Old saloon opens to imbibers of learning

April 30, 1999

MELBOURNE

Melbourne's Curzon Hotel lost its liquor licence in 1907 because of "unruly behaviour on the premises". While unruly behaviour can never be ruled out when ideas clash, it is unlikely ever to get its licence back.

The 19th-century Irish pub has opened its doors as the first education institution in the world specifically directed at the emerging academic field of postcolonialism.

It was a popular watering hole for hopeful goldminers on their way to the diggings in the 1850s. It is now home to the Institute of Postcolonial Studies and to some equally hopeful academics.

The institute began as an idea of two members of the politics department at the University of Melbourne three years ago. Now, with the help of Aus$1 million (Pounds 400,000) in donations from benefactors to refurbish the pub, it is up and running with seminar rooms, a conference room and exhibition space, plus accommodation for three postgraduate students and visiting scholars.

Institute director Phillip Darby said that given the pub's origins it was fitting the hotel should be the site for "rethinking and to some extent reversing the colonial process".

Professor Darby said much of the institute's work would focus on issues concerned with development, globalisation, human rights and gender, as well as place and space. He said its research would not be solely concerned with Australia but would extend to all areas of the formerly colonised world, including Asia and Africa.

"Our inaugural visiting scholar, Ashis Nandy, is one of the world's leading experts on the psychological impact of colonialism and much of his work focuses on India," Professor Darby said.

"We hope our new premises will serve as an intellectual and cultural hub, not just for academics but also for the broader community. We want to draw together the best postcolonial scholarship from throughout Melbourne and around the world."

Although only recently established, the institute already has an international quarterly journal - Postcolonial Studies: Culture, Politics, Economy (Carfax) - and is producing a series of books - Writing Post Colonialism (Cassell Academic) - the first two volumes of which were published last year. Cassell has also invited the institute to prepare an international encyclopedia of postcolonialism.

Professor Darby said the institute's advisory council comprised many of the world's leading postcolonial scholars and added that it intended to demonstrate its belief that "the fruits of scholarship should not be confined to the academy". As a commitment to sharing its work with the broader community, the institute will run a series of public lectures and meetings delivered by institute members and visiting scholars.

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