Professor’s perspective on piratical prospectors

Published 17 September 2012

Russell McDougall has extended a childhood interest in pirates into a life-long exploration of piracy – in all its forms – through the medium of literature.

He points out that “pirate fiction” in the 21st century can embrace piratical practices such as “bio-piracy”, “cyber-piracy” and “water piracy” as well as maritime marauding under the flag of the Jolly Roger.

Professor McDougall, from the discipline of English at the University of New England, is an authority on post-colonial literatures and their exploration of social justice issues from the perspectives of colonised peoples. “My interest in social justice springs in part from a working-class background in industrial Newcastle, NSW,” he said. “But I’m just as interested in global contexts as I am in local ones.”

In a free public lecture on Wednesday 26 September, Professor McDougall will discuss literary approaches to what he calls the “new piracies” – particularly those that threaten the environment or exploit the natural heritage of indigenous peoples. “The ‘bio-prospector’ of today, searching for unexploited genetic resources in developing countries, is the equivalent of the buccaneering or colonising explorer of previous centuries,” he said.

Titled “Undisciplined English: Pirates, Prospectors, Professors”, the lecture will be in the Armidale Ex-Services Memorial Club at 6.30 pm. It will be Russell McDougall’s Inaugural Lecture to the wider New England community as a UNE Professor, and will be followed by drinks and canapés. Everyone is welcome.

“English is a fairly unruly discipline,” Professor McDougall said, “hence the ‘undisciplined English’ of my title. It developed late as an academic discipline, and its boundaries are very flexible. In connection with my own post-colonial interests, it’s now expanding the focus on social justice to embrace broader ecological perspectives, including critical animal studies. Here at UNE, for example, we’ve just established a Post-Human Studies Research Group to explore the expression of worldviews that don’t place humanity at their centre.”

Russell McDougall has published widely on comparative Australian, Caribbean and West African literatures in English. He sits on the editorial advisory board of the journal of post-colonial writing Kunapipi, and on the international advisory boards of Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings and the Journal of Postcolonial Writing.

Prof McDougall’s lecture took place on Wednesday, September 26, 2012. A video of the lecture is available here: