The 5th issue of the Australian Journal of Biography and History has been published and is now available for purchase and free download from ANU Press here.
Edited by Joshua Black and Stephen Wilks the volume focuses on political biography. The 10 peer-reviewed articles and essays demonstrate that political biography is growing beyond just ‘one damned life after another’, and that there are new and productive paths open for practitioners, readers and critics of this genre.
Kate White makes a bold call for academics to ‘rethink their approach’ by considering novel strategies to ‘move beyond the narrative form’. Blair Williams demonstrates that although increasing numbers of women are writing and practising political biography, there remain few good examples of feminist political biography. Joshua Black examines the political memoir and diary genres in the broader context of the rise of life writing in the twentieth century. Sarah Engledow reconsiders the visual performance of leadership for posterity. Daniel Oakman delineates the links that politics has to mainstream Australian life via that great staple of popular culture, sport. Chris Wallace in her account of a quietly controversial and eventually abandoned biography of Robert Menzies early in his second prime ministership demonstrates that life stories are powerful but risky commodities in the fast-changing political domain. Similarly, in a methodological reflection on his award-winning biography Tiberius with a Telephone, Patrick Mullins critically explores the concerted attempts of the former prime minister to control and manipulate the public and archival record of his life.
Robert Tickner, the only contributor who was also an elected political practitioner, uses his very personal article to call on others to write political and policy memoirs as a ‘public good’ that helps to encourage the ‘noble enterprise’ of participation in public life. In his analysis of backbencher memoirs, Stephen Wilks calls for more of the foot soldiers of politics—backbenchers, humble and otherwise—to write memoirs as an insight into the working lives of the typical politician, and to explore what wider significance they have as political players. And Tim Rowse and Murray Goot indicate in a powerful review essay that critically examines Warren Mundine’s political memoir In Black + White, political life narratives are implicated in the difficult postcolonial politics of race, representation and recognition.