SHAPS Digest (October 2021)
The wonderful team of students associated with Chariot, an undergraduate history journal, launched the latest issue in October. Created by and for students, the journal provides a space for students to engage with history in their own way, publishing online and in print. You can read the new volume via Chariot’s website. Forum will be publishing a feature on the journal, its editorial collective and its latest issue, in coming weeks.
Charles Coppel (Principal Fellow, History), delivered the inaugural Arief Budiman lecture, ‘Arief Budiman and his Famiy: Cultural Politics under Guided Democracy’, as part of the Citizens of the World Conference. A video-recording of the lecture is now available via the Arts Faculty’s Youtube channel.
National politics under President Sukarno’s Guided Democracy (1959–1965) was polarised between the ‘progressive revolutionary’ forces including communists and radical nationalists on the one hand and those opposed to them including anti-communists in the military and religious parties on the other. The President himself played a key ideological role in shaping political discourse. Opposing views about ethnicity, literature and culture in general were caught up in the hothouse of national politics. In this lecture, Charles Coppel set out to show how Arief Budiman (1941–2020) and his family can illuminate this process.
Sophie Couchman (Melbourne History Workshop) published ‘The Chungking Legation: Australia’s First Diplomatic Mission to China, 80 Years Ago’ in The Conversation, together with Kate Bagnall (UTas).
Catherine Gay (Hansen PhD scholar in History) published a guest blog post, ‘Reading the Smile in Nineteenth-Century Children’s Literature‘, for the project Literature and the Face: A Critical History.
Louise Hitchcock (Classics & Archaeology) published an article, ‘Gripped by the Hand of Nergal: What COVID-19 can tell us about Cyprus, Copper and Collapse in the Late Bronze Age (1500–1200 BCE)‘, in Neos Kosmos.
Janet McCalman (Professorial Fellow, History) published an article in the Conversation: ‘Hidden Women of History: How ‘Lady Swindler’ Alexandrina Askew Triumphed over the Convict Stain‘.
Janet McCalman spoke on the ABC’s Late Night Live about her new book, Vandemonians: The Repressed History of Colonial Victoria (Melbourne University Press).
Peter McPhee was interviewed for Livescience.com about his work on the Terror in the French Revolution.
Carla Pascoe Leahy (History) delivered the 2020 Trevor Reese Memorial Lecture, hosted by the King’s College London Menzies Australia Institute in partnership with the ANU’s Australian Studies Institute. In her lecture, entitled ‘Becoming a Mother in Australia’, Carla examines the changing cultural attitudes towards motherhood, changing theories of maternal subjectivity, and how mothers’ own experiences are remembered in oral history interviews. The lecture asks what happens to a woman when she becomes a mother and considers whether this transition has become more challenging over the past 75 years.
Lauren Pikó (PhD in History 2017), published an essay, ‘Precedent Thinking in 2020s Britain‘, in New Socialist. The essay reflects on representations of the past in British political culture during 2020. It explores how ‘unprecedented times’ began to be used as an explanatory framework for the pandemic at the exact moment that the Brexit political project, and the associated ‘culture war’ conflicts around imperial commemoration, were most obsessed with repairing and restoring an idealised precedent-driven view of history. It argues in favour of more convivial uses of the past, as both more ethical and more potentially sustaining, and concludes that challenging ‘precedent thinking’ in historical consciousness can facilitate more dynamic, inclusive cultures.
Tony Ward (Honorary, History) published an article on the rise in corruption levels in Australia.
Graham Willett (Honorary, History) was interviewed in an article in the Star Observer on Australian Queer Heritage:
A crop of new books produced by staff and recent graduates came out this month.
Zoe Laidlaw (History), Protecting the Empire’s Humanity: Thomas Hodgkin and British Colonial Activism 1830–1870 (Cambridge University Press).
Rooted in the extraordinary archive of Quaker physician and humanitarian activist, Dr Thomas Hodgkin, this book explores the efforts of the Aborigines’ Protection Society to expose Britain’s hypocrisy and imperial crimes in the mid-nineteenth century. Hodgkin’s correspondents stretched from Liberia to Lesotho, New Zealand to Texas, Jamaica to Ontario, and Bombay to South Australia; they included scientists, philanthropists, missionaries, systematic colonisers, politicians and indigenous peoples themselves. Debating the best way to protect and advance indigenous rights in an era of burgeoning settler colonialism, they looked back to the lessons and limitations of anti-slavery, lamented the imperial government’s disavowal of responsibility for settler colonies, and laid out elaborate (and patronising) plans for indigenous ‘civilisation’. Protecting the Empire’s Humanity reminds us of the complexity, contradictions and capacious nature of British colonialism and metropolitan ‘humanitarianism’, illuminating the broad canvas of empire through a distinctive set of British and Indigenous campaigners.
Through the entwined histories of Thomas Hodgkin and the Aborigines’ Protection Society, Zoë Laidlaw builds a set of new narratives about the tense and tender interdependence of imperial humanitarianism and indigenous sovereignty. Mapping a far-flung ecosystem of liberal reformers and their dynamic, often contradictory, social/political formations, this study materialises the network of transimperial mobilities that animated white settler ambition. – Antoinette Burton, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
This is an insightful and extraordinarily informative account of imperial humanitarianism in mid nineteenth century Britain. Laidlaw shows with depth and complexity the struggles of Thomas Hodgkin and the Aborigines’ Protection Society to articulate and encourage a form of colonialism respectful of indigenous people’s rights at a time when Britain’s settler colonies were rapidly and often brutally expanding into indigenous lands. Her study of this ultimately impossible project, exploring its failures and occasional successes, enhances enormously our understanding of the nature and consequences of Britain’s colonial empire. – Ann Curthoys, The University of Sydney
Between the 1820s and the 1860s the multitalented Quaker medic and philanthropist Thomas Hodgkin was a focal point for influential discussions of racial difference, free labour, free trade, the nature of civilisation, duty and science, and the relationship between humanitarianism and colonialism in the Caribbean, the British settler colonies, the USA and India. This magisterial account of Hodgkin, his interlocutors and the organisations to which he contributed, founded on decades of scrupulous research, will change the way we think about mid-Victorian Britain and its Empire. – Alan Lester, University of Sussex
Mia Martin Hobbs (PhD in History, 2018) Return to Vietnam: An Oral History of American and Australian Veterans’ Journeys (Cambridge University Press)
Between 1981 and 2016, thousands of American and Australian Vietnam War veterans returned to Việt Nam. This comparative, transnational oral history offers the first historical study of these return journeys. It shows how veterans returned in search of resolution, or peace, manifesting in shifting nostalgic visions of ‘Vietnam.’ Different national war narratives shaped their returns: Australians followed the ‘Anzac’ pilgrimage tradition, whereas for Americans the return was an anti-war act. Veterans met former enemies, visited battlefields, mourned friends, found new relationships, and addressed enduring legacies of war. Many found their memories of war eased by witnessing Việt Nam at peace. Yet this peacetime reality also challenged veterans’ wartime connection to Vietnamese spaces. The place they were nostalgic for was Vietnam, a space in war memory, not Việt Nam, the country. Veterans drew from wartime narratives to negotiate this displacement, performing nostalgic practices to reclaim their sense of belonging.
Una McIlvenna (Hansen Senior Lecturer in History), Singing the News of Death: Execution Ballads in Europe 1500–1900 (Oxford University Press) is now available for pre-order.
Across Europe, from the dawn of print until the early twentieth century, the news of crime and criminals’ public executions was printed in song form on cheap broadsides and pamphlets to be sold in streets and marketplaces by ballad-singers. Singing the News of Death: Execution Ballads in Europe 1500-1900 looks at how and why song was employed across Europe for centuries as a vehicle for broadcasting news about crime and executions, exploring how this performative medium could frame and mediate the message of punishment and repentance. Examining ballads in English, French, Dutch, German, and Italian across four centuries, author Una McIlvenna offers the first multilingual and longue durée study of the complex and fascinating phenomenon of popular songs about brutal public death.
Ballads were frequently written in the first-person voice, and often purported to be the last words, confession or ‘dying speech’ of the condemned criminal, yet were ironically on sale the day of the execution itself. Musical notation was generally not required as ballads were set to well-known tunes. Execution ballads were therefore a medium accessible to all, regardless of literacy, social class, age, gender or location. A genre that retained extraordinary continuities in form and content across time, space, and language, the execution ballad grew in popularity in the nineteenth century, and only began to fade as executions themselves were removed from the public eye. With an accompanying database of recordings, Singing the News of Death brings these centuries-old songs of death back to life.
The German translation of Iain McIntyre (PhD in History, 2018), Tomorrow Is Today: Australia in the Psychedelic Era, 1966–1970, has just been released. The English-language version originally came out in 2006 with Wakefield Press. Thanks to the translation and publishing work of Volker Janssen, the book is now available for a new audience.
Carla Pascoe Leahy was invited by the editors of Gender and History to take part in a three-way conversation with historian Sarah Knott, and sociologist Emilee Gilbert, on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on academic mothers, ‘Care, Mothering & the Academy: Making the Invisible Visible‘.
This conversation was carried out between home schooling, loads of washing, online university teaching, making dinner, and trying desperately to get some writing done. The participants reflect – with rage and hope – on the ways in which COVID19 has impacted academic mothers across countries, disciplines and career stages.
This piece takes the form of a dialogue between the three scholars in April 2021, passed backwards and forwards across oceans, time zones and disciplines. A longer article is coming soon in Gender and History.
Carla Pascoe Leahy also co-edited, with Skye Krichauff, the 2021 issue of the Oral History Australia (OHA) journal, Studies in Oral History, ‘Oral History, Place and the Environment’.
Jimmy H. Yan (PhD candidate, History) published an article, ‘“Ourselves Alone”? Encounters between the Irish Literary Revival and Australian Settler-Modernisms, ca. 1913–1919‘, in Australian Literary Studies.
This essay examines intellectual exchanges between early twentieth-century Australian literary nationalists and the Irish literary revival, with attention to the transnational and imperial differences in between. It traces the travel narratives of Vance Palmer, Esmonde Higgins and Miles Franklin in Ireland during the Irish War of Independence, their performance of New World settler ‘selfhood’ in Ireland, and their encounters with Irish literary contacts including George William Russell (Æ) and Darrell Figgis. In historicising these encounters in relation to settler-colonial ambivalence, it argues that Australian literary travel narratives of revolutionary Ireland were constituted around multiple displacements of meaning between Irish nationalist and Australian settler-nativist constructions of autochthony. As urban intellectual milieux outside the networks of Irish ethnic associationalism, these literary connections offer a culturally hybrid location in which to re-examine the play of overdetermined meanings around Ireland in early interwar (‘White’) Australia. Situated in relation to Irish historical contexts external to Australian nationalist narratives, these dislocations of meaning illuminate an excess of Irelands in settler radical political imaginaries beyond stable constructions of nation or place.
Sophie Couchman (Melbourne History Workshop) was part of the team that won the Local History Project Award for the project Victorian CEDT Index by Chinese Australian Family Historians of Victoria, at the 2021 Victorian Community History Awards.
Grimwade Conservation Services (GCS) was recognised at the 2021 Victorian Museums and Galleries Awards. The project CostumeLAB – Conservation in Action was Highly Commended in the category of The AMaGA Victoria Award for Medium Museums/galleries (8–50 Paid Staff).
CostumeLAB was an exhibition event developed by GCS to provide intensive conservation skills training to Masters of Cultural Materials Conservation students. The project was delivered in partnership with the National Trust of Australia and was hosted at historic property Labassa, in Caulfield. GCS conservators worked alongside students and National Trust staff to examine, treat and re-house the Trust’s valuable costume collection while visitors looked on, engaging with practicing conservators as they worked.
“The judges recognised the potential of the project, how it educates the public about conservation in a dynamic programming context.” (AMAGA)
SHAPS honorary Nikki Henningham, was a contributor to the project End of An Era: The Last Gippsland Lakes Fishermen, which won the 2021 Oral History Award at the Victorian Community History Awards, awarded jointly by Oral History Victoria, the Royal Historical Society and Public Records Office Victoria.
Sean Scalmer (History) has been awarded a State Library of New South Wales Coral Thomas Fellowship for his project, A History of the Eight Hours Movement. This project will offer the first history of the movement for the eight-hour day in Australia, from its origins until its recognition as a general industrial standard. It considers the movement’s genesis, traces its mobilisation and outcomes, and ponders its memory and significance. It also critically examines the changing tactics adopted by the proponents of the eight-hour day.
Graham Willett (Honorary, History) was part of the team that won the Collaborative Community History Award winner at the Victorian Community History Awards for the project and website A History of LGBTIQ+ Victoria in 100 Places and Objects, for Australian Queer Archives (AQuA), along with Angela Bailey, Timothy W Jones and Sarah Rood. The project was also Highly Commended at the 2021 Victorian Museums and Galleries Awards for the Archival Survival Award for volunteer-run museums/galleries (up to 1 EFT paid staff).
Research Higher Degree Completions
The following dissertations have successfully passed examination:
Paul-George Arnaud (PhD, Philosophy) ‘Philosophy and the Method of Cases: Three Interpretations’
The method of cases is an approach to philosophical theorising that involves the use of thought experiments to evoke intuitions for the purpose of evaluating philosophical claims and theories on the basis of their fit with these intuitions. Although there is a widely shared view that this method plays a central and distinctive role in philosophical inquiry, traditional accounts are increasingly met with scepticism following several decades of critical scrutiny. The recent surge of interest in methodology and metaphilosophy has also brought with it exciting new ways of understanding and pursuing philosophical work. Among these, conceptual engineering and metalinguistic negotiation seem to have produced the most enthusiasm. These alternatives conceptions of philosophy raise new questions concerning whether the method of cases still has a place in philosophy, and present new possibilities for understanding it.
This thesis outlines and evaluates three interpretations of the method of cases and its role in philosophy. The first is a traditional interpretation, according to which the intuitions evoked by philosophical thought experiments are used in the first instance as evidence for or against descriptive semantic claims about shared concepts or linguistic meanings. I will refer to this interpretation as ‘Conceptual Analysis’. The second is a normative metalinguistic interpretation, according to which philosophers use the method of cases in arguments about how philosophically interesting concepts or expressions should be used in various contexts. I will refer to this interpretation as ‘Revision’. The third interpretation analyses the method of cases from the perspective of cultural evolutionary theory. It claims that philosophical work using the method of cases reliably contributes to the refinement of our linguistic tools, not through intentional normative evaluation like conceptual engineering, but by influencing the cumulative cultural evolutionary processes that produced these tools in the first place. I will refer to this interpretation as the ‘Innovation View’.
These interpretations will be evaluated in respect to their ability to rationally explain philosophical practice with the method of cases. This is important because, the method of cases has a very long history and seems to play an important role, more or less directly, in many if not most philosophical arguments. Without a satisfactory explanation, we may not be able to avoid the conclusion that much of this work is epistemically deficient.
Jessie Matheson (PhD, History), ‘Countryminded Conforming Femininity: A Cultural History of Rural Womanhood in Australia, 1920–1997′
This thesis explores the cultural and political history of Australian rural women between 1920 and 1997. Using a diverse range of archival collections this research finds that for rural women cultural constructions of idealised rural womanhood had real impacts on their lived experiences and political fortunes. By tracing shifting constructions of this ideal, this thesis explores a history of Australian rural womanhood, and in turn, centres rural women in Australian political and cultural history. For rural women, an expectation that they should embody the cultural ideals of rural Australia — hardiness, diligence, conservatism and unpretentiousness — was mediated through contemporary ideas of what constituted conforming femininity.
This thesis describes this dynamic as countryminded conforming femininity. In this respect, this research is taking a feminist approach to political historian Don Aitkin’s characterisation of the Country Party as driven by an ideology of countrymindedness. This thesis uses countryminded conforming femininity as a lens through which cultural constructions of rural womanhood may be critically interrogated, and changes in these constructions may be traced. This thesis represents the first consideration of Australian rural womanhood as a category across time that is both culturally constructed and central to Australian political and cultural life, drawing together histories of rural women’s experience, representations and activism. It theorises what ideals of Australian rural womanhood have meant across the twentieth century and finds that they have had an under-considered role in Australian political life, and on constructions of Australian national identity.
Research Higher Degree Milestones
Four of our PhD candidates presented their completion talks at our recent annual post-graduate Work-in-Progress day, while a number of others delivered their confirmation papers and work-in-progress reports. We congratulate all the presenters on their excellent research and on the hard work, creativity and resilience that was very much on show throughout the day.
Laura Jocic (PhD candidate, History), ‘Australian Dress: The Materiality of Identity in a Colonial Society in-the-Making’.
The study of dress offers a vital material source for historians that is commonly ignored and particularly so in the case of Australian colonial history. Dress sits at the intersections between necessity and self-presentation, the assertion of social standing and cultural, economic and technological aspects of society. Yet most writings on dress fail to take into account the surviving items, focusing instead on images and text. This is especially so for the Australian colonial context. In the light of this omission, this thesis takes a material culture approach to the period between 1788 and 1870, placing the examination and contextualisation of surviving items of dress to the fore in discussions of European colonisation and settler culture. The thesis contends that the inclusion of actual objects as historical sources is vital to the creation of more nuanced understandings of dress, culture and society, particularly within the fluid and rapidly changing Australian colonial context.
Freg Stokes (PhD candidate, History), ‘The Hummingbird’s Atlas: Mapping Guaraní Resistance in the Atlantic Rainforest during the Emergence of Capitalism, 1500–1768’.
This thesis maps the resistance of Guaraní peoples to colonisation in the Atlantic rainforest of South America during the emergence of capitalism, from 1500 to 1768. The project’s research method involves the visualisation of archival sources, alongside interviews with contemporary Guaraní writers to interpret these documents. In the sixteenth century, Guaraní resistance strategies impeded the creation of a silver route through the inland Atlantic rainforest. Coupled with the subsequent struggle against the yerba mate commodity frontier, these actions obstructed Paraguay’s integration into the world economy, hindered local deforestation and ensured the survival of autonomous Guaraní populations. Simultaneously, in the coastal Atlantic Rainforest, the appropriated labour of Guaraní women and men played an important role in the survival of Brazil as a Portuguese colony and the opening of the Brazilian gold commodity frontier. The subsequent flow of gold from Brazil to England contributed to the development of British capitalism in the eighteenth century. Consequently, the thesis argues that this appropriation of Guaraní labour and knowledge should be acknowledged as a contributing factor (amongst many others) in the global emergence of capitalism. But this process did not end with a complete victory for the forces of capitalist integration. Guaraní peoples have continued their political struggle to the present day, ensuring that the Guaraní Teko, or way of being, lives on.
Diana Tay (PhD candidate, Conservation), ‘Building a Material Record of Singaporean Art through Technical Art History: A Study of Paintings by Cheong Soo Pieng and Georgette Chen (1940–1980s)’.
Understanding the conditions in which Singapore’s vast cultural record exists is crucial in building knowledge on the artistic practices of mid-twentieth century artists. This research expands on the discourse through material data generated from a technical examination of two Singaporean artists, Georgette Chen (1906–1993) and Cheong Soo Pieng (1917–1983). The availability of data on both the artists necessitated an interrogation of their source, the methods employed and a data mining methodology. Through the utilisation of structured data mining from condition reporting, accessible multispectral imaging techniques and materials analysis with SEM, FTIR and pXRF, exploratory metadata analysis has suggested patterns and trends of the artists’ materials and techniques. The talk focuses on findings on the paintings’ support which report on the availability of materials, as well as the assimilation of art practices and localisation of Western art influence, demonstrating that art practices in Singapore follow their own trajectory and character. Building a material record of the artist’s materials and techniques enables the expansion of material knowledge and can serve as an anchor for future study of works of art between the 1940s to 1980s.
Richard Young (PhD candidate, History), ‘Dragging History through the Gutters: War Comic Books, Civic Duty and American Popular Memory,1952–1991’.
The Cold War era (1945–1991) coincided with both the emergence and height of war comic books in the United States. Despite significant social, political, and comic industry shifts during this period, war comics remained a consistent presence in American culture. In this thesis, I examine the reasons for war comics’ continued success despite periods during the Cold War where comics were censored for their excessive violence and where military-themed culture declined. I also examine the ways in which these comics’ memorialisation of war contributed to contemporary debates about national identity and civic duty. From the late 1960s, comic creators and readers increasingly debated issues about war, civic responsibility, and public protest. I argue that during this period, war comics promoted a populist anti-statist rhetoric that maintained the heroic ideal of the American soldier while at the same time reflecting public distrust for government institutions. In contrast to past studies of American war comics which predominantly portray these media as a form of unofficial government propaganda, I contend that war comics offered a space to contest the traditional American war story and ideas about civic duty. In doing so, war comics created opportunities for seemingly polarised groups in American society, including Vietnam veterans and ‘draft dodgers,’ to form and share new narratives about war that transcended the Red-Blue political divide of the post-Vietnam War period.
Heather Berry (PhD candidate, Conservation), ‘Understanding the Barangaroo Boat: An Investigation into Australian Waterlogged Wood, its Degradation and Conservation’.
The aim of this project is to assess the efficacy of conservation treatments on waterlogged Australian archaeological timber, and to a lesser extent to characterise the degradation process during the pre-treatment and treatment phases of conservation. This research will be based on the Barangaroo Boat, believed to be one of the earliest European style watercraft constructed from Australian timbers, to be excavated, recorded and conserved. Polyethylene glycol impregnation is the most common method of treatment of waterlogged archaeological timbers, though thus far most studies focus on Northern Hemisphere timbers. This study will assess the efficacy of this particular treatment method and how it applies to native Australian timbers.
Murphy Bouma (PhD candidate, Conservation), ‘Designing a Collection Management System for Melbourne’s Street Art and Graffiti through the use of Geographical Information Systems’.
Digital preservation bridges the current gap that exists between the ephemeral nature of street art and its tenuous existence due to limited legal rights, which means that traditional conservation methods cannot be applied. This has been one of the many contributing factors that have led to culturally significant graffiti and street art in Melbourne being lost over time. Also, due to the limited research that has been completed in this field, there is no standardised conservation methodology surrounding the preservation and documentation of street art and graffiti. This research aims to develop a digital database and mapping system as a standardised, sustainable, and publicly accessible practice for the digital preservation of street art and graffiti.
Georgia Comte (Hansen PhD scholar in History), ‘Reflections and Distortions: Gender, Sexuality and Mythic Narratives of Power in French Art from 1774–1815’.
This confirmation seminar will focus on my research to date, as well as my ongoing research plan. I intend to outline the ways in which the early modern conception of the mirror and of reflectivity was used by both male and female artists to empower and proffer narratives which would have been otherwise relegated to the margins of the hegemonic discourse. In particular, my focus is on female self-presentation and styling which strengthens their identities as both women and artists, while drawing on the portrait’s capacity to act as a ‘mirror’ to other women, and the public generally. I will also be speaking about the ways in which the classical world could be used by male artists as a ‘mirror’ for homoerotic desires that were morally permissible in the name of new revolutionary fraternal values.
Emily Cox (MA candidate, History), ‘Design and the Relational Ethic – Non-Indigenous Designers Working on Country with Aboriginal Peoples in Victoria’.
Everywhere we are on the continent of Australia we are located on Aboriginal Country. Despite this, there is a significant under-representation of Indigenous designers working in the built environment as architects and in related disciplines (Russel, 2018). As a result, Indigenous communities are called into relations with mostly non-Indigenous consultants when involved in building projects. Aboriginal communities may bring Indigenous epistemologies — ways of knowing, being and doing — that are incommensurable with the typical design processes employed by architects and expected by clients, project managers, and other actors in the built environment in Victoria. Many projects struggle in the earliest definition phases, and many that are built do not serve the interests of their target users. Using a case study project of a recently completed community centre on Wathaurung Country in Melbourne’s inner west, the focus of this study is on the relational possibilities in the design process where First Nations and non-Indigenous designers come together for the purpose of designing built form.
Thea Gardiner (PhD candidate, History), ‘The Paradoxical Life of Portia Geach (1873–1959)’.
This thesis is a biographical study of Australian feminist and artist Portia Swanston Geach (1873–1959). The study locates Portia Geach as a prominent figure in Australian cultural, political, and social life during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Strong family ties and a unique upbringing fostered her feminism, social activism, and her art. Geach was engaged with a variety of contemporary political and cultural discourses during her lifetime including art, social activism, domestic and transnational feminism, and political consumerism; a study of her life can provide wider historical insights into these fields. Her public legacy – the Portia Geach Memorial Award – is the most prestigious portraiture prize for female artists in Australia. A biographical study of her life makes a new contribution to a variety of historiographical fields including Australian history, historical biography, feminist history, family history, art history and public history.
Hohi Ikeda (PhD candidate, Conservation), ‘Hidden Treasure: Using New Technologies for Visualising and Rediscovering the Lost Art of Keith Haring’.
The research will primarily investigate how to visualise outdoor artworks hidden by later overpainted coatings and their removal to reveal the lost art. The main focus of the work is an iconic example of graffiti art unofficially painted on concrete structures by the American artist Keith Haring (1958–1990) in 1984 when he was invited to Melbourne to create the well-known mural in Collingwood. The research is in four phases. 1) Desktop research examining archives, texts and scientific reports. 2) Trialing non-destructive evaluation using hyperspectral imaging techniques on samples to visualise how much of the work is still remains. Portable near or short wavelength infrared equipment, other technologies will be evaluated for on-site investigations after trials using test samples and the required permissions have been granted. 3) The investigation of laser irradiation technologies to reveal Haring’s graffiti art. Erbium(Er):YAG lasers will be tested on samples and compared with using the more common Neodymium:YAG laser. If successful, it is hoped the technique will be used to reveal the lost Haring artwork onsite. 4) Interviews with the owners, stakeholders and people relevant to Haring’s activities in 1980s Melbourne. This will involve both archive work and interviews with people active at the time to contribute to the cultural history of Melbourne, as well as the legacy and catalogue of Keith Haring.
Sarah King (PhD candidate, Classics & Archaeology), ‘Heroic Epics: A Critical Examination of Literary Elements in Ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern Compositions and the Legacy of the Textual Tradition in Anglo-Saxon England and Norse Scandinavia’.
This thesis examines the trajectory and developments involved in heroic epic narrative creation and reception, utilising the lens of archaeological materiality in conjunction with literary analysis to understand the permanence and resilience of this method of storytelling. Whilst much scholarship has delved into the presence and implications of sociocultural parallels in different narrative corpora, consensus on the question of ‘why’ is altogether absent. This thesis seeks to demonstrate how physicality and materiality are elements that ground heroic epics in ‘our world’ and influence methods of identity formation. Case study analysis is centred around three bodies of material: Ancient Egypt, the Near East, and Anglo-Saxon England and Norse Scandinavia. Intertextuality will be applied to view the progression of the tradition and assist in demonstrating the effects of this storytelling in a contemporary context. For this presentation, key differences and similarities are discussed through a tabulation of textual data, which displays the interplay between a macro-structuralist perspective juxtaposed against micro-post-structuralist results. In consideration of time constraints, this presentation will focus on one particular case study, that of the Middle Kingdom Egyptian tale The Story of Sinuhe. Examination will focus on the rich geographical landscape and sense of objecthood within the narrative which has factored into its survival as an exemplar of Egyptian literature.
Nasim Koohkesh (PhD candidate, Conservation), ‘An Investigation in Fading Ultramarine Blue Colour in Historical Illuminated Persian Manuscripts’.
Illuminating and decorating books is one of the most famous Persian arts, notable for its elegance and balance of colour. Ultramarine blue is one of the important colours in Persian-Islamic book illumination, widely used from the 13th century onward. This colour has cultural meanings in Persian literature. It is often used alongside gold as it is eye-catching and more impressive. Ultramarine was originally made from Lapis Lazuli, a deep blue rock known and used by many ancient civilisations. Numerous recipes for extracting ultramarine pigment and preparing ultramarine paint originate from various cultures. In Persia, methods for preparing ultramarine are contained within historical documents in calligraphy and book decoration. These documents, however, provide methods to prepare ultramarine blue from substitute materials as the original ultramarine pigment was difficult and expensive to prepare. Artists and painters used these materials for painting and decorating the manuscripts alongside the natural ultramarine. Observing fading blue in historical Persian manuscripts in The University of Melbourne Collection, this research focuses on the ultramarine blue colorant used in illuminated Persian manuscripts, examining traditional Persian materials and techniques to discover factors that influence the quality of ultramarine colour in manuscripts and its susceptibility to degradation and fading. In addition, this study will explore ultramarine meaning and values in Persian culture and literature.
Christopher Orrell (PhD candidate, History and Philosophy of Science), ‘The Incubation and Transmission of Knowledge: Medical Periodicals, Colonial Knowledge Production, and the Shaping of Scientific Communities in Nineteenth-Century Australian Colonies’.
This thesis examines the development of scientific medicine in the Australian colonies across the latter half of the nineteenth century. Specifically, this paper seeks evidence for the existence and development of a distinct culture of medical knowledge and practice which, while linked into transnational flows of knowledge, developed a distinctly colonial character. This will be achieved by examining specialist periodical literature produced by and for medical practitioners during this period. The emergence of the medical press in the Australian colonies during the second half of the nineteenth century created a space that allowed for the mass dissemination of medical knowledge to, and the creation and reinforcement of connections between, medical practitioners. For much of the period of this study, the medical press was intimately tied with the building of shared professional identities and the delineation of the boundaries of what became scientific medicine. In addition to using traditional qualitative methods of historical research, my study will also utilise computational research methods from the digital humanities to interrogate these journals.
William Ridge (PhD candidate, Philosophy), ‘Developing an Ethical Framework for the Design and Implementation of Crypto-Currencies’.
Following the invention of Bitcoin by a pseudonymous individual known as Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, thousands of crypto-currencies have been designed and adopted as non-sovereign alternatives to traditional fiat monies. These novel digital assets, while in many cases being revolutionary tools for individual and financial liberty, also present a host of largely unaddressed ethical issues for individuals and collectives. Such issues include financial censorship, privacy, and monetary/fiscal policy interventions that have historically been impossible due to technological limitations. Moreover, despite the fact that there are well-established bodies of literature concerning crypto-currency design, from a computer science perspective, and moral social dynamics, from a behavioural and evolutionary economics perspective, there is very little research that combines the two to provide a holistic account of ethical crypto-currency design. Addressing this gap in the literature, this thesis endeavours to provide both descriptive and normative ethical conclusions regarding the design and implementation of crypto-currencies. This research, it is hoped, will not only help to provide insight into the expected long-term dynamics resulting from existing crypto-currencies, but will also assist policy makers attempting to introduce new government issued crypto-currencies.
Seka Seneviratne (PhD candidate, Conservation), ‘Conservation Treatments: Biodeterioration Methodologies and their Effect on Oil Paintings on Canvas in Tropical Climate’.
The climates of Southeast Asia consist of high humidity and temperatures, which causes swelling of the paint surfaces which is particularly subject to discolouration caused by microbial growth and if not controlled, can lead to cracking, flaking and water penetration into the underlying substrate. The complications related to biodeterioration can only be prevented or remedied if a thorough understanding of microbial communities and their role in deterioration processes are investigated. A standard methodology is to combine microscopy studies and molecular examinations. However, the majority of research in this field has been conducted within the temperate conditions of Europe with less focus on tropical climate. The knowledge and practice of oil paintings in the Southeast Asian region has come to the spotlight in recent periods with the growth of cultural industries and collections. However, very little published research currently exists on modern oil paintings in tropical climates and even less on the biodeterioration effects. To fill this gap of knowledge, it is my intention to investigate and build an understanding of their vulnerabilities from which targeted biodeterioration approaches to their long-term care and treatment in these climates can be developed.
Jenny Smith (PhD candidate, Philosophy), ‘An Ethical Analysis of Diversity and Inclusion Practice in Corporate Australia’.
Creating corporations that have greater employee diversity and more inclusive cultures is a significant area of focus and investment in Australia. The movement towards Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is part of a broader move towards judging the value of a corporation by accounting for its total Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) impact – and not just its economic value. ESG more broadly, and D&I specifically, has become a significant part of the conversation at the highest levels of corporate Australia. ESG is an increasingly important driver of investment decisions and it is rapidly changing the fabric of life inside our corporate organisations. It is timely and appropriate to undertake research into the philosophical underpinnings and ethical outcomes (both intended and unintended) of the D&I agenda in corporate Australia. In this presentation, I will provide a brief outline of the history of D&I and how various conceptions of justice influence what kind of injustices can be seen and which ones are rendered invisible. In particular, I will outline some unintended consequences of identity-based conceptions of injustice which are playing out in contemporary corporate Australia. I will conclude by proposing that a Vulnerabilities and Capabilities approach to justice can help D&I practitioners to deepen and strengthen the basis of their work in organisations, leading to be better and more ethical outcomes.
Anastasia Vassiliadis (PhD candidate, Classics & Archaeology), ‘Internalised Misogyny and Philogyny: Conflicting Representations of Women in 5th Century BCE Athenian Drama’.
This thesis is concerned with the representation of women in fifth-century BCE Athenian drama, specifically through the conflicting lenses of internalised misogyny and internalised philogyny. Women display traits of internalised misogyny, a term stemming from feminist psychology which refers to the process by which they direct negativity about being a woman inwardly, or towards other women. This is identified through various traits that can be grouped broadly in the following three categories: the distrust of women, the prioritisation and bias towards the male, as well as the devaluation of women and the feminine. Philogyny (φιλογυνία), meanwhile, is used in antiquity by Cicero to mean ‘love of women’, though he uses the term negatively, placing it among a list of “diseases and sicknesses” for the soul (Cic. Tusc. 4.11.25). In this thesis, philogyny will be redeployed to represent the semantic opposite of misogyny, that is, a fondness for and value of women and the feminine. Internalised philogyny will therefore represent inwardly directed positive messages and feelings about women, by women. It will be identified through the following features: trust towards women; the prioritisation of and bias towards women; and the value of the feminine. This research’s key concern is uncovering how and in what contexts internalised misogyny and internalised philogyny are exhibited by the fictional women in the plays, and whether these representations are consistent across the texts. It aims to use an original and interdisciplinary interpretive lens to see what can be revealed about the construction of women in the Athenian plays, as well as how these women can be received by modern audiences. The ancient plays present constructs of women operating in a dramatic setting which is undeniably patriarchal, and indeed prompt us to assess our own lives, which are also subject to patriarchal structures.
Noah Wellington (PhD candidate, Classics & Archaeology), ‘Ta Eidōla: The Gendered Post-Homeric Reception of Homeric Women’.
This presentation will examine the progress made, and plans for continuation, of my PhD thesis. The aim of this thesis will be to examine the reception of Homeric women in later Greek literary works, which not only succeeded Homer, but looked to Homer as cultural progenitor and exemplar. These varying receptions will be analysed in order to understand how they were affected by contemporary Greek understandings and ideologies of gender, and the changing role and status of women in the Greek world. Homeric women such as Helen, Hecuba, and Andromache were monumental and paradigmatic figures in the Greek cultural imagination, and their appropriation and re-interpretation in subsequent Greek literature will reveal important information concerning Greek (male) attitudes towards women. Adopting a post-structuralist approach, this research will build upon and be informed by the work of previous feminist classical scholars and recent work on ancient reception studies.
Work in progress presentations
Callum Alpass (PhD candidate, Philosophy), ‘Revolutionary Rationality – Reading Simone Weil alongside Foucault’.
The most eminent members of the Democratic Communist Circle in the 1930s, both Simone Weil and George Bataille were united by their desire for revolution. However, in 1933, Weil wrote to the Communist Democratic Circle to express her disagreement with Bataille. According to Weil, she and Bataille could not both be a part of the same group, owing to their differing conceptions of revolution. According to Weil, their differences can be summarised by the fact that “the revolution is for him a triumph of the irrational — for me, of the rational.” While for both revolution signifies the possibility of the disruption of the repressive and/or oppressive structures which define the reality of their times, what is at issue is not whether revolution is desirable, but, rather, how it is to be, first, conceptualised, and, second, pursued. In this presentation, I will explore how Foucault’s reading of Bataille may elucidate this problem of conceptualising revolution. In essence, I argue that, according to Foucault, revolution takes places on the border between reason and madness, at that point where the limit of reason is inscribed and transgressed. In order to make sense of this, I will consider Foucault’s later work in order to articulate how the application of reason as a “meditative practice” may explain the transgressive and revolutionary rationality of Simone Weil’s thought.
Michael Evans (PhD candidate, History), ‘Chronicles of Disaster: Outlining Colonial Australia’s Disaster Imaginary’.
In both scholarly and popular discourse disasters are increasingly positioned as giving meaning to Australian seasons. Bushfires in southern Australia and floods or cyclones are positioned as preoccupying our environmental imaginary. To see disasters as part of an imaginary is to move from a view of them as singularities to an approach in which disasters are a cultural category, as well as being physical and social experiences, generating and changing meaning over time. My paper suggests that the outlines of a historical Australian disaster imaginary can be discerned in an unlikely source, chronologies of events published in Australia between 1855 and 1940. Analysis of data generated from these chronologies identifies significant changes over time to both the types and defining criteria of Australian disasters. It is also possible to see patterns in the varying length of time types of events were seen as memorable. By developing an historical understanding of the Australian disaster imaginary, I hope to more effectively engage with understanding Australian responses to this continent’s environments over time, and to climate change in the present.
Simon Farley (PhD candidate, History), ‘The Sparrow and the Bulbul: Two Non-Native Birds in the Settler Australian Imaginary’.
Over the last forty years, many Australian historians have embraced the concept of ‘ecological imperialism’, but our understanding of ‘introduced’ or ‘invasive’ species remains incoherent. Rather than taking scientific categories as given, we must acknowledge settler colonialism’s role in determining the way non-native species were (and still are) received. This paper compares settler reactions to the introduction of two species of bird to Australia: the house sparrow in the 1860s and the red-whiskered bulbul in the 1920s. The differing reactions to these birds – one closely associated with the metropole, the other with Asia – illuminate changing settler perceptions of native and non-native fauna. Settlers’ conversations around these birds reflected their beliefs regarding what groups of humans did (and did not) belong in this continent. Using settler-colonial theory to enhance and refresh environmental history, this paper represents a new vision of the shifting role/s of non-native animals within settler-Australian culture.
Neville Yeomans (PhD candidate, History), ‘Pandemic Phthsis in Medical Immigrants to Colonial Victoria and Queensland’.
Between 1861 and 1900, 1970 overseas-trained doctors were registered by the Medical Boards of Victoria and Queensland. This paper concerns 103 who died within just three years of registration, and explores the reasons in a historical context. From death certificates and coronial inquests, the cause of death was determined. Most were young (median 33 years) — not surprisingly, since the majority arrived within ten years of qualifying (nearly all from Great Britain). The largest group (28%) died from phthisis (tuberculosis), at a mean age of 31 years. Between 1871–1890, their annual tuberculosis mortality was calculated as 537/100,000, more than twice that of the corresponding age-group in the colony as a whole. Evidence will be presented that at least some had the infection before they left Britain, and probably had followed advice that a long sea voyage and the Australian climate might help them recover. The second largest group died by suicide, most of them single. It was about that time that Ãmile Durkheim identified being unmarried as a risk factor for male suicide. Loneliness and alcoholism in a strange land seem likely to have contributed to this second ‘epidemic’. For these nineteenth century doctors it proved to be a dangerous migration.
SHAPS staff, fellows, students, alumni: if you have news items for the monthly SHAPS digest, please email us the details.