Conference season part 3: UHPH 2020

Finishing up the summer conference season, I’ll be presenting two papers at this year’s Australian Urban History and Planning History Group conference, which will be held in February at the University of Tasmania campus in Launceston.

My first paper is co-authored with Professor Hannah Lewi and is entitled “Canberra on Film, 1913-1964.” This paper explores the official film representations of Canberra over this time period, drawing heavily on NFSA holdings of early film footage, documentaries and promotional films documenting the city’s development.

My second paper is a bit lighter in tone, as the title suggests: “‘A sign on the door saying beware of the leopard’”: Planning, Satire and the Edge of Utopia in Neoliberal Britain.” This paper looks at satires of planning in late 1970s and early 1980s British culture, including the Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams, and The Colour of Magic by Terry Pratchett. Aside from being enjoyable source material to work with, these texts present a very distinctive critique of the principle of planning itself and project this onto a cosmic scale, doing so at a specific historical moment where much more pointed dystopian critiques of state planning were common in political rhetoric. The paper aims to locate the unique humour of these works within a historical context where planning as a principle is viewed as doomed to failure, and yet these works present the urge to plan landscapes and societies as a relatable one, even as being as inevitable as these plans’ failure would be. It will be a fun paper to round off a busy conference season, and I’m looking forward to the busy programme overall.

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