Dr Kenny to discuss his works

Seminar Room D, Coombs


Dr Robert Kenny from La Trobe University is currently a visiting fellow in the School of History. He has kindly offered to talk about his work (both past and present) in a special seminar/workshop on 21 September 2011, 11.00-12.30, in Seminar Room D in Coombs.

Robert is the author of The Lamb Enters the Dreaming: Nathanael Pepper & the Ruptured World (2007), which won various awards including the 2008 Prime Minister's Prize for Australian History (jointly with Tom Griffith's Slicing the Silence). The book is a wide-ranging and elegantly written account of the conversion of an Aboriginal man to Christianity in 1850s Victoria.

He is currently working on two projects: a study of the interplay between anthropology and psychology in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; and a book about the human relationship with fire arising from Robert's experiences during the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria. See below for a fuller description of each project.

Robert will speak about all three of these projects and the links between them all. It will be a relatively informal seminar with plenty of time for discussion. His areas of interest are surprisingly well aligned to the School of History's three research centres: Aboriginal history; environmental history; and biography.

Robert's Current Projects

The Psychological Need for the Savage Mind

This looks at the interplay between the burgeoning disciplines of anthropology and psychology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century as in part a struggle to establish a new idea of the western self in the wake of the collapse of religious certainty, the “abyss” of time and space, Natural Selection and the experience of the colonial frontiers, particularly those of Australasia and the Pacific.  In doing so it examines the importance of mythology, the concept of the “savage mind”, the colonial experience, recapitulation, and the growing importance of the moral value of “nature”.

Fire & the Myth of Nature

This is both a personal memoir and reflective analysis, historical and cultural, of the human relationship with fire, the Australian experience of fire and nature, and the idea of place and home. The concept rose out of my own experience of the Black Saturday fires and a seminar given a few weeks later by the environmental scientist Peter Attiwell arguing the need for more controlled burning in Australian forests. It occurred to me that much was invested in the category “nature” and yet it was a slippery category, with racialist undertones, which has powerful undertones in discussions of living on this continent.


E karen.smith@anu.edu.au
T 6125 2354

Date & time

Wed 21 Sep 2011, 11am–12.30pm


School of History


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