2022 Alan Saunders Lecture

Bryan Mukandi

“When will things go back to normal?”

In the Australia of economic uncertainty, social restrictions and a sense of precarity brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the question of a return to normal has become so pervasive that when not stated explicitly, it forms part of that white noise on which we rarely focus. The desired return arguably now functions as the true north around which the nation gets its bearings. Were Australia a moving vessel, ‘normal’ would be the heading towards which the bulk of collective action is being directed. In this lecture, I want to examine this pursuit of ‘normal’, which I propose to term ‘the white fantastic’. 

The concept of ‘the white fantastic’ is drawn from Richard Iton’s meditation on post-civil rights cultural politics, In Search of the Black Fantastic; and Charles Mills’ indictment of the settler colonial state as a ‘racial fantasyland’. Beginning with Aristophanes’ The Birds and Plato’s Republic, thinking through Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s Wizard of the Crow and Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book, I plan to examine the function and workings of fantasy within the Australian polity. Rather than advocating for a view of political maturity that puts aside fantasy, I take seriously Tsenay Serequeberhan’s suggestion that the ‘antidote is always located in the poison’. Rather than when things will return to normal, I propose that we  question what a republic founded on different flights of fantasy, on a more just fantastic, might look like. 

A free, ticketed, live streamed event. This lecture is recorded by the ABC & available for download after the event on ABC Radio National.


Alan Saunders Lecture

©Australasian Association of Philosophy
ACN 152 892 272 ABN 29 152 892 272
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