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Environment Research Group Seminar: Dingo Politics: Race, Species and Purity


Environment Research Group Seminar

Start Date

20 Aug 2015 5:30 pm

End Date

20 Aug 2015 6:30 pm


Geo 211 Lecture Theatre, Sandy Bay Campus

Institute for the Study of Social Change logo

An Environment Research Group and Institute for the Study of Social Change seminar

Presented by Dr Fiona Probyn-Rapsey, University of Sydney

About the presentation
For the last 30 years, the extinction of the dingo has been a subject of great concern, but the threat to dingoes has been primarily defined not by dingo death but by dingo birth or, rather the 'wayward reproduction' (Weinbaum) of dingo and domestic dog. For instance, the IUCN's 'Red list' describes the dingo as vulnerable to extinction, with the first major threat listed as hybridisation with domestic dogs. This paper will argue that the 'pure' dingo is a creature constructed by the conceptual link made between hybridity and extinction during the 1980s by dingo biologists, specifically Laurie Corbett and Alan Newsome. Their early work successfully branded the hybrid as a threat to the dingo, and this idea has gone on to dominate dingo research for the last 30 years. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the link between hybridity and dingo extinction forms the ideological backbone of 'dingology', which is a term I use in the spirit of Donna Haraway's 'primatology is politics by other means', to examine how dingology operates as a biocultural form of the frontier, a site where race, gender and species intersect (and not without an element of 'dog-whistling'). What interests me in particular is how hybridity became synonymous with extinction, and how it came to have such explanatory power despite the fact that numerous studies failed to establish either a definitive test for dingo purity, nor a reliable baseline to begin with. Despite the limitations of the studies, the association between hybridity and extinction dominates discussions about the dingo and is espoused by conservation biologists, pastoralists, scientists and often repeated in popular depictions of the dingo. My view is that the early studies on dingo 'purity' gained influence because they managed (not necessarily deliberately) to deflect attention away from the conceptual impossibility of establishing dingo purity by invoking another more familiar Australian racial schema: the melodrama of a 'dying race'. Switching attention from the problem of establishing purity to the need to preserve purity served an affective purpose that is, still today, difficult to dislodge because it triggers conservation concerns, protective policies and simultaneously policies of eradication built on tackling boundary breaches.

About the presenter
Fiona Probyn-Rapsey is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney. Her research interests connect feminist postcolonial/ critical race studies and Animal studies, examining where, when and how gender, race and species intersect. Her first book Made to Matter: White Fathers, Stolen Generations (2013), examines how the white fathers of Indigenous children (many now part of the Stolen Generations) reacted to and were positioned by Australian assimilation policies. This book highlights a research interest in the reproductive and biopolitical nature of postcolonial societies, a common thread that extends into her research in animal studies which includes articles and also 2 co-edited books, Animal Death (2013) and also Animals in the Anthropocene: Critical Perspectives on Non-human futures (2015). As well as currently working on a project about Dingoes and the cultural logic of eradication, Fiona is also Series Editor (with Melissa Boyde) of Animal Publics book series through Sydney University Press, Since 2011, Fiona has been Network leader (now Co-convenor) of HARN: Human Animal Research Network, here at the University of Sydney and is Vice Chair of the Australasian Animal Studies Association.

Event details
When | Thursday 20 August, 5.30pm (refreshments from 6.30pm)
Where | Geo211 Lecture Theatre, Sandy Bay Campus

All welcome. Please register to attend this event or phone 6226 2350

Seminar flyer (PDF 121.7KB)


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