Postgraduate Students

David Robertson

David Robertson

David's work explores the connections between the psychological sciences, anthropology, race and colonialism. He is particularly interested in psychiatric constructions of “the native mind” and their emergence from specific colonial contexts.

David completed his MA through Sydney University’s Department of History in 2013. His thesis historicised the work of Australian “ethnopsychiatrists” who conducted fieldwork in Aboriginal communities in the 1960s and early 1970s. Following the pioneering medical expeditions of Dr John Ewart Cawte, groups of psychiatrists began venturing to remote Aboriginal communities and diagnosing what they believed to be psychiatric abnormalities. Linking their diagnoses of individuals to the perceived “social maladjustment” of Aboriginal communities, these psychiatrists tethered their construction of “the Aboriginal mind” to the contemporary project of assimilation, presenting Aboriginal people as undergoing a psychological “transition.” This construction, however, both overlooked the past and present injustices of settler society while rendering assimilation an inevitable process of psychological maturation.

David has a BA in history and a Masters in Development Studies, both from Sydney University, and has tutored courses in European history and the history of genocide. Currently he is in the process of applying for PhD programs in the US.