Christina Twomey: Deepening the history of war

As a ten-year-old who lived in an Australian expatriate community in Malaysia, Professor Christina Twomey was always surrounded by traces of war: little boys playing on old Japanese forts and stories of war which cropped up in everyday life. Upon her return to Australia as a university student, Christina developed a deep passion to discover the truth about war, internment, and the impact it had on those involved.

Starting off strong at Monash

For Christina, now Head of History at Monash, war is more than a celebration of national spirit. She strives to investigate how individuals and the nation have been affected by it. “My research focuses on the cultural history of war,” she said. “Imprisonment, internment, the legacy of captivity, and the development of Prisoner of War camps.”

Identified as a future thought leader from the start, Christina was exposed to senior researchers and professors who supported young career researchers. “I was instantly part of a culture that had drafting groups for people with book proposals, articles they were writing, and especially, for developing grants.”

“One thing young researchers really need to learn is how to write a grant application,” she said. “Grant applications have their own particular genre, different to writing articles or books, and young researchers need to be initiated into that form of writing.”

Accelerating research that matters

Christina’s research was ‘turbo-charged’ after participating in the Monash Research Accelerator program. With the research funding, Christina was able to take some time out from teaching and propel her work to an international level.

She organised an international symposium entitled Atrocity, Photography and War at Monash Prato in Italy. It brought together contributors from the United Kingdom, the United States, Ireland and Sweden, who discussed the relationship between war and photography. Who produced these images? How were they read? What is the relationship between atrocity and photographic evidence?

“Monash is committed to seeding collaborations with universities from overseas,” she said. “It has been critical for the internationalisation of my research.” The Prato symposium served as a launching pad for publication, with Christina editing a special issue of History of Photography. Her work was included in a subsequent Cambridge University Press collection of key articles in the field.

Mentoring the next generation

Christina continues to further her work on a global scale and is continuing the spirit of mentorship at Monash. In a recent project, Australia’s Asian Garrisons – which investigates Australian expatriate military communities in Cold War Asia – Christina assembled a team of scholars to work with her.

“I think it’s important that experienced researchers build teams of researchers so that other scholars can be part of a bigger research project,” she says. “I see my role now as someone who can help younger researchers develop themselves.”

See Christina’s profile