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Presented by The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre and Nexus Arts

In this presentation author and journalist Ruby Hamad asks: "how can art be utilised to foster empathy rather than perpetuate a myopic focus on subjective identity?"

"People of colour have long been defined by their subjective experience in a white-dominated society that has correspondingly positioned itself as both objective and sympathetic. This uneven status creates an unbalanced relationship where people of colour are expected to serve up their trauma so that western society can display and indulge in its own capacity for sympathy.

But this focus on 'trauma porn', particularly when it comes to the art coming out of warzones, denies the possibility of empathy - of a connection based on human similarities rather than our differences. For as long as western society sees itself as far removed from the experiences of people of colour, then the suffering of the latter can only ever be a kind of perverse entertainment, a way of reinforcing cultural and racial superiority that serves to maintain the barriers rather than take them down."
Ruby Hamad

This event complements the Illusion exhibition. Illusion is co-presented and exhibited at both The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre's Kerry Packer Civic Gallery, 1 to 29 July, and Nexus Arts Gallery, Lion Arts Centre, 17 June to 19 July.


bio pic ruby hamad

Ruby Hamad is a journalist, author and PhD student in media and postcolonial studies at the University of New South Wales. A former SMH/Fairfax Media columnist, her work also appears in The Guardian, Prospect, Magazine, The Saturday Paper, Meanjin, Crikey, and The New Arab. Her debut book White Tears/Brown Scars, an interrogation of the stereotypes that shape and govern race relations in settler-colonial societies, will be published by MUP  in September 2019.

More Information

Twitter: @rubyhamad
White Tears/Brown Scars
The Guardian: Ruby Hamad profile
Crikey: Ruby Hamad profile
Sydney Morning Herald: Ruby Hamad profile

Image credit: Elyas Alavi, Hang Series, exhibited as part of the Illusion exhibition


While the views presented by speakers within The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia or The Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: Strengthening our Democracy - Valuing our Diversity - Building our Future.

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