School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses

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    Contentious Routes: Ireland Questions, Radical Political Articulations and Settler Ambivalence in (White) Australia, c. 1909 - 1923
    Yan, Jimmy H. ( 2021)
    This thesis is a transnational history of the ‘Ireland Question' in the imperial and ethico-political imaginary of radical and labour movements in (‘White’) Australia during the ‘Irish revolutionary period’, broadly conceived. It traces the contestation of 'Ireland' as a political signifier, with attention to its constitutive differences, transnational circuitries, utopian investments, relations of recognition and desire, and articulatory practices. Where previous studies of Irish nationalisms in Australia have deployed 'the nation' as a consensualist category of analysis, this study reinterprets the ‘Ireland Question’ in postnational terms as contentious and within routes. Combining attention to settler-colonial difference with the discursive articulation of political forms, it situates the 'Ireland Question' firstly in relation to the political as a signifier of settler ambivalence, and secondly to politics as a social movement. Drawing on archival research in Australia, Ireland and Britain, it analyses personal papers, letters, political periodicals, state surveillance records, political ephemera and pamphlets. Beyond the 'Ireland Question' in the imperial labour movement, this study affords serious attention to historical dimensions at the hybrid boundaries of ‘long-distance nationalism’ including political travel performances in Ireland, non-nationalist transnational political networks ranging from feminist to socialist connections, and non-Irish political identification with 'Ireland.' It proposes that this unstable play of meanings comprised a heterogeneity of political positions and networks whose convergence during the conjuncture of 1916-1921 was both contingent and politically contested: one that signified in excess of either Australian nationalist historical teleologies or a coherent 'transnational Irish revolution.'
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    Paradoxical Representations of Vietnamese Women in Propaganda: The Communist Party of Vietnam and Conflicting Visions of Women During the Vietnam War (1955-1975)
    Ardley, Georgia ( 2021)
    This thesis examines the paradoxical representations of Vietnamese women produced by the Vietnamese Communist Party (CPV) between 1955-1975. Through analysis of the changing representations of women, it questions the Party's commitment to gender equality. Furthermore, it challenges the assumption in previous scholarship that the Vietnam War was a period of increased rights and revolutionary change, and instead suggests that Vietnamese women were circumscribed by the persistence of Confucianism in CPV propaganda.
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    Countryminded Conforming Femininity: A Cultural History of Rural Womanhood in Australia, 1920 – 1997
    Matheson, Jessie Suzanne ( 2021)
    This thesis explores the cultural and political history of Australian rural women between 1920 and 1997. Using a diverse range of archival collections this research finds that for rural women cultural constructions of idealised rural womanhood had real impacts on their lived experiences and political fortunes. By tracing shifting constructions of this ideal, this thesis explores a history of Australian rural womanhood, and in turn, centres rural women in Australian political and cultural history. For rural women, an expectation that they should embody the cultural ideals of rural Australia — hardiness, diligence, conservatism and unpretentiousness — was mediated through contemporary ideas of what constituted conforming femininity. This thesis describes this dynamic as countryminded conforming femininity. In this respect, this research is taking a feminist approach to political historian Don Aitkin’s characterisation of the Country Party as driven by an ideology of countrymindedness. This thesis uses countryminded conforming femininity as a lens through which cultural constructions of rural womanhood may be critically interrogated, and changes in these constructions may be traced. This thesis represents the first consideration of Australian rural womanhood as a category across time that is both culturally constructed and central to Australian political and cultural life, drawing together histories of rural women’s experience, representations and activism. It theorises what ideals of Australian rural womanhood have meant across the twentieth century and finds that they have had an under-considered role in Australian political life, and on constructions of Australian national identity.
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    Soma-masculinities: centring the body within studies of masculinities
    Tas, Shane ( 2018)
    Whilst feminist and queer scholarship have paid generous attention to bodies and embodiment in their attempts to better understand gender and sexuality, studies of masculinities have tended to lag behind. In this thesis, I attend to the theoretical strains within studies of masculinities to demonstrate that these studies are at an impasse, a point at which scholars remain reluctant or unable to push beyond current frameworks into new and, as I argue, productive territory. In particular, these studies have most readily employed social constructionist approaches in their analyses, typified by Connell's concept of hegemonic masculinity, however such frameworks have been unable to adequately describe and account for the complexities, contradictions and possibilities of masculinities and male subjectivities. I suggest that bodies are central to this understanding and must be brought into the frame in a more significant manner. Throughout this thesis I draw attention to the blind spot within these studies and attend to bodies more closely through an examination of contemporary masculinities. In particular I consider three specific sites of the body: the phallic, the hegemonic and the homosexual body. I interrogate these through a number of case studies, including pornography, Australian rules football and online dating sites, all of which continue to arouse interest and debate within academic and public spheres. It is here that I draw attention to some of the limitations of current studies and attempt to produce a richer account of the key questions and problems within these debates. In doing this, I introduce a new framework I call soma-masculinities which I employ to address masculinities in a more profound manner, and make some original contributions to the scholarship. In particular, this framework places a greater emphasis on the material body and its fleshy components; it aims to bring the flesh into bodies and questions of masculinity. Soma-masculinities is not one specific theory or concept but rather a mode of enquiry. Thus, it utilises a broad toolkit that incorporates conceptual models that are already available and engaged, particularly within feminist and queer theory. I demonstrate how this framework might offer a more capacious account of contemporary masculinities and the complex ways in which they are embodied and lived.
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    From knowledge to resistance: emerging themes, developments, strategies and agendas for religious Jewish women in Israel today
    Meath, Lauren E. ( 2016)
    This study examines three areas in which religious Jewish women are challenging and changing gender-based inequality in Israel. Israeli women effectively live in two realities. The first is a liberal democracy that has championed legislative policies to advance the status of women and has pushed for gender-based equality from its formation. The second is a nation in which religious law and culturally evolving traditions of Orthodox Jewish practice are not restricted to the private sphere. Instead, such laws and behaviors hold significant power and sway in public space and everyday life. Within this reality, some view the exclusion and subordination of women as a basic tenet of religious Jewish norms. Women are removed, segregated and discriminated again. In the past thirty years, religious Jewish women in Israel have been engaged in an education revolution, gaining access to sacred knowledge and texts previously barred to women and integrating themselves into positions of religious leadership. Their demand for equality, however, has also prompted groups of these women to confront instances of gender-based discrimination on a national level; using legal appeals, public demonstrations, civil disobedience and pluralistic alliances to generate change. Such groups are working to expand ritual, social and civil rights for women in Israel. This study acts to illuminate groups of these women; their engagement with feminism and faith, their confrontation of spaces of inequality and their demand for respect as both Jewish women and Israeli citizens. Little time has been spent examining religious Jewish feminist groups in Israel. There has also been limited academic engagement with the challenges faced by these women as they relate to the Israeli landscape. To this effect, there have been significant gaps in the critical literature regarding women in Israel. Such gaps diminish academic understandings of both the place and position held by women in this country and the strains that evolving religious cultural norms have placed on Israel’s national identity. Situated from a constructionist framework and informed by the academic discipline of Jewish studies, this study utilizes a variety of resources. Previous scholarship, Israeli-based English language newspapers, group-generated publications, United Nations’ reports, NGO reports, legal petitions and rulings, interviews and presentations at a prominent transnational Orthodox feminist conference were all used to illuminate emerging themes, strategies and developments for groups of religious Jewish women in Israel. This is a new methodological approach in a small field and thus offers new perspectives on an underrepresented area of study. Doing so adds to our critical understandings of women’s rights in Israel, Jewish feminism, Orthodoxy in Israel and Israeli national identity.
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    A nation imagined by women: Australia 1888-1902
    Maxwell, Alice ( 2015)
    A nation imagined by women: 1888-1902.
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    Contesting feminist spaces: immigrant and refugee women write history
    Murdolo, Adele ( 1999)
    Within the dominant History of Australian feminism, immigrant and refugee women are constructed as inherently non-feminist, uninterested in feminist activity, and unable to involve themselves in feminism because of a range of barriers such as their class or race oppression. Where their presence in feminist activism has been acknowledged, either their specificity as immigrant or refugee women is not taken into account, or they are relegated to a separate and marginalised sphere of political action. Moreover, immigrant and refugee women are located in the margins of Australian national identity, and of ‘Australian feminism’. As a corollary, anglo-Australian women are positioned firmly in the centre of Australian female national identity. Unlike immigrant and refugee women, anglo-Australian women have been represented as active agents and subjects of a nationalised (Australian) feminist History. Notwithstanding this absence and marginalisation from the established and well-recognised History of Australian feminism, and from the designation ‘Australian’, immigrant and refugee women have been active as feminists, and they have theorised their feminism in complex ways. This theorisation includes the problematisation of a nationalised identity. Two ‘case studies’ are presented to demonstrate and explore the activism of immigrant and refugee women, and the theoretical contentions of the thesis. First, the activism of immigrant and refugee women in the Victorian refuge movement is explored. The second case study analyses the involvement of immigrant and refugee women in the four Women and Labour Conferences, held around Australia since 1978. Through both case studies, the construction of Historical evidence is also explored. In this regard, the findings of these case studies raise a clear challenge to the current Historical narrative and they broaden current concepts of what constitutes feminist activism in Australia.
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    In their own words: locating generations of women in an Australian family, 1846 to 1990
    Prince, Anne Helen ( 2010)
    This thesis examines selected texts across several generations in one middle-class Australian family to retrieve histories of so-called ordinary women whose lives are often invisible in mainstream history. The women’s life experiences that spanned geographically the Queensland outback to the city of Melbourne, were interspersed with interludes in Paris and England in the late 1880s, and Egypt and Salonica in the First World War. Relying on fragmentary sources including personal letters, photographs, daily work diaries, household accounts, postcards and other ephemera, and earlier family historians’ compilations, the thesis captures the complex web of relationships sustained through personal tragedies, deep affections and intermittent hostilities. The significance of women’s central place within the family emerges clearly while revealing the workings of class, gender and race. Despite the particular nature of these generational stories, nevertheless five case studies indicate how certain middle-class women experienced wider social changes on a remote cattle station in the Queensland bush, in hospital nursing in towns and cities, as expatriate colonials performing Australian identities at times of national emergence and within family life in a prestigious Melbourne suburb. The narratives of these individual women demonstrate intriguing aspects of the changing lives of Australian women played out the level of intimate everyday life.
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    The acceptable face of feminism: the National Council of Women of Victoria, 1902-18
    Gray, Kate ( 1988)
    This study focuses on the broad question of post-suffrage feminist activity in Melbourne. When contrasted with the political ferment and air of sexual confrontation which characterised women's struggle for the vote, the post-suffrage period has been seen to represent an acceptance by women of traditional sexual roles and gender stereotypes. Underlying this general view of the period, however, is a complex set of historical factors. It is argued here that the fate of first-wave feminism in Victoria can be more clearly understood through an analysis of the composition and activities of the most broadly-based women's organisation of the early twentieth century the National Council of Women of Victoria. Officially formed in 1902 and continuing today, the National Council of Women is an umbrella organisation for a large and diverse number of affiliated women's gro.ups. From its inception, the Council functioned as a political lobby group, attempting to influence local, state and federal government on issues affecting women, children "and humanity in general". In the early twentieth century, the Council had connections with most publicly active women's groups in Melbourne. These ranged from the most radically feminist of the suffrage societies to the most conservative, both politically and in terms of feminism, of upper:"'class philanthropic organisations. The size and scope of activity of the National Council of Women (hereafter NCW) make its historical significance clear. (From Introduction)
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    Making the Australian male: the construction of manly middle-class youth in Australia, 1870-1920
    Crotty, Martin Alexander ( 1999)
    In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Australia's middle classes were plagued by a variety of concerns for their society's security and well-being. Among the many answers proposed to these threats, control of the nation's young men was among the foremost. Through schooling, juvenile literature, youth groups and various government initiatives, increased efforts were made to ensure that Australia's young men would safeguard and advance their society. Ideals of manliness were promoted with increased vigour, and evolved in accordance with changes in perceived threats. Until the 1870s and 1880s, the primary fears influencing middle-class constructions of manliness were of descent into barbarism, irreligion and vulgarity in a land far removed from European civilisation. This decline was associated with excessive of masculine qualities at the expense of feminine religious and moral virtue. Efforts to control and define manliness thus focused on suppressing masculine hardihood in favour of an effeminate manliness marked by intellectualism, godliness and moral maturity. However, the increasing secularism of the late nineteenth century, growing pride in Australia, the impact of social Darwinism, and the perception of military threats to Australia and the British Empire made feminine ideals of manliness less desirable. Effeminate boys could not conquer the interior spaces of Australia, nor guard against racial decline, nor defend Australia from potential invaders. The ideal of manliness was thus gradually reworked to focus more on physical strength, courage, chivalry, patriotism, and military capability. Masculine qualities were lauded rather than suppressed. Feminine qualities were increasingly despised, and the model of manliness promoted in elite secondary schooling, juvenile literature, and youth groups in the early twentieth century was a vastly more masculine, anti-domestic and muscular construct than that which had predominated fifty years earlier.