School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses

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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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    Point Cook: The Crucible of Air Force Capability in Australia
    Campbell-Wright, Stephen John ( 2019)
    This thesis argues that place can have an influence on cultural heritage. A site can have a profound effect on the cultural heritage of a community or institution through the influence it exerts on public memory and sense of community. It can infuse itself into the narratives that give a community its identity. Such influence is heightened in the military context, especially where events of significance form the basis for the origin stories of the organisation. While military forces in Australia often refer to significant places, they give little attention to investigating, documenting and interpreting the effect of these sites on their cultural heritage or, more broadly, on local communities near the site, and on the nation. This study examines the influence of place on cultural heritage through the example the National Heritage Listed military site of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base at Point Cook. The thesis is an analytical case study that uses the site of Point Cook, and it comprises two principal components: historical enquiry and cultural heritage analysis. The approach is cross-disciplinary and places historical research into the site within a cultural heritage framework. The elements of intangible cultural heritage and site significance provide a framework for the historical enquiry into the site that, rather than comprising a single historical narrative, documents and expresses the history of the site through those two cultural heritage points of reference. The subsequent analysis interprets the site within four settings: the local community around Point Cook, the national setting, the international setting and finally the RAAF community. This thesis finds that the RAAF base at Point Cook has significantly influenced the cultural heritage of the RAAF. It pervades the public memory of the organisation, infusing itself into its birth narrative and acquiring attributed layers of meaning that act, in part, to form the identity of the present-day institution. Further, the site has helped to shape the culture of the local community, and it has played a part in the broader narrative of national development—in particular, in the roles that military and civil aviation have played in Australia’s development. The research findings demonstrate that sites of significance can have an effect that is not constrained to the community associated with it and can be used to help shape local communities, as well as to provide richer detail in the national narrative.
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    Colonial soundscapes: a cultural history of sound recording in Australia, 1880–1930
    Reese, Henry Peter ( 2019)
    ‘Colonial Soundscapes’ is the first systematic cultural history of the early phonograph and gramophone in Australian settler society. Drawing on recent work in sound studies and the history of sound, the ‘talking machine’ is conceived as part of the soundscape of colonial modernity in colonial and Federal Australia. I argue that national environmental/place attachment and modern listening practices developed together, with anthropological thought, popular culture, commercial life, intellectual elite discourse and everyday life providing the key sites for transformation. This thesis reads the materials of the early sound recording industry in light of recent conceptual emphases on the importance of sound in cultural life. Archival research into the history of sound recording was conducted at the EMI Archives Trust and Thomas Alva Edison Papers, Rutgers University, among others. I also draw heavily on the papers of several foundational anthropological recordists, chiefly Baldwin Spencer, Alfred Cort Haddon and E. Harold Davies. Extensive research into the trade and popular phonographic press also provides a corpus of material through which it is possible to recover the meaning of recorded sound in everyday Australian life in its first generations. I conceive of the early phonograph and gramophone in terms of an ‘economy’ and ‘ecology’ of sound in a settler society. These concepts are proposed as a mechanism for accounting for the raft of cultural responses provoked by early sound recording. An ‘economy’ of sound encompasses the economic, archival and scientific modes of apprehending the changed relationship between sound and source. The economic and business structures that underpinned the rise of a national recording industry in Australia fall under this rubric, as do attempts by salvage anthropologists to taxonomically fix and locate the speech and musics of Indigenous peoples, believed to be endangered by the onset of colonial modernity. Drawing on the concept of the soundscape, as modified by significant scholarship in the history of sound in recent years, an ‘ecology’ of sound focuses on the poetic, vernacular and emplaced repsonses to recorded sound that pervaded early Australian cultures of listening.
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    Beyond the aetiology debate: the “great LSD scandal” at Newhaven Private Hospital & the social foundations of mental health legislation in Victoria, Australia
    Lomax, Megan Kristine ( 2017)
    This research presents a case for the extension of existing analyses of Australian psychiatric scandals beyond the conclusion that such events are an inherent feature of the profession by virtue of its failure to resolve the aetiology debate. A mid-century impasse in the aetiology debate – the continuous shifting over time of professional commitment between organic and environmental aetiologies of mental illness – has been identified as the catalyst for the emergence of the therapeutic paradigm of eclecticism that fostered the deep sleep therapy and ‘Therapeutic Community’ programs that were central to Australia’s two infamous psychiatric scandals at Chelmsford and Townsville, respectively. While these two affairs were enduring the scrutiny of commissions of inquiry, the recommendations of which translated to the legislative reform of mental health services in the states of New South Wales and Queensland, a third such scandal was unfolding at Newhaven Private Hospital in Victoria involving the “injudicious use” of therapeutic LSD. By the late 1980s and early 90s, a number of former “patients” of Newhaven emerged claiming that they had never suffered any mental illness and that the LSD they had received had not been administered for therapeutic purposes but rather as a recruitment tool for a fringe religious sect known as The Family that had commandeered the hospital and the loyalty of a number of its staff. What constituted the scandal at Newhaven, however, was the fact that these activities continued unchallenged despite the implementation of statutory regulations – the Poisons (Hallucinogenic Drugs) Regulations 1967 – designed specifically to protect against the abuse of therapeutic hallucinogens. Having avoided any formal inquiry of its own, the Newhaven case represented not only a compelling narrative history opportunity, but also a test of the robustness of the prevailing argument that such scandals emerge as a consequence of the profession’s failure to achieve consensus on the aetiology of mental illness against the implication that inadequate legislation facilitated the abuse. Using the case of Newhaven as a working example, this research analyses the historical mental health legislation of Victoria and parliamentary debates to construct a legislative history of the aetiology debate and confirm its role in the emergence of psychiatric scandal, arguing that the Poisons (Hallucinogenic Drugs) Regulations 1967, and indeed mental health policy more broadly, were in fact products of the debate. Furthermore, it demonstrates how, far from being insulated within the profession of psychiatry, the debate itself was informed by wider prevailing social, cultural, political and economic trends. The abuse of therapeutic LSD unfolded under permissive regulations which reflected the permissive nature of broader mental health policy embodied in the Mental Hygiene Acts and their signature initiative of deinstitutionalisation. This permissiveness was a symptom of the underlying atmosphere of eclecticism that characterised mid-century psychiatry in Victoria as it sought to accommodate simultaneously the biological and social bases for the eugenic and community-based measures, respectively, that developed in response to the co-emergent social forces of the ‘mental hygiene’ and ‘anti-psychiatry’ movements.
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    The instant image: a critical and creative exploration of the one-off photographic images
    Zeeng, Lynette ( 2017)
    The research questions that underpin this thesis arise from my search for an alternative photographic process within my creative practice, following the demise of Polaroid in 2008. This study first investigates the history of photography and the many processes that created one-off finite images, including the contemporary adaptation of these processes. It then documents my creative work in reproducing and modifying several historical photographic processes, such as cyanotype and tintype, and my application of alternate means of photographic expression that maintain the unpredictable outcome achieved using Polaroid techniques. This doctorate is by exegesis and creative practice. It is in two volumes. In Volume One, the first four chapters trace the history of photographs, the scientific and artistic developments that led to the phenomenon we know as photography. My research outlines the scientists and practitioners behind the many evolving photographic processes, particularly those that produced one-off unrepeatable images. These chapters review the significance of each of these one-off processes, examining in detail such photographic processes as cyanotype and oil printing, how they were achieved and what influence they may have had on the further development of photography up to the present day. The thesis reflects on the individual nuances, veracity and limitations of the various processes that produced one-off tactile images that were unrepeatable without mechanical intervention. Chapters five to seven discuss the applications associated with the various one-off processes and the creative work that emerged from my trials and adaptations of them. These chapters document my experiments and how the processes may be adapted, altered or modified with contemporary technology or updated chemistry. I have also investigated the resurgence of the historical processes, now deemed ‘alternative’, among artists and photographers who, like myself, are seeking a new creative expression in their work. Volume Two is my creative portfolio. This provides the culmination of my archival and applied research and documents the public exhibitions of my creative work that comprises the doctorate. The creative portfolio showcases the outcome of the experiments undertaken to explore, review and revise various historic photographic processes, producing a body of one-off unrepeatable images that maintain the perfect imperfections, unique artifacts and veracity shown by my earlier work with Polaroid.
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    Science in our hands: physiotherapy at the University of Melbourne 1895-2010
    MCMEEKEN, JOAN MERRILYN ( 2015)
    At a time when medicine could offer little therapeutic benefit, physiotherapists cured medical conditions by increasing circulation, strengthening muscle, breaking down adhesions, improving metabolism, affecting the nervous system, and restoring symmetrical and normal development and movement. Physiotherapy cured whilst medicine waited for nature to heal. This untold story of physiotherapy education in Victoria, Australia, is seen through the bifocal analytical lens of professionalisation and embodiment in the development of physiotherapists. As narrative and autobiographical history it identifies key physiotherapists and the relationships with medicine and medical sciences. It provides the background to the emergence of practitioners in the nineteenth century and their local recognition by the end of the century. The major professionalisation milestones include the formation of an association and education in conjunction with the University of Melbourne in 1906, and the expanding clinical roles of women and men physiotherapists in the two World Wars. The itinerant physiotherapy services, commenced in the 1930s to treat people with poliomyelitis, extended its services to a wider community, becoming the forerunner of primary contact autonomous practice in 1976. These significant events influenced education. Whilst continuing to undertake biomedical sciences subjects at the University of Melbourne, the School of Physiotherapy became established initially at Fairfield Hospital and then Lincoln Institute. The proposal to transfer Lincoln to La Trobe University in the 1980s induced the members of the physiotherapy profession to campaign successfully for the University of Melbourne to commence its School of Physiotherapy in 1991. The development of comprehensive education and research programmes and an expanding physiotherapy epistemology conclude this exploration of the professionalisation journey.
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    The good death: historicising euthanasia in Australia
    Mahar, Caitlin Louise ( 2016)
    This thesis provides an historical perspective on the contemporary push to legalise euthanasia in Australia. It traces the rise of euthanasia activism from the first proposal to legalise a physician-assisted death in England in the 1870s to the enactment of the world’s first voluntary euthanasia legislation in Australia’s Northern Territory in 1995. In order to apprehend how a death hastened by a physician became a conceivable and even desirable way to die, it argues that the movement must be examined in relation to changing cultural conceptions of the good death, dying and suffering. Drawing on Foucault’s concept of genealogy, this project historicises the thoughts, feelings and customs that gave rise to the euthanasia debate and today make it so compelling. It sees the beginnings and flowering of the movement as entwined with shifting Western understandings of the good death that are themselves inextricably tied to changing deathbed practices – notably the rising prominence of the doctor at the bedside of the dying. The thesis contends that ultimately the increasing popularity of the euthanasia cause needs to be grasped in the context of a dramatic shift in Western conceptions of the pain of dying that can be traced back to the nineteenth century. In taking this approach, the thesis contributes to histories of dying and suffering. Many scholars of the history of dying in twentieth-century Western societies have emphasised the idea that as medicine developed unprecedented means to cure the sick, death came to be seen as a medical failure and the pain and suffering of the dying was neglected. Through a history of euthanasia, this study traces a different shift in cultural attitudes towards terminal illness and pain as well as another, less well-examined aspect of the medicalisation of dying. It argues that the increasingly popular euthanasia movement reflected and reinforced a growing medical as well as cultural concern not to preserve or prolong life, but to eliminate pain and suffering.
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    Historicizing cosmology: the shifting scenes of modern cosmological inquiry
    PEARCE, JACOB ( 2015)
    Modern cosmology emerged as a distinctive field of physics in the 20th century. Over time, a number of important shifts occurred in (i) the questions and problems that were deemed intelligible; and (ii) the methods, techniques and epistemic practices that made these questions and problems tractable. These fundamental changes have been obscured by historical accounts that focus exclusively on cosmological theories. By tracing the history of its questions and practices, my approach analyzes the shifting scenes of modern cosmological inquiry—the evolving ways in which inquirers ‘get to grips’ with the cosmos as a whole. The thesis also draws out the somewhat hidden role that the historical style has played in the radical transformations in conceptions of the universe. Historicizing cosmology means investigating the historical conditions under which, and the means with which, the cosmos as a whole was made into an object of scientific knowledge. Yet the title also denotes the way in which the historical style unfolded in the domain of cosmological inquiry. The cosmos as a whole is now universally understood in terms of historicity. Practices such as forwards and backwards temporal extrapolation (thinking about the past evolutionary history of the universe with different initial conditions and other parameters) are now commonplace. I trace the emergence, evolution and subsequent entrenchment of the historical style. The scene has gradually become dominated and entirely constituted by historicist explanations. This has configured (and re-configured) the terrain of possibilities for the scenes of inquiry. In short, the universe has been historicized and the historical style has made the universe tractable. In order to trace the emergence and evolution of the historical style, my approach is to examine five major ‘turning points’ or ‘signature moments’, which paved the way for new phases in modern cosmological inquiry. These five turning points also highlight challenges to the historical style, and its struggle to establish itself against opposing tendencies.
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    Lost property: the marginalisation of the artefact in contemporary museum theatre
    CLYNE, JOANNA ( 2015)
    The use of performance as an interpretive tool in museums has a long, although largely under-researched, history. Central to this thesis is the paradoxical observation that performance in museums, or ‘museum theatre’, regularly fails to engage with collection items. The title of the thesis, ‘lost property’, refers to both the apparent displacement of collection objects as the subject of museum theatre and the complexities of performing historical artefacts in a museum without reducing their significance to the status of a theatrical prop. Traditionally, the object has been central to the concept of ‘museum’. With the advent of a new museological approach to the running of museums, the exhibition object seems to have taken a subordinate role to the presentation of ideas and concepts through exhibition design and interpretation. This thesis draws on disciplinary literature, case studies, site visits and interviews with museum theatre practitioners to identify and examine the factors that have contributed to the shifting focus of performance based on objects to performance based on ideas.
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    A culture of speed: the dilemma of being modern in 1930s Australia
    Andrewes, Frazer ( 2003)
    This thesis explores the reaction of Australians living in Melbourne in the 1930s, to changes in technology, social organisation, and personal attitudes that together constituted what they saw as innovations in modern life. Taking the Victorian Centenary of 1934 as a starting point, it analyses the anxieties and excitements of a society selfconsciously defining itself as part of a progressive potion of the western world. They reflected on the place of the city as locus of modernity; they analysed what appeared to be the quickening pace of human communications. They knew increasing leisure but deprecated the concomitant condition of boredom. They were concerned whether modernity was disease. They faced the ambiguities of the racial exclusivity of Australian modernity, centred in part on their ambivalence about Aborigines as Australians, but also incorporating long-held fears of populous Asian neighbours. They were not Britons, but their concerns for “men, money and markets”—and defence—kept the British connection uppermost. They participated in competing visions of the meanings of the past, and the directions of the future. Modern life, it seemed, was accused of overturning fundamental, and natural, race and gender norms, sapping the vital force of white Australia. Spurred by the increasing likelihood of a major conflict at the decade’s end, and drawing on much older and deepseated anxieties in Australia’s past, pessimists predicted a future where the technologies of modernity would make Australia vulnerable to attack. Australians in Melbourne, however, were excited about modernity and not just anxious. People were prepared to take risks, to seek novel experiences, and the reasons for this probably stemmed from the same causes that made other people turn away from the new to find comfort in the familiar. Modernity, in terms of changing mental processes as much as in its technological dimension, offered the chance for Melburnians to escape the often grim realities of life in the 1930s. Despite clearly expressed uncertainties, interwar Australians had committed themselves to a project of modernity.