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The phrase ‘tyranny of distance’ reflects the argument that this region’s geographical remoteness, from its colonisers and other sites of power in the northern hemisphere, has played an important part in shaping its history, culture and identity. Long before the ‘leaky boats’ arrived, waka, which the vessel in the conference image represents, navigated Oceania’s expansive ‘sea of islands’ and ventured thousands of miles for exploration and trade. In contemporary times, the tyranny of distance might have currency as a concept for those experiencing displacement through forced migration, but also for those experiencing forced containment. The emergence of fundamental nationalisms has seen efforts to enforce a tyranny of distance through the construction of walls and less tangible processes of excluding, or distancing, unwanted others. More than ever we are in need of kai ariki, the carved figure that sits at the back of seafaring waka. This figure typically looks up at the stars and can be used to represent reflective practice by: the poets, artists, orators, scientists, knowledge bearers, producers and experts who help to navigate and remember life’s journeys.

Delegates at IDIERI 9 might respond to the theme by addressing

  • the ways in which practices are shaped in specific geographic contexts
  • notions of travelling, trade and exchange
  • questions of perspective and shifting perspectives
  • the aesthetics and politics of distance

The conference theme is taken from the song Six Months in a Leaky Boat by iconic New Zealand band Split Enz (1982)

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