Scheme: DAAD: PPP Australien (Programm des Projektbezogenen Personenaustauschs) 2020/2021

Partner university: Australian Catholic University, Melbourne

Project team: Prof. Beate Neumeier, Dr. Victoria Herche, David Kern (University of Cologne) & Prof. Noah Riseman, Dr. Margaret Hutchison (Australian Catholic University)


This joint research project brings two historians in dialogue with three literary and cultural studies scholars to analyse the ways in which Australian and German narratives of war and migration are intricately linked to each other. It analyses how national discourses and narratives of war and migration work to include and privilege – and to exclude and marginalise – specific groups. This project understands memory and memorial culture as a key analytical link in investigating the lingering effects that inclusion/exclusion have on popular understandings of history and national identity. The project explores five case studies, with research methods grounded in:

  1. Textual analysis of cultural productions such as cinema, literature, theatre, and war art in the German and Australian contexts;
  2. Archival research, such as refugees’ personal letters housed at the Fryer Library in Brisbane and records of public discourses on war and migration, as well as research in art collections and of artefacts in German and Belgian museums. There will also be archival research at the Australian Institute for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) and the National Film & Sound Archive in Canberra.
  3. Oral history interviews with Muslim and other migrant community representatives in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

Investigators will bring their case studies of various cultural artefacts and discourses into dialogue to analyse how art, drama, cinema, literary texts and performance have perpetuated dominant narratives of war, its remembrance and commemoration, and migration. The project will also examine how cultural texts can serve as counter-narratives to dominant discourses about the nation in the context of affective economies of exclusion. The project’s case studies focus especially on how cultural texts about war and migration have included, excluded and represented marginalised groups, including Indigenous Australians, Muslim and other non-European migrant communities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Australians, as ‘belonging’ or not ‘belonging’ in the Australian nation. Indeed, dominant constructs of the nation’s history are hetero-normatively romanticised as ‘white’, Anglo-Celtic, especially in the context of war discourses. We seek to identify how discourses about war and migration work to frame, and re-frame at will, already fragile/marginal positionalities.