A Novel Forecast

A Novel Forecast: Books at CHL
A Novel Forecast: Books at CHL

The Weather Girls once famously shared some breaking news with the world: something unusual was raining down, and their advice? To leave those umbrellas at home.

Well, decades later, the current climate and forecast at CHL is in—and it’s as exciting. It is, in fact, raining books at CHL, and the weather gods are our very own academics and researchers. We recently caught up with some of our authors and got to know more about their labours of love, each being a unique page in the signature anthologies of CHL published knowledge.


Nurturing Alternative Futures

Nurturing Alternative Futures: Living with Diversity in a More-than-Human World

Dr Muhammed Kavesh and Associate Professor Natasha Fijn
Publisher: Routledge

It was at a café back in 2021 that Dr Muhammed Kavesh and Associate Professor Natasha Fijn first gathered their ideas for this collaboration. The conversation revolved around assembling a call for conference papers with a focus on biological and cultural diversity.

The response exceeded the duo’s expectations. Their panel attracted more than 16 submissions, ultimately expanding into a four-day dialogue at the conference, drawing an audience of more than 400 participants. This encouraged both Kavesh and Natasha to delve deeper. They decided on two forms of publication: a special issue of short-form pieces focusing on the concept of mutualism within Anthropology Today (volume 39, issue 1), which was published in February 2023. They also embarked on an edited book volume combining biological and cultural diversity.

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Meanwhile, Kavesh had been reading 12th-century Sufi literature, particularly Sheikh Ibn ‘Arabi’s seminal work, Al-Futuhat Al-Makkiyah (The Openings in Mecca). Ibn ‘Arabi’s musings, coupled with contemporary anthropological insights from Anna Tsing, Eduardo Kohn, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro and the philosophical ponderings of Bruno Latour and Donna Haraway, laid the groundwork for the initial draft.

Kavesh and Natasha chose Nurturing Alternative Futures to emphasise the strength of Indigenous and local communities’ entanglement with nature cultures, providing diverse ways for more than just humans to live as beings in the world. Developing upon emerging environmental humanities and multispecies anthropological theories, this book provides a fresh perspective on how we might rethink more-than-human relationality and why it is important to “nurture alternative futures.” The stories, lived experiences, and mutual worlding that this volume presents offer a portrayal of alternative forms of multispecies coexistence, rather than an anthropocentric future. You can attend the official book launch in April.

“We are highly grateful for the tireless efforts of the contributors, as editors of such volumes are always reliant on the speed of submission of the final contributor. We were lucky to have authors responding relatively quickly.”

Fate and Freedom in Korean Historical Films book cover

Fate and Freedom in Korean Historical Films

Professor Kyung Moon Hwang
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Fate and Freedom in Korean Historical Films directs attention to perhaps the most overlooked part of the Korean Wave, the extraordinary but still under-appreciated works of Korean cinema, and specifically on historical films released over the past quarter-century, the period corresponding to the Korean Wave.

Much of the inspiration for this book came from Professor Hwang’s course, “Dramatisations of Korean History” (offered next as ASIA3031, “Cultures in Korean Society”). However, as with Professor Hwang’s other books, for both scholarly and general audiences alike, Fate and Freedom reflects his overriding calling as an intellectual dedicated to helping advance understanding of Korean history through the theme of freedom in its various guises, such as democratisation and resistance to oppression and unjust hierarchy, from the premodern eras to the most recent ones.

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This was also the primary motivation for making the book Open Access, which means that anyone online can download

“The best part of writing this book was simply the opportunity to watch and re-watch so many fantastic movies. Repeat viewings always brought more important findings regarding a film’s storylines, symbolism, and approaches to historical depiction that made their way into the book’s interpretations. And I was amazed by how many of the great works of Korean cinema, which is among the most accomplished in the world, are actually historical films, which says a lot about the importance of history in South Korean identity and culture. And here there’s no doubt about ‘how Korean’ these movies are, as there has been in considering the appeal of K-pop or even K-dramas.

Silver Screens and Golden Dreams

Silver Screens and Golden Dreams

Associate Professor Jane M Ferguson
Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press

Staying on the theme of cinematic history, Associate Professor Jane M Ferguson traces the veins of Burmese popular movies in Silver Screens and Golden Dreams.

The world tends to see Myanmar (Burma) as an ancient, idyllic land of emerald-green rice paddies dotted with golden pagodas, yet sadly tarnished by a contemporary reality of grinding poverty, civil war, and the most enduring military dictatorship in modern history. Burmese society is frequently stereotyped as isolated, hidebound to Buddhist cultural foundations, or embroiled in military rule and civil strife. Its thriving, cosmopolitan film industry questions such orientalist archetypes and provides an incisive lens to explore social history through everyday popular practices. Emerging from a vibrant literary and performing arts scene, Burmese talent and ingenuity spurred a century of near-continuous motion picture production. Local film companies have churned out thousands of films, bringing to life popular folk tales, tear-jerking dramas and epic adventures.

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Even during the purportedly isolated Burmese Way to Socialism years, local movie production continued, and ticket sales increased. Glamorous stars adopted global fashion and yet inspired Burmese cultural pride in the face of foreign domination. From silent films depicting moral perils, to Hollywood remakes, to socialist realism and ethnic unity films, local cinema has captured the imaginations of Burmese people for over a century.

In a tour-de-force study of 60 years of cinematic entertainment, Silver Screens and Golden Dreams tracks the journey of Burmese popular movies across three historical periods: the colonial era, the parliamentary democracy period, and the Ne Win Socialist years. Jane engages cinema as an interrogator of mainstream cultural values, providing political and cultural context to situate the films as artistic endeavours and capitalist products.

By skillfully blending historical and anthropological approaches, Jane shows how Burmese cinema presents a lively, unique take on the country’s social history.

All are welcome to attend a book party to celebrate the launch of this title on
19 April, during the ANU Water Festival (17–19 April).

Forty Years in the South Seas: Archaeological Perspectives on the Human History of Papua New Guinea and the Western Pacific Region

Forty Years in the South Seas: Archaeological Perspectives on the Human History of Papua New Guinea and the Western Pacific Region

Dr Ben Shaw, Anne Ford and Dylan Gaffney
Publisher:  ANU Press

This edited volume —a festschrift—features 19 chapters on the human history of Papua New Guinea and the Western Pacific to honour the career of Professor Glenn Summerhayes (University of Otago) who will retire in 2025.

Three of Glenn’s former students—Anne Ford, Dylan Gaffney and CHL’s Dr Ben Shaw—edited the book and contributed chapters. Each chapter has a connection to how the person or topic involves Glenn.

Apart from the challenges of compiling the festschrift during the pandemic, the trickiest aspect, Ben recalls, was keeping this a secret from Glenn! Ben also needed Glenn’s input for the first chapter, which aptly is a reflection on Glenn’s career; a personalised account of what got him interested in archaeology in the first place.

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I eventually told him in mid-2023 about the volume once it had been finalised, while we were in PNG on fieldwork together, 2.5 years after starting the project! I also needed to get it from the horse’s mouth (so to speak), which is another reason for telling him. While in PNG, after we located a deeply buried cultural site, I got to work digging while Glenn sieved. During this time, I asked Glenn to recount his story and he did. However, because I was enjoying the story and we were both busy digging, I didn’t take any notes, so I had to call him once we got back home to retell the tale!”

This book will also be accessible via Open Access, so everyone—especially many of the communities Glenn had worked with in PNG—will be able to access it for free. All are welcome to attend the launch at 3:30pm on 24 May at the Coombs Tea Room.

Dreaming Ecology: Nomadics and Indigenous Ecological Knowledge, Victoria River, Northern Australia

Dreaming Ecology: Nomadics and Indigenous Ecological Knowledge, Victoria River, Northern Australia

Deborah Bird Rose, co-edited by Dr Darrell Lewis and Emerita Professor Margaret Jolly
Publisher: ANU Press 

In the words of the author herself (Deborah Bird Rose), who passed away in 2018, Dreaming Ecology ‘explores a holistic understanding of the interconnections of people, country, kinship, creation and the living world within a context of mobility. Implicitly it asks how people lived so sustainably for so long’. It offers a telling critique of the loss of Indigenous life, human and non-human, in the wake of white settler colonialism and this becoming ‘cattle country’. It offers a fresh perspective on nomadics grounded in ‘footwalk epistemology’ and ‘an ethics of return sustained across different species, events, practices and scales.’ This is the third volume in a trilogy grounded in Debbie’s long-term research with Indigenous people in the Victoria River District (VRD) of Northern Australia. Her earlier books Hidden Histories (1991) and Dingo makes us human (1992) have both been widely acclaimed, respectively winning the Jessie Litchfield and Stanner prizes.

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The book is eloquently and poignantly written, with deep insights, sensuous and animated details of Indigenous ecological knowledge and long quotes from many of Debbie’s teachers, like Jessie Wirrpa and Hobbles Danaiyarri. In the words of Richard Davis, one of the book’s reviewers, it is “the final and most substantial of Debbie’s love letters to the Aboriginal people of the VRD. I say this because there is a such a sense of reverence, wonder and respect throughout the book.”

Dreaming Ecology will be launched on 16 May 2024 from 5.30pm in the Coombs Tea Room and will be free to download (open access) through ANU Press.

A Secretive Century: Monte Punshon’s Australia

A Secretive Century: Monte Punshon’s Australia

Emerita Professor Tessa Morris-Suzuki
Publisher: Melbourne University Publishing

She was, for a while, dubbed as the “world’s oldest lesbian”. We are talking about Ethel May (Monte) Punshon, the focus of Emerita Professor Teresa Morris-Suzuki’s book, which traces Australia's modern transformation as revealed through the life of an extraordinary woman.

Monte grew up in a secretive century. She lived in a society where appearances mattered, and keeping them up often involved creating silence around ancestral origins, painful memories and personal desires.

Monte Punshon refused to be labelled. She was, at various times, Ethel May Punshon, Miss Montague, Monte, Mickey and Erica Morley Punshon, moving effortlessly from the Methodist respectability of bourgeois Ballarat to the bohemian world of children's travelling theatre, from patriotic amateur acting to pioneering radio work, from a dear old lady with perfect nineteenth-century diction to the bad girl who frequented edgy Melbourne bars, playing a lively part in the secret drag parties of 1930s queer Melbourne.

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There were social and personal reasons for her concealment. In a life that spanned more than a century—1882 to 1989—Monte Punshon witnessed crucial events in Australia's history, and her story shines a light on the hidden corners and complexities of late nineteenth- and twentieth-century society.

In this imaginative biography, Tessa Morris-Suzuki brings to life a woman who was unafraid to be, and who accepted, willingly, the price of her liberation.

Tessa’s book will be launched later this year. Watch this space for details coming soon.

Flexible India: Yoga's Cultural and Political Tensions

Flexible India: Yoga's Cultural and Political Tensions

Associate Professor Shameem Black
Publisher: Columbia University Press

Yoga has offered the Indian state unprecedented opportunities for global, media-savvy political performance. Under Modi, it has promoted yoga tourism and staged mass yoga sessions, and Indian officials have proposed yoga as a national solution to a range of social problems, from reducing rape to curing cancer. But as yoga has gone global, its cultural meanings have spiralled far and wide. In Flexible India, Associate Professor Shameem Black travels into unexpected realms of popular culture in English from India, its diaspora, and the West to explore and critique yoga as an exercise in cultural power.

Drawing on her own experience and her readings of political spectacles, yoga murder mysteries, court cases, art installations, and digital media, Shameem shows how yoga's imaginative power supports diverse political and cultural ends.

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Although many cultural practices in today's India exemplify "culture wars" between liberal and conservative agendas, Flexible India argues that visions of yoga offer a "culture peace" that conceals, without resolving, such tensions. This flexibility allows states, corporations, and individuals to think of themselves as welcoming and tolerant while still, in many cases, supporting practices that make minority populations increasingly vulnerable. However, as Shameem shows, yoga can also be imagined in ways that offer new tools for critiquing hierarchical structures of power and race, Hindu nationalism, cultural appropriation, and self-help capitalism.

Shameem’s book is likely to be launched later this year during 2024 Immersia: Engaging with Asia and the Pacific.

Marriage Migration, Intercultural Families and Global Intimacies

Marriage Migration, Intercultural Families and Global Intimacies

Emerita Professor Kathryn Robinson
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Intercultural marriage is an important part of the personal lives of many Australians in this multicultural society. But pejorative stereotypes endure of marriages between Asian women and ‘Aussie’ men, especially if they have been brokered, or developed through correspondence courtship. The so-called ‘Mail Order’ bride stereotype, and families formed through transnational correspondence courtship, are explored in this book. It begins with an anthropologist’s perspective on the institution of ‘marriage’ and  unselected assumptions about its historical and cultural attributes; assumptions that lead to the view of transnational brokered marriages as ‘illegitimate’.

Through this title, Emerita Professor Kathryn Robinson explores the history of brokered marriage in Australia, beginning with ‘bride ships’ that brought women to the convict settlement of NSW, to correct the sex imbalance of the convict population. This story involves her own family history, and ‘demographic corrections’ have been a feature of immigration policy since Federation and the creation of the nation in 1901.

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Ethnographic research reveals the experiences of brokered transnational courtship (these days via the internet) and the dynamics of families and local communities formed through correspondence marriage. While these transnational unions represent ‘adventures in identity’ they also share characteristics with other Australian marriages and families. The stereotypes are a poor basis for understanding the experience of the social actors, but nonetheless the negativity haunts many of the partners.

Bound for success

Some of these wonderful titles have already been published, while some are on track to launch. But irrespective of the season and the weather forecast, these diverse and culturally rich treasure troves of literary and intellectual insight will undoubtedly create a storm!

We wish all our authors at CHL the very best with their titles now and in the future and look forward to some fascinating reading in the months to come!