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Past seminars 2020

Wednesday 28 October

Raphael’s transfiguration of Plato’s world soul, or the Pope’s daughter and the mixing bowl of creation

Martin Leckey (HPS, University of Melbourne) and John Bigelow (Monash University)

This talk is about how Raphael represented ancient Greek cosmology in two of his paintings, the Mass at Bolsena (1512-14) and the Transfiguration (1516-20). Both these paintings represent divine metamorphosis. The Mass represents the transubstantiation of bread into the body of Christ, and the Transfiguration represents the visual manifestation of the divinity of Christ. We show how Raphael uses these paintings to represent the world soul, as described in Plato’s Timaeus, which is structured around a series of ideal ratios. Some of these ratios were adopted as ideals within Renaissance music, art and architecture. We argue that Raphael aspires, by representing these ratios in these paintings, to bridge the divide between the material and the divine, and to help to bring about a harmonious relationship between the microcosm and the macrocosm, pagan and Christian thought, and science and the arts. At the same time, he helps to promote the political agenda of the Church, particularly (in the case of the Mass) Pope Julius II and his daughter Felice, who was then the wealthiest and most powerful woman in Rome.


Martin Leckey is an Associate in History and Philosophy of Science, University of Melbourne. Recently, he has collaborated with John Bigelow on Platonism in Renaissance thought and art, particularly in the paper ‘Raphael’s Platonic Vision’, forthcoming in The Journal of the American Philosophical Association. He has a Bachelor of Science with Honours in physics and an MA in history and philosophy of science from the University of Melbourne, and a PhD in philosophy from Monash University. His PhD was on the metaphysics of space and time and quantum theory. As well as continuing to work on philosophy of physics, he is interested in the metaphysics of properties and laws of nature. Other philosophical interests include the later Heidegger, and philosophy of disability.

John Bigelow is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Monash University. He studied at the University of Canterbury, NZ, Simon Fraser University, Canada, and the University of Cambridge, England. He has held positions at Victoria University of Wellington, NZ and at La Trobe and Monash Universities, Australia, where he taught courses in the history and philosophy of science, metaphysics, and the philosophy of language. After retirement, he completed a PhD at Monash University in English Literature, investigating the influence of Platonism in Shakespeare’s sonnets. This led to further work on Platonism in the arts, including a joint paper with Martin Leckey on the influence of Platonism in the frescoes by Raphael in the Vatican.

Wednesday 21 October

Depoliticisation, Technical Discourse, and Paper Money: A case study in the Bank Restriction Period

David Batt (HPS, University of Melbourne)

This talk looks at the controversy which emerged between the Bank of England and a number of external actors over various proposals to modify the printing of the Bank’s paper money during the Bank restriction period of 1797-1821. As a result of this controversy, the debate over the best method to prevent the forgery of the Bank’s paper money became increasingly technical and specialised over the Restriction period. I argue that, as a result of the growing technical nature of the controversy that emerged, the problem of the forgery of the Bank’s paper money became depoliticised—separated from the controversial political and social context that attended the widespread introduction of paper money in early nineteenth-century British society.


The full paper can be accessed at


David Batt is a graduate student in History and Philosophy of Science

Wednesday 14 October

Nothing to see here: Gender in academic finance

Cordelia Fine (HPS, University of Melbourne) and Carsten Murawski & Nitin Yadav (Brain, Mind and Markets Lab, University of Melbourne)

Globally, finance is strongly gendered: from lesser female household wealth to male-dominated decision-making within the global financial system. Academic finance is also male-dominated, pointing to the possibility of androcentric knowledge production. Analysis of a corpus of more than 100,000 academic finance articles published between 1918 and 2020 revealed persistent dominance of U.S.-based males among authors. We then used the natural language processing technique of topic modelling to infer topics within the finance literature, revealing gendered patterns of publishing across topics. Topic modelling did not infer any topics concerning structural inequality, and fewer than 1 per cent of articles made reference to sex/gender terms in the title or abstract. Content analysis of those abstracts found that the most common category of research question concerned instrumental benefits of women for other entities (e.g., shareholders, insurers). We suggest the need for increased gender and geographical diversity in academic finance.


Carsten Murawski is a decision scientist and professor in the Department of Finance as well as co-director of the Brain, Mind & Markets Lab at the University of Melbourne. In his research, he uses laboratory experiments to study individual decision-making, in particular its neurobiological basis. The current focus of his work is on determining in what ways information processing constraints in the brain affect decision-making, how they lead to phenomena such as cognitive biases and in what ways decision-making can be improved. He is particularly interested in complex problem solving, learning about uncertainty, social interaction and meta-decision making.
Prior to joining The University of Melbourne Carsten was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Zurich. He has been a visiting researcher at New York University and at Columbia University, New York and has taught at undergraduate and graduate level at The University of Melbourne, the University of Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich. He was trained in investment banking at JP Morgan in New York and has spent several years in the finance industry. Carsten holds a PhD from the University of Zurich, Switzerland and a Master’s degree from the University of Bayreuth, Germany.

Nitin Yadav is a principal investigator in the Brain, Mind and Markets Laboratory and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Finance at the University of Melbourne. His research examines the role of complexity in decision making (in particular, NP-hard problems) and the application of techniques from computer science and artificial intelligence to finance. Nitin’s other research interests lie in the areas of service composition, intelligent agent systems, and use of formal techniques for testing agent designs.
Nitin obtained his PhD in computer science from RMIT University in 2014 and worked as a research fellow in the agents group there before joining the University of Melbourne. He also holds a Bachelor’s degree in medicine and surgery, a Master’s degree in computer science with a specialisation in artificial intelligence, and a master’s degree in Finance.

Cordelia Fine is a professor in the History and Philosophy of Science program at the University of Melbourne. Her latest book, Testosterone Rex: Myths of Sex, Science, and Society (2017), won the Royal Society Insight Investment Science Book Prize, and she was the recipient of the 2018 Edinburgh Medal, an award for scientists who make a significant contribution to the understanding and well-being of humanity, for her contributions relating to gender, science and public discourse.

Wednesday 7 October

Critical friends: insights for science from the humanities

John Byron (Queensland University of Technology)

Anxiety is a recurring theme in discussions about the mechanics of replication and verification: anxiety about causing offence; anxiety about seeming hostile and negative, when the intention is constructive and collegial; anxiety about undermining public confidence in science by highlighting shortcomings. In certain sections of the humanities, critique is less a sideline than the central methodology. From this perspective, much of the anxiety in metascience is attributable to the difference between the technical and commonplace understandings of criticism. This presentation suggests a few lessons that the humanities might offer the sciences to help navigate this terrain.

Dr John Byron is Director of Government Relations & Policy at QUT. He has worked in higher education and research policy for over twenty years in a variety of capacities at both the national and institutional levels, including as a ministerial adviser to federal Labor, dean of research and graduate studies in Humanities at Curtin University, executive director of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and president of the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations.

He first studied medicine at the University of Sydney, before leaving in the interest of the public safety. He then earned degrees in English literature, a BA (Hons) from Adelaide and a PhD from Sydney. His doctoral thesis was on philosophical aspects of contemporary narrative cinema, including Blade Runner and The Matrix.


He has written numerous articles in the sector and general press on higher education and research policy matters, and contributed to radio discussions and public forums. He has authored countless submissions to government and parliamentary inquiries, and served on numerous institutional, sector and government bodies.

Wednesday 30 September

Translating all the facts for Darwin: William Sweetland Dallas and Fritz Müller

Ian Hesketh (Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Queensland)

When Charles Darwin was forced to write an “abstract” of his evolutionary views, published as the Origin of Species in 1859, he lamented in the introduction that he was unable to include the full range of observations that contributed to his theory. He therefore promised that he would soon afterwards publish “in detail all the facts, with references, on which my conclusions have been grounded.” While it is well-known that he spent much of the 1860s attempting to do this, ultimately producing the two-volume Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication in 1868, that work provided the evidentiary basis for just the first chapter of the Origin of Species. Darwin thus came to recognize that providing all the facts on which his conclusions were grounded was not something he could do alone. One of the ways he overcame this problem was by promoting the specialized studies of others that explicitly sought to contribute to the development of Darwinian evolution, often expending much of his own capital to do so. This paper focusses on one particular episode in this endeavour by considering Darwin’s efforts to have translated Fritz Müller’s Für Darwin (1864), a German work that relied on natural selection to explain the evolutionary development of crustacea. This involved, among other things, hiring the naturalist William Sweetland Dallas, who proved to be a remarkably useful translator for Darwin.

Ian Hesketh is an ARC Future Fellow in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Queensland. His recent books include Victorian Jesus: J. R. Seeley, Religion, and the Cultural Significance of Anonymity (2017) and the co-edited Correspondence of John Tyndall, Vol. 4: 1853–1854 (2018). His first book, Of Apes and Ancestors: Evolution, Christianity, and the Oxford Debate (2009) is now available in paperback (2020). He is currently writing a book entitled “From Darwin to Darwinism.”

Wednesday 23 September

Memory, the encounter between vaccines and the immune system

Roberta Pala (University of New South Wales)

Vaccines are expected to establish immunological memory. This term refers to the capacity of the immune system to remember past encounters with an antigen and to mount a more effective and rapid response against it in a second encounter. Among the scientific community, immunological memory remains a contested and controversial phenomenon. The immune functions that are being problematised in these debates construct a specific idea of embodied memory and of the vaccines that are supposed to elicit it. An analysis of the concept of memory and its relationship with ideas of truth, future and protection, will reveal important socio-political responsibilities attached to vaccines’ work.

Roberta Pala is a PhD candidate in the Social Policy Research Centre, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales, Sydney. Her research investigates vaccines as biosocial actors, whose agential possibilities emerge in the relations they establish with other human and nonhuman bodies. Throughout her thesis, she explores the ethical and political implications of the more-than-human allegiances and collisions that allow vaccines to be. She has a BA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Siena, and a MA in Cultural Studies from the University of Sydney, with a thesis on recent public debates about vaccines and immunisation policies in Australia. Her research interests include Social Studies of Science; Science, Technology & Society Studies (STS); and medical anthropology.

Wednesday 16 September

Protecting moral integrity or re-claiming moral authority? Understanding the practice of conscientious objection in the context of liberal law reform in Victoria

Louise Keogh (Melbourne School of Population and Global Health)

When Charles Darwin was forced to write an “abstract” of his evolutionary

In Victoria, laws related to contentious procedures performed by doctors (like abortion and assisted dying) have been recently amended so that the law is better aligned with community expectations. Law reform has resulted in increased moral conflict for some doctors, and access to these services has been constrained for some patients. Conscientious objection with mandated referral is a mechanism designed to ensure access while protecting doctor’s moral integrity. Emerging evidence suggests that this mechanism is failing on both fronts. Louise will present the empirical work she has been conducting with conscientious objectors, consider why conscientious objection persists and explore the tensions it exposes in the practice of medicine.

A/Prof Louise Keogh is a health sociologist based in the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne. Louise specialises in qualitative methodology, risk and technology and her current areas of research include: the decriminalisation of abortion, both intended and untended consequences; the use of genetics in cancer prevention, e.g. tailoring breast screening, population genomic screening, and life insurance discrimination as a barrier to genetic testing. A new area of research she is currently exploring is the place of conscientious objection in health care, in relation to both abortion and voluntary assisted dying. She has taught into the Master of Public Health since 2010, contributes to a number of undergraduate breadth subjects, coordinates Honours in Population and Global Health and currently co-chairs the Academic Programs Committee of the University.

Wednesday 9 September 

The Internet of Things – an ontological investigation (Completion seminar)

Paul Siemers (HPS, University of Melbourne)

The Internet of Things is an emerging global sociotechnical phenomenon with important technical, social, economic and human dimensions. However, beyond the broad description given above, the nature of the Internet of Things proves surprisingly varied and elusive. Applying an ontological method, my research brings implied ontologies drawn from a sample of Internet of Things literature into dialogue with six philosophical perspectives on the ontology of technology. Using this approach I demonstrate that the Internet of Things is discursively constructed as ontologically multiple. This analysis also highlights the relative usefulness and limitations of the various philosophical ontologies considered. I then propose a way to go beyond the ontological multiplicity of the Internet of Things through the application of Object-Oriented Ontology and, in particular, Morton’s theory of hyperobjects.

Paul holds a BCom (Hons) in Accounting and Information Systems, and a BSc (Hons) in Mathematics, both from the University of Cape Town. He also holds an MBA from Deakin University. Professionally, Paul is a Technology Strategist with extensive experience in leading technology-driven change. He has more than 25 years of international experience with leading companies including PricewaterhouseCoopers, IBM Business Consulting, ANZ Bank and Anglo American. He is currently Manager of Digital Strategy, Architecture and Innovation at Melbourne Water. He is also Chair of the Internet of Things Alliance Australia Water Workstream.

Wednesday 2 September

Pedagogy, Place and Personality: How the Orthodoxy in Quantum Mechanics was Established

Kristian Camilleri (HPS, University of Melbourne)

Historical narratives about the early debates over the interpretation of quantum mechanics have typically focused around the epic debates between Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein. Their debate at fifth Solvay conference in October 1927, which continued throughout the 1930s, has become the stuff of legend, and Bohr’s “victory” over Einstein is seen as pivotal in establishing the Copenhagen orthodoxy. But on closer inspection, very few physicists actually followed the debate in any detail. If Bohr did emerge victorious, it was not because physicists generally accepted, or even understood, his views. To understand why the criticisms of the orthodoxy made by such illustrious physicists as Einstein, Schrödinger, de Broglie, von Laue and Planck had such little impact, we must turn our attention to the sociological and institutional conditions under which the spread of quantum mechanics took place after 1927. Drawing on Randall Collins’ notion of “interaction rituals”, I propose to examine the way in which the leaders of the orthodoxy succeeded in creating a vibrant “postdoctoral” research culture at their institutes, while their opponents simply did not. The individual temperaments and personalities of the early generation of quantum dissidents would in the end play a significant role in their failure to mobilize support for pursuing alternative views.

Kristian Camilleri is a Senior Lecturer in History and Philosophy of Science program in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. His first book, Heisenberg and the interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, was published with Cambridge University Press in 2009. His primary area of research is in the history and philosophy of quantum physics, but he has written on a range of topics including the role of metaphors in science and the epistemology of thought experiments. Kristian is currently working on a book project on the history of the debates over the interpretation of quantum mechanics, provisionally entitled: Quantum Mechanics and its Discontents: The Rise and Fall of an Orthodoxy.

Wednesday 26 August

Entangled Knowledges: Kaartdjin, science and history in Robert Neill’s collection of fish

Tiffany Shellam (Deakin University)

In 1841, in Albany, Western Australia, a collection of fish specimens, sketches and Menang Nyungar ethnographic material were made by Scottish-born commissariat officer, Robert Neill. This collection is now housed across National Museums Scotland and the Natural History Museum in London. This unique, dispersed collection is comprised of fish caught by Menang people and it is rich with Menang kaartdijin (knowledge), language and stories. This paper discusses how a new project involving Menang families, curators, historians and scientists is bringing this biocultural collection into the discussion about Indigenous contributions to western science.

Tiffany Shellam is Associate Professor in History at Deakin University. She works collaboratively with Nyungar people and historians, museum curators and archivists to critique archives and material collections, unearthing hidden and alternative histories generated by 19thC encounters. Her first book Shaking Hands on the Fringe: Negotiating the Aboriginal world at King George’s Sound was published by UWA Publishing in 2009 and Meeting the Waylo: Aboriginal Encounters in the Archipelago was published in 2019 by UWAP.

Wednesday 19 August

Reimagining Trust in Science – Panel discussion

Fiona Fidler (HPS, University of Melbourne); Simine Vazire (Melbourne School of Psychological Sciences) and Rachel Ankeny (University of Adelaide)

The crises of 2020 have prompted much discussion on ‘Trust in Science’. However, this discussion raises many questions: Is science the kind of thing that can be trusted? Is ‘Trust in Science’ the same thing as trusting individual scientists or research organisations, or is it something else? How do we maintain ‘Trust in Science’ while holding a reasonable level of uncertainty about individual research results?

An understanding of ‘Trust in Science’ needs to incorporate the emotional and political engagements revealed by public attitudes, the contested nature of professional identity and authority in contemporary society, and recent work on the ‘replication crisis’. This History and Philosophy of Science seminar will discuss recent work on the philosophy of trust in science.

Wednesday 27 May 

Progress through argument: The philosophy of W. V. O. Quine as a result of argument with Rudolf Carnap

James Hutson (HPS, University of Melbourne) (Completion Seminar)

The philosophy of Willard Van Orman Quine (1908-2000) was, until roughly the end of the twentieth century, seen as a disputation of the logical empiricist enterprise. More recent examination of Quine places him as a continuation of the logical empiricists. Neither of these are entirely accurate. Quine is actually both an opponent and a sympathizer in this respect. What is certain though is the massive debt he owed to the logical empiricist project in forming his own philosophy. Early in his career Quine had become good friends with the prominent Vienna Circle member Rudolf Carnap (1891-1970). Quine produced much legitimate criticism of Carnap’s views but always from a collaborative and productive angle. On the other hand, many of logical empiricism’s mid-twentieth century opponents were dismissive of the overall approach used by Carnap and his cohorts. Quine never was hostile towards Carnap’s philosophy in this manner. Quine’s philosophy furthered, if not an exclusively logical empiricist conception of science, one that was intimately connected to it. In spite of their disagreements Quine and Carnap remained famous friends. In the midst of their decades-long argument Quine developed his most radical and most characteristically Quinean conclusions about the nature of science. In fact, these are a direct result of this ongoing, constructive argument with Carnap. The argument served not the destructive purpose of dismantling logical empiricism but of constructing a similar, Quinean one.


James Hutson is a PhD candidate in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Melbourne. James’ Masters thesis, undertaken at the San Diego State University, was on ‘Pragmatic positivism : Werner Heisenberg’s philosophy of quantum mechanics’.

Wednesday 13 May

Magic materials and the promise of precision tumour targeting

Matthew Kearnes and Declan Kuch (School of Humanities and Languages, UNSW)

The seemingly magical promise of a therapia sterilisans magna – a “treatment which could, in a single dose, destroy all microorganisms in the infected organism … without affecting the host’s cells” (Bosch and Rosich 2008) – constitutes a horizon of imagined possibility across contemporary biomedical research. Well before the overtly militaristic tone of the ‘War on Cancer’, and Susan Sontag’s warning of the ‘distortions in the military rhetoric about cancer’, visions of the precise targeting of therapeutic interventions had been popularised in the mid-twentieth century fascination with the concept of the magic bullet. The widespread appeal of the seemingly magical qualities of pharmaceutical formulations serves to complicate commonplace understandings of the disenchantment of nature – and Weber’s famous riposte that a modern scientific vocation “need no longer have recourse to magical means”. In this paper we build on a recent revival of studies of magic, arguing that magic is neither antithetical nor incidental to modernity but pivotal to its central institutions. We revive strands of the sociology, anthropology and history of magic to assess the interweaving of modernity and magic in the context of therapeutic drug development.


Based on ongoing ethnographic research focused on the development of therapies designed to target cancer tumours, we interrogate the concept of the ‘magic bullet’ from its inception in ‘receptor theory’ and chemotherapy through to its ongoing use in contemporary nanomaterial and nanomedicine research. After almost twenty years of dedicated and coordinated research support, in recent years nanomaterial and nanomedicine research are increasingly beset by overlapping crisis narratives – of ‘delivery problems’, a ‘translation crisis’, a ‘reproducibility crisis’ and the challenges of standardising a diverse array of research materials and modalities. In this context we develop an account of the ways the concept of magic serves to animate both the social and political constitution of nanomedicine and the material composition of laboratory experimentation. We close by speculating on the ways in which an interrogation of the magical qualities of novel materials – and nanomedicine research more generally – provide a vantage point for how the promissory and speculative logics of contemporary technoscience might be torqued to divergent and democratic ends.

Matthew Kearne’s research is situated between the fields of Science and Technology Studies (STS), social and cultural geography and contemporary social theory and focuses on the social constitution of processes of technological and environmental change. In this context he has documented the constitution of vernacular understandings of, and responses to, technological, scientific and environmental change, and have explored novel means for promoting diverse forms public participation. Deploying qualitative and ethnographic methodologies, his research has explored the societal dimensions of, and public engagement with, climatic change, bio-nanotechnology, geoengineering and contemporary water treatment and supply. Current projects include the ARC Centre of Excellence on Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology (2014-2021), and the Discovery Project Designing illicit drug policy solutions: the role of participation. Matthew Kearnes is an associate editor of Science as Culture.


Declan Kuch is a Research Fellow in the School of Humanities at UNSW. As a sociologist of science and technology, his research is motivated by the problem of how to reconcile public values with economic democracy in an era characterized by environmental constraints and an obsession with innovation. Declan’s research covers climate change, energy policy and the social dimensions of the life sciences. He is a co-leader of the Social Dimensions stream of ARC Centre of Excellence in CBNS. Declan’s primary research involves the social, ethical and political dimensions of targeted therapies and precision medicine.

 Wednesday 29 April

Distributed selves: Memory, narrative and artifacts

Richard Heersmink (La Trobe University)

In this talk, I outline various ways in which artifacts are interwoven with autobiographical memory systems and conceptualize what this implies for the self. I first sketch the narrative approach to the self, arguing that who we are as persons is essentially our unfolding life story, which, in turn, determines our present beliefs and desires, but also directs our future goals and actions. I then argue that our autobiographical memory is partly anchored in our embodied interactions with an ecology of artifacts in our environment. Lifelogs, photos, videos, journals, diaries, souvenirs, jewellery, books, works of art, and many other meaningful objects trigger and sometimes constitute emotionally-laden autobiographical memories. Autobiographical memory is thus distributed across embodied agents and various environmental structures. To defend this claim, I draw on and integrate distributed cognition theory and empirical research in human-technology interaction. Based on this, I conclude that the self is neither defined by psychological states realized by the brain nor by biological states realized by the organism but should be seen as a distributed and relational construct.



Richard Heersmink is a lecturer in philosophy at La Trobe University, teaching courses in philosophy of biology, ethics of technology, and critical thinking. My research interests are at the intersection of philosophy of cognitive science, philosophy of technology, and applied ethics. The overall aim of my work is to better understand how the informational properties of artifacts enhance and transform memory, cognition, and human identity. I further have an interest in the normative and cultural dimensions of cognitive artifacts.

Wednesday 8 April

Mary Proctor – a forgotten popularizer of astronomy

Martin Bush (HPS, University of Melbourne)

Between July 1912 and April 1914, Mary Proctor undertook a tour of Australia and New Zealand in order to promote the Commonwealth Solar Observatory project, which would ultimately be realized as the Mount Stromlo Observatory in Canberra. Mary’s tour came at the request of Walter Duffield, who would go on to be the first Director of the Mt Stromlo Observatory. The particular context was the need to raise funding for the project – at that stage the Australian government had provided in-principle support, but only limited funding.

Famous both as an astronomical popularizer in her own right, and as the daughter of the celebrated astronomer Richard Proctor, Mary’s tour was highly successful, raising significant public support that culminated in the promise of funding for an Observatory to be built in New Zealand as part of the proposed Cawthron Institute. However, following the death of the benefactor, the Cawthron Observatory was never built, and a few years later, in 1923, Australian government funding for Mt Stromlo was finally secured.
Despite her success, Mary Proctor is almost entirely absent from the histories of both Mt Stromlo Observatory and the Cawthron Institute. In this paper I will detail Mary Proctor’s career, with a particular focus on this tour and offer some suggestions as to the historical lacuna concerning her.


Martin Bush is a Research Fellow in IMeRG at the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at the University of Melbourne. Martin’s meta-research interests focus on public trust in science, and draw on expertise in the cultural history of popular science and professional experience in science communication and the museum sector. Particular interests include planetariums, public reasoning practices, the science communication work of the Ngarrindjeri Australian David Unaipon and popular astronomy in Australia in the era of the lantern slide.

 Wednesday 1 April 

The Science of Barracking – Gender, Race, Pleasure & the Visual

Matt Klugman (Victoria University)

In the late 1800s popular notions of racial science shaped the development of the cultural category of ‘barrackers’ – loud, zealous spectators that would transform the culture of sport in Australia. Over the ensuing few decades newspaper cartoonists played with concerns that Australian Rules football barrackers were risking the fairness and reasonableness which supposedly made Englishmen superior to everyone else. Sport had played a crucial role in the redemption of white masculinity in Australia, but now the behaviour of those who flocked to sporting matches seemed to be threatening the factors that the local ideology of white supremacy rested upon. This paper examines cartoons depicting male and female barrackers in Melbourne newspapers from the 1890s up until the First World War. At issue are popular discourses of science, emotions, and the costs of pleasure, along with the intersections of sport, race, and gender.


Matthew Klugman is a Research Fellow in the Institute for Health and Sport at Victoria University. His research interests include the cultural meanings and passions facilitated by sports, and the way sporting emotions shape notions, practices, experiences, visual depictions, and attitudes towards race, gender, bodies, sexuality, bodies, migration, and religion.

Wednesday 18 March

Governing Permeable Bodies: Humoralism to Epigenetics

Maurizio Meloni (Deakin University)

Emerging postgenomic disciplines like epigenetics and microbiomics are contributing today to a rewriting of the human body as profoundly permeable to its surroundings and extensively shaped by environmental ‘exposures’. These views of biological plasticity represent an important discontinuity with the bounded body of twentieth century biomedicine and genetics. However, while the molecular mechanisms of biological plasticity are a product of 20th Century science, the experience of living with a permeable and exposed body, one that is deeply shaped by environmental agents is obviously much older in traditions pre-dating and co-existing with modern biomedicine. Starting from the Hippocratic Airs, Waters, and Places, the paper explores a longue durée history of living with a permeable body and the way in which knowledge of corporeal plasticity was never innocent or just individualized (techniques of the self, Foucault) but invested in the production of race, class and gender differences as the result of different degrees of permeability to external influences. Focusing in particular on humoralist medicine, and the way its knowledge penetrated ancient institutions such as public bathing, the military, and urban architecture, the paper aims to contribute to an alternative history of biopolitics, one that does not start with Western modernity and is based on notions of environmental biopower (manipulating the external milieu to regulate corporeal malleability). In the light of this ancient history, my paper aims to problematize the return to a politics of corporeal plasticity (at the individual and collective level) in contemporary epigenetics.


Maurizio Meloni is a social theorist and a science and technology studies scholar. He is the author of Political Biology: Science and Social Values in Human Heredity from Eugenics to Epigenetics (Palgrave 2016: Winner of the Human Biology Association Book Award, 2020); Impressionable Biologies: From the Archaeology of Plasticity to the Sociology of Epigenetics (Routledge, 2019), co-editor of Biosocial Matters (Wiley 2016), and chief editor of the Palgrave Handbook of Biology and Society (2018). He is currently an ARC Future Fellow, and has benefited in the past from several research grants, including two Marie Curie fellowships, a Fulbright scholarship, funded visits at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG, Berlin), and an annual membership at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (NJ).

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