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Remembering an Iron Outlaw

Laura Basu (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen)

“Remembering an Iron Outlaw: The Cultural Memory of Ned Kelly and the Development of Australian Identities”

09 June 2011

Ned Kelly is perhaps Australia’s most famous historical figure. Ever since he became outlawed in 1878 his story has been repeated time and again. Although the value of his memory has been hotly contested, he remains perhaps the national icon of Australia. In this talk I will explore some of the ways Kelly has been remembered over the decades, and how his memory has related to constructions of Australian identity. I show that the memory cannot be seen as made of individual media representations alone; it has developed through a tangle of relations, what I term a memory dispositif, which produces group identities. These identities are multiple and thoroughly contradictory. I demonstrate that Kelly has therefore always functioned in both radical and conservative ways, often both at once: a turbulent, Janus-faced figure.


Laura Basu is a Lecturer in American Studies at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, the Netherlands. She completed her PhD in Literary and Cultural Studies at Utrecht University, on the subject of cultural memory and Australian (post)colonial identities. She obtained her MA in Media and Culture from the University of Amsterdam.