School of Historical and Philosophical Studies - Theses
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In Black and White: The rise, fall and on-going consequences of a racial slur in Australian newspapers
In Australia, racism cannot be extricated from settler expropriation of indigenous labour. In this thesis, I trace this entanglement through the lens of a single word – ‘nigger’ – as it has appeared in Australian print media in reference to Aboriginal people and Papuans, from when the term gained currency in the 1860s until its dwindling nearly a century later. I argue that increasing use of ‘nigger’ represented a shift in the way settlers perceived these peoples. Settlers began to conceive of indigenous peoples less as primitive savages or land-occupying natives and more as an exploitable source of cheap labour. This occurred as part of a global process, as Europeans and especially Neo-Europeans consolidated and invested in a dichotomous discourse of race, increasingly figuring themselves as ‘white’ and those whose bodies and labour they exploited as ‘black’. While the use of the slur itself rose and fell, the hierarchical racial schemata of which it was the herald are yet to be dismantled.
What is the Internet of Things? An ontological investigation
he Internet of Things is widely considered to be of major – and increasing – significance as a global socio-technical phenomenon. However, answering the question of what the Internet of Things is turns out to be surprisingly problematic. The problem is not the lack of an answer: indeed, the majority of writings on the Internet of Things seek to address this question in some manner. Rather, the problem is the range and diversity of answers that are proposed, leading to a troubling perplexity about how these answers might separately or collectively describe the Internet of Things. Resolving this perplexity is a highly pertinent challenge given the putative importance of the Internet of Things. In addressing this challenge, I take an unreservedly ontological approach, building on recent ontological thinking in anthropology, Science and Technology Studies and philosophy. I first identify and summarise six influential philosophical schools of thought regarding the ontology of technology: Artefact-based Ontology, Technological Essentialism, Social constructivism, Relationism, Postphenomenology and Object-Oriented Ontology. I then use an inductive method to analyse a sample of Internet of Things literature, thus uncovering common categories of ontological claims about the Internet of Things. Twelve such categories are derived, revealing the Internet of Things to be referred to variously as a technological artefact, a trajectory, a force, an idea, a business opportunity, a contested term, a social actor, something threatened and threatening, a context of use, an enchanted world and a human endeavour. These ontological categories are then brought into dialogue with the philosophical ontologies of technology, identifying where the various categories accord with (or are in conflict with) the different philosophical ontologies. Based on this analysis, I conclude that the Internet of Things, as reflected in the literature sample, is ontologically multiple, in the sense of having more than one way of being. The analysis also highlights limitations in how well any one of philosophical ontologies can account for the Internet of Things as it is described in the literature. In the final stage of my analysis, I consider the possibility that a single underlying ontology might be able to account for the observed ontological multiplicity of the Internet of Things. After reviewing each of the philosophical ontologies, I conclude that Object-Oriented Ontology – and in particular the theory of hyperobjects – provides the most useful underlying ontology.
Interdisciplinary approaches to the study of distanciated Islamic manuscripts: ‘Sad Kalamih [Kalima] Shah Vilayat (One Hundred Sayings by Ali): Manzumih [Manzuma] dar Hajj (Futuh al-Haramayn)’ – a case study
This research addresses challenges posed by the study of distanciated Oriental manuscripts in research collections. Such challenges include language barriers, incomplete provenance, inaccuracies in the catalogue entries and limited research on individual manuscripts. As a result, questions of meaning and significance of such manuscripts are difficult to answer. Focusing on one volume, Sad kalamih Shah Vilayat: Manzumih dar Hajj/ [bih] khatt-i Shah Mahmud (MUL 17), in the Middle Eastern Collection of the University of Melbourne this research proposed a methodology to investigate: - the potential meanings understood or attributed to these manuscripts in their current time and place and their original meaning, both as a book and object. - the significance of each manuscript in its current and original time and place. The manuscript is a composite manuscript with two separate and independent books, bound into one volume. - Book One is a copy of One Hundred Sayings of 'Ali ibn Abi Talib in Arabic and their translation into Persian (Farsi) by 'Adil ibn 'Ali Shirazi - Book Two is a copy of a Hajj travelogue named Futuh al-Haramayn by Muhyi al-Din Lari. Using qualitative methodology including codicology, textual criticism, translation, art history, and historical methodologies within an interdisciplinary approach this thesis explored values and information embedded in the materiality, art and text of the volume. Codicological methods involving raking, UV, IR and normal light, light sheets, magnification and microscopy were applied to understand materials and techniques, page layouts, ordering system, scribes and illuminators. Formal analysis of the shapes, motifs and colours was used to investigate illuminations and illustrations. Comparative studies of maps and other copies of the books was used to expose missing pages and revealed the date of the manuscript and place it in its proper chain of transcription. Book Two was partially translated into English. In order to achieve a comprehensive understanding of the cultural and social context in which the books were produced, literary and historical documents, manuscripts and treatises were studied. The result of the interdisciplinary approach provided information on the meaning of the volume by determining its history, bibliographical data, biography and provenance of each book; and the significance of both books, providing insights into the cultural and religious contexts in which the volume was produced. The research found Book One is a copy of One Hundred Sayings translated into Persian (Farsi) by 'Adil ibn 'Ali Shirazi in the 17th century in Iran. It is made from two independent copies of One Hundred Sayings of 'Ali, with one scribe but two different illuminators. It was repaired in Bukhara, and belonged to a person named Farrukh either in the year 1603 or sometime between the years 1688 and 1785. Book Two was found to be a rare example of one of the oldest versions of the text of Futuh al-Haramayn, transcribed in late 16th century around 1560 AD (968 AH), outside Mecca and probably in Iran. Findings included identifying Nitami or Nizami, as the transcriber and illuminator of the book; that one owner was an Azerbaijani who used the book as either a Hajj guide or a practical source of knowledge on Hajj and another was named Zayn al 'Abidin; and that at least three illustrations were intentionally removed and the catchwords manipulated to cover up this deletion. The findings of this research demonstrate the value of focused interdisciplinary study of one distanciated manuscript. The results enhanced our knowledge of the manuscripts, contributing to the current body of knowledge, providing links and connections between communities with shared cultures, histories and interests, and establishing a methodology that can be transferred to new studies of distanciated collections.
Barriers to Change, Possibilities for Resistance: Concepts within Structures of Oppression, Obstacles to Innovation, and the Implementation Challenge of Conceptual Engineering
Conceptual engineering, when it comes to social kind concepts, has strong political roots within the academy and activist circles alike. But if conceptual engineering, understood as the development of non-dominant conceptual practices, is to be a useful tool for the purposes of achieving or contributing to social justice, there must be a means by which the concepts we design in theory, or within small communities of practice, can take root and propagate in dominant contexts. This, broadly speaking, is known as the implementation challenge of conceptual engineering. This thesis has the general task: to reorient how we approach the implementation challenge. It makes explicit and criticises existing accounts of conceptual implementation, namely those that focus on the role of individualistic implementation strategies in bringing about conceptual change within a community. This emphasis on individual conceptual advocacy warps our perception of the shape, size, and nature of the problem. It fails to recognise our situatedness in social structures that work to maintain and entrench the conceptual status quo, and which stifle conceptual innovation. In this thesis, I identify two mechanisms of conceptual maintenance: psychological convergence mechanisms and mechanisms of conceptual reproduction. The former refers to the social processes by which thinkers and speakers gain similar knowledge structures, in particular overlapping characterizations (i.e. stereotypes), within a community; and the latter, which will be the core focus of this thesis, refers to the mechanisms that promote the copying of prior stable patterns of classification with a term. Both mechanisms are ubiquitous within our social and representational milieu, operating within formal institutions to everyday conversation and engagement with social reality, and working to preserve dominant terms of conceptual engagement. Importantly, both reduce the likelihood of an individual successfully motivating others, within dominant contexts, to adopt an engineered conceptual practice. After general discussion of mechanisms of conceptual maintenance, I spend time explicating certain problems for a particular individualistic implementation strategy that focuses on the reproduction of alternative conceptual practices within in interpersonal speech situations. In particular, the strategy involves engaging with dominant speakers in conversation as to which concept should be expressed by a shared word in a context (i.e. metalinguistic disagreement). The hope is that the dominant speaker will recognise that an extant conceptual practice is deficient, or stands in need of improvement. I argue that such forms of disagreement are often infected with unjust power relations that tend to advantage dominant speakers and existing patterns of classification. This contributes to preserving the conceptual status quo, and subsequently suppresses conceptual change. Moreover, when metalinguistic disagreement favours dominant speakers, I argue that this often constitutes hitherto undiscussed forms of epistemic and linguistic injustice. Overall, my aim is to show that when we develop implementation strategies, we should be careful to take into account the social infrastructure and forces that work to keep things conceptually as they are.
Roman Slavery and Humanitarian Ideas
The Thesis evaluates humanitarian ideas in the ancient world around Roman slavery, including from proponents of Stoicism and early Christianity. The Thesis examines Seneca and Epictetus as Stoics and John Chrysostom and Gregory of Nyssa as Christians. They are evaluated according to the principles of personhood, treatment and freedom to determine what extent they can be taken as humanitarian authors in the ancient context. They are also compared with each other to determine what lessons we can draw about slavery and humanitarianism in the ancient world.
'Qual’è utile alla Città’: pizzochere networks, social ‘usefulness’, and female precarity in early modern Venice
This thesis provides the first dedicated study of the identity, social status, and social roles of pizzochere, or lay religious women, in early modern Venice. Pizzochere professed simple religious vows, usually to a mendicant order, and as professed laywomen lived a complex duality, neither fully secular nor fully religious; vita activa and vita contemplativa. Most also lived outside of the social statuses of wife (and mother and widow) or nun, the roles viewed as conventional for women. This thesis argues that pizzochere’s social position was, nonetheless, not only accepted, but perceived as integral to the proper functioning of the city. Drawing from archival, visual, literary, and architectural evidence, the thesis approaches pizzochere primarily through the concept of utilita, or usefulness, a concept raised surprisingly frequently with regard to these women. It asks what sort of women became pizzochere in sixteenth-century Venice, and how they were perceived by, and interacted with, their contemporary community. Bringing together histories of gender and women’s experiences, histories of lay devotional structures, and the related histories of charity, poor relief and hospitals, the thesis uses pizzochere, viewed as a kind of working woman, as a lens through which to explore the social and economic opportunities available to, and the experiences of, non-elite laywomen in early modern Venice more broadly. Situating these individual women and communities within the city and its other charitable, devotional, and social structures, both informal and governmental, reveals that pizzochere networks included and assisted women of widely varied social background, and filled a significant space in Venetians' approaches to the systemic vulnerabilities faced by women. The works that pizzochere undertook within the city for vocational fulfilment and income were tasks that were necessary and valued within the community. Consequently, pizzochere contributed, and were perceived to contribute, to establishing Venice's status as an ideal Christian state. The thesis highlights how women’s work served and sustained the early modern State, and how non-elite women’s agency operated in the early modern city.
Survival, camraderie and aspirations: the intimate lives of Chinese and Vietnamese women in Melbourne's 1990s textiles industry
This thesis examines the working subjectivities of female Chinese and Vietnamese textiles workers in 1990s Melbourne, with a particular focus on raced and gendered agencies. While traditional labour historians elucidate worker resistance through protest and trade union dynamics, such a framework does little to account for the 'hidden' agency of migrant workers who were outwardly circumspect and forbearing. Drawing extensively on oral history interviewing and diasporic memory, this thesis takes a ‘history from below’ approach and hones in on the intimate, personal dimensions of garment factory work that were central to the contestation of power. In doing so, it demonstrates how persistence and tacit expressions of resistance in the workplace amongst Chinese and Vietnamese textiles workers were located in interpersonal factory relationships, class aspirations and motherhood.
Talking Sense to the American People: The Appeal of Adlai Stevenson in the McCarthy Era.
The purpose of the thesis is to investigate the enduring popularity of Adlai Stevenson with the liberal elements of the Democratic Party during the 1950’s. This is worth investigating as he was the overwhelming favourites of liberals during the period despite holding conservative positions on many of the major issues that concerned liberalism. The thesis is structured in three chapters analysing Stevenson’s political career: The first is devoted to explaining his gubernatorial career, the second his nomination and performance during the 1952 election, the third focuses on how Stevenson managed to remain relevant as McCarthyism faded as an issue. The thesis found Stevenson’s prominence is best explained by his stance of McCarthyism. Stevenson’s defence of civil liberties and his sober and sensible persona impressed and inspired liberals during a time of bitter partisanship and apparent hysteria.
Rust Belt rebellions: Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump, and the Democratic defectors of 1980 and 2016
This thesis offers a comparative analysis of the electoral campaigns of Ronald Reagan in the 1980 Presidential Election, and Donald Trump in the 2016 Presidential Election. Specifically, it addresses the attempts made by both campaigns to win over traditionally-Democratic, blue-collar voters in the 'Rust Belt' states of the American Northeast and Midwest. In seeking to understand what factors upset historical trends, and caused Democratic voters in these industrial states to abandon their party in such large numbers and embrace the opposing candidate, it asks three key questions of each campaign: Was this an intentional strategy? What was the substance of the candidate's appeal to this constituency? What factors allowed it to resonate as intended?
Evaluating the photooxidative ageing properties of 3D printed plastics: strategies for their use and conservation in cultural heritage contexts
3D printing is a fairly ubiquitous term today, due in part to the dissemination of the manufacturing technique to a wide variety of applications. While initially developed as a prototyping tool for product development, enterprising individuals situated outside engineering and concept prototyping have integrated this technology to suit broader applications. The advent of new printing processes and print materials, coupled with the democratisation of this equipment, has introduced this technology to many new end users, including those working within cultural heritage. 3D printing applications in the arts stem from artists who employ the unique printing geometries offered by 3D printers to realise their designs, to curators eager to engage and enhance visitor experience through touch and to conservators who aim to find alternative approaches to treatment when repairing damaged objects. The adaptation of digital technologies within cultural heritage has created extensive opportunities for practitioners within the field; however, there lies an uncertainty in their application and ability to reconstruct missing elements given the recent implementation of 3D-printed material types and the lack of studies detailing their behaviour over time. Many of the materials employed in the 3D printing process are plastic polymers that have, in other forms, presented long-term stability challenges–the reality of which may prove problematic for professionals working within the cultural heritage sector. These synthetic polymeric materials exhibit susceptibility to thermal, mechanical, photooxidative, hydrolytic, and biodegradation degradation processes through pathways that include hydrolysis, photolysis, thermolysis and oxidation. Of these degradation mechanisms, ultraviolet radiation and visible light represent more significant concerns for longevity within a cultural heritage environment, due to the need for light to facilitate visitor access, as well as the destructive impact photodegradation has on the physical appearance of the material–the primary function of which was originally its aesthetic. Visible light cannot be entirely removed from a cultural heritage environment, and ultraviolet radiation is introduced to the environment through solar radiation and in some artificial light sources. Consequently, visible and ultraviolet regions of the electromagnetic spectrum are likely to deleteriously impact 3D-printed polymers. To determine the impact of these conditions, this thesis explores the susceptibility of 9 different 3D print plastic polymers to photodegradation through two accelerated ageing experiments designed to 1) induce photooxidation for comparison and 2) simulate material responses to a museum environment over a period of 40 years. Materials selected for evaluation include examples from each of the primary manufacturing processes–extruded thermoplastics, photopolymers, and binding printers–and represent those commonly employed by artists for fabrication, by museum professionals creating replica models and by conservators fashioning missing components for damaged objects. Accelerated ageing experiments also included four conservation-grade materials currently classified as best-practice for use with objects, which function as a benchmark to interpret the aged physical and chemical changes in the 3D printed plastics. Experimental data revealed a clear delineation in the degradation rates evidenced within individual printed polymers and provided an explanation for the discolouration exhibited following exposure to ultraviolet radiation and visible light. A proclivity for photooxidation was determined to stem primarily from the presence of the unsaturated double-bonded carbon backbone in the butadiene rubber constituent. Additional polymer susceptibility was observed through the photolysis of material bonds and the presence of light-absorbing impurities likely introduced during manufacturing. In all cases, the long-wave UV component precipitated degradation. Across both experimental designs, acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) performed the poorest, while polylactic acid (PLA) and acrylonitrile styrene acrylate (ASA) exhibited the best resistance to photooxidation. Overall, the experimental results are consistent with the initial hypothesis that 3D-printed polymers are likely susceptible to photodegradation. Further, in comparison with the 3D printed plastic polymers, the four conservation-grade materials did not exhibit significant material deterioration. These results indicate that materials currently considered best-practice within conservation performed better than the 3D-printed polymers examined in this thesis. Ergo, 3D-printed polymers do not present as an ideal alternative to materials currently employed for loss compensation, unless additional methods are taken to mitigate exposure. When situated within an a cultural heritage context, these results hold considerable significance for the profession. They inform 3D-printed material selections for artists concerned with the iii longevity of materials employed in the manufacture of their art; they facilitate future approaches for curators and conservators tasked with the display and storage of 3D-printed artworks; and they guide the approach for integrating 3D print materials with conservation treatments. Recommendations developed as a result of this research include the elimination of UV-producing light sources and the integration UV filters to block solar radiation. Visible light did not appear to significantly impact the polymers tested, however it was shown to fade the cream colourant present in the acrylonitrile styrene acrylate (ASA) sample.
Birds in Roman Life and Myth
In Ancient Rome, the role of birds in everyday life and myth was one of critical importance. This thesis examines birds in their assigned roles of divine messengers, heralds, hunting quarry, domestic flocks, and companion animals, focusing primarily on the transitional period of 100 BCE to 100 CE within the Italian peninsula. It asserts that Roman relations with birds in these capacities can only be understood if art and literature are cross-checked against modern ornithological knowledge and faunal assemblages. In this way it is proven that a ‘bird’s-eye view’ of history is an effective method for interpreting and understanding Roman cultural beliefs and social stratification.
Communicable Knowledge: Medical Communication, Professionalisation, and Medical Reform in Colonial Victoria, 1855-66
This thesis examines the process of medical professionalisation in colonial Victoria from 1855-66. During this eleven-year period the medical profession of colonial Victoria were able to create Australia’s first long lasting medical societies and medical journal, found the first medical school, and receive legislative support of their claims to exclusive knowledge of medicine. The next time an Australian colony would have these institutions created would not be for another 20 years. This thesis examines these developments through a framework of communication, primarily from the medical community itself. Communication was central to the process that resulted in the creation of the above listed institutions. Here communication is examined as the driving force behind the two processes of professionalisation: the internal, community creating and boundary forming aspect; and the external process through which the community gains external recognition of their claims. For Victorian practitioners during the period of this study the internal process drives the creation of the societies, the journal, and the medical school, whereas the external process is typified by the campaign for ‘Medical Reform’ that sees the community engage in agitation for legislative backing of their conception of medicine as science over other alternate medicines. Communication was not isolated within the colony. As such the place of the Victorian medical community as a node within transnational networks of knowledge exchange is examined. As Victoria was better integrated into these networks than its colonial neighbours, an examination of the involvement of said flow of information in the creation of professional communities is considered an important part of this analysis. Behind these processes of community creation, I trace a thread of disunity sparked by professional differences. Highly publicised arguments over differences in medical opinion play out in the colonial press. This comes to a head at the end of the period of study. Despite their focus on communication the medical community ignores the role their public conduct plays in this process. The end result is that, while they were able to create these lasting institutions, their public conduct saw the public’s opinion of them stay low through to the end of the century.