Type and Typology in Cultural Histories

5 November 2010

ICT Theatre 1, 111 Barry St, University of Melbourne, Parkville.

Registration is from 915am at the venue; Speakers begin at 10am.
There is a small registration fee to contribute to catering costs: $25 waged/staff, $15 unwaged/student
The event is fully catered: morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea will be provided

The Barbarian. The Noble Savage. The Wildman. The Native Belle. The Flaneur. The Dandy. The Bohemian. The Fallen Woman. The Bushman. The Cowboy. The Gibson Girl. The New Woman. The Digger. The Combo. The Business Girl. The Spinster. The Flapper. The Screen-Struck Girl. The Idiot Savant. The Beatnik. The Sharpie. The Emo. The Bogan. The Metrosexual. The Jock. The Chardonnay Socialist. The Lipstick Lesbian. The Yummy Mummy. The Tree-Hugger, The Flat-Earther. The Happy-Clapper.

Since the Greek Physician Galen assigned four human types by amounts of body fluids - sanguine, melancholic, choleric and phlegmatic - types have discriminated group membership and articulated shared social reality.

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘Type’ as ‘7. transf. A person or thing that exhibits the characteristic qualities of a class; a typical example or instance’; and a ’Stereotype’ as ‘3. fig. Something continued or constantly repeated without change’. Both are concerned with modes of reproduction.

For cognitive psychologists 'perception is essentially a process of classification'. (Hinton, 2000:31). And classification and taxonomies were key to the establishment of modern science, from the work of criminologist Lombroso who characterized criminal types by facial features, to the sociologist Simmel who write ‘social types’ such as the stranger and his ‘specific character of mobility’ (Simmel, 1908).

Within critical theory Benjamin situated the Flaneur within the emerging literary genre of urban physiologies in mid nineteenth-century France. Modern types were symptomatic of historical self-consciousness and a taxonomy by which to negotiate anonymity in urban perceptual relations. Homi K. Bhaha writes of the colonial stereotype that it is ‘a complex, ambivalent, contradictory mode of representation, as anxious as it assertive, and demands not only that we extend our critical and political objectives but that we change the object of analysis itself’, and advocated reading the racial stereotype in terms of fetishism. (Bhabha, 1992)

Types recur in scholarly research yet no field of analysis has yet made an attempt to understand their occurrence, their linguistic function, their political effects, or their implications for methodologies across the disciplines. This one day symposium proposes to commence the study of typology. It brings together key thinkers across the humanities to reflect on how types have appeared in their work, what linguistic and socio-political function they perform and what implications they have for their respective methodologies. Discussion will be guided by the questions: Are types a subject position or an identity-effect? Do they embody the complex interface between representation and identity? How do we make the distinction between consensual typing (e.g. Feminist) and imposed typing (e.g. Femocrat). Are types inherent to the performance – and creativity – of identity?  Is it dangerous to think about such diverse demagoguery, from ‘Half-Caste’ to ‘Mod’, as performing a comparable linguistic function when they have such incomparable political effects?


Dr Tony Birch, Lecturer, Creative Writing, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne.

Dr Liz Conor, Research Fellow, Department  of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne

Professor Ken Gelder, Professor of English in the School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne.

Professor Ross Gibson, Professor of Contemporary Arts, Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney.

Professor Paul James, Professor of Globalization and Cultural Diversity in the Globalism Research Centre and Director of the Global Cities Institute.

Professor Marilyn Lake, Professor of History, School of European and Historical Studies, La Trobe University.

Sponsored by: School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne

Convenor: Liz Conor (University of Melbourne) liz.conor@unimelb.edu.au
Contact: David McInnis (University of Melbourne) mcinnisd@unimelb.edu.au

(artwork by Deborah Kelly)


915am                                     Registration
1000am                       Welcome:        Liz Conor

                                                Welcome to Country ceremony:      Ian Hunter

Short performance on female/animal types:          Written by Deborah Kelly, Performed by Zelda Grimshaw

Chair: Jane Lydon
1015-11am            Liz Conor

11-1130pm      Morning Tea

Chair: Jane Carey
1130-1215pm  Tony Birch     

1215pm-1pm     Paul James

1-2pm              Lunch

Chair: Chris Healy
2-245pm          Ross Gibson
245-330pm         Ken Gelder
330-345pm      Marilyn Lake

345-415pm      Afternoon Tea           

Chair: Deb Verhoeven
415-5pm          Panel Discussion

Abstracts, Bios:

The Other Half — The Forgotten Tenth — The Degenerate Type”:
Categories of Deviance in the Welfare State.

Tony Birch

I am interested in the formation, definition and ordering of deviant types from the late-nineteenth century onward that came to underpin the formation of the welfare state in postwar western democracies, including Australia. While both government policy and moral panic rhetoric sort to rid modern society of an 'evil blot on civil society' (geographic, social and economic), intricately described and ordered categories of deviance were a structural and necessary presence within societies that increasingly intervened in the lives of its citizens.  And while it is evident that the nominally modern family was granted some freedom to 'self-inspect' and govern its own soul', transgressions, actual or sensationally fabricated, were punished in a repressive and traditional manner.

Tony Birch has a Ph.D in History and an MA in Creative Arts, both from the University of Melbourne. He publishes essays, short fiction and poetry.  He also works as an occasional curator.  He works in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne.

The “Lubra” Type: A Case Study

Liz Conor

This paper will serve as a rationale for today¹s symposium, opening questions about the entrenched cultural habit of typing, its linguistic function, and socio-political effects. It will take the “Lubra” type as a case study, tracing its origins and circulation. It will considering whether the type operates as a subject position or an identity-effect, whether it embodies the complex interface between representation and identity, and what the distinction is between consensual typing and imposed typing.

Liz Conor is a research fellow in the Department of Culture and Communications at the University of Melbourne. She is the author of The Spectacular Modern Woman: Feminine Visibility in the 1920s, Indiana University Press, 2004.

(Title TBA)

Ken Gelder

This paper will look at the way new local systems of classification of colonial types had to negotiate with shifting identity patterns and transnational influences.  These negotiations produced a set of responses to colonial types that were assertive and defensive simultaneously, confident in some respects, horrified in others. They literally helped to populate Australia, rapidly generating an elaborate sense of settler social distinctions that both cohered the nation and worked to fracture or slip through it.

Ken Gelder is Professor of English at the University of Melbourne. His recent books include Subcultures: Cultural Histories and Social Practice (2007) and, with Paul Salzman, After the Celebration: Australian Fiction 1989-2007 (2009).

Names for Things

Ross Gibson

William Dawes was a marine Lieutenant in the First Fleet at Sydney Cove.  A self-taught engineer and natural philosopher, he became involved with the local people, particularly with an investigation of the language.  His notebooks show people and cultures on both sides of the colonial cut slipping their organisational categories and commonsense typologies.  At Sydney Cove, Dawes swirled into a relational world that undid the nominalist world that he had been trained to manage.

Ross Gibson is Professor of Contemporary Arts at the University of Sydney.  As part of his research he makes books, films and art installations and he encourages postgraduate students in similar pursuits. His main interests are contemporary arts, communication and the history of placemaking and environmental consciousness in colonial cultures, particularly in Australia and the Pacific.  His work spans several media and disciplines. 

Despite the Terrors of Typologies: Understanding Categories of Difference

Paul James

How is a Hutu person different from a Tutsi? What is the cultural basis for the difference between the Sinhalese and the Tamils? Why are Bosnians Muslim and Serbs Orthodox? The implicit and lived typologies that lie behind these questions have across modern history had vexatious even terrifying consequences. On the other hand, identity is a basic ontology of social life, and categories of analysis and generalizing concepts are crucial in doing deep social research. This paper explores the fundamental problems with typologies and ideal-types as both methodologies and lived ideologically projected) realities while arguing that social research that flattens out the terms of difference into “cultural inventions” fails to understand basic differences.

Paul James is Director of the Global Cities Institute (RMIT) and Director of the UN Global Compact Cities Programme. He is on the Council of the Institute of Postcolonial Studies. He is author or editor of twenty-four books including Nation Formation (Sage, 1996) and Globalism, Nationalism, Tribalism (Sage, 2006). He has been an advisor to a number of agencies and governments including the Helsinki Process, the Canadian Prime Minister’s G20 Forum, the National Economic Advisory Council of Malaysia, and the Commission on Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor. His work for the Papua New Guinea Minister for Community Development became the basis for their Integrated Community Development Policy.

On Being a “White Man”

Marilyn Lake
In 1901 Prime Minister Edmund Barton explained to the new federal parliament the government's intention to deport Pacific Islanders from the new Commomwealth:
'The difference in intellectual level and the difference in knowledge of the ways of the world between the white man and the Pacific Islander is one which cannot be bridged by acts or regulations about agreements'.
The white man was the most powerful type in the world c.1901. He provided a mode of both personal and global identification yet in his strident claims to power and property there sounds a note of anxiety about his imminent displacement.

Professor Marilyn Lake was awarded a Personal Chair in History at La Trobe University in 1994. Since that time she has also held Visiting Professorial Fellowships at Stockholm University, the University of Western Australia, the Australian National University and the University of Sydney. Between 2001 and 2002, she held the Chair in Australian Studies at Harvard University. In 2004, she was awarded a five year ARC Professorial Research Fellowship and in 2008, a Research Fellowship at the Australian Prime Ministers Centre in Canberra.

Her most recent books include Drawing the Global Colour Line: White Men's Countries and the Question of Racial Equality co-authored with Henry Reynolds and published jointly by Cambridge University Press and Melbourne University Press, which won the Prime Minister's Prize for Non-Fiction, the Ernest Scott Prize and the Queensland Premier's Prize for History. She has just been awarded a second Australian Professorial Research Fellowship to research the international history of Australian democracy.