Eventos Académicos, 39 ISCHE. Educación y emancipación

Tamaño de fuente: 
Transnational encounters between universities in Ireland, Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand: 1850s-1900s: contradictory engagements with colonisation and emancipation
Catherine Manathunga

Última modificación: 2017-07-16


Universities have always had a complex, contradictory relationship with the processes of colonisation and emancipation, particularly in the global South.  As Rolfe (2013, 5) argues, building upon Readings’ (1996) analysis, modern European universities were a ‘product of the Enlightenment’ and, as a result, dedicated to the ‘Enlightenment grand narratives of truth and emancipation’.  He illustrates, however, that these narratives were ‘set in opposition … and have been in a state of conflict ever since’ (Rolfe 2013, 5). A further contradiction is added when we consider the universities’ significant role in imperialism and colonisation (Readings, 1996).  As Nakata (2006) and Smith (1999) have demonstrated, universities and the whole game of knowledge construction and disciplinary formation are deeply embedded in colonialism. Smith (1999) powerfully traces how colonial powers, working through and with universities, constructed themselves as centres of knowledge construction and theory building, which were then tested upon colonial peoples and in colonial places that functioned as giant laboratories for Western science and other disciplines. The universities that were established from the 1850s onwards in the Antipodes of Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand represent attempts to transplant the Enlightenment university in Southern settler/invader colonies.

Southern universities were established in these countries in order to transport the ‘civilising’ effect of higher education to raw colonial societies’ elites, while at the same time engaging in the utilitarian development of fledgling economies (Butterworth and Tarling 1994; Author 2016 a & b). The achievement of these educational and cultural goals was thought to be most effectively achieved through the employment of academics from the colonial centre. In the cases of Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand, most of these institutions were initially staffed with academics trained in Britain, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.

While existing research has been completed on connections between universities in the ‘British world’ (eg. Pietsch 2013) with a focus on Protestant Anglo-Irish history, less attention has been paid to the history of the role of Catholic Irish universities and Irish academics in Antipodean universities.  This paper seeks to trace the role of the three National Universities of Ireland in Dublin, Cork and Galway as well as Queens’ University Belfast in the development of antipodean universities from the 1850s to the 1900s.  These universities contributed a number of foundation academics to Antipodean universities and featured in transnational flows of people and academic ideas.  They were established in 1849 at a time when Ireland itself was also a colony of England. This paper seeks to trace the evolution of transnational encounters between Irish and Australian and Aotearoa/New Zealand universities, focusing on the three National Universities of Ireland and Queen’s University Belfast during the period from the 1850s to the 1900s.  In particular, it explores the complex, multi-layered engagement of Irish universities and academics in the contradictory impulses of colonisation and emancipation in Antipodean universities.