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Historical Analysis

Presenter: Tim Allender

Respondent: Ruth Phillips

Time: 4:30-6:30pm, 28 May 2009 (refreshments at 4:30pm for 5:00pm start)

Venue: 448, Old Teachers' College (A36), The University of Sydney

New Approaches to Postcolonial Scholarship, by Tim Allender

Historical analysis is a broad church and its methodologies dependent on the categories of evidence in play. Powerful critiques emerge as analysis is variously derived from oral sources, or careful collations from pre-organised databases or from obscure documents hidden in long forgotten corners of archives, or even well worked over texts waiting for new paradigms to permit new ways at looking at old problems.

To narrow down such a broad fare of possibilities, this presentation focuses on one aspect of historical research, that of post-colonial scholarship; a field that had witnessed much innovation in the last fifteen years. Most especially, it examines new methodologies that have emerged in framing the interaction of European and ‘colonial’, particularly in regard to knowledge transfer. And in terms of overused globalisation critiques, the paper explores how new histories are being written that emphasise the local in the global context and the way history is referenced to deepen comparative analysis between national domains. Lastly, textual, subaltern and gender approaches are examined that are apposite to my research into the educational history of colonial India.

Postcolonial Scholarship in Social Justice Research, by Ruth Phillips

In social justice research postcolonial theory is used in similar ways to how it is applied as a methodology in historical analysis. Social justice research spans across a range of social science disciplines including: social policy, social work, political inquiry and sociology. Although utilising similar ideas and principles and drawing on some of the same key postcolonial thinkers, as the post-colonial project in historical analysis, social justice research applications of post-colonial theory are part of a different project derived from a different canon of post-colonial scholars. This canon mostly comprises feminist scholars interested in the relationship between race, nation and gender, often sharing the central social justice aim of eliminating gender inequality. A further distinction may be made between the writing of history and the reading of history although it is suggested that there are many overlaps of these particular research disciplines. In demonstrating how postcolonial research methodology is used in social justice research, some of the key scholars that have influenced policy analysis into the domains of international poverty policy and gender and poverty will be discussed. To locate this discussion in the local, a further question of the social justice project is why there is a resistance to the application of postcolonial theory to contemporary Indigenous social policy issues in Australia.

About presenters

Dr Tim Allender teaches History of Education and History Curriculum undergraduate and postgraduate level in the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney. Tim’s primary area of research is the history of education in colonial domains, most specifically India. His book ‘Ruling Through Education: The Politics of Schooling in the Colonial Punjab” (New Delhi, New Dawn Press, 2006) examines the mindset of conflicted European administrators and thinkers in the mid to late nineteenth century, most particularly, how their Western schooling models and texts gradually closed down an earlier felicitous, creative and spontaneous interchange of ideas in the so-called ‘orientalist’ period of the 1820s and 1830s. Tim is a CI in an ARC Discovery project ‘Disciplinarity and classroom practice’ (led by Professor Freebody). He has written numerous articles in international journals on colonial education and has two articles in press in special issues of European journals; the first relating to the theme of the ‘Empire Abroad/ Empire at Home’ binary and the second concerning the theme of textual transculturation in colonial domains. He is also guest editor of two other forthcoming journal special issues on Work and the History of Education. His current research concerns gender and the transmogrification of the female professional ethic in colonial India and another project with Professor Elizabeth Smyth, OISE, Toronto, Canada on Loreto Educators.

Dr Ruth Phillips is a senior lecturer in the Social Work and Policy Studies program in the Faculty of Education and Social Work. Her research interest are social policy, global social policy and the third sector. Ruth has published widely in these areas in international and local journals. She has recently edited a book on Australian and South Korean social policy responses to generational change and co-authored a forthcoming book entitled ‘Social Policy for Social Change’. Engaging primarily in social justice research, Ruth focuses on social policy analysis in Australia, social policy developments in the Asia Pacific region and the role of NGOs in social policy and democracy.

Session archive

  • Session recording MP3 (85 MB)
  • Presentation slides PDF (500 K)

Some references & recommended readings

  • M. Stanford, The Nature of Historical Knowledge. Oxford: Blackwell, 1986
  • Edward Carr, What is History? London: Penguin, 1963
  • Geoffrey Elton. The Practice of History: London: Fontana, 1969
  • Arthur Marwick, That Nature of History. London: Macmillan, 1970
  • Gary McCulloch and William Richardson, Historical Research in Educational Settings. London, Open University Press, 2000
  • Keith Jenkin, Re-Thinking History. New York: Routledge, 1991
  • See the slides for more references PDF


Dr. Tim Allender's throwaway line about history not teaching us lessons any more stuck in my memory.My view is there are a million lessons from the past-there's no other place-but they are rarely heeded. Evidence in the legal profession is gathered for a very specific purpose- to convict or aquit. Historians gather "evidence" for what purpose?

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