SHAPS Digest (July 2020)

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

Media Commentary

Liam Byrne (History) discussed his new book Becoming John Curtin and James Scullin on 3RRR . In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, Liam also asked what lessons politicians today might derive from the history of John Curtin’s leadership.

Nat Cutter (History) blogged about his research into the experiences of British expatriates in the Maghreb in the late seventeenth century.

Joy Damousi (History) was one of 73 senior professors who issued an open letter to the Australian Education Minister in response to the recently announced proposal for changes to higher education funding.

Darrin Durrant (HPS) reflected on ‘Disinformation and the Challenge to Democracy‘.

Cordelia Fine (HPS) published an article on the debates around sex difference and her book Testosterone Rex (2017), addressing the question of ‘feminist bias’, in Aeon: ‘Sexual Dinosaurs: The charge of ‘feminist bias’ is used to besmirch anyone who questions sexist assumptions at work in neuroscience‘.

Cordelia Fine‘s work was also praised by Julia Gillard on ABC Melbourne (from around 13:20 in the clip below).

Matt Galway (History) explored the reasons for Maoism’s appeal outside China for the Asia Institute’s Ear to Asia podcast:

Louise Hitchcock (Classics & Archaeology) discussed Bronze Age weapons in this podcast:

Luke Horton (PhD in History, 2011) was interviewed on The Bookshelf on ABC RN about his debut novel, The Fogging (Scribe 2020), which was highly commended for the Victorian Premier’s Award for an Unpublished Manuscript in 2019.

James Lesh (PhD in History, 2018; currently Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Australian Centre for Architectural History, Urban and Cultural Heritage) (@jameslesh) reflected on what makes heritage protection important, through a discussion of some of the special places that Melburnians value, in an article for the Conversation.

Mia Martin Hobbs (History) commented on Spike Lee’s new movie Da 5 Bloods and its depiction of how Vietnamese people have responded to US and other Vietnam War veterans returning to the country, in an article for the Conversation.

The international Journal of the Plague Year project, the Melbourne node of which is led by Andy May (History) and the Melbourne History Workshop, was featured in Times Higher Education.

Una McIlvenna (History) (@UnaMcIlvenna) discussed modern news media in light of her work on early modern execution ballads in this recent article in Pursuit (featuring an audio clip of Una singing!)

Carla Pascoe Leahy (History) (@carla_pascoe) took part in a panel discussion on how to make academia more sustainable:


Sean Scalmer (History) looked back at the role of Graham Berry in shaping Australian democracy in this article for the Conversation, ‘How Graham Berry Brought Party Democracy to Colonial Australia – And Then was Forgotten‘.

Roger Scott (Classics & Archaeology) took us through 1500 years of the history of Hagia Sophia in an article in Pursuit.

Mary Sheehan‘s research (History) on the Spanish flu epidemic in Victoria was featured in The Age.

Gijs Tol’s project (Classics & Archaeology) on the Pontine marshes was featured in Latina Oggi, the main newspaper for southern Lazio.

Awards & Grants

Mike Arnold (HPS) together with other members of the DeathTech Research Team received a Faculty of Arts Collaboration Seed Funding Grant to support their project, Caring for the Dead and Bereaved during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The 2020 Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) Early Career book prize was awarded to one of our former students, Vannessa Hearman, for her book, Unmarked Graves: Death and Survival in the Anti-Communist Violence in East Java, Indonesia (NUS Press 2018). The judges found that: “Hearman offers an original and highly engaging account of anti-communist violence in East Java. This book weaves together rich narratives drawn from oral history interviews, appealing to a broad interdisciplinary audience. A critical contribution to the historiography of the Left in Indonesia, this book both reveals the suffering of the past while speaking to present hopes and struggles for the acknowledgement of the tragic massacre of 1965–66.” Dr Hearman (@vhearman) is a Lecturer in Indonesian Studies at Charles Darwin University.

Jonathan Kemp (Grimwade Centre) (@jkconservation) and Evonne Levy (University of Toronto) have been awarded a grant under the University of Melbourne-University of Toronto Joint Research Program to support the project, The Technical Study of Bernini’s Bronzes: Art History, Conservation, and Material Science.

James Lesh (Melbourne School of Design; PhD in History, 2018) was part of a team winning the Bates Smart Award for Architecture in Media (Advocacy Award), at the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2020 Victorian Architecture Awards, for their campaign to keep Fed Square as a public space. You can read about their campaign here.

Una McIlvenna (History) and a colleague from criminology, Claire Loughnan, have won a Faculty of Arts Collaboration Seed Funding Grant for a project aimed at creating a digital representation of the now dismantled immigration detention centre at Lombrom, Manus Island, based on video taken by Behrouz Boochani among others.

We congratulate two more of our former students, Alexandra Dellios and Mike Jones, joint winners of the 2020 Australian Historical Association Allan Martin Award for early career historians of Australia.

Mike Jones was also highly commended by judges of the 2020 AHA Ann Curthoys Prize; and Mia Martin Hobbs was commended for the 2020 AHA Serle Award.


Our alumna Kathryn L. Smithies, tutor and sessional lecturer in medieval and early modern European history, has just published her first book, Introducing the Medieval Ass (University of Wales Press 2020).

Introducing the Medieval Ass presents a lucid, accessible, and comprehensive picture of the ass’s enormous socio-economic and cultural significance in the Middle Ages and beyond. In the Middle Ages, the ass became synonymous with human idiocy, a comic figure representing foolish peasants, students too dull to learn, and their asinine teachers. This trope of foolishness was so prevalent that by the eighteenth century the word ‘ass’ had been replaced by ‘donkey’. Economically, the medieval ass was a vital, utilitarian beast of burden, rather like today’s ubiquitous white van; culturally, however, the medieval ass enjoyed a rich, paradoxical reputation. Its hard work was praised, but its obstinacy condemned. It exemplified the good Christian, humbly bearing Christ to Jerusalem, but also represented Sloth, a mortal sin. Its potent sexual reputation – one literary ass had sex with a woman – was simultaneously linked to sterility and, to this day, ‘ass’ and ‘arse’ remain culturally-connected homophones.

You can also follow along with Kathryn’s research into the history of donkeys through the ages, via Blogging Donkeys.

Honorary Fellow in Philosophy Anya Daly is contributing co-editor to a new book, Perception and the Inhuman Gaze: Perspectives from Philosophy, Phenomenology, and the Sciences (Routledge, 2020). The book also features a contribution by Maurita Harney.

The diverse essays in this volume speak to the relevance of phenomenological and psychological questioning regarding perceptions of the human. This designation, human, can be used beyond the mere identification of a species to underwrite exclusion, denigration, dehumanisation and demonisation, and to set up a pervasive opposition in Othering all deemed inhuman, nonhuman, or posthuman. As alerted to by Merleau-Ponty, one crucial key for a deeper understanding of these issues is consideration of the nature and scope of perception. Perception defines the world of the perceiver, and perceptual capacities are constituted in engagement with the world – there is co-determination. Moreover, the distinct phenomenology of perception in the spectatorial mode in contrast to the reciprocal mode, deepens the intersubjective and ethical dimensions of such investigations.

Questions motivating the essays include: Can objectification and an inhuman gaze serve positive ends? If so, under what constraints and conditions? How is an inhuman gaze achieved and at what cost? How might the emerging insights of the role of perception into our interdependencies and essential sociality from various domains challenge not only theoretical frameworks, but also the practices and institutions of science, medicine, psychiatry and justice? What can we learn from atypical social cognition, psychopathology and animal cognition? Could distortions within the gazer’s emotional responsiveness and habituated aspects of social interaction play a role in the emergence of an inhuman gaze?

Perception and the Inhuman Gaze will interest scholars and advanced students working in phenomenology, philosophy of mind, psychology, psychiatry, sociology and social cognition.

Gijs Tol (Classics & Archaeology) co-authored an article, ‘”There’s More than Meets the Eye”: Developing an Integrated Archaeological Approach to Reconstruct Human–Environment Dynamics in the Pontine Marshes (Lazio, Central Italy)’, in Geoarchaeology.

The article presents the results of a pilot study that adopts an interdisciplinary off‐site approach combining detailed surface survey, remote sensing analyses, geophysical prospections, geoarchaeological investigations and palaeoenvironmental analyses to investigate long‐term human‐environment interactions in the Pontine plain (Lazio, Central Italy). Focusing on a small study area just north of the ancient Roman way station of Ad Medias, in the middle of this former wetland, the developed integrated approach turned out to be very successful, providing additional information on (a) the interpretation of the surface record in light of landscape and environmental dynamics, (b) the exposure of ‘hidden landscapes’ that date from before the Roman phase of exploitation that is well‐attested in the surface archaeological record, and (c) the texture of this Roman landscape, allowing for a more accurate interpretation of both mapped surface materials and the wider context in which these surface sites were set.

Jennie Jeppesen (PhD in History, 2014) published an article, ‘In the Shadows between Slave and Free: A Case for Detangling the Word “Slave” from the Word “Chattel”‘, Atlantic Studies 17:3 (2020)

The phrase ‘chattel slavery’ evokes a narrative of the Atlantic slave trade as people with African heritage were stolen, forced to labour under abhorrent conditions, and were powerless to prevent their children being sold away generation after generation. However, slaves were not the only people held in a chattel status through the course of American history. Both Indentured Servants and Convicts were held as chattel, albeit a temporary form. This essay suggests that historians of both slavery and unfree labour need to untangle the word chattel from the word slave – for a person who is chattel is not always a slave (and a slave is not always chattel). It argues that terminology is crucial, and that analysis of the semantics of the word chattel shows how current word usage does not match with actual word meaning, which has repercussions in the current political climate.

Since receiving her PhD in History in 2015, Jennie Jeppesen has worked as a sessional lecturer and tutor for a number of different subjects across the History program at Melbourne and at Deakin University.

Lauren Pikó‘s book Milton Keynes in British Culture: Imagining England (Routledge, 2019) was reviewed in the Journal of Contemporary History. The reviewer described it as a “fascinating history of the cultural meanings of Milton Keynes”: “For a suburban town on the fringes of London, Milton Keynes has attracted a surprising amount of scholarship … Pikó, however, asks a different set of questions. She is interested in the place that Milton Keynes occupies in British culture, and what it has to say about popular understandings of urban modernism, national decline, postcolonial melancholia and affluence … For Pikó, the town’s cultural meanings are located in [the] indeterminate space between top-down planning and grass roots re-appropriation – between social democratic provision and neoliberal nihilism. These contradictions are brilliantly explored in Pikó’s chapter on Milton Keynes’ place in 1980s political culture … The most important lesson from Milton Keynes in British Culture is about the unexpected ways that certain landscapes become imbued with cultural meaning as unexpected historical events unfold.”

Lauren Pikó (@book_learning) was a 2018 Gilbert Early Career Postdoctoral Fellow, and is currently coordinating the Research Methods Workshop programme for RHD candidates in the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning. She has taught in a range of undergraduate and Honours subjects in the History program since completing her PhD in 2017.

Nicole Davis (PhD Student, History), has co-authored a discussion paper, with Julie McLeod (MGSE) and Kate O’Connor (La Trobe), Doing Research Differently: Archiving & Sharing Qualitative Data in Studies of Childhood, Education and Youth (University of Melbourne, 2020).

The paper explores directions and dilemmas in the archiving and sharing of qualitative research, taking a specific focus on studies of childhood, education and youth, predominantly from across the social sciences, including historical studies. It was prepared as part of a program of work funded by the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC), which comprised the development of a pilot qualitative data archive and sharing platform – SOCEY (Studies of Childhood, Education and Youth) ­– and the archiving of data from six projects within that archive. Doing Research Differently discusses opportunities and challenges for archiving and data

sharing in qualitative research and provides an overview of Australian and international examples. The authors also detail the development of the SOCEY Repository pilot, before considering protocols and exemplars of best practice for archiving and sharing research data alongside the experiences of those who conducted the pilot archiving. Finally, they propose some key principles intended to inform their future work in this area and define their next steps

Feature image: ‘On the Way to Church in Melbourne’, Sydney Mail, 12 February 1919, 6, via Trove.