Dr Martin Thomas
PhD (University of Technology, Sydney), BA Hons (Sydney)
Room 416, MacCallum Building
+61 2 9351 4945
I joined the History Department in 2004. Previously I was an ARC Postdoctoral Fellow at UTS. Most of my work is in the field of Australian cultural history. I am interested in perceptions of place, representations of landscape and narratives of cross-cultural encounter. Recently I have been studying the work of early Australian anthropologists and evaluating their contemporary relevance. I have a special interest in technologies such as sound recording and photography that have transformed perceptions of space and time. This aspect of my work is informed by my background as a visual arts writer and by my practice as an oral historian and producer of documentaries for radio.
- Perception and representation of landscape.
- History and philosophy of place.
- Cross-cultural histories in Australia.
- Aboriginal studies.
- Legacy of the Australian anthropologist R. H. Mathews.
- Visual and auditory culture.
- The American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land in 1948
- The Search for R. H. Mathews.
The legacy of R. H. Mathews (1841-1918), the Australian colonial surveyor-anthropologist, has been a focus of my research for several years. I am presently finishing a speculative biography titled The Search for R. H. Mathews, to be published by Allen and Unwin in 2009.
- The American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land
I have begun a study of the American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land, a major research venture in 1948, led by the amateur ethnologist Charles P. Mountford and funded by the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution and the Commonwealth of Australia. In early 2008 I was based in Washington as a Smithsonian Institution Fellow. This provided significant opportunity to study the substantial collections of Arnhem Land material in U. S. collections. I will be interpreting much of this material with senior knowledge holders during future fieldwork in Arnhem Land. Reproductions of archival photos, recordings, films and other data are being lodged in digital knowledge centres in Arnhem Land.
The Artificial Horizon: Imagining the Blue Mountains, Carlton: Melbourne University Publishing, 2003. 313 pp.
A Multicultural Landscape: National Parks and the Macedonian Experience, Sydney: 2001, Pluto Press and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service. 108 pp.
Culture in Translation: The Anthropological Legacy of R. H. Mathews, Canberra: ANU E-Press, 2007. No. 15 in the Aboriginal History Monographs series.
This is the first edited collection of R. H. Mathews’ writings, consisting mainly of foreign language material, not previously available in English. Translations from the French by Mathilde de Hauteclocque and from the German by Christine Winter. http://epress.anu.edu.au/cit_citation.html
Uncertain Ground: Essays Between Art and Nature, Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1999. 174 pp.
'Technology of Perception: The Installations of Joan Brassil,' in Benjamin Gennocchio and Adam Geczy (eds), What is Installation?, Sydney: Power Publications, 2001, pp. 127-34.
'Flow Charts: Language and landscape in the work of Ken Orchard', Art and Australia, Vol. 40, No. 3, 2003, pp. 436-45.
'"To you Mrs Mathews": The Cross-Cultural Recording of Janet Mathews', Australasian Sound Archive, No. 29, Winter 2003, pp. 46-59.
'R. H. Mathews and anthropological warfare: On writing the biography of a self-contained man', Aboriginal History, Vol. 28, 2004, pp. 1-32.
'Looking for Mr Mathews', Meanjin, Vol. 64, No. 3, 2006, pp. 152-62.
'A Very Human Survey', Public History Review, vol.12, 2006, pp. 12-26.
'The Rush to Record: Transmitting the Sound of Aboriginal Culture', Journal of Australian Studies (issue title: Dawn Bennett (ed.), Who Am I?: Perspectives on Australian Cultural Identity), no. 90, June 2007, pp. 105-21.
'Taking Them Back: Archival media in Arnhem Land today', Cultural Studies Review, vol. 13, no. 2, September 2007, pp. 20-37.
'Word Territory: On the documentation of Aboriginal Languages', History Australia, vol. 5, no. 1, July 2008.
‘Looking for Mr Mathews’ in Robert Dessaix (ed.), The Best Australian Essays 2005 (Melbourne: Black Inc., 2005), pp. 195-207. ISBN: 186 395 118 0. (Republication of Meanjin essay.)
‘The Ethnomania of R. H. Mathews: Anthropology and the rage for collecting’ in Gretchen Poiner and Sybil Jack (eds), Limits of Location: Creating a Colony (Sydney: Sydney University Press, 2007), pp. 189-208. ISBN: 9 78120 898533.
‘“Birrarak is the name given to me by the natives”: Ethnological Notes on R. H. Mathews’ in Martin Thomas (ed.), Culture in Translation: The Anthropological Legacy of R. H. Mathews (Canberra: ANU E Press, 2007), pp. 3-39
I am a member of the steering committee for ‘Birds, Barks and Billabongs’ (working title), an international symposium on the American Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land, to be hosted by the National Museum of Australia in Canberra in 2009
17 July 2004: Speaker at Cultural Pacemakers, an Independent Scholars Association of Australia seminar at the State Library of New South Wales. Paper published as Within Earshot of the Barwon River: Vanished Voices and the Midden of Glass’ in Cultural Pacemakers: Art and Scholarship in Australia (seminar proceedings), Independent Scholars Association of Australia NSW Chapter.
29 April - 1 May 2005: Speaker at An Open Book, a National Library of Australia Major Conference commemorating the 21st anniversary of the Harold White Fellowships scheme. Paper published in Meanjin Vol. 64, No. 3, 2005.
Awards and short-listings
- Winner of the 2004 Gleebooks Prize for Literary and Cultural Criticism, NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, for The Artificial Horizon: Imagining the Blue Mountains.
- The Artificial Horizon was also short-listed in two categories of the 2004 South Australian Festival Awards for Literature: the Award for Non-Fiction and the Award for Innovation in Writing.
- Joint-winner of the 2004 Moving Portraits Documentary Award, Woodford Festival, for the documentaries This is Jimmie Barker and I love you Jimmie.
- Winner of the 2000 Audio/Visual History Prize, NSW Premier’s History Awards, for This is Jimmie Barker.
- Short-listed for the 1998 Audio/Visual History Prize, NSW Premier’s History Awards for the radio documentary Stony Silences.
- Winner of the 1984 Beauchamp History Prize, University of Sydney.
- 2008: Smithsonian Fellow, Smithsonian Institution Washington DC.
- 2007: Australian Museum Visiting Fellow.
- 2004-07: Sesqui Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Sydney.
- 2001-04: ARC Postdoctoral Fellow, Humanities and Social Sciences, UTS.
- 2002: Harold White Fellow, National Library of Australia.
- 2001: Residency at Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris.
Since 2002, interviewer for the National Library of Australia Oral History Program.
Writer and producer of radio documentaries for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Productions since 2000:
Writer and producer of 15 radio documentaries for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation since 1991. Productions also aired on American Public Radio; BBC World in your Ear program; Festival Prix Marulic, Croatia
- NSW History Council Max Kelly Medal 2007.
- Premier’s History Awards 2001.