Visiting Fellows Seminar (Semester Two)

Recorded: Thursday 19 October 2023

Stories as method in an everyday cosmopolitics

Today concrete footways, overpasses and train lines run over the small, but still visible, swamp lands in the lower reaches of Moonee Ponds Creek. Once a flourishing and productive meeting place, the differing lives of this place are difficult to keep concurrently in view. Over the course of this visiting scholar program, we’ve been worrying away at the question of how pasts and futures together in the present in an explicit everyday cosmopolitics. Cosmopolitics, for us, provides a theoretical frame to understand work that necessarily involves different knowledge traditions, drawing attention to the local politics of working differing cosmoi together and separately (Verran, 2018).

While beginning with this Melbourne waterway, Dr Spencer and Campbell expand their discussion through two seemingly disparate areas of work:

  • Research partnerships supporting Indigenous elders and researchers seeking to mobilise their own practices doing and evaluating the NT Local Decision Making policy and means of making this evaluation visible to the state
  • Facilitated teaching and learning opportunities with Victorian public servants, seeking new practices for doing and making sense of their engagements with Indigenous people, groups and organisations in a time of treaty.

Dr Spencer and Campbell focus on the multiple and complex ways accountability emerges within these partnerships, within which they are inextricably constellated as actors. To do so, Dr Spencer and Campbell initially share stories of the working of disparate politics and polities in the everyday work as researchers and teacher-learners working between incommensurable polices and political systems. Through this they seek to reflect on the centrality of storytelling as social practice, as research tool and as reporting device.

Dr Spencer and Campbell seek to generate an open conversation that takes the political multiplicity of the worlds in which we work seriously, positioning stories (including our own) as active processes in which pasts and futures are actively worked, rendered as an active, situated and everyday cosmopolitics.


Dr Michaela Spencer is a Senior Research Fellow at the Northern Institute, Charles Darwin University. Her current research involves working from the ‘Ground Up’ with Indigenous knowledge authorities, and differing traditions of knowledge and governance. This involves collaborative work under First Nations elder authority, engaging ‘problems of the moment’ in urban and remote Aboriginal polities and activating new understandings and practices within cultures of government and policy making. She is the co-ordinator of the CDU Diploma of Indigenous Research, and Indigenous community-based researcher micro-credential program. She is also a founding editor of Mattering Press, a scholar-led open access book publisher.

Dr Matthew Campbell is a Lecturer in Treaty at The Australian Centre. He has a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture (RMIT), a Master of Applied Anthropology (ANU), and a PhD from Charles Darwin University. His principal research interest is exploring and making sense of situations in which Indigenous and non- Indigenous people, working together, become aware that the goals or ends of that work are not necessarily or always shared. This work focuses on the political and epistemic aspects of such work, attending to questions of responsibility, accountability, and ethics.

Matt worked previously as the Research Coordinator of Tangentyere Council’s Research Hub in Alice Springs; an Aboriginal research unit dedicated to undertaking research that produces tangible difference in the lives of Town Camp residents. He also worked at Charles Darwin University in a variety of roles, including as a remote Land and Resource Management Lecturer, a Community Engagement Officer, and a Researcher.