About SouthHem

About SouthHem

Funded by the European Research Council and based at University College Dublin, SouthHem is a five-year (2016-2021) comparative study of the wide range of literary outputs and mediating institutions produced in the Southern Hemisphere and Straits Settlements from 1780-1870. The project focuses on three transnational zones:

  • Zone 1 (Oceania): Australia and New Zealand;
  • Zone 2 (Southern Africa): the Cape Colony and Natal;
  • Zone 3 (Straits Settlements): Singapore, Penang, and Malacca.

The institutions and literatures (Anglophone and otherwise) considered in this context include those of British settler communities, indigenous populations, and mixed race peoples.

The project consists of two phases. The first phase focuses on two work packages:

Work Package 1 (2016-2021): Book Holdings and Reading Audiences

Work Package 1 is an ongoing five-year book history and history of reading project, which traces both the circulation of books and the changing nature of book holdings between and within the three transnational zones outlined above. This research quantifies known book holdings in the colonial Southern Hemisphere and Straits Settlements; analyses the nature of these holdings by language, author, genre; publisher etc.; and provides visualisations of book locations and transfers in order to construct a new cultural geography of the book in the region. In time, the focus on book holdings and circulation will give way to an investigation of colonial reading publics, looking in particular at marginalia, borrowing records, and other records of reading or reading habits.

Work Package 2 (2016-2019): Settler Literary Institutions

The second work package involves a number of comparative case studies on white settler literary culture across the three zones, looking primarily at 1. the rise of literary institutions and associations, and their contribution to taste and knowledge-formation; 2. the role of mediators (such as editors, booksellers, private collectors, patrons, agents, and translators) in the development of these literary institutions and outputs; and 3. the nature of white settler literary production.

The second phase of the project involves work packages three and four, which will look at indigenous literatures and cultures, and their interactions and encounters with white settler communities, within the zones.

Work Package 3 (2019-2021): Translation and Transcription

This work package looks at indigenous and mixed-race writing mediated through English, either at the point of production or through translation or transcription. Central to this work package is a study of translation practices in the period, both as a set of material practices that require detailed empirical investigation, and as a way of understanding the broader epistemologies that underpin the colonial social order, particularly those relating to the practice and administration of colonial power.

 Work Package 4 (2019-2021): Literary Encounters and Mediation

Work package 4 focuses on literary encounters between indigenous and white settler populations. It considers: 1. proximate encounters between peoples in ‘contact’ zones either through joint schooling, missionary interventions, or other mediating factors; 2. distant or virtual encounters via inter-textuality, translation, reviews, and other encounters between reading publics; and 3. symbolic or imaginative encounters such as fictional representations of encounters.


Our digital archive of all the extant library, bookseller and auction catalogues found in the British-controlled Southern Hemisphere and Straits Settlements, 1780-1870, is now live.  You can find it  here.