SHAPS Digest (June 2020)

A monthly round-up of media commentary, publications and projects, and other news from across the School community.

Media Commentary

Many members of our community have been standing up for the Humanities in response to the federal government’s proposed changes to university fee structures.

Joy Damousi published an article in the Age, was interviewed for Campus Review podcast, and issued a media release in her capacity as President of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Peter McPhee issued a statement as Chair of the History Council of Victoria and published published an article on the HCV website.

Darius von Güttner also commented in the Shepparton News: ‘Humanities Vital to Future Jobs and Society‘.

For a student perspective on the proposed new policy, we are proud to recommend this excellent article by History Honours student Kathryn Shanks in Casper & Casper magazine, also featuring responses to the policy from Jenny Spinks and History Honours students Nick Fabbri and Meghan Grech. 

Other pressing national and international happenings were also addressed by members of SHAPS in June.

David Goodman published an article in Pursuit on the history of the fight for racial justice in the United States.

Georgina Arnott, an ARC postdoctoral fellow in History, reflected in the Age on Australian connections to slavery in the wider British Empire. The research behind this piece emerges from the ARC Discovery Project, Western Australian Legacies of British Slavery, on which Georgie and Zoe Laidlaw are investigators.

Newly appointed lecturer in Indigenous History Julia Hurst commented on the Prime Minister’s assertion that “there was no slavery in Australia”; she pointed out that the fight to recover justice and stolen wages is still ongoing today.

Dr Hurst was also interviewed for this article about Indigenous heritage and family history.

Cordelia Fine was interviewed by Federal MP Andrew Leigh (Shadow Assistant Minister for Treasury and Charities) for his The Good Life Podcast, in an episode titled ‘Female Brains, Boys’ Toys and Other Delusions of Gender’.

Andrew May appeared on Who Do You Think You Are (along with Janet McCalman, Ashley Barnwell and Sarah Rood).

Charles Sowerwine was co-author of a statement on behalf of the Royal Historical Society of Victoria calling for a conversation on how to handle monuments and statues in light of the Black Lives Matters protests.

Stuart Macintyre commented in Sydney Morning Herald, on protests and statue-toppling.

Fiona Fidler was featured in an article in Pursuit about the push to increase transparency and openness in science.

June Factor was interviewed on ABC774 on ‘Nursery Rhymes and Their Current Variations during the Pandemic‘.

The international Journal of the Plague Year project, the Melbourne node of which is led by Andy May and the Melbourne History Workshop, was mentioned in this Sydney Morning Herald article.

Grimwade Centre graduate Heather Berry‘s work preserving a historic Sydney ship was featured on 9 News Sydney

Liam Byrne discussed his new book, Becoming John Curtin and James Scullin: The Making of the Modern Labor Party, 1876–1921 (Melbourne University Press 2020) on ABC RN’s Late Night Live; on 3RRR’s Uncommon Sense; and in this Author Q&A with Melbourne University Press.

Andy May published an essay reflecting on the issues around the commemoration of British imperialism, ‘Contested Legacies of Rev. Thomas Jones‘.

James Lesh published an article in the Age on the proposed development of the Jolimont railyards.

Louise Hitchcock delivered an online presentation to the Greek Community of Melbourne, on the topic ‘NAUE II Swords, Germs and Iron: What COVID-19 Can Tell Us About the Bronze Age (12th century) Collapse‘.

Fay Woodhouse was interviewed on the history of yoga in the West, for ABC RN’s Rear Vision, in the episode ‘How Did the Ancient Indian Practice of Yoga Become so Popular in the West?’

Awards & Fellowships

Mia Martin-HobbsRecent History graduates Niro Kandasamy (@Niro_Kan) and Mia Martin Hobbs (@miamhobbs) have both won inaugural Contemporary Histories Research Group Awards in History and Policy.

The awards will support Niro’s research on the contemporary history of Australian foreign policy in the Indo-Pacific region, focusing specifically on foreign policy relations with Sri Lanka between 1970 and 1990; and Mia’s oral history research on the experiences of women and minorities who served in the US, UK, and Australian militaries and were deployed to the Middle East after 9/11.

Mia Martin Hobbs was also shortlisted for the Australian Historical Association’s Serle Award, for the best postgraduate thesis in Australian history awarded during the previous past two years; while former McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow, Samia Khatun was shortlisted for the AHA’s Hancock Prize for her book, Australianama.

PhD candidate Larissa Tittl (Classics & Archaeology) (@LarissaTittl) has been awarded a Hector and Elizabeth Catling Bursary by the British School at Athens for 2019–2020. The bursary will enable Larissa to return to Greece and Crete in April 2021 to complete the research she began in November 2019 (on the Jessie Webb Scholarship and the Richard Bradford McConnell Fund for Landscape Studies, also from the British School at Athens).

Grimwade graduate Grace Barrand has been awarded a 2020 George Alexander Foundation Fellowship, for a project examining the United Kingdom’s Trailblazer Apprenticeship program and the area of conservation education and training more broadly. Grace currently works as a cultural materials conservator at the Arts Gallery of New South Wales.


History PhD candidate Nat Cutter (@NatCutter) is part of the international team behind a new digital project, Medieval and Early Modern Orients, on medieval and early modern interactions between Britain and the Islamic world.

Medieval and Early Modern Orients homepage

A group of undergraduate Philosophy students are launching a new journal, Meraki Magazine and recently issued a call for submissions.

They are looking for any kind of writing that deals with abstract themes and concepts, or philosophical reflection. They welcome academic, non-academic and creative literary student writing, and they’re especially keen to challenge the stereotype of philosophy as dense and inaccessible, and to open up philosophical ideas to broader audiences.


Tessa Leach (PhD in HPS, 2018) (@scigwen) has published a book, Machine Sensation: Anthropomorphism and ‘Natural’ Interaction with Nonhumans (Open Humanities Press 2020).

Emphasising the alien qualities of anthropomorphic technologies, Machine Sensation makes a conscious effort to increase rather than decrease the tension between nonhuman and human experience. In a series of rigorously executed case studies, including natural user interfaces, artificial intelligence as well as sex robots, Leach shows how object-oriented ontology enables one to insist upon the unhuman nature of technology while acknowledging its immense power and significance in human life. Machine Sensation meticulously engages OOO, Actor Network Theory, the philosophy of technology, cybernetics and posthumanism in innovative and gripping ways.

Angel Alcalde (@Angel_Alcalde_) published a book chapter (in Spanish) on the history of paramilitary politics in Germany between the armistice of 1918 and the coming of the Third Reich in 1933. In the chapter, he shows how the use of paramilitary force accompanied the foundation of the Weimar democracy and how paramilitarism was instrumental in its destruction. The chapter differentiates four different phases and models in the history of paramilitarism: mercenary-reactionary paramilitarism, combat paramilitarism, party paramilitarism, and civil-war paramilitarism. By doing so, the chapter shows the adaptability of this historical phenomenon and the danger it poses to the stability of democratic regimes. 

Liam Byrne published an article, ‘How the SPD Lost the Future: The Party’s Crisis as a Loss of Future-Imagining‘, in the journal German Politics (2 June 2020). In the article, he argues that the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) has become disoriented ideologically, and structurally dislocated from swathes of its traditional constituency, because it has lost the capacity to imagine and pursue alternate futures. Whereas the SPD has historically been defined by the claims it made upon the future as a temporal moment belonging to the working class, conceptualised here as a ‘concrete utopia’ as theorised by Ernst Bloch, the party has lost this creative impetus. A series of long-term processes, evident since the post-war era but escalating in the period since the SPD-led Red-Green coalition from 1998–2005, have reduced the horizons of the party’s ambition. Its acceptance of the post-Fordist liberalisation project is partially a product of, as well as a contributor to, this loss of future imagining.

James (‘K.O.’) Chong-Gossard published a book chapter titled ‘Female Agency in Euripides’ Hypsipyle’, in P.J. Finglass and Lyndsay Coo (eds.), Female Characters in Fragmentary Greek Tragedy (Cambridge University Press, 2020). The chapter restores the play Hypsipyle to a central place in discussions of female agency in tragedy by demonstrating how the intricacies of its plot result from a series of interconnected decisions made by women. At critical junctures both before and within the timeframe of the play itself, it is the female characters Hypsipyle, Eurydice and Eriphyle whose actions determine the course of the plot and have far-reaching implications for each other.

The analysis in this chapter shows how the play’s happy ending – which sees Hypsipyle finally re-united with her twin sons – is made possible only because of a long series of choices enacted by these three women. In particular, Eurydice’s decision to exercise forgiveness and spare Hypsipyle, whose neglect of her son Opheltes has led to his death, marks a powerful departure from the vengeful mothers that we find in other tragedies. Through these characters, Euripides articulates a view of women’s experience and subjectivity that is no less rich and engaging than the male world of the unfolding expedition against Thebes, which forms this play’s backdrop.

James (‘K.O.’) Chong-Gossard also published a journal article, ‘The Pope’s Shoes: The Scope of Glosses in Guido Juvenalis’s Commentary on Terence’, International Journal of the Classical Tradition (IJCT), vol. 27 (2020). This article analyses the 1492 Latin commentary by Guido Juvenalis (a.k.a. Guy Jouenneaux, a French Benedictine monk) on the comedies of the second-century BCE Roman playwright Terence. Particular attention is paid to the commentary’s glosses on minute details of ancient Roman life, such as sandals, centurions and maniples, sponges, and prostitutes. Topics include how the footwear of the ancient Romans survives in Catholic Europe as the liturgical footwear of bishops and popes, how beating a grown man with her shoe might be an amusing activity for a prostitute, and how definitions of sandalium (sandal) and peniculus (a long sponge) relate to other Latin words in use in the fifteenth century.

Kate Davison, who is currently in the final stages of writing up her PhD in History, published a journal article, ‘Cold War Pavlov: Homosexual Aversion Therapy in the 1960s’, History of the Human Sciences. This article provides the most detailed study to date of aversion therapy literature from both sides of the East/West border. Homosexual aversion therapy enjoyed two brief but intense periods of clinical experimentation: between 1950 and 1962 in Czechoslovakia, and between 1962 and 1975 in the British Commonwealth. The specific context of its emergence was the geopolitical polarisation of the Cold War and a parallel polarisation within psychological medicine between Pavlovian and Freudian paradigms. In 1949, the Pavlovian paradigm became the guiding doctrine in the Communist bloc, characterised by a psychophysiological or materialist understanding of mental illness. It was taken up by therapists in Western countries who were critical of psychoanalysis and sought more ‘scientific’ diagnostic and therapeutic methods that focused on empirical evidence and treating actual symptoms. However, their attitude towards homosexuality often played a decisive role in how they used aversion therapy. Whereas Czechoslovakian researchers cautioned readers about low success rates and agitated for homosexual law reform in 1961, most of their anglophone counterparts selectively ignored or misrepresented the results of ‘the Prague experiment’, instead celebrating single-case ‘success’ stories in their effort to correct ‘abnormal’ sexual orientation. In histories of queer sexuality and its pathologisation, the behaviourist paradigm remains almost entirely unmapped. This article contributes to the project not only of ‘decentring Western sexualities’, but of decentring Western sexological knowledge. Given its Pavlovian origins, the history of homosexual aversion therapy can be fully understood only in the context of Cold War transnational sexological knowledge exchange.

Ruby Ekkel published an article based on her History Honours thesis: ‘Woman’s Sphere Remodelled: A Spatial History of the Victorian Women’s Christian Temperance Union 1887–1914′,Victorian Historical Journal, vol. 91, no.1 (June 2020). In this article, she sets out to examine how the Victorian Women’s Christian Temperance Union (VMCTU) negotiated the idea and reality of separate spheres for women and men. She argues that the VWCTU worked within the ideological framework of ‘separate spheres’ to expand the definition of the ‘private sphere’ women were allowed to occupy; and she explores the ways in which the VWCTU’s sphere-expanding rhetoric was physically manifested in public spaces throughout Victoria.

Gretel Evans, who recently completed her PhD in History, published a book chapter, ‘Shaped by Fire: How Bushfires Forged Migrant Environmental Understandings and Memories of Place’, in Scott McKinnon and Margaret Cook (eds.), Disasters in Australia and New Zealand: Historical Approaches to Understanding Catastrophe (Palgrave Macmillan 2020).

Gretel Evans, 2020. Photographer: Nicole Davis.

Migrants to bushfire-prone locations in regional Victoria, Australia, arrived unfamiliar with their new home and its local environment. Oral history interviews with migrants reveal that learning about the natural environment was an active process, and the development of their environmental knowledge was an important feature of their early settlement and burgeoning sense of belonging in regional Victoria. Many interviewees’ understandings of the Australian environment were challenged by their subsequent experience of bushfire as a force and power beyond human control. Their sensory and embodied memories of Gippsland bushfires in 2013 and the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires contributed to a new respect for nature. Rather than expressing a desire to leave these locations, many people described a renewed sense of home and connection, and new environmental understandings and attachments to place that were forged through the fire

The latest issue of the Journal of Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society, a bi-annual interdisciplinary journal edited by Julie Fedor, features special sections on Multilingualism in Ukraine and on the History and Memory of Ukrainian Nationalism. The section introductions are fully available online via the link above.



A new issue of the journal Sophia was published, featuring a special section, ‘Shame and Absence: Feminist and Theological Reflections’; full details are on the journal’s Facebook page.


Feature image: Black Lives Matter protest, Philadelphia, USA. Photographer: Chris Henry via Unsplash