Indigenous Sovereignties, Pacific Mobilities and Mediterranean Diasporas: Towards a Transcultural History of Queensland’s Sugar Districts

Picture: Portrait of the cane gang of Les Tsimeris. All were Greek except the man at left who was Italian. Fourth from the left is Minas Logothetis.

Studies of migration from the Mediterranean region to Australia have often been framed within a national frame of analysis. That is, the story of Greek, Italian, Maltese, and Lebanese migrations to Australian shores have been considered as central to nation building narratives that centre migration experiences as a story of “struggle and success” - a story that has situated precariously racialized migrants in the settler colonial Anglosphere as a populace that worked hard to become successfully assimilated. In this sense, histories of migrant assimilation have contributed to rosy multicultural narratives that do not engage with the lingering legacies of colonial intrusion and indentured labour. Bridging migration history with colonial history this seminar aims to address the following questions: What if the corresponding stories of Greek, Italian, Maltese, and Lebanese migrations were understood not solely as nation-to-nation migrations but as part of a dual process of colonialist and diasporic movements? What if Mediterranean and Pacific mobilities (in their varied forms – peoples, texts, ideas, and visual culture) were examined in tandem with Aboriginal history? Via an examination of what I see as a “Mediterranean Pacific” phenomenon, I hope to align histories of Mediterranean diasporas with the exploitative and extractive labour dynamics of settler colonialism in Queensland. Drawing upon a scattered archive of photographs, poems, and cartoons, I will compare indentured labour from the South Pacific with voluntary labour from the Mediterranean region to argue that Queensland’s sugar districts were contact zones in which Mediterranean and Pacific diasporas share an identifiable history. I will also contend that adopting a transcultural historical approach to the study migration and colonialism to Queensland’s sugar districts offers an opportunity to disentangle the prevailing dichotomy of between settler/coloniser and colonised.

Dr Andonis Piperoglou is the inaugural Hellenic Senior Lecturer in Global Diasporas at The University of Melbourne. He grew up on Ngunnawal country and has Cypriot and Kastellorizian cultural heritage. Andonis has published extensively on the history of Greek migration to Australia and works on historical connections between colonialism, racism, and migration. In the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, Andonis teaches subjects on migration, diaspora, multiculturalism, and globalisation and he is currently the Vice President of the International Australian Studies Association. Research for this seminar has been supported by ANU's Freilich Project for the Study of Bigotry.

Please note that the School of History seminars will run in-person only this semester.

Date & time

Wed 09 Aug 2023, 4.15–5.30pm


RSSS Auditorium, Ground Floor (Level 1), RSSS Building, ANU, 146 Ellery Crescent, Acton, ACT 2601


Dr. Andonis Piperoglou


School of History


David Romney Smith


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