History of the ASCP
The Australasian Society for Continental Philosophy (ASCP) was established in Melbourne in 1995 by a group of postgraduate students dissatisfied with the lack of institutional recognition for Continental Philosophy in Australian Universities. Its original aims were to provide a broad intellectual forum for academics, writers, artists, and postgraduates researching topics in Contemporary European philosophy. The Society grew out of the defunct Australian Association of Phenomenology and Social Philosophy (AAPSP), which was established in the late 1970s and held regular conferences until the group’s demise in 1994. The history of the ASCP reflects a common pattern, with postgraduates and younger academics, supported by established figures (such as Marion Tapper, Rosalyn Diprose, and Paul Patton), actively responding to the institutional marginalisation of European philosophy.
The emergence of the ASCP in 1995 also reflected the growing interest in French post-structuralism (particularly Deleuze) during the 1990s. The original founding committee consisted of two office bearers, Graham Jones (President/Chair) and Paul Atkinson (Treasurer), and several non-office bearing members (Ralph Humphries, Andrew Johnson, Clive Madder, Michael Fagenblatt, Simon Cooper, and Melissa McMahon). This committee gave the new Society a constitution, a membership list, a website and a regular newsletter (entitled Virtuosity and edited by Graham Jones). The general running of the organization later transferred to Melissa McMahon (who also edited two issues of the newsletter) with the assistance of Ralph Humphries, Stephen O’Connell, and Andrew Lewis.
The inaugural ASCP conference was held in Melbourne in 1996 on the topic “Time and Memory” (organised by Graham Jones, Paul Atkinson, and Ralph Humphries). International keynote speakers included Keith-Ansell Pearson, Constantin Boundas, Daniel W. Smith, Brian Massumi and Philip Goodchild, and among the local speakers were Elizabeth Grosz and Paul Patton. A number of the conference papers were subsequently published in issue 8.2 of the Melbourne University journal Antithesis (edited by Karen Barker, Graham Jones, Tania Lewis and Catherine Dale). “Time and Memory” was followed by “Topologies” in 1997, organized by Graham Jones, Paul Atkinson and Melissa McMahon. International speakers that year included Antonia Soulez, Gary Genosko, and Keith-Ansell Pearson.
The first Sydney conference, “Truth and Lies”, was held in 1998 and organised by Melissa McMahon, and included a special panel on the then topical ‘Sokal Affair’. The same year Oliver Feltham and Melissa McMahon organised, on behalf of the ASCP, a special lecture by French philosopher Alain Badiou. Attempts were also made at this time to establish an ASCP journal but these proved unsuccessful. The 1999 Sydney conference (“To be Done with Judgment”) featured a panel on the history of Continental Philosophy in Australia. Remarkably, with minimal financial or institutional support, the ASCP was able to host lively annual conferences organised by postgraduates (Esther Anatolitis, Craig Barrie, John Dalton, Melissa McMahon, Kirsten MacKillop, Andrew Montin, Tim Rayner, David Rathbone, Jack Reynolds, Sean Ryan, and Peter Ujvari) that attracted a host of international speakers. The Society’s survival was assisted by the creation of a new ASCP website (www.ascp.org.au) maintained by Andrew Montin and Esther Anatolitis, the latter serving for many years as caretaker of the ASCP between annual conferences. Craig Barrie and David Rathbone also edited and published CD-Rom collections of conference papers for two of these conferences.
The University of NSW ASCP conferences in 2000 and 2005 (organised by Rosalyn Diprose, Catherine Mills, Simon Lumsden, and Andrew Haas) included international keynotes such as Judith Butler, Robert Bernasconi, Wendy Brown, Catherine Malabou, and Diane Perpich. Conferences at Melbourne (2002), University of Queensland (“Imagination”, 2003), Macquarie University (“Critique Today”, 2004), Deakin University (“Trauma, Historicity, Philosophy”, 2006), and University of Tasmania (“Dialogues in Place”, 2007) included international figures such as J. M. Bernstein, Cheung Chan-fai, Agnes Heller, David Morris, Robert B. Pippin, Julian Young, and Guenter Zoeller, as well as leading Australian names (Max Deutscher, Rosalyn Diprose, Robyn Ferrell, Anne Freadman, Moira Gatens, Fiona Jenkins, Genevieve Lloyd, György Markus, and Paul Patton).
After years of debate, the ASCP became a formalised society, welcomed by the AAP, in December 2007. At this time, its constitution was revised and an ongoing executive committee was established, chaired by Robert Sinnerbrink (Macquarie) and including members from Universities across Australia and New Zealand (Simone Bignall, Richard Colledge (Australian Catholic University), Fiona Jenkins (ANU), Jack Reynolds (La Trobe), Matheson Russell (Auckland), and Matthew Sharpe (Deakin)).
The 2008 conference was held at the University of Auckland, signalling a new stage in its development within the Australasian region. The ASCP Executive Committee now includes NZ representatives and has links with a number of overseas organisations (like the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (SPEP) and the Canadian Society for Continental Philosophy). In 2008-2009, the ASCP was actively involved in promoting the interests of the Continental Philosophy community during the recent ERA (Excellence in Research Australia) journal rankings consultation process. In 2009, the ASCP was a vocal supporter of the 'Save Middlesex Philosophy' campaign protesting the closure of the Philosophy department at Middlesex University, UK.
In 2010, Robert Sinnerbrink concluded his three year term and Marguerite La Caze was elected Chair of the Society. The ASCP continues to foster interest and research in Continental philosophy, and to contribute to the development of a pluralistic Australasian philosophical community.