SHAPS Digest (January 2021)
A monthly roundup of media commentary, publications and projects, and other news from across the School community.
Oleg Beyda (Hansen Chair Support, History) and Igor Petrov co-authored an article in Pursuit about their research on the figure of Hans Beutelspacher, a chemist who later became a Nazi translator and hunter of Soviet partisans during World War Two. A version of the article was also published in Russian.
Liam Byrne (Honorary in History) took part in a discussion on the ACTU’s On the Job podcast on the question of how Labor wartime Prime Minister John Curtin would have handled the COVID-19 pandemic.
Louise Hitchcock (Classics & Archaeology) discussed ‘Piracy and the Bronze Age Collapse’ for the podcast series Study of Antiquity and the Middle Ages.
Louise Hitchcock also took part in an expert panel on the implications of the attack on the US Capitol. In her contribution (from around 16:30), she discusses populism and conspiracy theories.
Darius von Güttner (Honorary, History) (@guttnerus) was interviewed for the History Hack podcast on the history of the Piast dynasty in Poland.
Tony Ward (Honorary, History) was interviewed by Radio Adelaide about his work on trust in science and inequality.
Sam Watts (PhD candidate, History) published an article in the Australian Book Review (and was featured in the ABR podcast) on the assault on the US capitol. Sam writes, “To view the assault on the US Capitol as the climax of a dramatic, but brief, period of authoritarianism in the US is a potentially dangerous mistake. This attack was just the latest iteration in a long-lasting tradition of anti-democratic, white supremacist violence that has plagued the Republic since, at least, the Civil War.” You can read more about Sam’s work here.
Sarah Craze (PhD in History, 2019) and Richard Pennell (History) published an article, ‘The Pirates of the Defensor de Pedro (1828–30) and the Sanitisation of a Pirate Legend’, in the International Journal of Maritime History.
In late 1827, the crew of a Brazilian slaver, the Defensor de Pedro, mutinied and became pirates. The article follows the narrative of their attacks on ships, including the British Morning Star off Ascension Island in February 1828 and the American merchant Topaz. The Spanish authorities in Cádiz captured most of the crew and tried and executed them. Their captain, Benito de Soto, was tried and hanged in Gibraltar. Using trial papers the article reconstructs the events. It then examines how reworkings of the narrative have changed mass murderers and rapists into popular heroes, both in the general literature on piracy (e.g., Phillip Gosse and Basil Lubbock) and in more recent academic literature and in public celebrations. It argues that this has resulted from misunderstanding and misusing the theories of social banditry and working-class revolt put forward by Eric Hobsbawm and Marcus Rediker, and from commercialisation.
Anya Daly (Honorary Fellow and Teaching Associate in Philosophy) published an article, ‘The Declaration of Interdependence: Feminism, Grounding and Enactivism’ in the journal Human Studies.
This paper explores the issue of whether feminism needs a metaphysical grounding and, if so, what form that might take to effectively take account of and support the sociopolitical demands of feminism; addressing these demands I further propose will also contribute to the resolution of other social concerns. Social constructionism is regularly invoked by feminists and other political activists who argue that social injustices are justified and sustained through hidden structures which oppress some while privileging others. Some feminists (Haslanger and Sveinsdóttir, 2011) argue that the constructs appealed to in social constructionism are real but not metaphysically fundamental because they are contingent. And this is exactly the crux of the problem – is it possible to sustain an engaged feminist sociopolitical critique for which contingency is central (i.e., that things could be otherwise) and at the same time retain some kind of metaphysical grounding? Without metaphysical grounding, it has been argued, the feminist project may be rendered nonsubstantive (Sider 2011; 2017). There has been much debate around this issue and Sider (as an exemplar of the points under contention) nuances the claims expressed in his earlier writings (2011) and later presents a more qualified account (2017). Nonetheless, I propose the arguments and critiques offered by the various parties continue to depend on certain erroneous assumptions and frameworks that are challengeable. I argue that fundamentality, as presented in many of these current accounts, which are underpinned by the explicit or implicit ontologies of monism and dualism and argued for in purely rationalist terms which conceive of subjects as primarily reason-responding agents, reveal basic irresolvable problems. I propose that addressing these concerns will be possible through an enactivist account which, following phenomenology, advances an ontology of interdependence and reconceives the subject as first and foremost an organism immersed in a meaningful world as opposed to a primarily reason-responding agent. Enactivism is thus, I will argue, able to legitimise feminist sociopolitical critiques by offering a non-reductive grounding in which not only are contingency and fundamentality reconciled, but in which fundamentality is in fact defined by radical contingency. My paper proceeds in dialogue with feminists generally addressing this ‘metaphysical turn’ in feminism and, specifically, with Sally Haslanger and Mari Mikkola.
Joy Damousi (History) published a chapter, ‘Trauma, Child Refugees and Humanitarians in the Spanish Civil War and World War II: A Case Study of Esme Odgers’, in Paula Michaels and Christina Twomey (eds.), Gender and Trauma since 1900 (Bloomsbury Academic, 2021). This chapter examines the campaigns to save child refugees by Australian Communist Esme Odgers, who, during the Spanish Civil War and Second World War undertook humanitarian work on the frontline of war. It analyses her letters written at the time of witnessing traumatic events as a way of redefining meanings of trauma in war and highlighting the multiple ways it is manifest.
Dan Halliday (Philosophy) co-authored with Matthew Harding an article, “Keeping Justice (Largely) Out of Charity: Pluralism and the Division of Labor between Charitable Organizations and the State”, in the journal Legal Theory. Justice can be pursued by the state, or through voluntary charity. This paper seeks to contribute to the debate about the appropriate division of labor between government and charitable agencies by developing a positive account of the charity sector’s moral foundations. The account given here is grounded in a legal conception of charity, as a set of subsidies and privileges designed to cultivate a wide variety of activities aimed at enhancing civic virtue and autonomy. Among other things, this implies that a charity sector oriented largely around the pursuit of justice will come at a moral cost to a liberal society, at least when the state is in a position to take the greater share of the responsibility. So, a positive account of charity provides at least a pro tanto reason for preferring a division of labor in which the state takes a greater share of the responsibility for pursuing justice. As well as developing and defending this conception in its own right, we apply it in offering some criticisms and enhancements of existing views about the division of labor.
Andrew Inkpin (Philosophy) published a chapter, “Complex Community: Toward a Phenomenology of Language Sharing”, in Chad Engelland (ed.), Language and Phenomenology (Routledge, 2021).
Language is indisputably in some sense a social phenomenon. But in which sense? Philosophical conceptions of language often assume a simple relationship between individual speakers and a language community, one of which is attributed primacy and used to understand the other. Having identified some problems faced by two such conceptions—social holism and individualism—this article outlines an alternative phenomenological view of shared language by focusing on two principal ways that language is shared.
First, it draws on the late Wittgenstein to characterize how shared practices ground linguistic communities. Based on the link between language-games and corresponding subcommunities of language users, Andrew Inkpin argues that pragmatic language sharing is more fragmented than social holism suggests but more cohesive than individualism intimates.
Second, it considers how linguistic community is grounded in shared sign systems. Merleau-Ponty’s appropriation of Husserl’s notion of institution is used to highlight that existing linguistic structures are adopted in an open process that allows varying degrees of differentiation.
Combining these two perspectives, the article concludes that who we are in linguistic community with and how closely we converge varies over different parts of language. Our linguistic communities are thus complex in the sense of being fragmented, differentiated and nonuniform.
Hyun Jim Kim (Classics & Archaeology) published a chapter, “Ethnic Identity and the ‘Barbarian’ in Classical Greece and Early China: Its Origins and Distinctive Features”, in Hans Beck (ed.), Rulers and Ruled in Ancient Greece, Rome and China (Cambridge University Press, 2021). The chapter is a comparative study of the ancient Mediterranean and Han China, seen through the lens of political culture.
Hannah Loney published a chapter, ‘Refiguring ‘Trauma’: Women’s Narratives of Suffering in Post-Conflict Timor-Leste’, in Paula Michaels and Christina Twomey (eds), Gender and Trauma since 1900 (Bloomsbury Academic, 2021).
The language of trauma occupies a prominent place in considerations of the legacies of violent conflict in contemporary Timor-Leste. It shapes and provokes a particular – and somewhat restricted – set of responses to continuing concerns in the post-conflict state. This chapter examines how East Timorese women have engaged the term trauma when recounting their experiences and memories of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor (1975–1999). It seeks to move beyond the dominant paradigms of trauma, whose focus is primarily upon an individual and pathologised subject. Instead, it is suggested that trauma has been understood in Timor-Leste as a fundamentally corporeal emotion, one that is both somatically transmittable and, simultaneously, able to suffuse the collective body of a social group. The chapter argues that to understand East Timorese women’s invocations of the trope of trauma as not purely an individual or psychological phenomenon but, rather, embodied and social, can nuance our understanding of how trauma is experienced and understood in contemporary Timor-Leste.
Una McIlvenna (Hansen Senior Lecturer in History) published an article, ‘Law-Breaking, Punishment and the City: Execution Ballads in the Urban Environment’, in a special issue of law&history, ‘Spaces of the Law in Premodern Europe’, edited by Katie Barclay (University of Adelaide) and Amy Milka (University of Adelaide).
This article explores how execution ballads – in English, French, Italian and German – evoked the urban spaces and locations of punishment from the sixteenth through to the nineteenth century. It explores the rationale behind judges’ choices of specific locations within and outside the city walls for public dismemberment and executions. Civic spectators were extremely conscious of the symbolism of individual sites of punishment and of the emotional, religious and social significance of performing specific rituals in certain locations. Key spaces, both intra- and extramural, where penalties were administered to those who had broken the law accrued emotional significance over time, as punishments were repeatedly enacted there. The conservative messages in ballads meant that they worked in conjunction with the deterrent purpose of public execution, and they often evoked the urban settings within the lyrics to drive home the message of fear and shame that public executions sought to broadcast.
Carla Pascoe Leahy (History) published an article, ‘The Mother Within: Intergenerational Influences Upon Australian Matrescence since 1945‘, in a collection titled ‘Mothering’s Many Labours’, published as a supplement to the journal Past & Present. In the article, Carla discusses the emotional work of new motherhood, how matrilineal influences powerfully impact the experience of becoming a mother, and how these have changed since the mid-twentieth century.
Howard Sankey (Philosophy) published a book chapter, “Induction and Natural Kinds Revisited”, in Benjamin Hill, Henrik Lagerlund and Stathis Psillos (eds), Reconsidering Causal Powers: Historical and Conceptual Perspectives (Oxford University Press, 2021). In this chapter, he reconsiders a special issue closely connected with causal powers – the problem of induction. He addresses a deep version of problem of circularity originally raised by Psillos, and argues that the circularity can be avoided. The key is recognizing certain epistemically externalist results of the Megaric consequences of the commitment to dispositional essentialism. Circularity can be avoided, Sankey argues, because it is the way the world is, rather than the inductive inference itself, that grounds the reliability of the inductive inference in his previous account.
John Henry (MA candidate, Classics & Archaeology) runs a wonderful YouTube channel, Foxwede History, featuring his mini-lectures on myth, literature & history.
Two of our recent History graduates, Kathryn Shanks and Meghan Grech, now work for Casper Magazine, a Melbourne-based digital publication with an international audience, publishing features on art, design, technology, fashion, and social issues. Kathryn is the senior editor of the team and both Meghan and Kathryn are writers, reaching across a wide array of topics each week.
Kathryn: I’ve been working at Casper Magazine for nearly two years now, and I absolutely love the dynamic atmosphere of the publication. I get to learn and write about so many new topics – just recently, I wrote about Joy Hester, a twentieth-century Australian artist who was very influential in Australia’s modernist movement. As well as getting to research new topics, I also get to publish pieces on things important to me (like the government funding cuts to the humanities announced last year), making my job a great balance of passion and learning.
Meghan: Although I’ve only just joined the Casper team, I’ve really enjoyed getting to bring attention to social issues and organisations making a difference, such as the Great Green Wall project in Africa. We also get to bring a Melbourne perspective to a global audience, such as in a recent feature on Victoria’s lockdown where I was able to chat to my old Honours supervisor, Professor Andrew May, about how COVID has changed the city.
Graham Willett (Honorary, History) is series editor of a new initiative, Queer Oz Folk, which aims to bring Australian queer history into print in well-produced, affordable editions written with broad audiences in mind. Topics will range across the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and/or queer historical experience in Australia. Queer Oz Folk will publish both original texts and reprints of significant material from the past.
Congratulations to SHAPS staff who were recently promoted!
Promotion to Level B:
- Fallon Mody (History and Philosophy of Science/repliCATS research project)
- Robert Lazarus (Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation)
Promotion to Level C:
Promotion to Level D:
- Holly Lawford-Smith (Philosophy)
- Dan Halliday (Philosophy)
- Catherine Kovesi (History)
- Jenny Spinks (History)
- K.O. Chong-Gossard (Classics and Archaeology)
Promotion to Level E:
- Howard Sankey (Philosophy)
And finally, some photos from this month of reunions, as we have gradually been emerging from lockdown and meeting one another in real life again.
SHAPS staff, fellows, students, alumni: if you have news items for the monthly SHAPS digest, please email us the details.
Feature image: Ángel Alcalde and Rani Jayasekera.