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Find out why islands are important


Zoe Satherley
13 November 2009
People who want to develop a better understanding of why islands are important to human society are encouraged to attend an upcoming lecture at Southern Cross University’s Lismore campus.

The lecture is the final one for 2009 in the popular Professorial Lecture Series and is open to the public.

It will be given by Professor Philip Hayward, island research specialist and director of Research Training at Southern Cross University, on Thursday, November 26, from 5.30pm-7pm, in room U-231.

Professor Hayward said that islands were often regarded as exotic locations, ideal for tourism and an escape from the pressures and complexities of a busy, modern life.

“They are commonly regarded as remote, timeless and unaffected by modernity – yet this is an illusion,” he said.

“Islands are often exposed, undermined and manipulated by global organisations and global phenomena. Political opportunism, commercial exploitation and climate change are all exerting significant pressure on island communities and, indeed, their physical existence.

“From Tuvalu, located midway between Hawaii and Australia and threatened by rising sea levels, to Barrow Island, in Western Australia, which is threatened by catastrophic mining development, and to Norfolk Island off Australia’s east coast, which is threatened by the politics of world heritage agendas, islands are like canaries in the mines of modernity. Their health and serial demise indicates larger perils.”

Professor Hayward said that over the past two decades islands had been the subject of an increasing amount of research and, to a lesser extent, theorisation.

The academic field now commonly referred to as ‘Island Studies’ has developed in an attempt to understand and account for the nature, dynamics and diversities of islands and islanders (and their relation to non-island entities).

He said the ever-growing interest in island cultures had seen a corresponding rising awareness in the importance of understanding their historical development, as reflected by recent advances in the archaeological study of island societies.

“These realisations have led a new generation of archaeologists to establish interdisciplinary links in order to better understand the development of island societies and their relation to mainland cultures,” he said.

Professor Hayward is co-editor of 'Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures' and international network convenor of SICRI (The Small Island Cultures Research Initiative). He is currently researching aspects of the culture of the Amami islands of Southern Japan.

There will be opportunities for questions after the presentation and the lecture will be available to purchase on DVD. Please RSVP to Donna McIntyre ([email protected] ), phone 02 6620 3503 or 0427 906 606 for more information.

Photo: Professor Philip Hayward will speak about the importance of islands on November 26 at SCU’s Lismore campus in room U-231 from 5.30pm-7pm. He is also available to speak with interested media on his island research.