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The HPS Seminar Series

The HPS program at the University of Melbourne conducts a weekly seminar series each academic semester. Seminars vary across a broad range of topics and are presented by local and international scholars. Click below to subscribe to the seminar mailing list.

Seminars 2024

The current schedule for the HPS Seminar Series for Semester 1 2024 is shown below, but is subject to change. If you wish to be notified of upcoming seminars, please subscribe to the HPS Seminar Mailing List. If you have suggestions or requests for speakers, or any other questions contact Kate Lynch or Jacinthe Flore

Most talks are presented in hybrid format, so you may attend online via Zoom. 

Zoom link: https://unimelb.zoom.us/j/87679951712?pwd=UGxmUjVWWUtWOTZ1QnZ1UVI1SnFTUT09

Password if required: 831223

Wednesday 22 May
12pm - 1pm


Online Only
Zoom Link above

Medical Humanities x HPS ECR Panel

A ticket to colonial anthropometry: A case study of registration of prostitution and lock hospitals in the Nineteenth Century Madras

Divya Rama Gopalakrishnan (La Trobe University)

This presentation examines registration tickets which indicate the presence of anthropometric undertones in lock hospital discourse in colonial India. Throughout the nineteenth century, women suspected of practising prostitution in India were registered under a local lock hospital and given a registration ticket. These tickets on their own might seem insignificant to the arguments on lock hospitals, as indeed has been argued by historians such as Erica Wald. However, these documents give new details of the functioning lock hospital system in Madras. At first glance, the ticket's purpose seems to be record-keeping and surveillance but this paper will argue that registration tickets in lock hospitals functioned not just as tools of surveillance but also as a medium to study Indian women’s bodies and in that way highlight the presence of anthropometric undertones within lock hospital registration systems. I argue that by pointing out the physical difference between Indian and European bodies the colonial government tried to mark Indian women’s bodies as deviant and hence justify surveillance over them. However, I shall also show that this linking of physical characteristics to the moral character was not only introduced by colonialism but was already present within Indian society to categorise caste hierarchies. This physiognomic categorisation intensified in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries under colonialism where the physiognomic categorisation of lower caste women or men by upper caste and elite men had a 'scientific' validation in the form of anthropometry.


Divya Rama Gopalakrishnan is a Lecturer in History at La Trobe University and she did her PhD in the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne. Her thesis examined the control of venereal disease and sexual surveillance in colonial South India. Divya is currently working on a project on the history of cancer and cancer therapies in India.

Choreographies of health and hygiene: Scientific approaches to dance and the body in modern Australia

Averyl Gaylor (University of Melbourne)

Scientific and medicalised discourses of the body informed dance practices in modern Australia. Across different dance methods and contexts, this paper traces the way such discourses were leveraged to legitimise dance as not only a codified and technical artistic practice, but also, a crucial practice of health that could discipline the body towards a more ideal form. This paper explores, in particular, the way theories of mechanisation and scientific management coalesced in dance producing ‘choreographies of health and hygiene’ that prescribed particular kinds of movement and corporeal forms, which functioned to render some bodies as moral and others as pathological and in need of intervention and reform. In doing so, this paper offers a new perspective on the pivotal role of dance in relation to histories of hygiene and health in modern Australia.


Averyl Gaylor graduated with a PhD in History from La Trobe University in December 2023. Her PhD project explored the medicalisation of dance and its influence on notions and aesthetics of the perfectible body in modern Australia. Currently, Averyl is working as a research centre administrator at Melbourne Law School while she continues to pursue interdisciplinary research projects in the medical humanities. 

Wednesday 29 May
12pm - 1pm


Old Arts (Building 149) Room 239 (North Lecture Theatre).

Histories of non-human time

Marilyn Stendera (University of Wollongong)

In this paper, I want to explore how various aspects of time – including ways of tracking, measuring, and marking it; and models of memory and anticipation – have been used to conceptualise the relationship between human and non-human parts of nature, especially non-human cognisers. Drawing together parts of a potted history of the philosophy of time with recent discourses about the boundaries of cognition, my account will focus on three interrelated points: Firstly, that whether a particular way of thinking about time is more cyclical or more linear has had a significant bearing on how different types of organism are said to fit into it. Secondly, that temporal capacities have been a particularly important consideration in how various philosophical and scientific inquiries define cognitive complexity and delineate human from non-human cognition. And finally, that all these factors come together in contemporary discourses about the outer reaches of cognition, including debates about the models of explanation that are best suited to inquiries into which organisms should be counted as cognisers.


Marilyn Stendera is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Wollongong. She previously taught at Deakin, Monash and the University of Melbourne, where she also completed her PhD. She works primarily in phenomenology, the philosophy of cognition, and the history of philosophy, and is particularly interested in the history, cognitive significance, and political functions of time. Her first book, Heidegger’s Alternative History of Time, was co-authored with Emily Hughes (York) and has just been published by Routledge.

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