The history community at the University of Sydney mourns the loss of Dr Philippa Hetherington, who died on Saturday 5 November. During her long struggle with cancer, Philippa became a prominent advocate and effective campaigner for the funding of new treatments in the UK, where she had worked since 2015 as a lecturer at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London. Philippa completed an Honours degree in European history at the University of Sydney in 2006, winning the University Medal. She went on the complete her PhD at Harvard. She was an expert in the cultural, legal, and social history of the trafficking of women, especially in Russia and the early Soviet Union. She returned to the University of Sydney as a postdoctoral fellow in Professor Glenda Sluga’s Laureate Program in International History. Philippa was an extraordinary historian and the most stimulating and supportive of colleagues. Our deepest sympathies are with her husband, Alessandro, her mother, Robyn, and her brother, William. Philippa made everyone’s life better; she will be terribly missed.Chris Hilliard, Challis Professor of History, University of Sydney
By Professor James Curran
It is with great sadness that I inform you that our former colleague and friend, Neville Meaney, passed away on Sunday. He was a scholar, historian and mentor to many, including myself. Neville was appointed to teach American history here in 1962 after doing his PhD at Duke: he retired in 2006. His contribution to the intellectual life of the university, to the department, to his field and indeed to the country is vast.
Neville’s scholarship on Australian foreign and defence policy in particular towers above the rest – his work on the period 1901-1923 is nothing short of magisterial and his account of Australia and the First World War, published in 2010, is the best treatment of the subject. It was in many ways his magnum opus. His documentary history of Australia and the World, his work on Australia-Japanese relations and his many articles and reviews on Australia and America’s relations with the world broke new ground. His article on ‘Britishness and Australian nationalism’ in Australian Historical Studies in April 2001 is still one of the most frequently downloaded pieces in that journal. And his courses on the American national myth, US foreign policy, Australian foreign policy and Australian political culture inspired several generations of students who went on to either academic careers or senior positions in the Australian public service, including in the Department of Foreign Affairs.
In our introduction to an edited collection of his most important articles, Stuart Ward (who also studied under Neville) and I wrote:
“We first encountered Neville in the 1990s—a decade where Australian political history was in abatement and a new cultural history was making rapid headway. Neville was untroubled by the demise of the old diplomatic history, recognising that international relations needed anchoring in the broader political culture of the nation, and required more than a faithful account of meetings, cables and policy briefs from the archival coal face. Its value and potential were diminished if treated as a limited sub-specialization. But he was sufficiently old-fashioned to believe that the past held out themes of defining significance; that not everything was ‘contested’ or ‘unstable’, and that the study of politics and ideas remained a valuable point of entry into the national psyche. More to the point, he saw politics and international relations, not as a cul-de-sac of elite mannerisms, but as an extension of wider social, intellectual and cultural trends, particularly in democratic societies where political leaders are obliged to seek a popular mandate”
Neville was also active across all areas of academic life – as but one example in 1976 he was president of the SAUT (Sydney Association of University Teachers) the quasi-union body that represented academics. A brilliant tennis player and accomplished pianist, he had also – while an undergraduate at Adelaide – represented Australian Universities in Hockey.
His devotion to his students was legendary: Neville hosted postgraduate seminars at his home once a month that were occasions of great conviviality and indeed great rigour. It was where arguments and hypotheses were advanced, tested and subjected to scrutiny – mostly after bowls of Irish stew (which he made) and incredibly good red wine from his well-stocked, and terrifically well-chosen, cellar.
He will be greatly missed.
Neville’s funeral will be held at Macquarie Park Cemetery in the Camellia chapel on Tuesday 8 June at 2pm. I will be delivering a eulogy on his academic career at the service, and my column in the Australian Financial Review on Monday 7 June will be dedicated to his profound influence on Australian intellectual and public life.
There will be a wake at Sydney University in the Holme building from 6pm that same day, 8 June.
Professor of Modern History
University of Sydney
Recording Experiences of the Pandemic
Authors: Kristian Marijanovic and Bella Bauer
Earlier in December, we heard from Nyree Morrison, from the University of Sydney Archives, on the University at the time of the Spanish flu. Considering nearly 40 per cent of the city was infected at one point, it was surprising how little we know about the University’s experience. One omission that stood out was that society records mentioned next to nothing about this disease that was ravaging the population. We cannot fill this absence but we can at least compensate for it by recording our current pandemic.
We are making a small but valuable archive of student and staff experiences of COVID-19, through an online survey and some interviews. Associate Professor Frances Clarke, who gave us the idea of the project, suggested its name, ‘Not Your Average Survey’, to which we added a subtitle, ‘A Student-led COVID-19 Archive’. It gets at the aim of the project, which is to record and preserve the experiences of a small but representative sample of people at the University during this time.
Beyond basic identifying details, such as gender and faculty, we wanted to know about people’s personal experience. We worked with Frances on setting out a series of questions, optional to answer and fairly open-ended, to get as many topics covered as we could; question 11 asks, ‘How would you describe the way this pandemic has reshaped your life?’ We wanted to know how people heard about COVID-19, what their initial response was, where they got their news about it from, and, of course, how they felt they were affected, whether it be socially, emotionally, education-wise, financially, or in any other way.
There were a few common themes in the survey responses. Some people enjoyed self-isolation; others didn’t. One staff member wrote, ‘Apart from missing physical contact with colleagues, the work experience has been exactly the same as it would be in person.’ But with mental health an oft-mentioned issue, it is clear it was a mixed experience. One staff member, who works in administration and was asked about how her thinking changed about the pandemic, wrote about ‘[m]ental health and feeling less trapped at home as time has passed’.
There were a range of attitudes to online learning but people generally felt the University responded as best as it could. One FASS student felt her ‘transition into online university was pretty good’, although she found it ‘interesting watching every authority figure refer to these as “unprecedented times”, whilst generally giving very few allowances for subpar work.’ A staff member, an Educational Designer, wrote, ‘We went into the proctored exams project knowing it would almost certainly disproportionately affect students who were of lower SES, in particular those in insecure housing or without financial resources’, and this could only be mitigated.
What of restrictions in general, beyond online learning and university? The new circumstances could be frustrating. One academic spoke about how her church adjusted to restrictions. She described what she did instead of singing, during in-person services; she clapped her hands and laughed loudly, saying, ‘I do percussion with my feet, with my hands, and I hum—and I feel frustrated!’ A FASS Honours student wrote that her ‘brother has bought 7+ Louis Vuittons [with stimulus money] … I frankly am frustrated constantly because my brother, the micro biologist, ignores COVID. He’s had 5+ people sleep over before, and he’s gone out clubbing.’ On a more serious note, one staff member wrote that ‘[f]amily relations became strained as we were confined to our home.’ These, more sensitive topics are something we wanted to record but it is difficult; this staff member provided little on the subject and, understandably, did not want to be interviewed.
We felt oral histories would complement the survey responses; interviews would give more depth, more vitality, to individual respondents. About 40 staff and students said they would be willing to be interviewed but many of these eventually ruled themselves out, as we started interviewing in late October, about two months since the last sizable amount of responses were submitted. Nonetheless, we conducted 10 interviews with 10 people, which ranged from half an hour to an hour in length. Five interviewees were professional staff, three were academic staff, and two were students. Associate Professor Julia Horne helped us plan the interviews, and we had two History Beyond the Classroom students, Claudia Rosenberg and Caitlin Williams, volunteering as interviewers.
Of course, there were issues with the survey and interviews. Diversity, for one. There were only three male interviewees and five of the interviewees were professional staff. It was a similar issue with the survey responses. As of 1 November, we recorded 139 responses. 74 per cent of respondents were female, 45 per cent were affiliated with FASS, and 91 per cent of students were domestic. Zoom interviews could be problematic. They were not recorded in an archivable file format, unlike the in-person interviews, and the interview sometimes might not ‘flow’ well; it is the same issue with a Zoom classroom. There were some other issues and oversights, such as neglecting to ask respondents for their age.
It is the end of this tumultuous year. The UK and the US have just approved vaccines. With the virus under control in Sydney, it seems like there will not be another opportunity to record how people experienced self-isolation and the other things that came with this pandemic. While we only began accepting responses from late June, which was after the State Government lifted some restrictions, this is still a valuable archive. It is a small but, we feel, representative sample of the University during this time.
Kristian Marijanovic and Bella Bauer
Dear Colleagues and friends of History,
Because we may not all get an opportunity to see Miranda before she formally takes up her new post at the University of Otago, I wanted to say a few words before she leaves. It goes without saying that her departure will be a huge loss to the Department, SOPHI and the University.
Miranda started with Warwick Anderson in REGS in August 2012 as one of the first PDRAs in the Laureate program. As Warwick often has said, she proved to be not only a wonderfully engaging and productive colleague and collaborator, she intellectually transformed the program, especially though her ideas about Indigenous racial modernities. It was during this period that she wrote The Land is Our History (2016) and organised a very successful international conference resulting in the co-edited collection Pacific Futures: Past and Present (2018). She worked hard to build programs in Pacific and Indigenous histories in the Department and across the University, a valiant effort she redoubled on taking up a teaching position in the Department in July 2015, where she immediately excelled.
In 2017, Miranda’s teaching was acknowledged with a FASS ‘Excellence in Teaching’ Award, particularly for her hands-on engagement with students and guests in her unit entitled The Pitcairn Project (where you can read about some of the students’ work).
In the same year, The Land is Our History, was shortlisted for the General History Prize in the NSW Premier’s History Awards. The judges described Miranda’s work in glowing terms:
‘The Land Is Our History’ is a superb example of the power of comparative, transnational historical research. It explores indigenous rights movements, from the late 1960s onwards, across three Commonwealth settler states — Canada, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. Miranda Johnson draws on a rich array of source material, including legal cases, petitions, interviews and media reports, to create an engaging and path-breaking book.
In 2018, The Land is Our History was awarded the W.K. Hancock Prize of the Australian Historical Association, and it is worth quoting the citation in full:
Miranda Johnson has produced an ambitious, original and imaginative history exploring land, indigeneity, legal rights and activism across three settler-colonial nations. Thinking transnationally, Johnson explores legal and public discourses to draw together a raft of distinctive events and personalities into a vast and coherent canvas. She weaves nation-based histories of indigenous-settler conflict over land into wider networks and power structures, making sense of seemingly disparate developments in indigenous activism. Archival documents and oral accounts highlight the strength and moral authority of indigenous leaders who worked to gain acknowledgement of traditional ownership of land, and to interrupt and influence public debates around national identity. Johnson writes with precision, flow and economy. The work has a compelling argument, convincingly showing the complex and sophisticated ways indigenous activisms functioned to change settler attitudes towards land and indigenous belonging. An exemplary history, The Land Is Our History brings important new insights to a significant topic in both the past and the present.
More recently, Miranda showcased some of her new work on legal history and Native identities in an essay in the internationally renowned journal, American Historical Review, entitled “The Case of the Million Dollar Duck: A Hunter, His Treaty, and the Bending of the Settler Contract.”
I’ll always remember co-teaching ‘Frontier Violence in Modern Memory’ with Miranda in 2017. There’s probably no better way to get to know your colleagues! Working closely with Miranda allowed me to see first-hand what a brilliant teacher and scholar she is. I heard nothing but praise and appreciation from students for her teaching and I picked up quite a few tips watching her lectures from the front row.
Miranda’s commitment to her students, the Department and the broader University community is on graphic display in her recent reflection on online teaching, published online in Meanjin.
It’s a plea for ‘the poetics of in-person classroom teaching, not as a value-added extra for an elite cohort, but as the essence of what we do’. It’s also a reminder of what her students and colleague will miss when she goes.
We need to establish respectful and generative classroom dynamics quickly with and among our students, many of whom do not know each other. These dynamics must be subtly but firmly maintained. How do you draw out the shy ones? Put them in small-groups, often awkward in many of the classrooms we are working in, but achievable if the chairs or tables can be moved around. How do you moderate the domineering over-talker in class? Sit beside them. Make eye contact with everyone during the session, although not too much. Help them be seen. Notice the one who pushes his chair back, angling his body back from the desk, his gaze directed anywhere but here. Bring him back. Watch for the over-anxious, fastidiously taking notes in order to avoid answering questions.
I’m sure that I speak for everyone when I wish Miranda and her family well for their future lives and careers in Aotearoa NZ.
All best wishes,
Mark McKenna, Chair, Department of History
History of University Life
2020 Sydney Research Webinar Series in Higher Education
Wednesday 5 August 2020 | 4:00-5:00pm
What do we learn from a history of international students at Australian universities?
To examine this question and others about the social and political economy of international students in Australia since the 1960s, join our second 2020 History of University Life online seminar with panellists Julia Horne, University Historian at the University of Sydney, and Gaby Ramia, Associate Professor in Public Policy at the University of Sydney. We will also hear from international students about their experience in Covid-19 times.
Chaired by Matthew A. M. Thomas, Senior Lecturer in Comparative Education and Sociology at the University of Sydney and co-convenor of History of University Life.
Julia Horne is Associate Professor in the Department of History who works on the history of higher education in Australia from 1850 to the present-day. Her books include Sydney the Making of a Public University (Miegunyah Press, 2012, co-authored with Geoffrey Sherington) and Preserving the Past: The University of Sydney and the Unified National System of Higher Education 1987-96, (Melbourne University Publishing, 2017, co-authored with Stephen Garton). In 1999-2002 she created a substantial archive of in-depth surveys and interviews with international students about their Australian experiences in the 1950s and 1960s (for UNSW Archives).
Gaby Ramia is Associate Professor in Public Policy in the Department of Government and International Relations and Theme Co-Leader, Smart and Working, in the NSW Institute of Public Policy, at The University of Sydney. His books include Governing Social Protection in the Long Term, (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020) and Regulating International Students’ Wellbeing (Policy Press, 2013, co-authored with Simon Marginson and Erlenawati Sawir). Gaby is currently one of three Chief Investigators on an Australian Research Council funded study on international student housing precarity.
Matthew A.M. Thomas is a senior lecturer in comparative education and sociology of education at the University of Sydney. He has worked as a public school teacher in the United States and as an educational researcher, educator, and consultant in Australia, Mali, Nigeria, Indonesia, Tanzania, and Zambia. His research examines educational policies, pedagogical practices, teachers’ lives, and the changing roles of teacher and higher education institutions. Most recently, Matthew is the co-editor of Examining Teach For All (Routledge, 2020) and the Handbook of Theory in Comparative and International Education (Bloomsbury, 2021).
Future seminar dates for your diary in this special series 23 September @4-5pm 14 October @4-5pm 4 November @4-5pm 2 December @4-5pm
These online seminars are brought to you by History of University Life Sydney Research Seminar in Higher Education. History of University Life began in 2008 as a joint forum between the University of Sydney and St Paul’s college to discuss the history and role of universities in Australian life.
Many thanks for the support of St Paul’s College since 2008. And thanks, too, for the wonderful assistance for the 2020 online series provided by the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry, University of Sydney.
For more information about the series please email the History of University Life convenors Click here to email.
|Registration The Zoom webinar link will be sent as an email and calendar invite on the Monday prior to the event. If you registered for the entire series when you registered for the last seminar, you won’t need to register again. You will receive an invitation to this webinar automatically.|
New registration? please click here to RSVP Missed the first seminar? If you missed the first seminar, or would like to watch it again, the webinar in this special series is now available online on the SOPHI talks site.
HUL on Social Media Please use the hashtag #UniKeeper for your social media posts. You can follow the History of University Life on Twitter @HULseminar.
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Image by Max Dupain reproduced courtesy of the University Art Collection, University of Sydney.
History of University Life II Sydney Research Seminar in Higher Education
You can now listen to and watch a recording of the full session above, here.
On Wednesday 24 June 2020, History of University Life* held its first live online seminar with an audience of 90 people. Professors Ariadne Vromen (ANU) and Susan Goodwin (University of Sydney) joined a panel with University Historian Julia Horne to discuss the importance of public investment in our public universities.
Just days before, the Commonwealth Minister of Education Dan Tehan announced far-reaching changes to HECS fees and university funding for teaching. The announcement prompted the panel to focus even more sharply on what exactly needs to be reformed and why.
Ariadne Vromen argued that we owe young people citizenship, employment and economic security. Ariadne explained that “the individual and social costs of young people’s exclusion from employment and education are profound and long-lasting”. We need as a nation, Ariadne said, to acknowledge that responsibility to create jobs lies with governments, industry and businesses. The government’s idea of “job ready” graduates subverts that greater responsibility.
Susan Goodwin unveiled UniKeeper, the social democratic plan to support public higher education. This plan has 3 planks: more affordable public higher education places; universal income support payments for higher education students and a proper plan to fund the public sector higher education teaching and research workforce.
Only 1 out of 3 university students receive any form of student income support and 82% of university students depend on paid employment to support them while they study.
This last figure is not surprising since Australia’s mass higher education is now one of the largest systems in the world (on the basis of population parity). Susan explained how “in Australia, young people’s citizenship is denied and eroded by enforced financial dependency on families.”
The questions flowed thick and fast. What do young people think? Should student income support be means-tested? How is higher education a public good? Who should lead the discussion on how to reshape higher education? Is ‘job ready’ a useful term in the discussion of higher education? These and more questions will be explored in the rest of this series. See SOPHI Events for further details.
* History of University Life II Sydney Research Seminar in Higher Education. History of University Life began in 2008 as a joint forum between the University of Sydney and St Paul’s college to discuss the history and role of universities in Australian life.
University Education as a Pathway to Employment was held as an online seminar on Wednesday 24 June 2020. Follow the link above for further details about this event including information on the panellists and to sign up for future webinars in this series.
Every year, the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry (SOPHI) holds a ceremony to recognise the brilliant endeavours of our students – both undergraduate and postgraduate.
This year we had to adapt to the virtual circumstances of the pandemic, so we celebrated both our Prize and Scholarship winners by holding the Award Ceremony as a Zoom webinar.
The fabulous SOPHI team, working with Tiffany Brittan from FASS, worked incredibly hard to come up with what we believe was a positive, engaging and fun event for our students, their families, and our donors. It was also a pioneering effort for the Faculty, as it was one of the first fully online Prizes night.
Over 135 people joined together to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of our students across the School, including many of our wonderful History students.
The History Prize Winners are listed below, followed by a note about what each prize recognises. You can also watch the speech of the History Department Chair, Professor Mark McKenna here, in which he congratulates the prize winners, and notes the special importance of History and the Humanities in times of crises.
The full program, including the award winners from each of the Departments of Archaeology, Classics and Ancient History, Philosophy, Gender and Cultural Studies, and the Scholarships awarded in International and Global Studies, can be found here. The full details of the History prizes listed below, are on pp. 17-19.
Many congratulations to all our Prize and Scholarship Winners.
AE (Tony) Cahill History Prize
Aisling Society of Sydney Prize for an essay on Irish or Irish-Australian History
Australasian Pioneers’ Club Scholarship
Charles Brunsdon Fletcher Prize for Pacific History
Charles Trimby Burfitt Prize for the Study of Australian History Prior to 1900
George Arnold Wood Memorial Prize for History I
George Arnold Wood Memorial Prize for History II
GS Caird Scholarship in History II
Helen Newbon Bennett Memorial Prize for Senior History
History Department Prizes – For an outstanding essay on a subject relating to social justice and/or social inclusion
History Department Prizes – For outstanding work in HSTY3901
History Department Prizes – For outstanding work in HSTY3902
History Department Prizes – For outstanding work in HSTY3903
Isabel M King Memorial Prize for History III
J H M Nolan Memorial Prize for Proficiency in History
Philippe Erdos Prize in History
Undergraduate Equity Scholarships in History
The recent decision by the High Court on the ‘palace letters’ – correspondence between Governor-General John Kerr and Queen Elizabeth II and her staff at the time of the dismissal by the Governor-General of Gough Whitlam as Australian Prime Minister in 1975 – has again focussed interest on relations between Australians and the monarchy. Though a referendum on a republic was defeated in 1999, largely because of disagreement about the mode of election of a non-royal Australian Head of State, the issue of the republic remains a live topic in political debate. Meanwhile, the British royal family remains constantly in the news, from reports about Harry and Meghan’s flight to the United States to accusations of sexual misconduct by Prince Andrew.
A major collaborative project in the Department of History, led by Professor Robert Aldrich and Dr Cindy McCreery, has shed new light on the history of monarchy in the modern world, and in particular, on crucial links between monarchies and colonies and on the role of monarchies in the process of decolonisation. Aldrich and McCreery have edited three volumes of papers on colonialism and monarchy, the most recent of which was published in June 2020, Monarchies and Decolonisation in Asia. It followed Crowns and Colonies: European monarchies and overseas empires (2016) and Royals on Tour: Politics, pageantry and colonialism (2018), all three books published in Manchester University Press’ prestigious ‘Studies in Imperialism’ series.
With a total of 45 chapters and 919 pages, these three volumes include contributions by Aldrich and McCreery, as well as by the Department’s Professor Mark McKenna and Dr Jim Masselos (a now retired member and current Honorary Reader), as well as a cohort of scholars who have studied history at the University of Sydney – Jean Gelman Taylor, Matt Fitzpatrick, Susie Protschky, Emmanuelle Guenot and Bruce Baskerville. Contributions to the volumes have come from specialists at several Australian universities and also from institutions in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, the United States, Canada, India, Myanmar, Singapore, Hong Kong and Indonesia.
In addition, Aldrich and McCreery have edited a special issue of the Royal Studies Journal on visits to the Dominions of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa by British royals in the twentieth century. They have also engaged in individual work on modern monarchy, including Aldrich’s Banished Potentates: Dethroning and exiling indigenous monarchs under British and French colonial rule, 1815-1955 (2018). McCreery is currently completing a major study of the world tour of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s son, in the 1860s and 1870s. They have organised three conferences at the University of Sydney on monarchy and colonialism, with SOPHI financial support. Along with Dr Falko Schnike, Aldrich and McCreery organised an international conference on ‘Global Royal Families’, for which SOPHI provided partial funding, that was held at the German Historical Institute in London in January 2020 and that will also lead to publications. In first semester of this year, they taught an honours seminar on ‘modern monarchy’ in the Department of History.
For Aldrich and McCreery, monarchy is often wrongly seen only as an anachronism in the twenty-first century world, or just as a theme for series such as ‘The Crown’ and tabloid news stories. However, several dozen countries around the world, including Australia, still have a monarch as a head of state, and in some countries, the sovereign rules as well as reigns, even wielding absolute power. Even in ‘constitutional monarchies’, hereditary sovereigns have ‘reserve powers’ (including the power to dismiss prime ministers directly or through their vice-regal representatives), even if they are rarely exercised, and other constitutional prerogatives. They are frequently seen as symbols of historical continuity and national unity, and as exemplars of national values. Many have enormous wealth, grand palaces and priceless collections of art, and they are at the centre of a large group of aristocrats, courtiers, providores, military personal and servants. They are celebrities, their private lives the subject of almost unbounded public curiosity.
Monarchy is one of the oldest and most widespread forms of government in the world, and in recent years there has been a renewed current systematic scholarly research on the subject to which Aldrich and McCreery and their collaborators have made a major contribution. They have provided new Australian perspectives on monarchy and, with new materials and approaches, have discovered the key role played by the crown and sovereigns – both indigenous and foreign – in the processes of colonialism and decolonisation. Through their publications, they have investigated monarchy across the world, including in Australia and the Commonwealth, and revealed the potency of the crown as institution and symbol, and of individual royals as key actors in international affairs. In undertaking this work, they have also positioned the Department of History at Sydney as a leading centre for studies in modern monarchy and as a link in an international network of scholars examining the cultural, social and political history of an institution that continues to retain relevance – and also to provoke debate – in current affairs.
Want to learn more? Listen in to the “Hour of Power Podcast” with Robert and Cindy: “Monarchies really aren’t as simple as we think.”
Despite the demands of the rapid shift to online teaching and new child care responsibilities, academic staff in the Department of History, University of Sydney, have been applying their expertise to help us understand the Covid-19 pandemic and its implications. Historians are revealing the social, cultural and political dimensions of the disease outbreak, especially in relation to racism and inequality, as well as illuminating its impact on international relations, economies, human rights and university learning.
Sophie Loy-Wilson has eloquently connected the Australian response to Covid-19–the so-called ‘China virus’–to our country’s long history of racism, and explained how our leaders should combat viral panic, ignorance and prejudice.
Turning to the United States, Thomas Adams considers the damage neoliberalism and health care privatisation are doing to workers’ health. In collaboration with the Greater New Orleans Coalition for a Fair Hospitality Fund, Adams is critically examining how economic aid is distributed in the pandemic. Meanwhile, Pamela Maddock, a recent Ph.D. graduate, is writing on the history of militarisation of American reactions to crises such as epidemics.
Sophie Chao is productively exploring how Covid-19 makes us think about our bodies differently, and reshapes intimacy and domesticity. A further article has just come out with Thesis Eleven, along with a special issue of Oceania, on the pandemic in the Pacific, co-edited with anthropologist Ute Eickelkamp.
In a similar cultural vein, Warwick Anderson has written on how to have philosophy in a pandemic, why the iconic Australian beach was re-imagined as a special space of contamination, and what the controversies over mask wearing mean for ‘face work’ in a time of Covid-19, particularly in the United States. Isis, the leading history of science journal, commissioned him to take a ‘second look’ at Charles Rosenberg’s The Cholera Years (1962) in the light of the pandemic, and he is writing an essay review for Public Books of three forthcoming epidemic histories. Additionally, he spoke with Christopher Lydon on U.S. National Public Radio’s Open Source–along with Jim Kim, former president of the World Bank–about national responses to Covid-19.
Others in History are explaining the pandemic’s implications for governance and international relations. Glenda Sluga looks closely at how the Coronascene has licensed xenophobia and nationalism, with dire consequences for international order. She has spoken widely on global aspects of the response to the pandemic and the recovery from it. In numerous articles, James Curran urges Australia not to use the excuse of Covid-19 to erect permanent walls against the rest of the world. He explores the pandemic’s impact on our relations with China and the United States. Marco Duranti is working with data scientists to conduct ‘text mining’ in order to illuminate what reactions to the new coronavirus might mean for human rights
Within the University sector itself, Julia Horne is writing on how Covid-19 has exposed Australian universities’ reliance on international students. While Miranda Johnson reflects thoughtfully on the pedagogical meanings of the shift toward online learning. Postgraduate student Robin M. Eames and undergraduate (and University disability officer) Margot Beavon-Collin have written a statement on behalf of the University of Sydney Disabilities Collective, explaining how epidemic diseases such as Covid-19 historically have disproportionately affected those with disabilities. Frances Clarke is helping history students create and curate materials, especially oral histories, for the Fisher Library’s new Covid-19 archive. And postgraduate student Hollie Pich has analysed such archive work—Covid history in the making, or capturing the pandemic for posterity—in the Guardian.
Finally, for some upcoming analysis and discussion about different aspects of the relationship between Universities and the current crisis, please join us online for the History of University Life seminar, starting with a discussion about what would it take to have a university-led recovery in the post-Covid world. Chaired by Julia Horne, University Historian at the University of Sydney and co-convenor of History of University Life, an invitation and full program details can be found here.
Sydney historians are entering the Coronasphere through diverse routes, but with the common goal to employ the methods and insights of the humanities and social sciences to better understand and engage with our global predicament.
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
The OSA Lunchtime Seminar Series
Tuesday 29 October 2019
SOPHI Common Room 882,
Brennan MacCallum Building A18
The Aesthetic Needs of the Masses: Artistic Reception in the Aftermath of the Great Leap Forward
Dr Minerva Inwald
Please join us for the first in the OSA Lunchtime Seminar Series
In May 1962, as the People’s Republic of China was recovering from Mao’s disastrous Great Leap Forward, the newly constructed Museum of Chinese Art in Beijing held its inaugural exhibition: a celebration of the twentieth anniversary of Mao’s treatise on socialist cultural work, “Talks at the Yan’an Forum on Art and Literature”. This paper analyses descriptions of the new Museum and its inaugural exhibition to explore how the party-state mobilised artistic practice to contribute to post-Leap recovery efforts. In contrast to Great Leap Forward cultural policies that demanded art rouse enthusiasm for labour amongst workers, peasants and soldiers, in 1962, cultural bureaucrats argued that art should serve the “aesthetic needs” of the masses. Articles in People’s Daily and professional journals discussing the new Museum presented the institution as a space for aesthetic pleasure, describing, or even imagining, the enjoyment of exhibition visitors as they toured the Museum’s halls and gardens. This paper argues that cultural bureaucrats used ideas about reception both in an effort to win back a disillusioned population with the promise of amusement and pleasure, and to model an idealised relationship between the people and the socialist state; praising exhibition visitors for reporting their opinions and critiques of artworks, cultural bureaucrats suggested that the party-state was concerned with popular opinion and responsive to criticism. Exploring the party-state’s deployment of reception as a political resource, this paper considers the complex ways in which meaning was made in socialist artistic culture.
Dr Minerva Inwald
Dr Minerva Inwald is a Researcher based in the Department of History, University of Sydney, focusing on the cultural history of the People’s Republic of China in the Mao era. Using Chinese-language primary sources to examine how exhibitions at this prestigious space were used to communicate ideas about the role of art in China in relation to conceptions of ‘the people,’ her research seeks to investigate broader questions of how art objects circulate in museum contexts, as well as outside museums such as in domestic, work and public spheres. Minerva graduated with Bachelor of Arts (Languages) Honours degree from the University of Sydney in 2012, and in the same year was awarded the Francis Stuart Prize for Asian Art History form the Department of Art History. She has contributed a number of papers at academic conferences in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, and recently undertook an 8-month postgraduate exchange program at Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts.
About the OSA Lunchtime Seminar Series
On the last Tuesday of every month from October, the Oriental Society of Australia will hold lunchtime seminars for all to attend and hear from researchers working across different geographical and cultural understandings of Asia.
The series will feature early career and higher degree researchers, and we hope to develop a network of perspectives from across the region. Please join! And get in touch if you would like to present at a future date.
The Seminar Series runs on the last Tuesday of every month.