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Deakin Anthropology Seminar: ‘Untrammelled caves’ and the confines of exploration

Deakin Anthropology Seminar: ‘Untrammelled caves’ and the confines of exploration

Event Venue:

Deakin Downtown 727 Collins StreetDocklands, VIC, 3008, Australia ( Map )

Please join us for the next Deakin Anthropology Seminar with Dr Sarah Webb: ‘Untrammelled caves’ and the confines of exploration: Colonial, speleological, and touristic imaginaries of the Philippines’ final frontier.


Tuturingen is a ‘wondrous’, ‘mystic’ subterranean river on the west coast of Palawan Island, long reputed as the Philippines’ final frontier. This paper examines travels to that karst landscape and the travels of this underground river beyond by drawing together ethnography with accounts from field scientists, colonial administrators, coastal surveyors, spelunkers, speleologists, and other visitors. The paper focuses on the material descriptions of darkness, swiftlets, bats, crocodiles, hidden entrances, rockpiles, cathedrals, lost ways, cold flows, traders, and guides that not only provide insight into how the imperative to explore is established but simultaneously provide a portrait of a cave inhabited. In doing so, the paper discusses how tropical imaginaries of exploration blur distinctions between colonialism, science, and tourism.

About Sarah

Dr Sarah Webb is the Thomas and Margaret Ruth McArthur Fellow in Anthropology at the University of Melbourne. She is an anthropologist who examines the intersections of material culture, environment, and development. Her research focuses on how the politics of sustainability in the Asia Pacific concern postcolonial crises of nationhood, belonging, and inequality in the Philippines.

Additional Details

Our speaker will be presenting in-person at Deakin Downtown, but you can also join us via Zoom:

Meeting ID: 863 5598 0985

Password: 27303465

Past Deakin Anthropology Seminars

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