Down/South Archive

The Down/South Archive
Documentary histories in two subcontinents:
Australia & Latin America

Ortelius, Maris Pacifici (1589)

The Down/South Archive is a research initiative that creates contemporary historiographies of the politico-cultural links and parallels between Australia and Latin America, two (sub)continents sharing the same ocean and southern latitudes.

Firstly, the initiative looks at events that began four decades ago, with the wave of civil-military dictatorships in South America. Traditional accounts ordinarily demonstrate a history of solidarity from Australia to the persecuted victims, welcoming them as exiles and refugees, as well as tensions with the South American dictatorships. Australia itself was transitioning from the “White Australia” immigration policy, opening its doors to non-European migrants, including South American political refugees. At the same time, archived documents, personal testimonies and other materials contradict the prevailing record of a developed Western country joining the global outrage against brutal governments from an impoverished region. The main aim of this inquiry is to understand how the Australian government and private corporations kept functional relations with these internationally infamous dictatorships, despite their open critique of them. It also asks how these political and economic interactions affected the solidarity campaigns supporting the Latin American refugees.

A second line of inquiry investigates parallels between the two regions and brings Latin American paradigms to bear on alternative understandings of Australian political and cultural history. Four decades of radical historical events in Latin America since the 1970s offer fruitful points of comparison with Australia, a nation within the South but looking North, a (post)colonial society that often overlooks the links and geographical parallels (or latitudes) it holds with “developing” neighbours. Only recently, Australia and Latin America have coincided through mutual aspirations to belong to the Asia-Pacific area. At the same time, the inquiry questions those relations as set within an economicist, utilitarian and neoliberal view of the global South. 

Overall, the Down/South Archive examines the unexplored connections between subcontinents, nations, historical phases and social spheres (politics/economy/culture), and how histories can be told from a single document, an image or archived material. This project, inspired by the need to open history in Australia and elsewhere, is open to contributions from researchers and citizens from both continents by sharing and displaying the material online, and through publications and documentations. The editors of the initiative can be contacted by email to

These are the initial lines of archival investigation:

DOWN/SOUTH: SCL-SYD (Pablo Leighton)

DOWN/SOUTH: ATLANTIC (Fernando L√≥pez) 

This Creative Commons project and online publication site is an academic and investigative initiative to further public history and knowledge. The posting of material on this site will always make an attempt to acknowledge the source, get copyright permission and/or claim Fair Dealing for purposes of research or study, which allows academic publications to use excerpts of material.

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