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5 Questions with Faculty: Bronwyn Carlson

Bronwyn Carlson, left, on a writing retreat earlier this year with professors and Ph.D candidates in Batesman's Bay, New South Wales, Australia.

ALBANY, N.Y. (November 2, 2016) — Bronwyn Carlson is an associate professor of Indigenous studies at the University of Wollongong in New South Wales, Australia, and a visiting lecturer at the University at Albany.

A long-time member of the Working Group on Indigenous Identities, Carlson was invited to spend a semester at UAlbany as the first Indigenous Fellow in the newly established Institute of Global Indigeneity. She is teaching one class, Indigenous Activism on Social Media.

Carlson says she is excited about speaking at Monday’s symposium — Global Solidarity: Harnessing the Strength of Indigenous Communities Around the World — at the campus center “It will be fantastic to have Indigenous people from many nations around the world gather to discuss our resilience and aspirations for our futures,” she said.

What are your working on now?

Over the past few years I have been working on an Australian Research Council funded project that examines Indigenous peoples’ engagements on social media, including cultural, social and political activism. Michelle Harris, Lani Jones and I have submitted a grant application to conduct an international research project that will explore the relationship between cultural trauma and indigenous peoples’ exposure to race-related oppressive news content on social media.

I am also finalizing a special issue of the Australasian Journal of Information Systems that focuses exclusively on Indigenous people and social media activism.

What made you decide to pursue your field?

I have become increasingly interested in social media research given its potential to bring together often isolated and marginalized groups. The current situation in regard to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in North Dakota is a great example of global solidarity. The use of social media has united the Native nations of the U.S. and Indigenous groups around the world against the DAPL. It's truly historic. It could not have happened without social media.

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Bronwyn Carlson is the first Indigenous Fellow at the Institute of Global Indigeneity, and a visiting lecturer at UAlbany.

What’s your favorite class to teach and why?

I love teaching first-year Indigenous Studies because it is an opportunity to shape the thinking of students throughout their degree and their lives. My first-year subject is often the only Indigenous related subject that students will take in their entire degree. I am also enjoying teaching at UAlbany on Indigenous use of social media for activism. There are great synergies between Indigenous Australians and African American political activism dating back to the 1930s and there is also strong solidarity with Native Americans. I feel privileged to have an opportunity to facilitate a better understanding of Indigenous Australians here in the US.

What was the last book you read for pleasure?

I really enjoy popular culture and love series like The Walking Dead and books by Stephen King — especially The Stand. There is a growing collective of Indigenous futuristic writers and Ambelin Kwaymullina is one of those. She is an Indigenous Australian who wrote The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It is a story of young people who have developed inexplicable abilities and are being hunted by the government. I am heading to Albuquerque in November to attend the first ever Indigenous Comic Con. I am really excited about it.

What’s one thing students might be surprised to know about you?

Students are relatively surprised to find I am an avid country music fan. I am often asked why I like country music and especially as an Indigenous person. Country music is often associated with such terms as “redneck” and “hillbilly” and is often associated with white working class. However, Indigenous people in Australia as both consumers and producers, derive a great deal of pleasure from the country music genre. Much like the Jim Crow laws here in the United States, Australia was long a country of segregation and discrimination against Indigenous people. It was only country music artists like Slim Dusty who did not discriminate and allowed Indigenous people to attend concerts. So, like many Indigenous people in Australia I grew up listening to country.

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