David Robertson

dave_robertson_green_croppedMy work explores the connections between the psychological sciences, anthropology, race and colonialism. I am particularly interested in psychiatric constructions of “the native mind” and their emergence from specific colonial contexts.

I completed my MA through Sydney University’s Department of History in 2013. My thesis historicised the work of Australian “ethnopsychiatrists” who conducted fieldwork in Aboriginal communities in the 1960s and early 1970s. Following the pioneering medical expeditions of Dr John Ewart Cawte, groups of psychiatrists began venturing to remote Aboriginal communities and diagnosing what they believed to be psychiatric abnormalities. Linking their diagnoses of individuals to the perceived “social maladjustment” of Aboriginal communities, these psychiatrists tethered their construction of “the Aboriginal mind” to the contemporary project of assimilation, presenting Aboriginal people as undergoing a psychological “transition.” This construction, however, both overlooked the past and present injustices of settler society while rendering assimilation an inevitable process of psychological maturation.

I have a BA in history and a Masters in Development Studies, both from Sydney University, and have tutored courses in European history and the history of genocide. Currently I am in the process of applying for PhD programs in the US.


Samantha Killmore

Made to Measure: Anthropometry, Technology and the Americanized Body, 1890 – 1950

Samantha Killmore is working on her doctoral thesis, Made to Measure: Anthropometry, Technology and the Americanized Body, 1890 – 1950. Her research explores the development and application of anthropometric standards in American industrial settings. The measurement of bodies in this context provided a masculine, white, frame of reference for the consuming public. Ideas and technologies promoted by American Private enterprise during this period have had long standing impact for cultures industrial design in an international context.



Affiliated projects

A number of postgraduates at the University of Sydney, while not formally connected with Race and Ethnicity in the Global South, are affiliated with the project. Their research interests form part of our collaborative engagement with scientific and social conceptions of what it is to be human.

Sean Cosgrove

I’m currently a doctoral candidate in the History Department at the University of Sydney. My dissertation examines a group of American scientists studying dreams in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Charting the rise and fall of this cluster of dream researchers promoting an ‘objective’ and scientific inquiry into the nature of dreaming, I argue that gender lies at the heart of an investigation into psychological phenomenon shaping certain avenues of the discipline of psychology and contributing to conceptualisations of the difference between psychological knowledge and psychological expertise.

To neglect these researchers and their studies is to fail to properly contextualise dream research at the turn-of-the-century. Without an understanding of these alternate trajectories in dream research we are unable to engage with the spectre of Freudian thought that continues to tether dream, and even more general scientific, research in the early twentieth century. Although this thesis does not attempt to minimise Freud’s importance, it seeks to explore how we can further understand his (in)significance when we begin to broaden our knowledge of dream research in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Broadly speaking, my research areas lie at the intersection of histories of medicine, science and technology, gender, and popular culture primarily in the late nineteenth century, united by an interest in the experiences of, and ideas surrounding, the human body. I am also committed to public engagement and am actively interested in fostering greater inclusivity in higher education. I have previously conducted research focussing on patients, hermaphroditism, and sexual violence and criminality in the nineteenth century, but have also worked on projects outside of academia on salient issues in the public arena.

In 2009, I received my BA (Honours I) from the University of Sydney, and in 2012 an MA (Social Sciences) from the University of Chicago.

Dave Earl


I’m a PhD candidate and sessional academic in the Department of History.
My research investigates the emergence of a translocal network of parent-led, non-government organisations which provided services for children and adults with intellectual disabilities in the decades after the World War Two.

Engaging with histories of welfare, youth, disability and citizenship, I ask how these groups understood ‘mentally retarded’ children and adults, and why the solutions they proposed to the ‘retardation problem’- special schools, farm colonies, hostels, and sheltered workshops- captured the Australian imagination.

More broadly, I am interested in histories of childhood, education, social welfare, medicine, mental illness, eugenics and disability. Taking an inter-disciplinary and transnational approach, I consider the relationship between expert understandings of these areas and popular discourses: how everyday people adapted and responded to new scientific paradigms, and positioned their own experiences in relation to changing professional knowledge.

I have taught and lectured in the Department on subjects including the Spanish Civil War, veteran rehabilitation, the growth of suburban domesticity, and nuclear family life in 1950s Australia.


Pamela Maddock


I am currently a PhD candidate in History, studying John Pershing and American approaches to venereal disease in different racial and cultural contexts in the first two decades of the 20th Century.  Research interests of mine include late 19th Century purity and temperance movements, eugenics, history of medicine, and history of military health measures.  Before coming to the University of Sydney I taught American History at a school north of Boston.

Project:  John J. Pershing and American Approaches to Venereal Disease

General John J. Pershing spent much of his years between 1901 and 1913 in the Philippines, between 1914 and 1916 he led troops on the Mexican border, and from 1917-1919 he led the American Expeditionary Force in France during the First World War.  In each context, Pershing, like leaders of armies and navies all over the world, had to address the problems of venereal disease.  My research examines decisions and circumstances in Pershing’s life as a way of exploring changes in American public health, shifting perceptions of manhood, and the relationship between military policies and concerns of civilian moral reformers.


Kathryn Ticehurst

Kathryn TicehurstI’m currently working on my PhD thesis, studying anthropology in Aboriginal communities which were labelled mixed race in Australia between 1940 and 1965.

In this period, several anthropologists in Australia worked in Aboriginal communities which they labelled ‘mixed race.’ They used a variety of terms, including ‘part-Aboriginal,’ ‘half-caste’ and ‘mixed-blood’ to describe communities which they saw as sites of cultural and genetic hybridity. Such conceptions of partial or mixed Aboriginality were not reflective of Aboriginal people’s self definition. They were borrowed instead from government administrative categories and settler colonial discourse about Aboriginal people, and they blurred the lines between biology and culture. Meanwhile, many of these communities and the individuals who lived in them considered themselves Aboriginal, were critical of assimilation and wary of “strangers who come wanting to know all your business and write it down on their bits of paper.” I focus on the work of Diane Barwick, Jeremy Beckett, Ruth Fink, Marie Reay and Judy Inglis, examining the interactions which constituted their fieldwork in order to trace changes in anthropological constructions of Aboriginal identity.

I am interested in the history of race, anthropology and natural history, especially their significance within the history of colonisation.

In 2010, I completed an MPhil. at Cambridge University in History and Philosophy of Science, writing about bird-watching, the British anthropological survey and John Ellis’s study of Zoophytes. My MPhil. thesis focused on the naturalist explorers Alfred Russell Wallace and Paul du Chaillu. I completed my undergraduate degree with joint honours in History and History of Philosophy of Science at the University of Sydney in 2007, my thesis explored early colonial Australian botany. I have tutored for undergraduate courses on Australian history, the history of science and historiography.