President’s Welcome 2023

Dear ASFS colleagues, 

As I write this letter in January 2023, I can’t help but feel caught in a paradox: a moment of change and a moment of return. As a Society and a community, we are both turning a new leaf since the acute pandemic pressures of 2020-2022, and holding on to the great work we have done in the past few years. Of course, Covid still hangs over us, in some cases affecting the modes in which we teach, and in all cases affecting the ways in which we navigate the world and our research. The fatigue of what we have managed and been through since 2020 will take a long time to lift, and we should not expect to be able to shrug it off easily. But this is also a hopeful time of opening back up, of starting to make new plans and of being able to step back into the world, in whatever way makes sense for us, our students and our loved ones.

One of these openings-up was our recent December conference, which took place in a hybrid format that was much more natural and inclusive than the technology sceptics among us might have expected it to be (thank you, Yuri Cerqueira dos Anjos, Charles Rice-Davis and Jean Anderson [and the foam cube microphones] that made this possible!). 2022’s conference, aptly named ‘Movement(s)’, was a historic moment: our first ASFS conference ever held in Aotearoa New Zealand. The conference at Victoria University of Wellington/ Te Herenga Waka was an opportunity to recognise how much our NZ-based members contribute to the Society, and have done so for many years. It was also a key reminder of the importance and value of research and collaboration in the francophone South Pacific. Of course, many of us based in Australia research this region, but there was something particularly special about engaging with our closest francophone neighbours when on the doorstep of the region itself. I am still thinking about Jean Anderson’s closing keynote address, in which she evoked the Pasifika research methodology of ‘Talanoa’, reminded us of our obligation to ‘do no harm’ and showed us the value of ‘decolonising methodologies’, as we can learn from Māori scholars such as Linda Tuhiwai Smith and francophone Pasifika writers like Chantal Spitz and Flora Aurima Devatine.

We were proud to continue this francophone Pacific focus with the recent 2022 Colin Nettelbeck Postgraduate Prize, which has been awarded to Anne Roberts of James Cook University in Townsville. The prize of $1,000 will support Anne’s PhD project ‘Liberté, Identité, Diversité in 21st Century New Caledonia: A Case Study of French Identity in the Tropics’ and her fieldwork on-site in New Caledonia in 2023. The 2022 prize was particularly bittersweet to award, as we farewelled Colin earlier in the year after a long illness. But we are sure this project would have been close to his heart. HDR members – and ECRs within five years of their award and not yet in a full-time academic position – can keep an eye out for the opening of the 2023 prize later in the year. In addition to Colin’s prize and free conference registration, we were also pleased to be able to offer small travel bursaries to HDR candidates who travelled in-person for the conference, and hope to be able to offer these again in future.

In 2023, we are looking forward to continuing to provide a range of initiatives for ASFS members. Please keep an eye out for updates on our mentorship program, outreach and engagement grants, the ASFS/AJFS Postgraduate Essay Prize, postgraduate writing retreats, the Nettelbeck Prize, and some undergraduate opportunities we hope to be able to talk about soon. Members will receive email updates, and all those interested can engage with our online conversation spaces on Facebook and Twitter. If you haven’t renewed your membership for 2023, please consider doing so in order to support these initiatives and contribute to our community.

And of course, we are excited about our 2023 conference, which we are thrilled to announce will take place at the University of Sydney towards the end of the year. Stay tuned for updates, including theme and dates!

I am pleased to confirm the 2023 Executive Committee, as was elected at the 2022 Conference:

President: Gemma King

Vice President: Leslie Barnes

Secretary: Andrew McGregor

Treasurer: Valentina Gosetti

Communications Officer: Nick Strole

Postgraduate Officer: Beth Kearney

Memberships Officer: Jenny Barnett

And as I step into the President’s role for the first time, looking forward to all of these opportunities and projects, I also look back to my predecessors: to Natalie Edwards, Véronique Duché and Alistair Rolls in my time, and so many others – including Colin – before them. And I look to Jean’s sage words on Talanoa and responsible, transcultural research in the contemporary age. Whether we’re in a moment of change or a moment of return, I look forward to sharing it with our members in 2023 and beyond.

Bien à vous tous,

Gemma King (President)

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The logo for the Australian Society for French Studies was created by Yiyun Zhou