Research projects

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

Prose Poetry: An Introduction, Associate Professor Cassandra Atherton & Professor Paul Hetherington (Princeton University Press, forthcoming)

The purpose of our book is threefold. First, it will provide systematic analysis of the prose poetry form, focusing on the historical trajectory of its use in America, Europe, Australia and beyond. Second, it will offer extensive and rigorous discussion of the key characteristics of prose poetry, such as fragmentation, closure, momentum and metonymy in an effort to define the taxonomy of the form. Third, it will analyze a selection of key prose poems across time from the works of the American poets of the 1950s and 1960s to the most recent work from the International Prose Poetry Institute’s Prose Poetry Project, the largest repository of solely prose poetry, internationally. This book will fill the gap in current scholarship on prose poetry by providing a comprehensive and detailed study of the prose poem; the first of its kind.

The Atomic Bomb Maidens, Associate Professor Cassandra Atherton

This book is supported by an Australia Council Grant.

This book of prose poetry explores the plight of the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Maidens with a secondary narrative exploring absence, brokenness, speechlessness and the atomic sublime.

Hibakusha Poets as Public Intellectuals, Associate Professor Cassandra Atherton

Noam Chomsky has argued that the most effective public intellectuals are dissident intellectuals who act from the margins.  The US censorship of public discussion of the bombings during the Allied Occupation of Japan ensured that the public did not understand all that had occurred in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  This lack of discussion about the A-bomb and the scientific testing on hibakusha saw them stigmatised, however this marginalisation makes them powerful public intellectuals.  Hibakusha poets such as Toge and Kurihara offer a kind of authentic ‘evidencing’ and recording of the horror of the events of the atomic bombing.   The simplicity and accessibility of these poems are essential to the public dissemination of their message, however this has worked against their preservation in the literary canon.  This is, in part, because the literary canon prioritises a greater sophistication of language and range of poetic techniques.  This book examines the way in which hibakusha poets can be recognised as public intellectuals.  It hinges on a number of considerations centred on public intellectualism, canonicity and use of language.

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.

The Charitable Child: Children and Philanthropy in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, Dr Kristine Moruzi

This book examines the relationship between children and philanthropic institutions in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by foregrounding children’s active roles as supporters of philanthropic enterprises. Not only does this add a new chapter to the history of childhood by asserting children’s agency and responsiveness to the needs of others during this period, it also gives us new insights into the ways in which philanthropy traversed boundaries based on class, race, and gender. Despite numerous charitable campaigns in the British and colonial periodical press aimed at children, little has been done to examine how and why children became part of philanthropic enterprises. The book explores how, and which, children operated as philanthropic agents within imperial, missionary, and national boundaries by examining the campaigns launched and promoted in British, Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand children’s magazines and in the children’s pages of periodicals and newspapers.

Representing Multicultural Australia in National and State Libraries, Professor Klaus Neumann

Australia has a culturally and linguistically diverse population. More than 28 per cent of Australians were born overseas. Many of them come from non-English speaking cultures. That presents complex challenges for the National Library of Australia (NLA) and the Australian state libraries.

According to the National Library Act 1960, the NLA is “to maintain and develop a national collection of library material, including a comprehensive collection of library material relating to Australia and the Australian people”. How could this obligation be best interpreted? What exactly is meant by “Australia” and “the Australian people”? For example, does “Australia” end at its current national borders? And do “the Australian people” include non-citizens or people who once lived in Australia? Does material relating to the Australian people include material about Australian residents’ pre-migration pasts?

This ARC-funded project has five broad aims:

  • to investigate the policies, programs and projects that have informed how materials related to the histories and cultures of Australians from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds in the National Library and the state libraries of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales have been collected and made accessible;
  • to develop and test a method to comprehensively evaluate the National Library collection to determine to what extent it represents the histories and cultures of Australians from CALD backgrounds;
  • to develop and test targeted acquisition and digital access strategies at the NLA to ensure that materials related to the histories and cultures of Australians from CALD backgrounds are adequately represented in state and national library collections and/or made accessible to Australians;
  • to contrast and compare Australian practices of collecting and making accessible materials related to the histories and cultures of migrants from CALD backgrounds with those in other societies of immigration (including Canada, New Zealand and Argentina); and
  • to explore the conceptual and practical dimensions of alternative collecting frameworks.

The research team is led by Klaus Neumann and includes Jodie Boyd (RMIT University), Morgan Harrington (RMIT University), Amelia McKenzie (National Library), Ian McShane (RMIT University), Michael Piggott (Deakin University), Sarah Powell (State Library of South Australia) and Janice van de Velde (State Library of Victoria).

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.