Winners of 2021 John Barrett Award for Australian Studies


Dr John Barrett (1931-1997) established this award by way of a bequest to La Trobe University in 1987. Dr John Barrett was a lecturer and reader at La Trobe University from 1969 until his retirement in 1990. His research specialisation was 20th century Australian history, particularly national involvement in the world wars. Dr Barrett was a member of the Journal of Australian Studies editorial board from 1979-1990.

The John Barrett Award for Australian Studies is awarded annually for the best written article published by the Journal of Australian Studies (JAS). The award is administered by the International Australian Studies Association (InASA).

Two prizes are awarded each year:

the best article by a scholar (open)

the best article by a scholar (post-graduate).

The award comprises a cash prize of AUD$500 plus a two year membership to InASA (including a subscription to the Journal of Australian Studies).

A prize committee established by the International Australian Studies Association (InASA) executive makes the award each year. The prize committee for the 2021 awards comprised:

Prof Porscha Fermanis (University College Dublin)

Prof Yin Paradies (Deakin University)

Dr Xu Daozhi (Macquarie University)

The prize committee was impressed with the outstanding quality of scholarship and originality of articles across all four issues of JAS in 2021. The judges praised the journal for its continuing excellence, with a breadth of wonderful articles that reflect the strength of Australian Studies.

InASA expresses its gratitude to the judges for their hard work.

John Barrett Award (open category)

Tony Hughes-d’Aeth (2021) Kim Scott’s Taboo and the Extimacy of Massacre, Journal of Australian Studies, 45:2, 165-180.

In this article Tony Hughes-d’Aeth provides a sophisticated reading of Kim Scott’s novel Taboo (2017), using Jacques Lacan’s concept of ‘extimacy’ to connect the foundational violence of settler colonialism to ongoing, transgenerational Indigenous trauma. Lacan’s rejection of the opposition between ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ provides the basis for a reading of the novel that emphasises the ambivalent politics of public commemoration, especially the commemoration or memorialisation of massacres and other sites of violence against Indigenous people. Most importantly, the article emphasises that the significance of a historical massacre cannot be separated from the inner lives—and the emotional and physical trauma—of the survivors’ descendants. With great attention to detail, Hughes-d’Aeth unpacks the novel’s movement from advocating an analogic resemblance between past and present to foregrounding an understanding of the extimacy of the present. He is acutely aware that the novel form is itself historically grounded in a particular view of subjective life that has often been wedded to the private/public dualism of liberal capitalism. Yet in demonstrating how Scott’s Taboo breaks down that dualism, Hughes-d’Aeth makes a wider argument for the value of the contemporary novel as a way of resisting neoliberal biopolitics and the selective historical amnesia of white settler nation-states.

John Barrett Award: Highly Commended (open category)

James Taylor Carson (2021) Decolonisation and Reconciliation in the Australian Anthropocene, Journal of Australian Studies, 45:1, 4-17.

In this article, James Carson invites us to re-consider the way in which the Anthropocene both excludes Indigenous peoples’ curation of environments and elides the role of colonisation as the ‘ground-zero’ of human-induced climate change. Carlson links the nostalgic impulse of colonialism (as opposed to future-oriented impulse of makarrata) with backwards-facing views on climate change and calls for a pluriversity of approaches to the tremendous challenges of the late anthropocene. The article draws important connections between environmental sustainability and Aboriginal reconciliation while highlighting the ways in which scientific practices (especially views on climate change) can align with or against colonialism and the importance of learning from the profound depth of Indigenous knowledges in efforts to attenuate the ongoing dangers of the atomised liberal individual.

John Barrett Award: Postgraduate Category

Elizabeth Offer (2021) Dressed and Blessed: The Abraham Family, Brit Milah and Dress in Colonial Ballarat, 1850–1900, Journal of Australian Studies, 45:3, 317-333.

This is a fascinating study of infant clothing, circumcision ceremonies and Jewish motherhood in colonial Australia. By investigating the life of Rebeca Abraham and the three baby dresses she made, Elizabeth Offer sheds light on the previously little-known familial and maternal lives of Jewish women on the nineteenth-century Victorian Goldfields. Offer’s in-depth research reveals how Jewish women negotiated a balance between Jewish religiosity and British middle-class identifications.

Congratulations to the winners!

Featured image: Baby’s dress, 1870s, Ballarat, Jewish Museum of Australia, Collection 9379.