International Studies

‘Exile is a profound stimulus to the human anxiety for literary representation,’ writes Harold Bloom. Whether voluntary or involuntary, this impetus is the driving force behind the works in The Penguin Book of Migration Literature.

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The China Journals: Ideology and intrigue in the 1960s by Hugh Trevor-Roper, edited by Richard Davenport-Hines

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November 2020, no. 426

When the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU) invited Hugh Trevor-Roper, Regius Professor of History at the University of Oxford, to visit China in 1965, he jumped at the chance. It was a decision that all parties concerned came to regret. The eminent historian had a terrible time in China, ‘that land of bigots and parrots’. He didn’t meet the right people. He found no intellectual equals. The interpreters and guides assigned to the group weren’t up to the job. He nicknamed them Cement-head, Duckbottom, Smooth-face, and the Presbyterian.

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Scott Morrison does not like to explain the decisions he makes on our behalf. Sometimes he just refuses to discuss them, as he did when, as immigration minister, he simply rejected any questions about how his boat-turnback policy was being implemented at sea. At other times he is a little subtler, as he has been this year while presiding over what will probably prove to be the most consequential shift in Australia’s foreign relations in decades. The collapse in relations with our most powerful Asian neighbour and most important trading partner is not just Canberra’s doing, of course; it has resulted from decisions made in Beijing too. But Australia’s recent and current choices have certainly contributed to the chill, and our future choices will do much to determine where things go from here.

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The Road by John Martinkus & Too Close to Ignore edited by Mark Moran and Jodie Curth-Bibb

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September 2020, no. 424

It is a damning – if not altogether surprising – indictment on our public discourse that the average Australian knows far more about political and social developments on the other side of the world than about those occurring in our ‘near abroad’. It takes just fifteen minutes to travel in a dinghy from the northern most island in the Torres Strait to Papua New Guinea. The flight from Darwin to Timor-Leste lasts barely an hour. If visitors were permitted in Indonesian-controlled West Papua, the trip from Australia to Merauke, by plane from Darwin or boat from the Torres Strait, would not take much longer. Yet judging by the sparse coverage these regions receive in our press and by their minimal prominence in our politics, they might as well be on Mars.

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In 1991, French sociologist Jean Baudrillard provocatively claimed that ‘the Gulf War did not take place’. His argument was not a denial of the violence, suffering, and death experienced by civilians but rather that those very realities were absent in the mediatised consumption of the conflict. Dominant discourses reproduce the key events of the age, and the distant spectator can hardly escape the saturation of simulated symbols they entail. In Baudrillard’s words, ‘the warriors bury themselves in the desert leaving only hostages to occupy the stage, including all of us as information hostages on the world media stage’.

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Australians, Chris Bowen lamented recently, pay lip service to Asia. While millions of us visit every year, it is too easy to skim across the region’s surface. Few Australians speak Asian languages; most know little about our colossal neighbour Indonesia, let alone other ASEAN countries. Making matters worse, there ...

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Australia does not have a great tradition of writers producing books on international affairs for a general audience. Along with others like Hugh White, Michael Wesley – a former head of the Lowy Institute now based at the Australian National University – is helping to correct this.

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Berlin is built on sand, says Stuart Braun in City of Exiles; it is 'never far away from darkness'. It is a city of tolerance, which exerts a psychic pull for anarchists, artists, and those who become Wahlberliners: 'the people who choose to live in Berlin.'

City of Exiles' own sandy foundations make it difficult to find anything s ...

It is all Vladimir Putin's fault. Two years after the crisis in Ukraine erupted, the prevailing view in Europe, the United States, and Australia remains that responsibility for the conflict there – including the shooting down of flight MH17 – lies with Russia's president. This, the argument goes, is all part of Putin's plan to restore Russia's dominance of its r ...

April 2015 was the centenary of Gallipoli, an event deeply set in Australian history, but it was also the centenary of the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Armenians at the hands of the then Ottoman Empire. Yet the latter event is mired in controversy, and closure has not yet occurred. It was the first genocide of the twentieth century, but not the last.

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