School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses

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    The geometry of reason
    Baracchi, Paolo ( 2002)
    This work attempts a contemporary proof and interpretation of the Hegelian and Marxian dialectic. Drawing on converging evidence from formal logic, the natural sciences and Freudian psychoanalysis, a philosophical argument is suggested, culminating in a non-Euclidean model of conceptual space. This model connects Kent's anti-foundational project with Hegel's immanent metaphysic and Marxist dialectical materialism. A similar position, reached by Wittgenstein, seems compromised by 'Euclidean' self-misunderstandings, reflecting the ideological (naturalist and irrationalist) rejection of dialectic and subjectivity. Three main clusters of interconnected geometrical and philosophical problems are discussed in the respective chapters that form Part I, `The Geometrical Framework:' (1) matters of orientation and dimensionality, related to the philosophical question of the dialectical co-ordination of intuition and conceptuality (and of 'metaphysical counterparts' generally); (2) the Euclidean and Riemannian (elliptic) geometries, with a view to constructing a geometrical model of the dialectical relations between the Understanding and Reason (the former being roughly Euclidean, the latter Riemannian); (3) the 'Mobius principle' as a model of sublation (Aufhebung) and the fulcrum of this work's attempt to provide a unified sketch of these concerns, involving a radical proposal for a thorough empiricisation and historicisation of our conceptual frameworks (as required also by the 'philosophy of praxis' and dialectical materialism). Part II, 'Discussions and Applications,' consists in four chapters. Chapter 4 presents the return of subjectivity (as the dialectical fabric of phenomenology, pragmatics and communication) as this emerges from its ideological repression in the twentieth century. Chapter 5, 'Kant, Hegel and Contemporary Philosophy,' situates the argument historically: theoretical faultlines corresponding to the flawed anti-Hegelianism constitutive of the contemporary philosophical orthodoxy are exposed, while Hegel is presented as a scientific metaphysician fulfilling Kent's anti-foundational programme by means of the dialectical approach to the Antinomies. Chapter 6, 'The Logical Heart of the Matter,' is also the historical sequel of the previous chapter. The Antinomies, repressed in their Hegelian solution, return to haunt philosophy in the logical paradoxes, where they express the resilience of totality, reflection and subjectivity, against the forces of reification and prevalent ideology. Chapter 7 indicts the 'later' Wittgenstein with an anti-metaphysical self-misunderstanding, dependent upon the persistence of logical commitments that are both wrong and at odds with his own anti-foundational semantics. Wittgenstein's equivocation is seen to depend upon a Euclidean construal that situates anti-foundational 'surfaces' in superseded Tractarian 'logical space.' An Hegelian and Riemannian rectification is proposed, capable of accounting for the analogy between `forms of life' and Hegel's Concept.
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    A little piece of the real : on the critical theory of Slavoj Zizek
    Sharpe, Matthew Joel ( 2002)
    This thesis argues two contentions. The first is expository, pertaining to the question of how to read Zizek. The second is critical, and has two components: i. The Expository Contention: I argue in the first four chapters that Zizek's intention is to produce a latter-day Marxist critical theory of social reproduction, which would also allow him to locate theoretical possibilities, and possible modes of political agency, capable of challenging the contemporary neoliberalist hegemonic order. The central category in Zizek's critical endeavour is that of 'ideology'. Zizek argues that he can redeem this category against the two charges levelled against it by its manifold 'post' or non-Marxist critics. These are: - that the classical Marxist model of 'ideology' which sees ideological discourses as capturing subjects at the level of what they consciously think is irrelevant today, yet: - the expanded forms of the category of 'ideology' in such theorists as Lukacs and Althusser, which perceive 'ideologies' as directly informing social practices, collapse the category into a purely descriptive anthropological category devoid of critical potential. I contend that is in the light of a desire to generate an adequate descriptive theory of later modern social reproduction via a reclaiming of the category of ideology that Zizek turns to Lacanian psychoanalysis: - In response to the first charge against the relevance of the category of 'ideology', I hold that Zizek argues that ideologies interpellate individuals primarily at the level of the Freudian unconscious, which he takes to be manifested and reproduced in subjects' intramundane activities, and that ideologies work by structuring regimes of jouissance for subjects in what he terms 'ideological fantasies'. - In response to the second charge, I hold that Zizek has recourse to a distinction between 'reality' as the horizon of subjects' meaningful experience - which (he thinks) is always structured by ideology - and 'the Real'. Crucially, he conceives this latter not as any substance or solidarity that is wholly outside ideology, but (most deeply) as "the deadlocks of formalisation" preventing any hegemonic ideology from ever achieving full consistency with itself. It is his theory's uncovering of this Real, he contends, that enables it to maintain a critical distance vis-a-vis ideologically reproduced reality, by showing how the latter never achieves the legitimacy it lays claim to. Accordingly: My position is that Zizek is to be read as proposing a species of immanent critique of ideology which would enable him to denounce contemporary hegemonic discourses and practices as 'ideological', and so point towards ways of unifying theory with contestatory political practice in the contemporary socio-political conjuncture. ii. The Critical Contention: I contend that the greatest merit of Zizek's theory of ideology is to proffer an explanation of the radical self-reflexivity of power in later modernity. His Lacanism allows him to explain how contemporary capitalism can allow subjects to be consciously cynical of its explicit ideological terms, while relying with near-certainty upon their more lasting conformity. Yet my critical contention is that Zizek's attempt to regenerate an immanent critique of contemporary capitalism is inadequate to Zizek's own ambitions for it. - At the level of his attempt to deploy a description of the contemporary situation, I argue that the inadequacy of Zizek's project is indicated by his hesitations about how to conceive of two central categories: 'capitalism' and 'class struggle'. - At the level of his prescriptive political philosophy, my contention is that the inadequacy of his immanent critique is indicated by Zizek's hesitations about supporting or opposing a radical democratic political prescription; about supporting or opposing a redemocratising mode of political activism; and between defending a rigourously formalistic Kantian ethics, and attempting to generate a substantive ground of normative ethicopolitical value. While these inadequacies themselves are deeply telling given Zizek's own intentions, the second component of my critical contention is that they are to be read as the epiphenomena of the deep incapacity of Zizek's undergirding theoretical system to generate any guiding tenets that would have enabled him to unify theory and praxis. My central argument here is hence one that opposes me to Laclau, but situates me closer to Elliot, Rubens, Butler and Bellamy, of the authors who have so far critiqued Zizek's work. Yet (unlike Rubens and Elliot) I contend that we need not commit ourselves to an alternative substantive philosophical anthropology, to locate what falls short about Zizek's Lacanianism. Primarily: I contend that Zizek's problems arise from how, in the language of German idealism, he elevates the Kantian category of antinomy over the Hegelian-Marxist category of contradiction as the philosophical category which he thinks is capable of explaining how hegemonic ideologies fail, and so can be critiqued. Because of this categorial choice, the following consequences follow more or less immediately, I think; - the 'antagonism' rending any hegemony which Zizek's theory enables us to locate is primarily metaphysical, not political. Although the historical forms it will take are empirically unpredictable, that such points of antagonism will occur is deducible a priori; - equally, it can be predicted in advance that any attempt by a social particular to politically and/or veridically represent or 'hegemonise' the social universality will be flawed. (It will have, indeed, all the validity of someone inferring that the world must have had a beginning because everything he has so far experienced has). And I think it is precisely these two theoretical faults that underlie Zizek's manifold hesitations as to how to bring his theory to bear on praxis today.
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    Roaming the world: some aspects of nature and landscape in Latin literature
    STONE, CAITLIN ( 2002)
    This thesis considers representations of nature and place in a selection of Latin texts and argues that these have an important function in ancient Roman literature in helping Roman writers to reflect on aspects of Roman history and culture. It also analyses some common Roman responses to particular types of natural environment. In the Introduction, definitions of ‘nature’ and ‘place’ are discussed, and a selection of previous works dealing with nature in ancient Roman literature are compared with the present study. Ancient training in rhetoric and mnemonics, which have some bearing on how Roman writers and their readers may have responded to the physical world, are also analyzed. Chapter I discusses the relationship between Rome and its natural environment. It argues that in Roman accounts of the building and early history of the city, it is the Roman people’s responses to water (in the form of rivers, lakes, drains and aqueducts) and wood (in the form of trees and forests) which is regularly emphasized. Chapter II examines some of the links between nature and national identity, before turning to some of the natural symbols of Roman society. It is argued that Roman writers show a particular interest in the ways in which nature and place can attain meaning as a result of human activity and in using them to write about events from Roman history. The central part of the thesis examines two specific areas of nature: farms and gardens. It argues that whereas both farms and useful, productive gardens are seen as models of the ideal relationship between human beings and nature, pleasure-gardens appear in just the opposite light. Yet with the writings of Statius and the younger Pliny, there appears a new admiration for human beings’ capacity to alter nature in ways which had previously been loudly condemned. Chapter V turns to representations of forests and other wild places in Latin literature. In particular, it argues that there was generally perceived to be an opposition between Rome and wild nature. This is reflected in accounts of Roman conflicts in places such as Gaul and Germany, as well as in descriptions of Roman building projects, which are often depicted as battles against nature itself. The final chapter looks beyond ancient Roman literature to the works of some later writers and argues that their descriptions of the city of Rome were often clearly shaped by their acquaintance with ancient literature. These later writers, however, take ancient descriptions of the pre-Roman wilderness and apply them to the ruined city of their own day. In doing so, they suggest that the history of the city has come full circle, and that nature has in its turn achieved a victory over Rome.
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    The experience of being a hidden child survivor of the holocaust
    Gordon, Vicki ( 2002)
    Child survivors of the Holocaust have only recently been recognized as a distinguishable group of individuals who survived the war with a different experience to the older survivors. This thesis focuses on a specific group of child survivors, those who survived by going into hiding. In hiding, some remained "visible" by hiding within convents, orphanages or with Christian families. Others were physically hidden and had to disappear from sight. Most children often combined these two experiences in their hiding. The intent of this study was to explore the experience of these hidden children using Giorgi’s empirical phenomenological methodology and to gain a richer understanding of the nature of this experience. Phenomenological analyses of the recorded and transcribed interviews of 11 child survivors were conducted and organized into meaning units which subsequently yielded situated structures from which the general structures evolved. These analyses revealed that the defining moment of being hidden for these children was the suppression of their identities as Jews. By being hidden, they had to deny the essence of their core selves, including their names, family details and connections to others in an effort to conceal their Jewishness. Other structures to emerge as part of hiding were the pervading fear which enveloped their entire experience in hiding and the sense of suspended normality during this period, which sometimes extended over a period of years. A "cut-offness" and personality constriction seemed to be present throughout the descriptions of these children and appears to have developed as a method of coping with the trauma of their childhood. Overlaying all of this were general insecurities about the capriciousness of the war and the contextual specifics of their actual hiding places to which each child had to adjust. Connections/relationships to another person seemed to be highly significant in the dynamics of the everyday during the experience of hiding and often shaped some of the psychological and emotional experiences of hiddenness.
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    Birth of a nation? constructing and de-constructing the Eureka legend
    Beggs Sunter, Anne ( 2002)
    This thesis examines the contention that Australian democracy was born at the Eureka Stockade. In this investigation, issues of identity, nationalism and memory have been central to an exploratory study of the contested memories of Eureka. The records of the Victorian goldfields in 1854 were examined to discover to what extent contemporaries thought they were establishing a new social order. The immediate political gains won by the Stockade had ramifications for the whole of Australia. Later interpretations of 1854 are also examined, to understand how later generations, in different times and places, interpreted the actions of the Stockaders of 1854. These interpretations are epitomized in literature, music, art, museums, public celebrations and commemorations, in Ballarat and elsewhere. Central to this thesis has been the role of the Eureka flag as a symbol of identity and a symbol of protest. The contests surrounding its creation, ownership, authenticity, and exhibition are examined. In spite of these concerns, the flag became a powerful symbol, flexible enough to be used by extreme Right and Left wing political movements. Using the Nietzschean analysis of the uses and abuses of history, the thesis examines the role of public history through the memorialisation and commemoration of an historic event, and examines the process of constructing a Eureka interpretation centre in Ballarat.
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    Claiming history: military representations of the Indonesian past in museums, monuments and other sources of official history from late guided democracy to the new order
    McGregor, Katharine Elizabeth ( 2002-03)
    General A. H. Nasution established the Armed Forces History Centre in 1964 for the purpose of countering a communist history of the 1945-49 revolution. After the coup attempt of 1965 and the ensuing military takeover of government the History Centre assumed a far more assertive and prominent role in history making. The fact that Nugroho Notosusanto, as Head of the Centre, took over the planning of Sukarno's half-completed National Monument History Museum project in 1969 provides evidence of the extent to which national history making became military business in the early New Order period. The study considers how history was represented in the projects of the Centre from its inception in 1964 to its last museum project in 1993. It traces how the military used history from the early years of the New Order to legitimize the overthrow of the Sukarno regime, to justify the killing of perhaps 500,000 alleged communists, to strengthen military unity and to legitimize the military's political role and the suppression of regime dissent. Where possible this study compares military representations of the Indonesian past with earlier representations of the past, especially Sukarnoist interpretations of the past made in the leftist Guided Democracy period. In doing so the thesis examines how the national myth and related constructions of national identity were transformed by the military-dominated New Order regime. In the wake of the 1965 coup the Centre worked quickly to complete an official history of the coup as a communist plot. It then prioritized projects designed to cement military unity. In 1972 the army sponsored a seminar on how the '1945 values' could be transferred to the younger generations. This resulted in a wide range of history projects emphasizing the military's role in the revolution. In the early years of the New Order regime Nugroho Notosusanto, a trained historian with a thwarted career as a soldier, was the driving force behind the Centre. In the latter years of the regime, as the 1945 Generation retired from the military, the History Centre focused on different themes including the historical threats of the extreme right (extreme Islam) and the extreme left (communism). Whereas emphasis on the threat of extreme Islam was particularly promoted by Benny Murdani in the mid 1980s and thereafter largely abandoned, the threat of communism remained a cornerstone of the regime from its inception to its end. This is evidenced by the elaborate and continuing memorialisation of the site at which the bodies of the army victims of the 1965 coup were dumped and continuing annual commemoration held at this site. The thesis also encompasses analysis of the museum as a site of visual historical representation in Indonesia. It examines Indonesian perceptions of the functions of museums and the military concept of the museum as a medium through which to transfer values to young Indonesians. In doing so the study aims to promote critical thinking on the functions which history museums should serve in the future.
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    Anti-Chinese violence in Indonesia, 1996-1999
    Purdey, Jemma Elizabeth ( 2002-10)
    Anti-Chinese violence in Indonesia reached a climax in Jakarta and elsewhere in May 1998 against a background of dramatic social and political change. This study presents close analysis of selected incidents that occurred mainly in Java in the years prior to this and in its aftermath. It tests explanations of anti-Chinese violence based on economic resentment, religious difference or state-sponsorship. By highlighting ethnicity as the single constant, as well as the importance of locating agency and responsibility, and the sources of representations of events of mass violence, the study challenges existing understandings of “anti-Chinese” violence. The approach taken recognises that violence against ethnic Chinese Indonesians must be viewed within the context of Indonesian nationalism and alongside other violence in Indonesia. It cannot be separated from the national political, social and economic turmoil of that time. In addition, it emphasises the competing representations of “Chineseness” and anti-Chinese violence for what they reveal about the motives behind certain explanations of violence and the events themselves. Of central significance is the way in which anti-Chinese violence is represented and perceived in Indonesian society as normal, natural and everyday. This study stresses the importance of listening to the voices of victims of violence and seeks to recognise the moral concerns related to scholarly and “official” generalisations about violence and suffering in particular. Framed in this way this approach poses the fundamental question, “Is there anti-Chinese violence in Indonesia?”
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    From 'babes in the wood' to 'bush-lost babies': the development of an Australian image
    Torney, Kim Lynette ( 2002)
    In this thesis I argue that the image of a child lost in the bush became a central strand in the Australian colonial experience, creating a cultural legacy that remains to this day. I also argue that the way in which the image developed in Australia was unique among British-colonised societies. I explore the dominant themes of my thesis - the nature of childhood, the effect of environment upon colonisers, and the power of memory - primarily through stories. The bush-lost child is an image that developed mainly in the realms of ‘low’ culture, in popular journals, newspapers, stories and images including films, although it has been represented in such ‘high’ cultural forms as novels, art and opera. I have concentrated on the main forms of its representations because it is through these that the image achieves its longevity. (For complete abstract open document)
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    Secret life of wounded spaces: traumascapes in the contemporary Australia
    Tumarkin, Maria M. ( 2002-01)
    The title of this thesis borrows the notion of ‘wounded space’ from anthropologist and historian Deborah Bird Rose. The work’s central aspiration is to initiate a conversation about the power and fate of physical settings of traumatic events, and, in particular, about the cultural work such places can be seen to perform in the contemporary Western world. My focus is on ‘traumascapes’ places that are traditionally described and understood as haunted. I use the notion of traumascapes as a means of historicising haunting and haunted places and of recognising them as an integral part of our landscapes and lived sociality. (For complete abstract open document)
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    Representations of history and nation in museums in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand: the National Museum of Australia and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
    Gore, James Michael ( 2002-03)
    This thesis examines museum development in the two post-colonial settler societies of Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand, investigating the evolution of new histories as museums seek to aid the construction of post-colonial national identities. Drawing on a wide body of evidence on an under-researched topic, the thesis is arranged in two parts. The first presents a survey of how traditional images of national identity have been created, sustained and more recently challenged during the histories of Australia and New Zealand - illustrating that the question of non-indigenous national identity is a problematic one. It then provides a historical narrative of museums in both countries. Highlighting the differences and similarities between the two countries and focusing on the development of historical collections, it explores how museums have perpetuated traditional interpretations of nation, and how in recent decades various factors have combined to challenge conventional museum practice, making the role and function of museums at the beginning of the twenty-first century particularly complex. The second part focuses on the new National Museum of Australia in Canberra and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington. It combines an examination of their history with an analysis of how they attempt to convey ideas of nation and national identity. Both museums have opened recently, at a time when national museums around the world are confronted with an increasingly prominent and challenging political and social role in society, and an especially difficult, perhaps impossible, task of representing all the different histories that constitute the ‘nation’.