Cultural Voice eZine

Monday, 12 November 2012

From Calcutta to Melbourne, Dr. Michele Lobo Tackles Shifting Identities











Born in Calcutta, India, Dr. Michele Lobo migrated to Australia in the year of the Sydney Olympics, 2000, after quite a random conversation with her Brother-in- Law who lived in Australia at the time. She describes the Christmas scene, with family and friends in Eastern India: “There was lots of food, drinks, and merriment,” typical of celebrations at that time of the year for her family. Her brother-in law called from Australia and said that he was watching TV, a shocking revelation  for an Indian at Christmas Time. On further prodding, he explained, that it was because of the lack of family members nearby to celebrate with and asked “why don’t you guys move here?” The rest, as we say, is history!

Dr. Lobo is a 2012 recipient of the Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (Decra), and an Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University, in Melbourne, Australia.

Dr. Lobo describes Calcutta as very busy, colourful, crowded with endless hustle, bustle and buzz. She describes the inequality that has become synonymous with the social structure of the city and tells us that this is part of the reason that she has become so passionate about issues of social justice. She tells CV that she had been well-settled in India, lecturing at that university and the decision to move to Melbourne, Australia, with her husband was simply taking a chance at something different. Dr. Lobo’s family in India was classified as Anglo-Indian, and she longed to be seen as simply Indian, The Anglo designation evolved from her Christian, westernised, upbringing which separated her culturally from the mainstream Indian traditional lifestyle.

Once arriving in Melbourne, she at once became simply “Indian.” She smiles as saying that it’s a fight to become simply “Australian” as being Australian really has a connotation of White Anglo-Australian. This discussion forms the backdrop for Dr. Lobo’s studies and work, who has looked extensively on how whiteness is a privilege and how it regulates everyday life. She shares that based on her findings even with the diversity that is striking in Australia, “Anglo is privileged.” She has found it intriguing that in her interactions with the aboriginal Australians that they are so warm and welcoming. 

Dr. Lobo has been greatly inspired by feminist writers and researchers. Paramount among ideologies that intrigues her is the work on otherness, the body, reconstituting how the world can be different. She makes reference to Emmanuel Levinas, Michel Foucault, and as an inspiration for her PhD thesis Judith Butler. 

Dr. Lobo speaks Hindi, Bengali, English and a bit of German and admits that though her children learned these languages while infants in India, they have not practiced, as the lessons are only offered on the weekends outside of regular school hours. During this time they are much more intent of playing cricket. 

Dr. Lobo’s motto is “In giving, you receive” which is how she sees life - as a collective effort rather than an individual one. She takes time every year to attend at least one day of the Australian Open in January with her family.

Posted with Thumnails on her door at Deakin's Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation reads the following: 

“I can’t help but dream of the kind of criticism that would try not to judge but to bring an oeuvre, a book, a sentence, an idea to life; it would light fires, watch grass grow, listen to the wind, and catch the sea foam in the breeze and scatter it. It would multiply not judgements but signs of existence. It would summon them, drag them from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent them sometimes – all the better. All the better. … It would not be sovereign or dressed in red. It would bear the lightening of possible storms.”

(Michel Foucault, 1997)

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