‘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: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bp1xT302VcY

The Look of Silence will have three screenings at the Melbourne International Film Festival: http://miff.com.au/program/film/the-look-of-silence

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: http://miff.com.au/program/film/talking-pictures-in-conversation-with-joshua-oppenheimer


Please help us to get the word out!

Many thanks,

Jess Melvin

Turning Points in Asian Histories

An Asia History Hub forum, Turning Points in Asian Histories, will be held on this Friday 16 May, 10:00am – 1:00pm, in room 227, Alice Hoy Building. Please register attendance with Shan Windscript at shan.windscript@unimelb.edu.au

The focus of this forum is historiographical: shifts in the field of Asian histories, broadly considered. The aim is to exchange information, ideas, and points of view about developments in our different areas of research, and perhaps to talk, yet again, about commonalities – if they exist – between the diverse places and peoples that are subsumed under the name “Asia”. We have two speakers to kick off discussion. Readings will be provided so that we have a common platform from which to talk.

10:00 am – Dr. Samia Khatun (SHAPS) “The rise and fall of the Subaltern Studies project – from Marxist inspired histories ‘from below’ to a theoretical focus on time/space.”

11:15 am – Dr. Lewis Mayo (AI) “Rethinking the origins of Asian-Pacific capitalism: The ‘Chinese 18th century’ in Southeast Asian and world history.”

12:30 pm – Asia History Hub business meeting.

Lunch will be provided.

Dr Samia Khatun Public Lecture

Samia Khatun, a McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Melbourne, who is currently researching a 400-year history of textile workers in Bengal, spanning from Mughal India to contemporary Bangladesh, will deliver a public lecture on the topic of “The Camel and the Prophecy“, on Wednesday 16 April.

Prophecy has been a recurring element of Muslim political expression since the revelation of the Quran to Muhammed in 610 CE. Across South Asia, Muslim prophetic speech had a dynamic relationship to the rise of the British empire and by the late 19th century Muslim seers were engaging in a global conversation through the medium of print.

From 1860 CE, as prosperous merchants from British India and Afghanistan dispatched camels accompanied by South Asian workers to Australian deserts, prophetic narratives began to circulate through the English language newspapers of settler colonies increasingly hostile to non-white merchants and workers.

This presentation examines how Muslim merchants and workers deployed prophecies to respond to the changing fortunes of the camel industry and protest the emergence of ‘White Australia’ on a global stage.

Samia is currently finishing her book Camels, Ships and Trains: Connecting Histories from South Asia to Australia, which tells the history of a transportation network from the perspectives of South Asian and Aboriginal travellers.

To register visit: http://events.unimelb.edu.au/events/3830-the-camel-and-the-prophecy


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

Histories of the everyday: East-West perspectives

Organised under the auspices of the Cultural history of economies research hub

in conjunction with the Asia History hub

School of Historical and Philosophical Studies

Date: Wednesday 13 November

Time: 11 a.m. – 4.30 p.m.

Place: Babel building 303

Keynote presentation and discussion

Professor Joanna Waley-Cohen, “What’s Cooking? Cooks and Consumption in Early Modern China”.

Professor Joanna Waley-Cohen, Dean of Arts and Sciences at New York University, is an eminent historian of Qing China, with interests ranging from war to cooking. The breadth and depth of her scholarship is reflected in her many books and articles, including Exile in Mid-Qing China (1991), The Sextants of Beijing (1999) and The Culture of War in China (2006). She has recently been working on daily life in China ca. 1800, and culinary culture in the same historical context. 


Enquiries should be directed to the convenor, Professor Antonia Finnane, SHAPS

Email: a.finnane@unimelb.edu.au

Tel: 83449863

or, Shan Windscript s.windscript@gmail.com

Innovation in History: A symposium on ‘new approaches’ to the practice of history

On 11 October the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies helped host a symposium, “New Approaches to the Practice of History,” that brought together researchers from China and Australia. The symposium was one of a series of four being held under the auspices of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Not everyone stuck to the theme, but the audience was treated at least to a great diversity of topics, ranging from Wu Wenling’s exposition of bamboo-strip writings to David Goodman’s presentation on radio-listening as an agent of democracy. Founding members of AAHub, including Antonia Finnane, the convenor of the conference; Anne McLaren, who chaired the first panel; Xavier Ma and Shan Windscript, who served as facilitators and interpreters; and – in the audience – Kate McGregor and Andy May.

PhD students Xavier Ma (seated first right) and Shan Windscript (standing second right) were recruited to help with the visit of the CASS historians. Among the rewards: a trip to the beach following the conclusion of the symposium.

The CASS delegates, seated, with fellow-participants at the end of the symposium.

New perspectives on Chinese Australian history: imperial encounters at home

This seminar focuses on new research on the historical relationships between the British and Chinese empires and British and Chinese Australians.


Sascha Auerbach explores relations between the imperial and the intimate, the ways in which Victorian class and gender expectations shaped British and Australian understandings of the possibility of Chinese assimilation into British societies, at a time when the home was increasingly becoming a public, legal space inspected and regulated by the state.

Dr Sascha Auerbach is a lecturer at Nottingham University and author of Race, Law and ‘The Chinese Puzzle’ in Imperial Britain (Palgrave, 2009).

Ben Mountford focuses on the Australian participation in the Boxer War to examine how Britons at home, in China and in Australia perceived the Australian contribution and its implications for Britain’s imperial future and the growing importance of ‘Greater Britain’ to British interests in Asia.

Dr Ben Mountford is the M.G. Brock Junior Research Fellow in Modern British History at Oxford University whose research and teaching interests centre on Australian, British, Global and Imperial History.

Sophie Loy Wilson looks at responses in Australia to Japanese imperialism in China in the 1930s and especially the ‘Save China’ campaign instigated by the Chinese Australian community and debates among humanitarian groups, who likened Japanese imperialism in China to British imperialism in Australia.

Dr Sophie Loy Wilson is a Lecturer in Australian Studies at Deakin University, where she teaches and writes about Australian history in a transnational context, with a particular focus on anticolonialism and China-Australia relations in the first half of the twentieth century.

Friday, 27 September 2013, 4.00pm – 6.00pm, Theatre B Old Arts Building, The University of Melbourne, PARKVILLE VIC 3010

Admission is free. Bookings are required. Seating is limited. To register visit: http://alumni.online.unimelb.edu.au/ newperspectives

For further information please contact Rochelle Sullivan rochelle.sullivan@unimelb.edu.au or phone 9035 8358.

Website Launch

The launch of the SHAPS Asia History Hub website will be held this Friday 20 September, 9:30am – 12:00pm (followed by lunch), in the Linkway Function Room, Level 4 John Medley Building, University of Melbourne. The launch will be accompanied by an academic workshop at which graduate students will present short papers on their topics, including Jessica Melvin (SHAPS), ‘Patterns in the violence: documenting the Indonesian genocide’; Hannah Loney (SHAPS), ‘Post-fieldwork reflections from Timor-Leste’; Mark Crosbie (Asia Institute), ‘Fictionalised hagiography and the 17th century reinvention of Chan Buddhism’; Mayuko Itoh (SHAPS), ‘Dream Chasers: The transnational lives of Japanese migrant women in international marriages’.

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