SHAPS Digest (September 2022)

Oleg Beyda (Hansen Lecturer in Russian History) featured in the documentary Hell on Earth: World War II, available via SBS On Demand.

Grimwade Conservation Services and student conservators, working in partnership with the Bendigo Chinese Association, have completed conservation work on Loong, the oldest intact imperial dragon in the world, now on permanent display at the Golden Dragon Museum in Bendigo.

Mark Edele (Hansen Chair in History) published an article, ‘The Long War of Soviet Succession‘, on Inside Story, placing Russia’s war on Ukraine in the context of a series of conflicts stemming from the breakdown of the Soviet empire in 1991.

Andrew Jamieson (Classics & Archaeology) was interviewed on ABC Radio Melbourne about the excitement of archaeological discovery.


Academic Publications

Joy Damousi (History), The Humanitarians: Child War Refugees and Australian Humanitarianism in a Transnational World, 1919–1975 (Cambridge University Press)

Spanning six decades from the formation of the Save the Children Fund in 1919 to humanitarian interventions during the Vietnam War, The Humanitarians maps the national and international humanitarian efforts undertaken by Australians on behalf of child refugees. In this longitudinal study, Joy Damousi explores the shifting forms of humanitarian activity related to war refugee children over the twentieth century, from child sponsorship, the establishment of orphanages, fundraising, to aid and development schemes and campaigns for inter-country adoption.

Framed by conceptualisations of the history of emotions, and the limits and possibilities afforded by empathy and compassion, she considers the vital role of women and includes studies of unknown, but significant, women humanitarian workers and their often-traumatic experience of international humanitarian work. Through an examination of the intersection between racial politics and war refugees, Damousi advances our understanding of humanitarianism over the twentieth century as a deeply racialised and multi-layered practice.

Nicole Davis (PhD Candidate, History) & Peter Neish (Stewardship & Open Research), ‘Institutional Underpinnings: Ethics and Data Discussion Paper’

Ethics applications are a major touchpoint for researchers when planning the collection of confidential or sensitive data. Ethics processes focus on the risks associated with collecting, storing, analysing and publishing sensitive data concerning human participants or animal research. Researchers are required to understand and balance the requirements for managing confidential and sensitive research data against an ever-changing research technology landscape. This includes deciding on appropriate storage, data protection and platforms. To help navigate this complexity, researchers seek advice from many different areas including ethics staff and committees, Institutional and research IT, the library, and other research support units.

This project, part of the broader ARDC-funded Institutional Underpinnings project, aimed to discover how data sharing at the University of Melbourne is impacted by ethics processes. It sought input from stakeholders from different areas and looked to see if there are common patterns of data sharing by researchers. It highlights any barriers and recommends opportunities that the ethics related processes can bring to future sharing of research data. It will work with key institutional stakeholders with a view to addressing the opportunities and commencing change.

James Lesh (PhD in History, 2018, now Deakin), Values in Cities: Urban Heritage in Twentieth-Century Australia (Routledge)

Examining urban heritage in twentieth-century Australia, James Lesh reveals how evolving ideas of value and significance shaped cities and places. Over decades, a growing number of sites and areas were found to be valuable by communities and professionals. Places perceived to have value were often conserved. Places perceived to lack value became subject to modernisation, redevelopment, and renewal. From the 1970s, alongside strengthened activism and legislation, with the innovative Burra Charter (1979), the values-based model emerged for managing the aesthetic, historic, scientific, and social significance of historic environments. Values thus transitioned from an implicit to an overt component of urban, architectural, and planning conservation. The field of conservation became a noted profession and discipline. Conservation also had a broader role in celebrating the Australian nation and in reconciling settler colonialism for the twentieth century. Integrating urban history and heritage studies, this book provides the first longitudinal study of the twentieth-century Australian heritage movement. It advocates for innovative and reflexive modes of heritage practice responsive to urban, social, and environmental imperatives. As the values-based model continues to shape conservation worldwide, this book is an essential reference for researchers, students, and practitioners concerned with the past and future of cities and heritage.

Kate Mannell (PhD in HPS, 2020) & Eden T Smith (HPS), ‘Alternative Social Media and the Complexities of a More Participatory Culture: A View from Scuttlebutt’, Social Media + Society

Recent research has highlighted the emergence of ‘alternative social media’ platforms. Developed by open source communities with non-commercial goals, these platforms can offer more expansive participatory cultures than corporate platforms. However, such platforms also involve new kinds of participatory challenges, such as requiring high technological literacy. This article examines the complexity of enacting participatory cultures by drawing on an ethnographic study of Scuttlebutt, a decentralised social media platform being developed by an open source community. This examination focuses on three key features of participatory culture as enacted on Scuttlebutt: varying modes and sites of participation; reflexivity about who is participating and how; and an evaluation of limits to participation. It also considers the challenges that arise from Scuttlebutt’s approach and how these highlight the profound difficulty of trying to enact fuller models of participatory culture. From these findings, we argue that Scuttlebutt provides an important example of the experimentation that alternative social media platforms are conducting around open, democratic modes of socio-technical organising, and note that this experimentation raises important questions about how we conceptualise participation and the future of social media.

Charles Zika (Professorial Fellow, History), ‘Heavenly Portents and Divine Anger: The Emotional Intensity of Fire from the Sky in the Later Sixteenth Century’, Occasion 

The later sixteenth century in Central and Northern Europe was a period of widespread demographic, socioeconomic, cultural, and political crisis. Two significant factors contributing to these crises were the impact of climate cooling, commonly referred to as the Little Ice Age, and the conflicts and instability associated with the religious Reformations. The Little Ice Age, which seems to have set in by the early fourteenth century, reached its height between circa 1560 and 1630. A great number of these years were typified by extremely long and cold winters, much cooler springs, and very wet summers, as well as severe storms and flooding. Results of this climatic change included periodic harvest failures, famine, and also intermittent epidemics. Reformation conflicts and war exacerbated the sense of crisis, especially in France and the Netherlands, with the outbreak of the French Wars of Religion in 1562 and the Dutch revolt and its subsequent suppression by Spain in 1566–1568. In such a climate of uncertainty, fear, displacement, and large-scale mortality, meteorological phenomena and natural disasters – such as floods, earthquakes, and avalanches – attained greater religious and political meaning as signs of divine assurance or punishment or of an imminent or already occurring apocalyptic End Time.

A rich source for responses to such phenomena in the later sixteenth century is the large collection of contemporary documents compiled between 1560 and 1587 by the leading member of the Zurich church and second Archdeacon in the Zurich Grossmünster, Johann Jakob Wick. Wick’s collection of printed and handwritten reports, letters, broadsheets, ballads, and images, which were bound together into twenty-four manuscript volumes, provides us with a large amount of material through which to explore the different ways in which extreme and destructive natural events were perceived and deployed to strengthen historical understanding and confessional identity. A significant number of these reports and stories are concerned directly or indirectly with fire  fires created by arsonists that consume houses and public buildings, fires created by lightning or comets, fires as instruments for punishing criminals, and fires as auroras experienced as wondrous visions representing divine anger. In this essay, Charles Zika aims to focus on some of the more than one thousand coloured pen-and-ink drawings contained in Wick’s collection in order to explore the different understandings and emotional impact of fire in later sixteenth-­century European societies.

Appointments & Awards

Janet McCalman (Professorial Fellow, History) has won the Scholarly Non-Fiction Book of the Year prize for Vandemonians: The Repressed History of Colonial Victoria, at the 2022 Educational Publishing Awards Australia.

Nicole Davis (PhD Candidate, History) was appointed Secretary of the Professional Historians Association, Victoria & Tasmania at the recent AGM.

The new Marilyn Lake Prize for Australian Transnational History has recently been announced by the Australian Historical Association (AHA). This biennial prize for the best book in Australian Transnational History is awarded in the name of Marilyn Lake (Professorial Fellow, History).

The Unimelb History Society has elected a new committee for 2022–2023:

President: Teo Haines

Secretary: Julia Richards

Treasurer: Sam Cowen

Education Officer: Charlotte Allan

General Committee Members: Freddy Hayward, Pamela Piechowicz and Ian Sun

Chariot journal has also elected a new Executive Committee for the rest of 2022–2023:

President: Charlotte Allan

Secretary/Treasurer: Tahlia Antrobus

Editor: Dominique Jones

Operations Director: Pamela Piechowicz

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


Feature image: In early September 2022, over 30 Grimwade Postgraduate students visited the Tibetan Buddhist Society. This seminar for over 30 students involved monastery and museum visit, and hands-on training in their amazing conservation laboratory to examine and write condition reports for the Society’s many sacred thangkas and artefacts. See Ann Shaftel’s original Facebook page for more images.