“Of chickens and eggs, symbols and nations”
Friday, June  9 at 9 am
Brian Mulroney Hall, Room 101
Listen to the lecture HERE.

Richard White, University of Sydney (retired)
Professor Richard White is one of Australia’s leading cultural historians. He is co-editor (with Melissa Harper) of Symbols of Australia: Uncovering the Stories Behind the Myths (2010). Other principal publications include On Holidays: A History of Getting Away in Australia (2005) and Inventing Australia: Images and Identity 1688-1980 (1981). His lecture will examine the contested history of national symbols in Australia and highlight productive points of comparison with Canada.

A nation is a work of the imagination. National symbolism is crucial in the mental act of imagining a nation into existence, as much for the imagined community of its inhabitants as for those regarding it from outside. It is surprising how quickly and how readily we begin to comprehend nations in terms of the symbols that stand for them. It is hard to say which came first – the symbolic nation or the nation itself.

But while there might be agreement about what those national symbols are, their meanings are intensely contested, not least because of the political pay-off in being able to identify a particular ideological position with the imaginary national will. This lecture considers some national symbols and their contested meanings over time.

Australia is a useful comparative case study for Canadians contemplating their first 150 years of nationhood. As nation-states founded on settler colonialism, Canada and Australia have much in common but also some quite striking differences, quite apart from the weather. Needless to say their national symbols also reveal instructive similarities and differences.