Research projects

Here is a sample of some of our current projects, listed alphabetically by researcher

Wise Guys: The Changing Role of the Public IntellectualDr Cassandra Atherton

This book investigates the role of the public intellectual in America.  In a series of critical essays and case studies, Wise Guys focuses, first, on the history of the public intellectual and then on questions of responsibility and a public intellectual’s place in contemporary society.  This book enters the debate led by Russell Jacoby and Richard Posner concerning the death of the public intellectual and posits the re-birth of the public intellectual in the New Media.  This book uses Atherton’s interviews with public intellectuals to inform her discussions.  Cassandra has a Harvard Visiting Scholar’s Position to work on this book.

Miyazaki Hayao as Reluctant Public Intellectual, Dr Cassandra Atherton

This book of essays analyses Studio Ghibli anime written and directed by Miyazaki.  While Miyazaki is reclusive, he is in constant filmic dialogue with his audience, and it is through his anime that his views as an intellectual are made public.  He emphasises the importance of Japanese community and environment in his anime and illustrates that although the Japanese mostly live in urban environments, they have a deep reverence for nature.  This isseen in the enduring appeal of Shinto.  Miyazaki recalls a time beforenature was threatened by technology and pollution and uses an appeal to memory, imagination and the younger generation to buffer the negative impact of innovation.  Cassandra had a Visiting Scholar’s Position at Sophia University, Tokyo, to research the Japanese view of the public intellectual.

Ann Bon and the Women of Coranderrk, Dr Joanna Cruickshank

This research project is Joanna Cruickshank’s primary research task within an ARC Linkage Project,  the Minutes of Evidence Project: Promoting New and Collaborative Ways of Understanding Australia’s Past and Engaging with Structural Justice, led by the University of Melbourne. It examines the role of women in the 1881 Victorian Commission of Inquiry into the Coranderrk Aboriginal Reserve, when Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people campaigned for the rights of Coranderrk residents. The first part of the project is an analysis of the role of Aboriginal women who spoke out during the Inquiry, calling for justice for themselves and their families. The second part of the project is a biography of Ann Bon, an ally of the Coranderrk residents and the only woman appointed to the Victorian Board of Protection. This project draws attention to the way in which issues of gender were central to both oppressive and co-operative relations between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people.

The Judge as Policy-Maker: A Biography of Robert Marsden Hope, Professor Peter Edwards

This project is a biographical study of Robert Marsden Hope (1919-1999), a NSW Supreme Court judge who was appointed by three successive Prime Ministers – Gough Whitlam, Malcolm Fraser and Bob Hawke – to conduct two Royal Commissions and a judicial inquiry in the Australian intelligence and security services. The sixteen major reports from these three inquiries fundamentally reshaped the legislation, structures, operations, doctrines and culture of the Australian intelligence community. Another inquiry chaired by Justice Hope played a crucial role in the development of Commonwealth and State government policies on conservation and the environment. The biographical study will throw light, not only on policy and policy-making in these areas, but also on the role of judges serving the executive arm of government as Royal Commissioners.

Remembering Independence: New Nations of the Postwar World, Professor David Lowe, Dr Jonathan Ritchie, Professor Carola Lentz,

David Lowe and Jonathan are working with German anthropologist Carola Lentz on the next volume in the Routledge series, Remembering the Modern World. They are looking at case studies of how postwar nations in different parts of the world have remembered, and are remembering, their independence.There are two basic concerns underpinning the study. The first relates to the unceasing “work” of remembering independence, including multiple forms, ceremonial, textual, multi-media and personal as well as collective. The second regards the contests between groups within the nation-state for claims to agency in ushering in independence and building the nation. In making choices about which heroes to celebrate, which moments of independence-making to highlight, the modern state can build bridges between its different ethnic or regional groups and strengthen its legitimacy, but also deepen existing rifts or provoke outright conflict. State agents capable of controlling practices of memory-making regularly draw on remembrance of independence for enhancing their legitimacy and authority, whether using it for electoral political purpose, for forging bonds between different groups or in order to distract from major economic or social problems. At the same time, the power of the nation-state to dominate the remembering of independence is limited by remembering from below and particular grievances or claims to restitution.

Protecting Non-Citizens: An Australian Legal and Political History, Professor Klaus Neumann

The protection needs of millions of people who are de jure or de facto stateless have presented a seemingly intractable global challenge for close to a century. This project is the first comprehensive analysis of Australia’s response to that challenge. Using legal and historical methodology, and with particular reference to the period 1945 to 1989, this project investigates Australia’s contribution to international discussions about the right and/or duty of states to provide surrogate protection to non-citizens. It also analyses the impact of emerging international legal norms on Australian asylum seeker policy and administrative practice, and the conflicting interests within government that informed policy decisions.

Research so far:

We have done extensive archival research at the National Archives of Australia, the National Library of Australia, the UNHCR archives in Geneva, and the archives of the United Nations Office Geneva (UNOG). We have been particularly interested in a 1977 conference of plenipotentiaries in Geneva, that was convened to draft a Convention on Territorial Asylum (which would have complemented the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees). We have also investigated the intersections between Australia’s involvement in international discussions about the rights of and to asylum and Australian government responses to requests for political asylum in Australia.

Papua New Guinea in World War II, Dr Jonathan Ritchie

 The impact of the Second World War on Papua New Guinea was both profound and pervasive.  Yet the Papua New Guinean people’s experience of War remains a largely unexplored area, leaving a vacuum in both our understanding of the War’s role in shaping PNG and in Papua New Guineans’ awareness of their own national history.  Supported by the Australian Government’s aid program in PNG, this project seeks to address this deficiency through a number of research projects that will explore the War’s impact in different parts of Papua New Guinea, conducted by Papua New Guinean and Australian researchers and coordinated by Dr Ritchie.  The research will be based around the recording of oral history interviews with Papua New Guineans about their, or their parents’, encounters with the War, for permanent retention in PNG by its National Museum and Art Gallery.  At the same time, the research will lead to a range of publications, films, radio programs, websites, and educational material that will help to share the knowledge gained both internationally and, most importantly, among Papua New Guineans.  The ‘Papua New Guinea in World War II’ project will be conducted in 2016 and 2017, with a major commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the War’s outbreak (in 1942) scheduled to coincide with the Kokoda Trail campaign in the second half of 2017.

The PNG Speaks Project, Dr Jonathan Ritchie, Professor David Lowe, and Mr Ian Kemish

The aim of PNG Speaks is to record oral history interviews with Papua New Guineans about their memories of PNG’s independence in 1975, the years leading up to it, and the time immediately following.  Over the next two years, we anticipate recording interviews with up to forty Papua New Guineans from a broad cross-section of PNG society including politics, the public service, universities, business, the churches, and civil society.  The interview recordings will be available to be listened to through the project website,   The project  will provide insights into how the nation’s first leaders were able to establish a vision of a united PNG and bring the people to embrace independence.  The interviews also illustrate how the idea of the nation came to be embraced, or challenged, by men and women from across Papua New Guinea’s diverse societies and places.
The project is jointly conducted by Deakin University, the University of Queensland, and the PNG National Museum and Art Gallery, and interviews are conducted by senior PNG academics and public servants, collaborating with Deakin and University of Queensland researchers.  Funding support for PNG Speaks has been generously provided by the Australian Government through its aid program in PNG.

Exploring the Middle Ground: New Histories of Cross Cultural Encounters in Australian Maritime and Land Exploration, Dr Tiffany Shellam 

This project proposes the concept of the middle ground to describe and represent the nature of cross-cultural encounters and relations within the history of Australian maritime and land exploration. Through a series of detailed cross-cultural historical studies of key exploration expeditions, the study seeks to re-establish the critical importance of exploration as a site in which relations between Indigenous people and others developed, including in ways that were influential in shaping later race relations within the context of occupation and settlement. In this way, the concept of the middle ground is also presented as a means by which to unsettle Australian history’s conventional periodisation into pre-settlement and settlement phases. This project is funded by the Australian Research Council and is led by the Australian National University.

The Decolonisation of Melanesia , Associate Professor Chris Waters (with Helen Gardner)

This is a broad investigation of the decolonisation of Melanesia from both a local and international perspective. The project has so far produced two workshops and a special issue for the Journal of Pacific History edited by Helen Gardner and Christopher Waters. The project has recently expanded to other academics and included five Deakin historians at the 2014 Pacific History Conference in Taiwan.

The Culture of War: Private Life and Sentiment in Australia 1914-18 , Dr Bart Ziino

The social and political outlines of Australia’s First World War are clear, yet the emotional world, or ‘culture of war’, in which Australians lived the war is only partially appreciated. This project examines the lived experience and agency of civilians in making war between 1914 and 1918. Engaging with current international debates about the cultural history of the First World War, it investigates the extent to which ordinary Australians’ everyday attitudes, feelings and activities made and sustained the war. Redressing the privileging of soldiers’ voices in Australian war historiography, it provides an innovative reconceptualisation of the Australian experience of war. This project is funded by the Australian Research Council.