Eras Journal – Editorial, Edition Six

Welcome to the sixth edition of Eras , the journal produced by postgraduates of Monash University’s School of Historical Studies. The aim of our journal is to publish articles from among the fields of History, Archaeology, Religion and Theology, and Jewish Civilisation, by current and recently graduated postgraduate students from around the world.

The eclectic and fascinating content of edition six is testament to the value of the wide net cast by Eras, which allows contributors to showcase their work alongside peers from diverse areas within the field of historical studies. We hope that the different perspectives afforded by these various fields will enrich each other by stimulating discussion between fields. The articles collected in edition six demonstrate not only the diversity, but the exceptional quality of postgraduate work being undertaken both in Australia and internationally.

Through examination of a number of sites, Randy Anderson considers the anticipated movements of Pre-Hongshan cultures in North-East China. His analysis argues that these cultures were highly sedentary compared to other Neolithic societies.

Kavita Ayer presents a study into the discourses of poverty from Late Republican Rome and modern Australian social-political spheres, which, it is argued, were utilised strategically to marginalise certain sectors of society. The world of Cicero is delved into and juxtaposed with that of our own contemporary one – centred on comments made by Tony Abbott in an ABC television broadcast in 2001. The notions of poverty, their implied negative associations, and the application of this term in both contexts will leave the reader pondering over some striking similarities.

In his lively article, Tyler Boulware considers a group of social deviants – horse-thieves and vagrants – and their role in the American South. He links the social ills of the southern frontier during the eighteenth century with the ‘uncivil war’ of the Revolution, noting that this connection has often gone unnoticed. Stories from newspapers and other sources illustrate this article engagingly.

Rebecca Carnighan, representing the field of Religion and Theology, examines the task confronting the Romantic realist in literature, with particular reference to Dostoevsky. She argues that the Russian writer succeeded in the difficult task of presenting an idealistic vision for the future within a framework of hard reality, because of his faith.

Rhiannon Donaldson utilises a wide range of fascinating sources in her analysis of the importance of the Christmas pudding in colonial Australian society. She considers the importance of Christmas to ‘bush’ Australians, links to Empire, and the difficulties of climate with regards to traditional Christmas food, concluding that tradition was necessary for colonialists to feel ‘home’.

Catie Gilchrist locates her work within the field of spatial analysis, an area now so significant that it has generated the phrase ‘spatial turn’ to encapsulate its impact upon the social sciences. Gilchrist successfully reimagines the voices and agencies of convicts in Van Diemen’s Land in the nineteenth century and argues that the very ‘invisibility’ yet apparent depredation of convict space is key to understanding bourgeois moral anxiety. Thoroughly grounded in ‘primary’ research, this paper charts the extent, as well as the limits, of repression in a society obsessed with the convict stain.

Jonathan Hogg examines the problematic intellectual role of Isaiah Berlin, whose position as an apparently ‘passive’ intellectual of the Cold War period is here called into question in reference to his very ‘active’ Zionist principles. The corollary of this, Hogg suggests, is that students of Berlin’s work may wish to consider his thought less as a product of ‘intellectualised’ isolation, and more in the context of the ideological milieu from which it arose – a consideration which has implications for Berlin’s established ‘liberal-pluralist’ legacy.

Meighen Katz shifts emphasis back to the role of visitors – or perhaps, rather, audiences – in redefining the meaning of the museum. A middle ground is suggested between the well-established models of ‘temple’ and ‘forum’, and the article draws on a number of instructive examples from both the United States and Australia.

Edward Llewellyn-Jones draws on a range of evidence to argue that Gustavo Gutiérrez, contrary to popular belief, was not the original thinker in the field of Liberation Theology. Bishop Manuel Larraín, Llewellyn-Jones argues, developed the unique Latin American theology which influenced Gutiérrez and the important Medellín conference.

Jessie Mitchell examines the little-examined records of the first missionaries and government-appointed protectors of Aborigines in New South Wales and Port Phillip, illustrating how Aborigines explicitly claimed land rights in their relations with them. While these European humanitarians believed and often supported Aboriginal land claims, they were firm in their conviction that an agricultural land-usage, and an agricultural lifestyle – as opposed to the nomadic lifestyle – should be imposed for the moral and physical good of their charges, who were forcibly ‘civilised’ through the ‘right’ use of their ancestral land.

Brian Noell’s incisive piece delineates the problems and paradoxes of reinvisaging the words and actions of Moses of Scetis, a black monk residing in fifth-century Egypt. Noell is critical of the way in which historians have represented Moses’ tale as emblematic of attitudes towards Africans in the period, arguing that literary depictions of this seemingly extraordinary individual yield up far more information about those who wrote of Moses’ life than about that life itself, a life impossible to uncover from beneath the detritus of over five hundred years of myth-making.

Gerardo Papalia explores aspects of Australian society in the 1920s and 1930s, as written about by Italian diplomats stationed in Australia. These sources provide a unique lens through which issues of empire, immigration, Fascism, and Australia’s Aboriginal inhabitants are discussed.

Also included in Edition Six are a number of reviews on a range of recent publications.

The continued publication of Eras Journal would not be possible without the valuable support of the Editorial Committee. Thanks to Carly Millar, Paul Kucera, Jess Lee-Ack, Josie Monro, Nick Dyrenfurth, Simon Sleight and Chris Willis for all their help and input throughout the year. Very special thanks must go to Josie for tirelessly liaising with IT staff on technical matters, and to Jess and Carly for devoting so much valuable time and expertise despite their respectively looming submission deadlines. It must be noted that without the support and understanding of our academic supervisors, the production of Eras would be rendered significantly more difficult.

Thanks also goes to Mark Peel, Gillian Bowen, Rosemary Johnston, David Garrioch and other members of the School of Historical Studies at Monash University who have advised and assisted us on various issues throughout the year.

The Editorial Committee and myself are also thankful for the technical support of Sandy Turner, Johnathon Blythe, and Ian Coulter, and for the advice and assistance of Megan Blair and Kathryn Brown.

Articles included in Eras maintain such quality due to the anonymous (and largely thankless) refereeing process, which is shouldered on a voluntary basis, by academic staff both in Australia and internationally. We thank them warmly for giving up their time, despite the many claims on their attentions and energies, to allow the ongoing publication of journals like Eras.

We aim for Eras journal to provoke discussion among postgraduates, the academic community, and the wider public. We hope this discussion will be facilitated by the link, included within each article, which allows readers to respond by email to the ideas presented. Reasonable comments are posted on the Eras discussion page, in the hope that they will provide stimulus for continued discussion. We welcome your contributions.

We hope you enjoy Eras Edition Six.

Kate Murphy

(Eras editor-in-chief)