Postgraduate Research in the School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry

SOPHI is a research intensive School in a research-intensive Faculty and University. Our ambition is to be one of the leading research centres in the Humanities and Social Sciences in Australia and in the world.

SOPHI has a wide range of Postgraduate students in Archaeology, Classics and Ancient History, Gender and Cultural Studies, History and Philosophy.

We offer comprehensive postgraduate training from MA to PhD, including an extensive array of attractive postgraduate research options and programs. Here are just a few of our Postgraduates.

Hongwei Bao

Hongwei Bao

PhD student, Department of Gender and Cultural Studies

My research interests include gender, sex and sexuality in modern China, identities and subjectivities in socialist and post-socialist eras, as well as China’s social and cultural changes in the transnational context. My research project mainly focuses on the articulation of queer identities in Chinese cyberspace. I am interested in the emergence of queer identities in post-socialist China, the construction of queer identities in China’s online public sphere, how China’s history and present impact on these identities, and how these identities are related to post-socialist China’s project of (re)making subjectivities and (re-) imagination of modernity. China’s tremendous social transformation in the past decades offers fascinating topics to researchers from different fields. This project serves as my effort to understand what is happening in China and what has happened to Chinese people who live through this unfolding history.

Michaela Cameron

Michaela Cameron

PhD student, Department of History

The working title for my PhD thesis is How Turtle Island Sounded: Native North American Soundways from Creation to Re-Creation. The main aims of my research include bringing the oppressed geography or "cosmography" of Turtle Island (Native North America) to the surface of the mainstream along with the sacred history of this forgotten place, submerged beneath European maps and histories for centuries. Often these histories have created a mythology in which the sounds of Christian European modernity drowned out and subdued the howling primitive wilderness of indigenous America. By shifting our own focus from the eye to the ear we can come to know Turtle Island on its own terms and learn that, far from being silenced by Europeans, Turtle Island's acoustemology and accompanying soundways not only survived contact with Europeans, but got louder over time. By studying the multiple ways of hearing indigenous soundways, we can also obtain a better appreciation for why the cultural conflict between Europeans and indigenous communities was often volatile. The thesis draws on theories of neuroscience, musicology, psychoacoustics, and anthropology to generate a narrative that simultaneously spans, in a material sense, from pre-contact to the present-day Powwow and, in a spiritual sense, from creation to re-creation.

Peter Hobbins

Peter Hobbins

PhD student, Department of History

Are Australia’s venomous animals really dangerous? This might seem an odd question for a historian to ask, but in the nineteenth-century Australasian colonies, such inquiries were laden with meaning and consequence. In a time of growing sensibility toward familiar species – such as horses, oxen and dogs – specific types of evidence were required to demonise a snake, spider, tick or platypus. In exploring the place and potency of science and medicine in the antipodean colonies, my doctoral research dissects their epistemologies, technologies and performances. In particular, I focus on vivisection – the use of living animals to study the effects of venoms – as a means of creating local knowledge that convinced not only fellow cognoscenti, but also the lay population. The resultant ‘proof’ that an animal was dangerous did more than satisfy curiosity. While it often led to a reshuffling of the moral, sentimental and commercial value ascribed to other species within the colonial animal matrix, such knowledge rarely benefited the venomous creatures themselves.

Adam Hochman

Adam Hochman

PhD student, Department of Philosophy

My main areas of interest are philosophy of biology and philosophy of psychology (from psychoanalysis to evolutionary psychology). I have published on the relationship between developmental and evolutionary explanation in the journal Biology and Philosophy. My recent work focuses on attempts – post-human genome diversity project – to revive ‘race’ as a legitimate scientific category. My critical response to the new racial naturalism is forthcoming in The Journal of Philosophy. In my PhD thesis I defend a position I call interactive constructionism about ‘race’ against racial naturalism. Human biological variation is not distributed in a way that supports racial classification. In this sense ‘race’ is a social construct, not a biological category. However, ‘race’ is also a psychological construct. In a forthcoming article in Philosophy of Science I offer a critique of recent scientific theories about the cognitive mechanisms underlying racial categorisation. These are important issues as there are ethical, medical, even forensic consequences (just to name a few) that follow from how we think about ‘race’.

Darran Jordan

Darran Jordan

PhD student, Department of Archaeology

I am interested in archaeology as a discipline, what it is, what it has been and what it may become. My work looks at theories of archaeology with a particular emphasis on how visual forms of communication intersect with them. My current PhD research follows on with concerns raised through my fourth year thesis, continuing to examine theory relating to the structure and form of visual languages within an archaeological context, but examining this specifically in relation to the history of mapping use in archaeology. Mapping is a tool that has been utilised for a number of ends throughout the history of archaeology. By examining the types of maps constructed over time for archaeological mapping I seek a semiotic understanding of this ‘language’.

Erna Lilje

Erna Lilje

PhD student, Department of Archaeology

Erna is a member of an interdisciplinary research team looking at how producers of material culture have responded to the collecting activities of outsiders. The formation of museum collections has often been explored from the perspective of the collecting society. This project, supported by an ARC Linkage Grant, seeks to build upon artefact-centred research that suggests many early museum objects were made speci cally for exchange. Erna will focus on material culture from Central Province, Papua New Guinea, including grass skirts, feather headdresses and string bags (billums) held in museums in Australia, UK, Italy and PNG. She holds an APAI with this project.

Kit Morrell

Kit Morrell

PhD student, Department of Classics and Ancient History

I am an Ancient History PhD student, supervised by Dr Kathryn Welch. My thesis examines attempts to reform provincial government during the Late Republic and their political context. I hope to show that Romans in this period were genuinely interested in improving the way Rome treated her subjects, and that figures traditionally seen as combatants could in fact be collaborators in this project. Some aspects of my research include the lex repetundarum, the virtue-vocabulary of the good governor, and the politics of the 50s BC, with a particular focus on Pompey the Great and Cato the Younger.

Rany Pen

Rany Pen

PhD Student, Department of Gender and Cultural Studies

White Gold: A study of gender relations in rural Cambodia
What is like to be Neak Sre or rice farmer in today Cambodia? During the past two decades, starting from the 1991 Paris Peace Accord, Cambodia has transformed itself politically and economically. From a communist-socialist way of governing to democratically elected government, Cambodia’s economy has been shifted to the market economy as well. In this regard, gender relations have both resisted and influenced by these changes. They are constructed and re-constructed as the society continues to evolve. However, unlike in urban areas, rural Cambodia still maintains a strong attachment to the tradition that is not only inspired by Buddhist values but also the patriarchal system. The later is seen as imposing barrier for rural women to advance and to move beyond the family enclosure. My research interests centre around the areas of gender equality, culture, development, and rural society, as well as its interaction with external influences brought in by the changes of political and economic ideologies. The research attempts to analyse the construction of gender identities in rural Cambodia and to explore barriers and opportunities for women’s advancement especially in agriculture sector. As the majority of Cambodia population are rice farmers, I will also follow and examine rice production especially its connectedness with the construction of gender identities amongst rice farming population.

Nikki Savvides

Nikki Savvides

PhD Candidate, Department of Gender and Cultural Studies

Living and working in hybrid ecologies:
animal-centred volunteer tourism in Thailand, India and Indonesia

My doctoral thesis explores the ethical potential of animal-centred forms of volunteer tourism in lesser developed Asian nations. Through first hand, case study based research undertaken in Thailand, India, and Indonesia, I aim to find the elements of volunteer tourism that make ethical tourism possible, using my own experiences and those of the tourists and locals encountered through my research. The ways in which animal-centred forms of volunteer tourism might, above all others, provide the most ethical means of practicing tourism in Asian LDCs is my focus, because it extends the concept of “place” to include both human and non-human others within the scope of ethics. In the thesis I posit tourist sites as equally natural and non-natural spaces: what I term “hybrid ecologies”. I use this concept to expand current understandings of tourism ethics as they relate to interactions between humans and non-human species. The thesis understands the practice of animal-centred volunteer tourism as framing an engagement between tourists, locals and non-human species that is responsive to the multiplicit, competing and/or similar interests of those dependent on these hybrid ecologies as habitats and homes. By placing animals at the centre of questions, ideas and theories about tourism practices, the performance of animal-centred volunteer tourism in hybrid ecologies recognises connections between ‘humanity’ and ‘nature’, putting the animal back into the human notion of ‘community’, while conversely reconfiguring ‘the environment’ to include the human.