The School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry has some of the leading scholars in the world in Archaeology, Classics and Ancient History, Gender and Cultural Studies, History and Philosophy. Below are just some of our SOPHI academic staff.
Department of History
I work on what might be called ‘literary history from below’: I am interested in the ways literary ideas and practices are taken up and transformed in popular intellectual life, and in intellectual networks and institutions. My first book, To Exercise Our Talents: The Democratization of Writing in Britain (Harvard, 2006), examined how people from backgrounds not traditionally conducive to literary careers sought to become writers, and the different things that literature and creativity meant to them. I’m now working on ‘Leavisite’ modes of literary and cultural criticism in universities, training colleges, schools, and British culture more generally. I welcome research students in modern British history, and especially those interested in working at the intersections between historical and literary studies.
Professorial Research Fellow
Department of History
and Centre for Values, Ethics
and the Law in Medicine
This project examines D. Carleton Gajdusek's investigations of the disease of kuru, conducted among the Fore people of New Guinea (1950s-1960s), in order to explore the material cultures of modern science, focusing on the circulation of goods in global biomedical science. Supported by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation, this is a multi-sited historical study designed principally to describe and explain transactions involving local inhabitants, anthropologists and biomedical scientists, exchanges clustered around contested kuru material, principally brains, blood and corpses. The goal is to outline some of the basic features of the material cultures of late colonial, postwar scientific exchange, and to see how these material cultures structured and transformed the identities of transactors. The transaction of kuru material will also help us to think more generally about the creation of value and the circulation of goods in global science. This is essentially a historical study that addresses issues usually in the province of anthropology or sociology: it describes how scientific identities are fashioned in collection and exchange; it advances the analysis of the material cultures of late-twentieth century science; it explores new ways of describing the increasing global circulation of goods in science, and the creation of value in international scientific transactions; and it brings the Asia-Pacific region into focus in science and technology studies as an important, but previously much neglected, location of scientific production and exchange. In 2008, the Johns Hopkins University Press will publish The Collectors of Lost Souls: Kuru, Moral Peril, and the Creation of Value in Science.
Race Mixing History
Warwick Anderson will use his ARC grant to examine the character and scope of a transnational network of research on race mixing, or miscegenation, in the twentieth century. His project reveals a global scientific debate on racial segregation, assimilation, and absorption, led by U.S.-based biologists, physical anthropologists and sociologists. Between 1910 and 1940, scientists conducted more than twenty major scientific investigations of the effects of miscegenation in Australasia, the Pacific, North America, Southeast Asia, South Africa and the Maghreb. This project concentrates largely on the extensive and influential series of studies of race mixing organized through the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University, one of the major pre-World War II sites for the training of physical anthropologists. But it moves beyond these Harvard anthropologists to place their work in relation to other frontier studies of human biology in Australasia, the Pacific and elsewhere, tracing an emerging “miscegenation map” of the new world. Including these extensive studies of race mixing in the history of ideas about human difference will add to our knowledge of the decline of race in science before World War II. It will also, for the first time, provide a critical history of how biological scientists struggled (and ultimately failed) to understand how to classify and assess the racial characteristics of children of mixed descent.
Race and Ethnicity in the Global South (REGS)
Supported by Prof Anderson's ARC Laureate Fellowship, the historical research program of Race and Ethnicity in the Global South will investigate how biological and anthropological sciences shaped what it meant to be human in the southern hemisphere during the 20th century-from skull measuring to early genomics. This comparative study reveals active and influential debates over racial difference conducted by scientists and anthropologists within the southern hemisphere, often distinct from those occurring in the North Atlantic. It brings southern settler societies together into the global picture of 20th-century race science. It situates Australian racial thought in relation to the conceptions of humanity prevalent in our region. And it shows how the legacy of this science continues to shape our understanding of human difference.
Department of Classics and Ancient History
Julia Kindt's areas of expertise include ancient Greek history, ancient Greek religion, oracles and divination, and ancient anthropology. She is currently co-investigator on two ARC grants on "Plato's Myth Voice" and "The Function of Images in Magical Papyri". She is also a member of the Inspired Voices Research Cluster (IVRC). Her book Rethinking Greek Religion will be published with Cambridge University Press later this year.
She is supervising honours and postgraduate students in her areas of expertise, in particular on ancient Greek religion, historiography, and ancient anthropology.
Department of History
My current research projects all relate to modern international history. I am currently completing an ARC-funded book on how ideas of race, nation and human rights influenced international affairs after the Second World War. This includes understanding how a new international sphere in which UN organisations, staff, and their ideals were important players, changed the status of those same ideas. I am also interested in how the international arena becomes important to politics in the modern world, from the early nineteenth century, and more specifically the role that women play in that arena. This interest shapes my newest project on Gender and Nation at the Congress of Vienna.
Overall my work brings together a number of historiographies that have conventionally remained detached, but when looked at as intersecting histories reveal new and exciting perspectives on the ways in which international politics has operated in the past, and the significance of that past to our own world. These historiographies include: International relations, feminism, transnationalism, ideas, and nationalism. I am keen to supervise students in any of these areas of historical research.
Department of Archaeology
My key research interests lie within the ancient Near East and Central Asia. Within this broad framework I have focused on a wide variety of more specialized areas of study, mostly stimulated by my archaeological fieldwork. I began my research career exploring the later prehistory of the deserts of eastern Jordan. This led to an interest in the wider history and archaeology of nomadic peoples and sidelines in rock art and specialized hunting traps. An early fascination with Central Asia was fostered by student participation in excavations at Old Kandahar in Afghanistan in 1978. In 1992, the collapse of the Soviet regime in Central Asia allowed me to start work there on a collaborative project with the Uzbek Academy of Sciences, examining the monumental remains of ancient Chorasmia, south of the Aral Sea. Out of this has grown new interests in the early development of Zoroastrianism, the archaeology of the nomads of the Eurasian steppes and, most recently, the influence of Eurasia on China in the Bronze Age.
Department of Philosophy
My research deals with topics across a range of areas of philosophy (metaphysics, ethics and political philosophy, philosophy and psychology of wellbeing) that I think are often connected in interesting and sometimes unexpected ways.
Much of my recent research has focused on the philosophical problem of personal identity (what makes a person now one and the same person as someone in the past?), as part of an ARC-funded project on 'Personal Identity, Consciousness and Agency'. I am especially interested in the connections between views about the nature of personal identity and issues in ethics and political philosophy: such as the nature of autonomy or self-determination; when it is appropriate to hold people
morally or legally responsible for past actions; and how self-concern differs from moral concern.
I also work on freedom of speech; and am currently writing a book on Happiness, under contract with Routledge. I am especially interested in the connections between philosophical views about the nature and value of happiness and recent scientific work on the topic.
I am currently supervising a number of honours and postgraduate students in these areas; and welcome enquiries from prospective students interested in working in these areas.
I have worked on a range of different philosophical problems. Most of my research can be unified under the guiding idea of trying to make progress in philosophy by developing and applying formal tools and techniques, from areas such as logic and probability theory. Topics that I work on include time travel (Is there any logical incoherence in the idea of visiting the past? I think not); truth and the Liar paradox (What is truth? What lessons are to be drawn from consideration of the famous Liar sentence 'This very sentence is not true'?); vagueness (How can we give a rigorous account of the logic and semantics of vague terms such as 'tall' and 'bald' terms which allow us to make statements which are apparently fully
meaningful, and yet neither true nor false?); and the history of logic (Frege is often seen as the inventor of modern logic so why do some of his views about what is essential to logic seem so odd to us today?). I am always keen to supervise honours and postgraduate students in any area of logic, philosophy of language, or metaphysics.
The bulk of my research and writing has been in the challenging field of the birth of the early American republic in the late eighteenth century. I’ve been most interested in trying to revise notions of the role of class, race and social conflict in the creation of the new American republic. In articles in the Journal of American History, the William and Mary Quarterly, and the Journal of American Studies, and in my recently published book, The Politics of War: Race, Class, and Conflict in Revolutionary Virginia, I have taken a bottom-up approach, tried to read meaning through the actions of those normally and condescendingly deemed “inarticulate” and tried to understand how the small politics of local communities affected the larger politics of Revolution. In the end, I hope I have helped demonstrate that the lines of force ran in multiple directions, and the Revolution, like so many dramatic political turning points, was as much a struggle between Americans over who would rule at home as it was between the colonies and Britain over home rule.
More recently, I have drawn on these insights and combined them with an emerging focus on the Atlantic World to make an intervention into this new historiographical field. In an article in Connected Worlds, edited by Marilyn Lake and Anne Curthoys, I have reviewed some of this new literature and suggested that it often over-emphasises European, western-facing perspectives. For a truly new “Atlantic history” to emerge, I have argued that we must recognise again that the lines of force ran in multiple directions, and we have to look at the so-called “peripheries” as much as the metropoles to understand the history of the whole. In my own research, I have begun to put this conceptual advance into practice by taking a transnational approach to the study of indigenous peoples in the Americas and am currently finishing a book on French, Anishinabe and Métis communities in the Great Lakes region.
Finally, I have just begun a new collaborative project with fellow historians Clare Corbould and Robert Aldrich on “The Revolution in American Life,” that will chart the many different ways and means by which Americans have remembered and invoked their ‘Founding’ moment – the American Revolution – and its impact on a growing sense of national identity from the Revolution to today. It is a challenging project, but one that should create many new opportunities for related research topics.
I would welcome new Honours and Postgraduate research students on any of these or related topics.
William Ritchie Professor of Classics
Chair of the Department of Classics and Ancient History
My research spans widely over Greek literature and culture, from Homer to the Hellenistic period.
Currently I have two major programmes of study – the sociology of Greek music and the history of the Classical theatre. In the first I have moved the analysis of Greek music away from its traditional narrow focus on reconstruction and theory towards a more integrated approach that seeks to understand music in a Greek sense – as a deeply social and performative phenomenon to which poetry, religion, the creation of the past and questions of social, ethnic and political identity are all central.
My second and main research endeavour is writing a new History of the Classical Theatre (c. 500 – 300 BC). With Eric Csapo, I am the co-director of a large-scale and long-term project, currently funded by the Australian Research Council and drawing on extensive consultative collaboration with a large international network of scholars. This aims to produce a new history of the Classical Greek theatre that provides a proper understanding of its social and economic, as well as its strictly performative, dimensions.
It proceeds by a dual approach. The first is a complete overhaul of the documentary evidence for the operation of the Classical theatre – all the relevant inscriptions, literary texts and material remains – something that has not been attempted for the best part of a century. This involves the creation of large corpora of the available evidence; the collection of new and neglected items; editing and autopsy examination where necessary; detailed analysis of each, and translation into English of all the text-based documents. We have had specialised software developed by colleagues in Italy (http://www.fusisoft.it) for the optimum presentation of this extensive material. The second major avenue in this project is the writing, on the basis of this full re-assessment of the documentary evidence, of a diachronic history of the Classical dramatic festivals, their institutions and operation, their personnel and practices.
I am happy to supervise students wishing to work on most aspects of the Greek theatre and performance culture.
I work broadly on history in popular culture, especially action genres, and on popular thinking about social and historical change. My research often focuses on rhetorics of place, locality and nation as well as gender in colonial and transnational conditions, including in the development of Cultural Studies as an institutional project in the Asia-Pacific region. My current work involves three major projects: 1) a study of transnational action cinema in general and martial arts cinemas in particular in relation to popular practices of historical imagination; 2) a critical biography of the Australian travel writer and novelist, Ernestine Hill (1899-1972); 3) reflection on the contribution of aesthetic knowledge to Cultural Studies as a discipline that is now strongly grounded in the study of everyday life. I am interested in the issues facing English-language traditions of textual and rhetorical study in what is increasingly a multi-linguistic as well as interdisciplinary field of international scholarship. After twelve years as Chair Professor of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University, Hong Kong, I have had ample opportunity to confront these issues in practice, and I continue to do so now as Chair of the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society.
Associate Professor Lee Wallace
ARC-funded project: Reconceiving the queer public sphere: an interdisciplinary analysis of same-sex couple domesticity
I work in the field of sexuality studies. In this ARC-funded project I engage with current theoretical accounts of the social and political geography of gay and lesbian life. Histories of homosexual culture often remain embedded in subcultural models of identity formation that frequently associate normative conventions with non-urban or domestic modes of living. To the extent that this strand of sexuality studies leaves queer home life unexamined, it risks producing a distorted account of gay and lesbian environments and intimacy. In order to address this unexamined bias, I aim to produce a study of gay and lesbian domestic relationships and sites spanning the twentieth century, some fictional, some material. This will also allow me to addressing the methodological difficulty of studying ephemeral relationships that are scarcely captured by the documentary and data-gathering mechanisms of mainstream culture which are frequently geared to the consolidation and reproduction of the family.