Australia-India Institute Postdoc in Arts and Social Science

The Australia India Institute (AII) is looking to recruit an excellent scholar in the broad field of arts and social sciences to undertake three years of policy-relevant research on contemporary India as part of a new network of thinkers across Australia. In collaboration with the Director and CEO of the Australia India Institute, Professor Craig Jeffrey, and Director of Research and Academic Programmes of the Australia India Institute, the New Generation Network (NGN) scholar will assist in the research initiatives of the Australia India Institute.

Position description

‘I was a good-time Charlie’. Grace Edwards’ PhD Completion Seminar

You are welcome to attend Grace’s PhD completion seminar on Friday 5 February 2016, 10:00-11:00 am.

Room 509, 5th Floor, 757 Swanston Street (School of Historical & Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne).

‘I was a good-time Charlie’: Social Dance and Community Life in Sydney and Melbourne’s Chinese Communities, 1850s-1970s

A vibrant calendar of dances, balls and rituals has long been at the heart of Chinese-Australian community life. It was at such events that community members most powerfully experimented with and articulated what it meant to be Chinese-Australian across dimensions of race, gender and class. This thesis traces the history of Chinese community life through various social dances and events in Sydney and Melbourne over a period spanning roughly 120 years. Examining this relatively little-known aspect of history, it seeks to offer a sense of the vitality of Chinese-Australian community life during these decades and to use dance as a means to generate new insights into the interplay of the material and the emotional in the lives of Chinese Australians.

Joshua Oppenheimer in Conversation

It is with great excitement that we can now confirm the details for the upcoming event with award winning documentary film maker Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing/ The Look of Silence) at the University of Melbourne.

Joshua Oppenheimer will hold an exclusive Q & A with ABC Radio National’s Jason Di Rosso on Tuesday, 11 August, 1- 2.30pm @ the open stage, 757 Swanston St (cnr. Grattan St).

This is a free event but seats are limited so please arrive early to guarantee your seat.

If possible, it would be really wonderful if you could help us promote this event, which is sponsored by the SHAPS Asia History Hub, the Melbourne University Indonesia Forum and the Herb Feith Foundation, to your students and fellow colleagues.

In addition to sticking up posters for the event, we are hoping to post details of the event through the LMS system and to spruik the event in lectures. We would be most grateful if you could help us spread the word.


A trailer for The Look of Silence can be viewed at:

The Look of Silence will have three screenings at the Melbourne International Film Festival:

In addition to his appearance at the university, Joshua will also be speaking at the Melbourne International Film festival. This event is co-sponsored by the Melbourne University Indonesia forum and the Herb Feith Foundation.

For details:


Please help us to get the word out!

Many thanks,

Jess Melvin

Book Launch: Chinese Australians: Politics, Engagement and Resistance

You are warmly invited to the launch of Chinese Australians: Politics, Engagement and Resistance, edited by Sophie Couchman and Kate Bagnall.

Bringing together contributions from eleven key scholars in Chinese Australian history, the book explores how Chinese Australians have influenced the communities in which they lived on a civic or individual level. Focusing on the motivations and aspirations of their subjects, the authors draw on biography, world history, case law, newspapers and immigration case files to investigate the political worlds of Chinese Australians in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The book will be launched by Ms Nancy Gordon, Australian Consul-General in Chengdu, China.

When   Friday, 24 April at 11am

Where  Chinese Museum, 22 Cohen Place, Melbourne (behind Her Majesty’s Theatre)

RSVP     Wednesday, 22 April 2015 to or 03 9662 2888.

Books will be available for purchase on the day at a discounted rate. For more information about the book, see

The book includes a chapter by Marilyn Lake, ‘The Chinese Empire Encounters the British Empire and Its ‘Colonial Dependencies’: Melbourne, 1887’.


Menzies on Tour

A new digital resource has been compiled by Caitlin Stone and Jim Berryman from the University’s Baillieu Library. Menzies on Tour is an online archive of photographs donated to the University of Melbourne by Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, former prime minister of Australia and chancellor of the University of Melbourne. The photographs are contained in ten albums held in Special Collections in the Baillieu Library and form part of Robert Menzies’ personal library. The albums document Menzies’ overseas visits to eight countries, including India (1950), Philippines (1957), Japan (1957) and Indonesia (1959). This collection is a significant visual account of Menzies’ travels abroad as prime minister and provides a pictorial record of Australia’s expanding international relations during the post-war period.

Robert Menzies and others in front of the Taj Mahal (December 1950), Special Collections, Baillieu Library, The University of Melbourne.

Robert Menzies and others in front of the Taj Mahal (December 1950), Special Collections, Baillieu Library, The University of Melbourne.

Colonial Northeast India: December 2014 Conference (Delhi)

The final program has been announced for the Colonial Northeast India: Local Histories, Regional Cultures, Global Connections Conference, to be held at the India International Centre in Delhi, 1-2 December 2014. The event is being convened by Associate Professor Andrew J. May and is a collaboration between the Universities of Delhi, Melbourne and Toronto, with financial support from the University of Melbourne’s International Research & Research Training Fund. Limited additional places are available for anyone wishing to attend the conference—please contact to register.


Morning tea welcome for Asia scholars

Asia History Hub is holding a morning tea to welcome Dr Simon Creak, historian of Southeast Asia (Laos), and Associate Professor Peidong Sun, Fudan University, Partner Investigator on an ARC Discovery Project and visiting the School for a month.  All welcome.  Time: 10.30 a.m.  Venue: Arts West, 7th Floor tearoom. Tuesday 29 July 2014.

CFP: Colonial Northeast India— Local Histories, Regional Cultures, Global Connections

EXTENDED Call for Papers: Delhi Conference: 1 & 2 December 2014

‘Cane suspension bridge over the Témshang River, in the Khássia Hills’ (Hermann de Schlagintweit, 1855).

‘Cane suspension bridge over the Témshang River, in the Khássia Hills’ (Hermann de Schlagintweit, 1855).

This workshop proceeds from the proposition that northeast India has been in a perpetual state of being repeatedly marginalised, rediscovered and redefined, and that a contemporary appreciation of its complexities must come from a detailed understanding of its historical antecedents, many of which are rooted in colonial ideologies and practices. We hope that it will have the capacity to identify areas of commonality and collaboration in current historical research at both a macro and micro historical scale. We are particularly interested in how new historiographies (for example, of colonial violence, empire and deviance, transnational networks) can throw light on understanding the particular historical experience of the northeast. Our interests are in the practices of governance, but also in the social history of intercultural exchange and the ways in which historians might read against the grain of the colonial archive to recognise the lived experiences of colonised and coloniser. Topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • boundaries and spatial ideology
  • colonial ethnography and representations of ethnic identity
  • colonial sources as intercultural texts
  • ecological and environmental histories
  • institutional histories
  • oral histories and folklore
  • responses to and the impact of Christian missions
  • the uses of history: museums and memorialisation
  • trade and infrastructure networks
  • tribal policy, ethnic conflict and the colonial state

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers from historians working at a local, regional or comparative level. Postgraduate students are particularly encouraged to take part. Please include the following information with your proposal:

  • Paper title and a brief abstract of no more than 300 words
  • Your name, institutional affiliation and email address
  • A short CV, no more than one page

The workshop will consist of single-session discussions; full written papers (6000 words maximum) will be pre-circulated in order to promote dialogue. We aim to bring together a dozen or more presenters over two days, and up to a further thirty participants who wish to attend without giving a formal paper. The EXTENDED deadline for proposals is 11 August, with written papers due by 3 November. Proposals and enquiries should be sent to

The workshop is a collaboration between the Universities of Delhi, Melbourne and Toronto, with financial support from the University of Melbourne’s International Research & Research Training Fund. It will be held at the Indian International Centre in Delhi.

Indian-based participants who are not in Delhi will be provided with some resources for travel and accommodation.


Associate Professor Andrew J. May (The University of Melbourne)

Dr David Zou (University of Delhi)

Assistant Professor Jayeeta Sharma (University of Toronto)

Contemplating Memory in the Asian Region

Report by Hannah Loney, Jason Ng and Shan Windscript 

In late February 2014 Professors Antonia Finnane and Kate Darian-Smith, and Drs Julie Fedor and Katharine McGregor of the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies (SHAPS) hosted a number of events that focused on the themes of history, memory and commemoration based on their shared interest in this research areas. These events, supported by a University of Melbourne International Research and Research Training Funding grant and SHAPS, brought together researchers from the University of Melbourne, postgraduate students, and other local and international scholars working on memory studies in several Asian and Western contexts including India, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, East Timor and Iran.


History, Trauma and Memory: Perspectives from South Asia: A Postgraduate Masterclass with Professor Yasmin Saikia

On 19 February 2014 Professor Yasmin Saikia, the Hardt-Nickachos Chair in Peace Studies at the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and a Professor of History in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University, taught a Postgraduate Masterclass entitled, “History, Trauma and Memory: Perspectives from South Asia”. A small yet diverse group of postgraduate students attended the workshop, and brought with them a range of experiences in memory studies from Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe and Australia. In this Masterclass, Professor Saikia discussed why the 1971 War in Bangladesh can be seen as an entry point into the study of the history of South Asia and how its history can be explored without relying solely upon twentieth century artefacts, such as maps, to artificially delineate and separate geophysical spaces of the region. Professor Saikia described learning history as investing in the future, and stressed the importance of highlighting the reasons for injustices within history rather than just fighting contemporary injustice. In studying traumatic events, such as the case of the War of Bangladesh in 1971, she argued that it is equally important to look for the ‘middle actors’ of history, rather than focusing solely on perpetrators and victims. Because memory of these traumatic events still haunts those involved to this day, she argued, it is vital for scholars to ‘dignify’ the history being studied by shaping it into constructive contributions to scholarship, as opposed to destructive. In her concluding remarks, Professor Saikia talked about how trauma has no conclusion and the importance of researchers not turning the people being studied into simply ‘stories’. Lastly, she challenged the students to push the boundaries of historical knowledge and to think of the ‘next frontier or paradigm’ within historical scholarship that might stem from our studies of Asian case studies.

Memory and Commemoration, East and West: An International Workshop

Following the Postgraduate Masterclass scholars from the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies hosted a two-day workshop titled “Memory and Commemoration, East and West”, at the University of Melbourne on 20-21 February. Focusing on comparisons and intersections between memory studies in Asia and the West, the workshop provided a vibrant and stimulating forum for international and local scholars working in the field to come together and share their knowledge and ideas. Speakers presented on a diverse spectrum of topics through a series of panel sessions, covering practices and issues arising from memory and commemoration across a wide range of geographical and cultural contexts, including those associated with Asia. Some key themes discussed by the participants were memory and its trajectories of violence, trauma, historical injustice, human rights, gender, and temporality.

Three papers examined Indonesian case studies. Dr. Katharine McGregor of the University of Melbourne focused on the Indonesian remembrances of the 1946-1947 Captain Westerling Massacres that occurred during the Dutch-Indonesian Independence War, and outlined how memories of that event have shifted through time in relation to changing national and international views about human rights. Professor Bambang Purwanto of Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia, discussed Indonesian official historiography and societal views about the 1945-1949 Indonesian-Dutch War reflecting on the place of the scholar in societal debates about memory. Dr. Mery Kolimon of Universitas Kristen Artha Wacana reflected upon the unresolved historical wounds of the 1965 anti-communist tragedy in East Nusa Tenggara Province, and the tensions and differences between the memories of the victims and perpetrators over the historical trauma.

From the Chinese perspective, Professor Zhang Lianhong of Nanjing Normal University reflected upon the social memories of the Nanjing Massacre and discussed the possibility of ethically engaging with the survivors’ traumatic memories of the atrocity. Professor Li Lifeng of Nanjing University explored the interplay between personal and collective memories, examining how revolutionary memories of rural Chinese people were constructed through the active performance of su-ku (outpouring of bitterness) during the Chinese communist revolution.

Several papers reflected on the perspectives of Asian diaspora and memory practices. ARC post-doctoral fellow Dr. Mammad Aidani of SHAPS talked about pain and suffering experienced by Iranian Men by examining their narratives of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88). Dr Rachel Hughes of the School of Land & Environment at the University of Melbourne, reflected on how the participation of members of the Cambodian diaspora as civil parties in the Mixed Tribunal was assisting to break down barriers between the diaspora and Cambodians at home. Based on interviews with members of the Australian Vietnamese diaspora Associate Professor Nathalie Nguyen detailed the little acknowledged memories of South Vietnamese soldiers who fought for the Southern regime.

In addition, three PhD students from the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne delivered papers on memories of Southeast Asia and China. Jason Sze Chieh Ng focused on counter-official memory to examine autobiographical works produced by retired Malayan Communist Party members. Hannah Loney, drawing on oral history interviews with East Timorese women who grew up under Indonesian rule, explored the dynamics of memory and emotion, and the interplay between individual memories and the national narrative. Shan Windscript highlighted the prospective aspect of memory by examining how ordinary Chinese people diarised their memories about the Chinese Cultural Revolution for an imagined future during the historical occurrence of the political movement.

Other papers that included Asian case studies were those of Professor David Lowe and Tony Joel (Deakin University) who considered case studies from Vietnam and Japan in their paper on Remembering the Cold War and Monash PhD candidate, Phyllisa Yu-ting Huang, who presented a paper on different narratives of military dependant villages in Taiwan.

All of these papers were fruitfully combined in the program with papers focusing on case studies from Australia and East and West Europe.

Public Lecture: Professor Yasmin Saikia, Perpetrators Remember: Re-Telling the 1971 War of Bangladesh

On Thursday 20 February 2014, Professor Saikia presented a Public Lecture entitled “Perpetrators Remember: Re-Telling the 1971 War of Bangladesh”. In this Public Lecture, Professor Saikia discussed the ways in which the “hidden” narratives of men can offer an entry point to reflect upon the dilemma of memory about the 1971 war of Bangladesh. According to Professor Saikia, the complex story of the construction of the ‘Other’ in less than human terms led to extreme violence that is fearfully remembered by survivors in Pakistan and Bangladesh today. In official history books, men are represented as heroes of the war. The tormenting memories of violence, however, have reduced these men in their own estimation into perpetrators that they want to overcome. Professor Saikia also spoke about the process of conducting these interviews and the horrific experience of listening to the memories. In her reflections she raised some of the ethical dilemmas associated with the interview process, the public role of memory, and the way in which these memories are ‘re-told’ by the listener and shared with broader audiences. This approach is demonstrative of a broader effort to reconstruct a ‘people’s history’ of the subcontinent – one that includes perpetrators within our frame of reference.

Mechanics of Mass Murder

Completion Seminar for History PhD Candidate Jess Melvin

School of Historical and Philosophical Studies

The University of Melbourne


Mechanics of Mass Murder: How the Indonesian Military Initiated and Implemented the Indonesian Genocide: The Case of Aceh

On 1 October 1965, the Indonesian military launched an attack against the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI). This attack was aimed at seizing state power and sparked one of the 20th century’s worst mass killings. To this day, however, there is yet to be consensus as to whether the Indonesian genocide should be understood as the result of an intentional centralised military campaign.

Through an investigation of 3,000 pages of previously uncited classified documents produced by the Indonesian military and government in Aceh province, and 70 original oral history interviews with former members of the PKI, family members of people killed during the genocide, former military personnel, government officials and members of death squads who participated in the genocide, this thesis aims to strip back the mechanics of mass murder to demonstrate for the first time how the Indonesian military initiated and implemented the Indonesian genocide.

The seminar will be presented in conjunction with the Memory and Commemoration, East and West: An International Workshop (supported by the University of Melbourne IRRTF scheme).

Date: Friday 21 February, 12.15pm-1.15pm

Venue: Theatre 4, Level 1, Alan Gilbert Building (Building 104), corner of Grattan and Barry Streets (enter from Barry St), The University of Melbourne