SHAPS Digest (August 2020)

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

Media Commentary

Georgie Arnott (History) published an article on the legacies of British slavery in Australia, in the Australian Book Review. Georgie is a postdoctoral researcher on the ARC Discovery Project on the Legacies of British Slavery in Western Australia.

Brent Davis (Classics & Archaeology) and his work deciphering the Minoan script Linear A was featured in this Articulation article.

Mark Edele (History) commented on the protests in Belarus on  Radio 2ser and ABC Radio, Perth’s Early Mornings. Listen to the interview with Barry Nicholls on the player below.


Mark Edele also appeared on a Mamamia! podcast discussing the suspected poisoning of Russian opposition-leader Alexei Navalny.

Julie Fedor (History) published an article in Election Watch about Russian media coverage of the events in Belarus.

Cordelia Fine (History & Philosophy of Science) (with psychologist Carla Sanchis Segura) discussed the current state of the science on the question of sex differences in the brain in an article for the Conversation.

Cordelia’s book Delusions of Gender was included in the New York Public Library’s ‘Essential Reads on Feminism, 100 Years After the 19th Amendment‘.

As part of National Science Week, Cordelia did an interview on Uncommon Sense, RRR, on science’s obsessions with sex differences.

Louise Hitchcock (Classics & Archaeology) featured in another podcast episode on Bronze Age trade and globalisation.

Louise Hitchcock also recorded this podcast, The Cave, Neos Kosmos with Fotis Kapetopoulos: ‘Not all things begin with Greece

Andrew May (History) published a Melbourne History Workshop blogpost on the history of Melbourne Day, and on naming practices and power:

From Bulleen and Darebin to Kooyong and Nunawading, Aboriginal place names across Melbourne’s landscape have long been known and officially recorded, while others were noted down in the nineteenth century and still sit in the colonial archive. In recent years, Birrarung has been re-established as the name of the river the first invaders erroneously called the Yarra. Whatever acts of naming the invaders preferred, there is an alternative, shore-to-ship version of John Batman’s encounter. Nerm, Bareberp, Narloke, Birrarung: these and other Aboriginal names for Melbourne are not waiting to be found — they are waiting to be heard.

Episode 12 of the My Marvellous Melbourne podcast also explores this subject.

Our former student and tutor Olivia Tasevski published an article in Foreign Policy on attitudes towards the colonial past in the Netherlands; and an article in The Diplomat on the US refusal to issue an apology for the atomic bombing of Japan. Olivia is currently a tutor in the School of Social and Political Sciences.

Diana Tay (PhD candidate in Cultural Materials Conservation) made the case for formal conservation education in this article, ‘Do Conservators Need to Study? A Perspective from a Southeast Asian Conservator‘.

Victoria Thomas, a Textile Conservator at Grimwade Conservation Services, reflected on her process of working from home. She takes us through the intricacies of her work experimenting with different dyeing solutions to find the perfect colour match for existing historical items.

Her colleague Peter Mitchelson also published on Gabberish, exploring how he turned his flat into a workshop and continued to conserve books from home.

Gijs Tol (Classics & Archaeology) was interviewed for Dutch newspaper NRC and the Italian newspaper Latina Oggi about his recent work on the ‘hidden’ Roman landscapes in the former Pontine Marshes (central Italy) that was recently published in the journal Geoarchaeology. The work revealed – among other things – an intricate system of canals used to drain this marshland during Rome’s earliest expansionist phase in the late fourth century BCE.


Gijs Tol (Classics & Archaeology) and Jeremy Armstrong (University of Auckland) initiated the Mediterranean Archaeology Australasian Research Community (MAARC). This network aims to encourage interaction, communication, and collaboration between those at Australian and New Zealand universities researching the archaeology of the Ancient Mediterranean. A key element of the network will be an annual meeting that rotates around the various institutions in the region, with the first (online) meeting hosted by the University of Melbourne from 28 to 30 January 2021. You can follow MAARC on Twitter: @maarc_research.


Liam Byrne (History) published an article ‘Visions of the Future: Political Labour’s Temporality and Socialist Objectives in Britain and Australia, 1918–21‘, in the journal Historical Research. 

This article is a comparative study of political temporality and the concept of the ‘future’ in British Labour and Australian Labor. It deepens knowledge of how Labo(u)r’s political culture has been forged through debates over socialism, focusing on the socialist objectives of 1918 and 1921. As a result, it allows an appreciation of phenomena such as the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and ‘Corbynism’. It is focused around a reading of the major conferences of each party, as sites of power negotiation, debate and ideological creation. These sources are complemented by an extensive reading of labour newspapers and pamphlets from both countries.

Jackie Dickenson (History) published an article on a curious and understudied case: ‘Paranoia and the Far Right in 1970s Rural New South Wales‘, in the Journal of Australian Studies.

When Gough Whitlam’s Labor government won re-election in 1974, Nora Opferkuch, a Coonabarabran farmer, wrote to the Attorney-General Lionel Murphy. After congratulating him on the party’s success, she warned him of the parlous state of political life in the Central New South Wales town. “No one dares speak Politics in Coonabarabran now”, she wrote. The town was in the grip of a fascist conspiracy that had resulted in a terrible crime. Opferkuch’s letter opens up an under-examined area of Australian political culture – the activities of the far right. Using interviews and newspaper reports, as well as Opferkuch’s letter, this article explores the veracity of her allegations. It reveals the impact on a rural town of social change led by a resurgent political party with a vision for Australia at odds with that of the ruling elite. It also extends understandings of Australian political culture, including the role of politics in the everyday life of a rural town, and explores the impact of the political past on contemporary events.

Georgina Fitzpatrick (Honorary Fellow in History), “David Sissons and the History of Australia’s War Crimes Trials: A Spectral Interaction in the Archives,” in Keiko Tamura and Arthur Stockwin, eds, Bridging Australia and Japan Volume 2: The Writings of David Sissons, Historian and Political Scientist (ANU Press, 2020), pp. 1-19.

Karen Green (Philosophy) published an article, ‘The Rights of Woman and the Equal Rights of Men‘, in the journal Political Theory.

While standard histories of Western political thought represent women’s rights as an offshoot of the earlier movement for the equal rights of men, this essay argues that the eighteenth-century push for democracy and equal rights was grounded in arguments first used to defend women’s right to moral and religious self-determination, based on their rational and spiritual equality with men. In tandem with the rise of critiques of absolute monarchy, ideal marriage, which had previously involved lordship and subjection, was transformed into an equal companionate relationship based on inclination and affection. The essay argues that the transformation, by the time of the American and French revolutions, of neo-Roman republicanism – which had been aristocratic and oligarchic – into egalitarian, democratic republicanism had been mediated by the extension of arguments, widely distributed in the literature criticising the slavery of marriage, into a general critique of slavery and support for the equal rights of men.

Jennie Jeppesen (PhD in History, 2015) discusses her work on the history of slavery in this video intro (from around 6:00) to a special issue of the journal Atlantic Studies: Global Currents, ‘New Approaches to the Comparative Abolition in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans’.

Catherine Kovesi (History) contributed a reflection ‘”V” is for Venice”, to the book Venice Rising: Aqua Granda Pandemic Rebirth edited by Kathleen Gonzalez, with reflections from those who witnessed the extraordinary high water event in Venice (the ‘great water’ or aqua granda) on 12 November 2019. Catherine was in Venice preparing for the arrival of students from the University of Melbourne when the high waters struck. The succeeding month saw further extraordinary high water events which provided a unique, if highly challenging, set of circumstances for introducing students to the realities of the fragility of the Venetian lagoon ecosystem. So moved were the students by the experience that a group of them had ‘V’ for Venice tattooed on their ankles as a sign of solidarity with each other and with the city. A portion of proceeds from the book goes to the not-for-profit Save Venice Inc.

Val Noone (Honorary Fellow in History) published a book, Dorothy Day in Australia.

Dorothy Day (1897–1980), writer and co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, is one of the most interesting and puzzling figures in the history of twentieth-century Catholicism, and of American dissent. A labour radical with a Bohemian lifestyle in her youth, Dorothy spent most of her life in New York. From the 1930s on, her anarchist-pacifist practices and ideas were a radical Christian challenge to capitalism.

In August 1970, Dorothy visited Australia. To mark the fiftieth anniversary of that important occasion, this book records details of her stay and explores her long-term impact.

For good reasons, those writing about Catholicism this century have focused on exposing and redressing crimes of clerical sexual abuse. On the other hand, historians of mid-twentieth century Australian Catholicism have concentrated on the anti-communist Movement and on Catholic education. This book offers the general reader an alternative understanding of twentieth-century Australian Catholicism.

Dorothy Day in Australia also tables an intriguing enigma of Dorothy’s life, namely the way she maintained her political radicalism alongside her firm commitment to the Catholic religion. After a broken marriage and other relationships, Dorothy found happiness with Forster Batterham, an atheist, but her conversion to Catholicism resulted in a tragic parting.

With Peter Maurin, a wandering French-born scholar, she founded a monthly newspaper called the Catholic Worker, and ran a house of hospitality in New York’s Lower East Side. From there, a movement grew which has had a small but definite effect in Australia down to the present day.

Copies of the book can be purchased using this order form.

Howard Sankey (Philosophy) published a chapter, “Scientific Realism and the Conflict with Common Sense”, in the edited book, Wenceslao J. Gonzalez (ed.), New Approaches to Scientific Realism (De Gruyter 2020).

The aim of this paper is to identify and resolve a tension between scientific realism and commonsense realism that arises due to a purported conflict between science and common sense. It has sometimes been held that common sense is antiquated theory which is found to be false and eliminated with the advance of science. In this paper, a distinction is proposed between three kinds of common sense: practical skill; widely held belief; basic common sense. It is agreed that common sense in the sense of widely held belief does succumb to the advance of science. It is left open to what extent practical skill varies with scientific change. It is argued that basic common sense is by and large resistant to change due to scientific change. Epistemological aspects of basic common sense are explored. A number of objections to the proposal about basic common sense are considered. It is suggested that basic common sense is sufficiently epistemologically robust to provide a foundation both for scientific knowledge and for scientific realism.


A special issue of the Pomegranate International Journal on Pagan Studies, on Paganism, Art, and Fashion, guest edited by Caroline Tully (Classics & Archaeology Honorary Fellow), is now available online.

Fay Woodhouse (Principal Fellow in History) published A Middle-Class Suburban Ideal49 Warley Road, Malvern East – A History (Hindsight 2020).

This book tells the history of the settlement of Malvern East land and the land the house was built on. It identifies the first purchaser of the Crown Allotment in 1913 and the developer of the site who built four houses on the Allotment 38. It tells the story of the owners of 49 Warley Road. It tells the story of the men and women who owned and lived in the house from its construction in 1915-16, of Malvern residents’ responses to the first and second world wars, of politicians and Prime Ministers, as well as the coming of the Chadstone Shopping Centre and other local events. It is the history of a house as well as the development of Malvern and Malvern East as the preserve of the middle-class. The house epitomises the feeling that, in Malvern East and in this house, ‘the eye is charmed and the aesthetic sense delighted’.

Charles Zika (Professorial Fellow in History) published a book chapter, ‘Compassion in Punishment: The Visual Evidence in Sixteenth-Century Depictions of Calvary’, in Elizabeth Plummer and Victoria Christman, eds, Cultural Shifts and Ritual Transformations in Reformation Europe (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2020).

Awards & Grants

Kate McGregor (History) and Ken Setiawan (Asia Institute) were awarded an Indonesia Democracy Hallmark Research Initiative Collaborative Research Grant to work, together with two Indonesian collaborators Sadiah Boonstra (also a UOM Asia Scholar and Asia Pacific Triennale of Performing Arts curator) and Abdul Wahid (former Indonesia Initiative visitor to SHAPS), on the project The Politics of Memory: Decolonising History in Indonesia. In recent years, scholars, activists and artists in Indonesia have increasingly engaged with the issue of colonial history. These engagements have reflected the overall state of ambiguity in Indonesia how to write new histories of the period of Dutch colonial rule, including how to address firmly nationalist views of history, especially when dealing with violence and how to include different historical subjects in writing. Similarly, in the Netherlands there are tensions on how to deal with darker aspects of colonial history, including economic exploitation and violence. It is evident that the process of opening up histories of colonial violence remains highly contested in both countries. This is the first project to comprehensively pay attention to these contestations, and foreground Indonesian voices and perspectives.

Victoria Hemming, a member of the interdisciplinary repliCATS project team led by Prof. Fiona Fidler, was awarded the Chancellor’s Prize for her PhD thesis (completed in the School of BioSciences), ‘Who to trust? Assessing and Improving Expert Judgement in Ecological Domains‘. Victoria’s thesis explores processes to improve a structured elicitation method for gathering and aggregating expert predictions – the IDEA protocol – in ecological and conservation settings, where expert judgements are frequently used to inform decisions and policy. As part of her work for repliCATS, Victoria was instrumental in adapting the IDEA protocol to crowdsource judgements about the replicability of social scientific claims.

Marama Whyte (History) (@maramawhyte) was awarded an Australian Academy of the Humanities (AAH) Humanities Travelling Fellowship for her project, ‘The New Girls’ Network: Donna Allen’s Media Report to Women (MRTW)’. This will be the first in depth history of MRTW – the first newsletter in the United States that provided a dedicated space for discussion of issues relating to women and media in the 1970s – and Donna Allen, the feminist activist behind it.

Our graduate André Brett (now at the University of Wollongong) (@DrDreHistorian) also won an AAH Humanities Travelling Fellowship for his project, ‘Divide and Rule: Territorial Separation Movements in Colonial Australasia’, which aims to provide the first comprehensive study of separation movements in colonial Australia and New Zealand to shed light on separation as a political issue of the present and a challenge for the future.

Feature image: Women’s Solidarity March, Minsk, 29 August 2020. Photograph © Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty via Svaboda, reproduced with permission