The Tyranny of Proximities? Countries, Lives, and the Antipodes

Thursday, January 7, 2016: 1:40 PM
Grand Ballroom B (Hilton Atlanta)
Melanie Nolan, Australian National University
The United Nations estimated that there were 232 million international migrants (or 3.2 per cent of world population) in 2013, up from 175 million in 2000. Legal migration internationally has doubled in the last 25 years. But not all countries are equally transnational. New Zealand and Australia are among the most transnational internationally with over a fifth of their populations expatriate and the same proportion of its residents born overseas. The Australasian transnational zone, moreover, is one of the most active: nearly a quarter of the New Zealand population visits Australia annually. There are implications for antipodean national dictionary projects in this pattern and for other projects more broadly.

Geoffrey Blainey’s classic (1967) study, Tyranny of Distance, was about the importance of isolation to Australia’s history and how the limitations of distance were overcome. Subsequently, others have written expansively about how distance was overcome. Emily A Rosenberg edited a major collection in 2012, A World Connecting, 1870–1945, about global interconnectedness. But proximity is also a challenge. The cultural differences between Australians and New Zealanders are sharpening apparently despite their striking and obvious similarity. This is an intriguing social issue, which has implications for other similar nations, which seem to be close partners and for the prospects of further integration of supranational entities like the European Union. Cultural identity and diversity is a central problem in a globalizing world and also for national biography projects, certainly in the Antipodes