Governing the Present: People, Policy, Place

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Presenter:  Professor Helen Verran, Professorial Research Fellow, Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University

Date: Aug 28, 2014

Time: 3:00pm to 4:30pm

Contact person:  Katrina Britnell
T: 08 8946 6838

Location:  Yellow Building 1, Level 2, Room 48 (Red Room), Northern Institute , Charles Darwin University - Casuarina Campus

Target audience:  All Welcome

Governing the Present: People, Policy, Place'

Professor Helen Verran

Professorial Research Fellow

Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University


Across the 1980s British social theorists Peter Miller and Nikolas Rose charted the institutionalisation of neoliberalism in Britain.  In 1990 they collected their papers together and published them as Governing the Present. In introducing the collection they characterised contemporary Britain as subject to an

advanced liberal governmentality [which]depend[ing] upon expertise in a different way…connects experts differently into the technologies of rule.  It seeks to degovernmentalize the state and de-statize practices of government, to detach the substantive authority of expertise from the apparatuses of political rule, relocating experts within a market governed by rationalities of competition, accountability and consumer demand….Individuals are to be governed…as members of heterogeneous communities of allegiance, as ‘community’ emerges as a new way of conceptualizing and administering moral relations amongst persons…As an autonomizing and pluralizing formula of rule this form of rule is dependent upon the proliferation of little regulatory instances across a territory and their multiplication, at a ‘molecular’ level through the interstices of our present experience.  (Peter Miller and Nikolas Rose  (1990) Governing the Present, Cambridge: Polity, p 24-5.)

Such a governmentality began to be instituted in Australia in the 1990s, and in the first decade of the new century was spectacularly extended to Aboriginal Australia in The Intervention.

Beginning with reminiscing about my involvement in the high profile Garma Maths Curriculum development episode at Yirrkala in the 1980s and early 1990s, as an example of how we used to think of ‘people-policy-place,’ I pass on to considering what it has become in the era of a de-governmentalized state and de-statized government.


Helen first began researching how practitioners of disparate knowledge tradition work together during the 1980s when she spent eight years lecturing in science education at Obafemi Awolowo University in Ile-Ife in southwestern Nigeria.  Her prize winning Science and an African Logic(Chicago University Press, 2001) grew out of that experience.  Since the end of the 1980s Helen has worked with Yolngu Aboriginal Australians in a variety of fields – education, environmental studies, and researching use of digital technologies in Yolngu knowledge making. In the first decade of the twenty first century Helen began collaborating closely with Michael at Charles Darwin University, publishing many articles about their work with Yolngu knowledge authorities.

When              Thursday 28 August  at 3.00pm

                      Afternoon tea will be provided

Where            Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University - Casuarina Campus

                      Yellow Building 1, Level 2, Room 48 (Red Room)

                     Presentation available via video conference if requested contact Alisha Dakis

RSVP               by Tuesday 26 August via Outlook or alternatively by email to