Making a Settler Colonial IR: Imagining the 'International' in early Australian International Relations

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Abstract

Disciplinary histories of International Relations (IR) in Australia have tended to start with the foundation of an IR chair at the Australian National University (ANU) in 1949. In this article, I trace the discipline's institutional history and traditions of thought from the formation of the Round Table in Australia in 1911, led by Lionel Curtis, through the establishment of the Australian Institute of International Affairs (AIIA), and ending with the ANU story. I argue that Australian IR took as its starting assumption the idea of terra nullius (nobody's land), and the subsequent need to settle Australia. As a result, much of the discussion in the early study of 'IR' in Australia was framed around 'domestic' matters of settlement and colonisation. The focus of Australian IR radiated outwards from regional capitals, particularly to the tropical and desert regions of Australia with large Indigenous populations. At the margins of this were Australia's colonial possessions in the South Pacific. Finally, Australia's IR looked upon East Asia, motivated at least in part by fears of Asian peoples who might also seek to settle Australia. I conclude with a consideration of what Australian IR's historical entanglements with settler colonialism should mean for the discipline today. Copyright © The Author(s) 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the British International Studies Association.
Original languageEnglish
JournalReview of International Studies
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

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