas about the environment around political and philosophical notions of “naturalness?”
  3. What sorts of power relationships are embedded in your relationship to (and with, and in) our natural environment?
  4. What does it mean to “protect” the environment? What does environmental violence look or feel like?
  5. How do you feel “nature” or “the environment?” Do you feel any particular ethical or moral obligations to protect or maintain the environment?
Reflective questions:
  1. Where did you read these texts? Were you aware of your surroundings? Did you feel yourself becoming part of an ecosystem? What sorts of “natures” were you conscious of while reading? Were you conscious of feeling your body? Your breathing? Can you articulate how it “felt” to think and read in a place and a time? How do you think your experiences of being in nature are influenced by the social and political construction of ideas of “naturalness” (and de-naturalisation)?

Week 6 – Challenging nature

Wednesday 15th March, 5.30pm – 6.45pm
Laboria Cuboniks: “The Xenofeminist Manifesto”
Angela Willey, “Undoing Monogamy,” chapters 1, 2

Week 7 – Queering Nature

Wednesday 22nd March, 5.30pm – 6.45pm
Stacey Alaimo, “Bodily Natures”
Timothy Morton, “Queer Ecology”
Reading break

Part 3:


Topic 7 – How do we “know” what we “know?”
Topic 8 – Subjectivity and intersubjectivity
Topic 9 – Love, desire, guilt, shame
Topic 10 – Politics, being and identity
Topic 11 – Intersectionality
Reading break

Part 4:


Topic 12 – What does it mean to live a “good” life?
Topic 13 – What is the common good?
Topic 14 – Art, aesthetics, affect and the emotion of daily life
Reading break
Topic 15 – What is collective action, and how do we do it?
Topic 16 – What is emancipatory politics?
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