SHAPS Digest (April 2021)

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

Mike Arnold (History & Philosophy of Science) spoke with avant-pop musician and artist Sui Zhen on the intersections between artistic expression, social media and technology, and themes of death and grief, asking: what does it mean to die in the Digital Age? This event was hosted by the Wheeler Centre as part of Melbourne Knowledge Week.

The new book by Oleg Beyda (Hansen Chair support, History), Spanish SorrowThe Blue Division and the Campaign to Russia, 1941–42 was featured by Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. The book (published in Russian and Spanish versions, and co-authored with Xosé Manoel Núñez Seixas) examines the life of White Russian émigré Vladimir Kovalevskii and his experience fighting in the Spanish volunteer formation in the ranks of the Wehrmacht during World War Two.

Liam Byrne (Honorary, History) spoke about the history of May Day on the Unions Australia podcast, On the Job, and presented a video on the history of the Eight-Hour Day in his capacity as historian at the Australian Trade Union Institute.

Mark Edele (Hansen Chair in History) published an op-ed in the Age on the Russian state’s treatment of oppositional politician Aleksei Navalnyi.

Louise Hitchcock (Classics & Archaeology) discussed Bronze Age architecture on the Greek islands of Crete, Santorini and others, for the Ithacabound podcast.

Louise Hitchcock also published an op-ed in Neos Kosmos, ‘Escaping the Queen’s Megaron: Studying Sex and Gender in the Ancient World‘.

Stuart Macintyre (History) published an article on the history of post-war migration to Australia.

Kate McGregor (History) commented in the Guardian on the negative impact of cuts in the teaching of Asian languages at Australian universities, describing this as a crisis that would disadvantage Australian students and businesses in the future.

Peter McPhee (History) commented in a letter to The Age on the funding crisis at the National Archives.

Carla Pascoe Leahy (ARC DECRA Fellow, History) was interviewed for the Narrative Now podcast (hosted by Ashley Barnwell and Signe Ravn in the School of Social and Political Sciences) on how to include the author or researcher in the story being told through the practice of oral history.

Greg Restall (Philosophy) delivered a presentation for the Proof Theory Virtual Seminar, ‘Comparing Rules for Identity in Sequent Systems and Natural Deduction’.

Emily Simons and Madaline Harris-Schober (PhD candidates in Classics & Archaeology) published an article on the Australian Women in Ancient World Studies blog about the life and legacy of Jessie Webb, the first woman to teach Ancient History at the University of Melbourne (from 1908).

Graham Willett (Honorary, History) led a walking tour of historical queer Melbourne, featured on ABC Radio National’s Blueprint.


Academic Publications:

Bronwyn Anne Beech Jones (PhD candidate, History) published an article ‘The Age of Women Adept at Writing’: Female Voices from the Dutch East Indies in the Early Twentieth Century, in Agora, the quarterly journal of the History Teachers’ Association of Victoria. On the west coast of Sumatra, girls and women fostered communities of writers and advocated for female education in Malay newspapers at a time when the rights and status of women were being stripped from their matrilineal society.

Oleg Beyda (Hansen Chair Support, History) (jointly with Igor Petrov) published an article, ‘Stakeholders, Hangers-On, and Copycats: The Russian Right in Berlin in 1933‘, Illiberalism Studies Program Working Paper 6 (April 2021). The article discusses Russian emigrants who welcomed Hitler’s rise to power, and proposes that they fall into three main categories: ‘stakeholders’ (who had worked with the Nazis in the past and now hoped to receive political dividends for this); ‘hangers-on’ (who were prepared to sign up to Nazism despite some ideological differences); and ‘copycats’ (who concentrated on superficial imitation of Nazis but precisely for this reason, wound up receiving the most attention).

Jennie Jeppesen (PhD in History, 2015) published an article, ‘Great Grievance: Benjamin Franklin and Anti-Convict Sentiment‘, in Journal of Early American History. Perhaps the best known argument that the early American colonies despised convict labour was the Rattlesnake newspaper article penned by Benjamin Franklin. And yet, was there actually a wide-spread anti-convict sentiment? Or was Franklin a lone voice railing against perceived British insults? Framed around the claims made by Franklin, this article is an investigation of primary evidence from the colonies of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, in an attempt to better contextualise Franklin’s writing against colonial law and other colonial writers and correct the prevailing historical narrative that there was an anti-convict movement.

Holly Lawford-Smith (Philosophy) published an article (co-authored with Kai Spiekermann, Adam Slavny, and David V. Axelsen), “Big Data Justice: A Case for Regulating the Global Information Commons,” in Journal of Politics.

The advent of artificial intelligence (AI) challenges political theorists to think about data ownership and policy makers to regulate the collection and use of public data. AI producers benefit from free public data for training their systems while retaining the profits. We argue against the view that the use of public data must be free. The proponents of unconstrained use point out that consuming data does not diminish its quality and that information is in ample supply. Therefore, they suggest, publicly available data should be free. We present two objections. First, allowing free data use promotes unwanted inequality. Second, contributors of information did not and could not anticipate that their contribution would be used to train AI systems. Our argument implies that managing the “global information commons” and charging for extensive data use is permissible and desirable. We discuss policy implications and propose a progressive data use tax to counter the inequality arising.

Andy May (History) published a chapter, ‘Good Fences: Affective Sociability, Neighbourly Relations and Australian Municipalism’, in Katie Barclay and Jade Riddle (eds), Urban Emotions and the Making of the City: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (Routledge, 2021). The chapter explores the history of Australian city bylaws as a technique for managing emotions and social relationships, and reflects on the idea of ‘neighbourliness’ and its management through rules and fences.

Peter McPhee published an article, ‘Théroigne de Méricourt: French Revolution Feminist’, in a special issue ‘Women in History’, in the journal AgoraAnne-Josèphe Théroigne was a passionate campaigner for women’s rights during the French Revolution whose tragic death in an asylum was later dismissed as the consequence of revolutionary ‘excess’.

Jordy Silverstein (Honorary, History) published an article, co-authored with Sara Dehm, ‘Film as an Anti-Asylum Technique: International Law, Borders and the Gendering of Refugee Subjectivities’, in Griffith Law Review. 

In 2015, the Australian government commissioned a telemovie as part of its strategic communication campaign to deter would-be asylum seekers from travelling to Australia unauthorised by boat. In this article we explore this film as one instance of state practices that seek to control migration at their borders, and a form of state messaging which uses gendered story-telling techniques and characterisations to do so. Officially termed ‘public information campaigns’ (PICs) by states or ‘information strategies’ by international organisations such as the UNHCR, the use of such practices has increased in volume, frequency and prominence in recent years. While there has been some academic attention to PICs, to date, the gendered dimensions of these campaigns have remained largely unexamined. In this article, we argue that a feminist analysis of PICs is critical to understanding both how state borders ‘gender’ refugee subjectivities as well as international law’s authorisation of the violence of state borders more generally. By allocating blame and responsibility on individual refugees and their gendered choices, rather than on state actions and state violence, the film reveals how the institution and policing of state borders simultaneously rest upon gendered imaginaries of refugee responsibilisation and the invisibilisation of state responsibility.

Garry Young (Honorary, Philosophy) published an article, ‘On the Indignity of Killer Robots‘, in the journal Ethics and Information Technology.

Recent discussion on the ethics of killer robots has focused on the supposed lack of respect their deployment would show to combatants targeted, thereby causing their undignified deaths. I present two rebuttals of this argument. The weak rebuttal maintains that while deploying killer robots is an affront to the dignity of combatants, their use should nevertheless be thought of as a pro tanto wrong, making deployment permissible if the affront is outweighed by some right-making feature. This rebuttal is, however, vulnerable (but not insurmountably so) to the charge that killer robots would cause unnecessary suffering. The strong rebuttal, in contrast, argues that the use of killer robots would not disrespect the dignity of combatants, for reasons discussed. I also argue that, irrespective of whether killer robots disrespect the dignity of combatants, they would not necessarily bring about their undignified deaths: for one can maintain dignity in the face of indignity.

The latest issue of Sophia: International Journal of Philosophy and Traditions has been published. Sofia was founded in 1962 by Max Charlesworth, and continues to publish quality peer-reviewed articles and occasional guest issues on specialist themes. The latest issue has an array of papers dealing with, among other topics, Wittgenstein and Globally Engaged Philosophy; Augustine on the Moral Psychology of Passions; and Late Antique Platonism.

Awards & Projects:

PhD candidate in History Nat Cutter has won a Folger Shakespeare Library Research Fellowship to support his project, Moorish Habits and Civil Entertainments: Performance, Advertising, and Anglo-Maghrebi Diplomacy, 1681–1734

This project examines a series of episodes at the intersection of cultural diplomacy, reception studies, literary studies, and media history, with a view to shedding new light on relations between England and the Maghreb in the early Enlightenment. From the first Moroccan embassies in 1600 and 1637, these visitors and their ‘entertainments’ attracted a great deal of public attention, but the embassy of Muhammad ben Hadou in 1681–82 provoked a festival of publicity as he and his retinue travelled through England, attending bear-baits and horse-baits, dances, banquets and above all a series of public theatrical performances, including adaptations of CoriolanusMacbeth and The Tempest with its Algerian witch. Over the following decades, newspapers regularly advertised the presence of Maghrebi ambassadors at performances of all kinds, including plays by Shakespeare and others that represented Maghrebis or Muslims in a range of flattering and unflattering lights. Thus London audiences were encouraged to enjoy not only public performances but the spectacle of exotic visitors, even as the visitors observed representations of themselves or their countrymen. This intricate system served the interests of theatrical promoters, government functionaries and English audiences alike, and provides a fascinating insight into the complexities of Restoration and Augustan English culture, diplomacy, media and empire.

Josephine Verduci (Honorary, Classics & Archaeology) has been awarded the European Commission Seal of Excellence for her research proposal for the Horizon 2020 Marie Sklodowska-Curie action fellowship, ‘Costume and “Globalisation” in the Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age Mediterranean: Identifying the Cultural Origins of the Sherden’.

Student Conservators at Melbourne are seeking contributions for the pilot edition of their new publication, Scroll. They welcome all students and recent grads interested in the conservation of cultural materials to submit to Scroll. The deadline for submissions for the pilot edition is 15 June 2021. We’re looking for a variety of content from a variety of students. Content can include essays, reviews, interviews, reports, or something a little more creative, such as illustrations and images, satire… all forms considered!

SHAPS staff, fellows, students, alumni: if you have news items for the monthly SHAPS digest, please email us the details.

Feature image: Minoan Snake Goddess, 1600BCE (detail), Iraklio Archeological Museum, Heraklion (Iraklio), Crete, 2014. Photographer: Erik Törner via Flickr.