ACADEMIC

Nature and Nurture cover

My first published book Nature and Nurture (1981) was based on research for my Masters Degree in 1967-8.  It has long been out of print although Australian academic and public libraries have copies. A reprint was issued by Humanities Press. It is one of very few books published on the way Aboriginal people raised their children traditionally and although it is still widely cited it was never given much credence in the academic world. A book by a woman about child-rearing? What is there to say about that? It was published in a weird format, many referring to it as a kind of “cook book”. I am delighted to see the extent to which this book is now being referenced by scholars of indigenous societies around the world, especially in Latin America. 

My PhD research in Central Australia never turned into a book. There are many reasons for this, some of which are touched on in my on-going memoirs. My career was deeply affected by the delay in finishing my PhD and even more so by the fact that I never published the requisite book. The thesis is still on restricted access due to the fact that it contains materials about women’s secret ceremonies. However there are several copies in university libraries as well as at AIATSIS in Canberra.

I published over forty papers on indigenous/Aboriginal studies as well as preparing one Land Claim (Lake Amadeus) which substantially failed (after a negative report by an ex-PhD student from my own department). Nevertheless I wrote reports on countless other claims for the Central Land Council and for judges and courts. I was the Consultant Anthropologist on the Royal Commission into British Nuclear Testing in Australia in 1984. This was a traumatic experience for almost everyone involved and although the Aboriginal owners of the Maralinga lands did eventually obtain rights over it, the damage done to the Aboriginal peoples of the desert has in my opinion never been fully acknowledged.

1111_Maralinga-1-lr

I became completely disillusioned with the relationship between academic anthropology, the legal system and the indigenous world. I felt I could not go on contributing to the developing tragedy of indigenous aspirations as the Australian government and its agents continued to pervert the hopes and dreams behind the legal recognition of Aboriginal land ownership. Aboriginal society was still being undermined by the implementation of Australian colonial power, one emblem of which was the introduction of satellite television across the last of the Aboriginal cultural strongholds in remote Australia in the mid-1980s.

It took many years and great efforts by path-breaking First Nations people such as Freda Glynn who founded CAAMA (Central Australian Media Organisation in 1980) for an indigenous voice to gain a place in the Australian broadcasting environment. The success of First Nations people in film and media production is a source of immense happiness to me forty years later. It was unthinkable at the time.

The question of culture and media led me to many years of research in Thailand, one of the few nations which developed its own media systems and did not permit foreign media onto its airwaves. I became particularly interested in Southeast Asian cinema. From the mid-2000s I began research on the little known history of Cambodian cinema. I have published several papers on this subject and a collection of these along with several unpublished essays is planned for the near future.

I am still working on and publishing my Cambodian cinema research. One recent published paper can be found here:

Fragments in the Archive: The Khmer Rouge Years

Sihanouk and Monique 1

Ex-King Norodom Sihanouk and his wife Princess Monique dressed as Khmer Rouge functionaries in a film made by the KR in 1973.

My most recently published cinema paper is titled “Spectral Stars, Haunted Screens: Cambodian Golden Age Cinema”, published in Film Stardom in South East Asia, edited by Jonathon Driskell. Edinburgh University Press, 2022.

It is about stardom in the 1960s, the Golden Age of Cambodian Cinema, and the curious intersections between traditional folk traditions, monarchy and modernity during the brief period prior to the overthrow of the Kingdom by the Khmer Rouge in 1975.

The question of culture and media led me to many years of research in Thailand, one of the few nations which developed its own media systems and did not permit foreign media onto its airwaves. I became particularly interested in cinema in Thailand, thence Southeast Asia more generally. From the mid-2000s I began research on the little known history of Cambodian cinema. I have published several papers on this subject and a collection of these along with several unpublished essays is planned for the near future (see below).

Fragments in the Archive: The Khmer Rouge Years

My most recently published cinema paper is titled “Spectral Stars, Haunted Screens: Cambodian Golden Age Cinema”, published in Film Stardom in South East Asia, edited by Jonathon Driskell. Edinburgh University Press, 2022.

It is about stardom in the 1960s, the Golden Age of Cambodian Cinema, and the curious intersections between traditional folk traditions, monarchy and modernity during the brief period prior to the overthrow of the Kingdom by the Khmer Rouge in 1975. It includes a discussion of King Norodom Sihanouk as filmmaker and star, and the legacies remaining of Khmer cinema as a source of fantasy and identity.

 

Snake King's Child

Still from the movie “The Snake King’s Child”, made in the 1960s, starring Dy Saveth. A recent version co-produced with Thai filmmakers remains popular.

Sihanouk with camera

 

FRONT COVER : FILM STARDOM IN SOUTHEAST ASIA

A BOOK ON CAMBODIAN CINEMA?

Although there are a number of works now available which encompass aspects of Cambodian cinema, I have not found commercial publishers’ interest in writing a scholarly work such as this. It would be a very substantial project and require more research in Cambodia itself with the help of translators and research assistants. Moreover, I see the management of scholarly publication today as untenable. Books are published in hard cover mainly with library sales in mind. They are unaffordable for the most part to ordinary people especially in non-Western economies and even where there are e-book versions the sale prices are bloated.

I hope instead to publish a collection of my Cambodian cinema papers, currently very hard to access, along with several unpublished papers already in draft which I have discussed or given talks about at various times, especially at the Bophana Centre in Phnom Penh. This seems like the perfect opportunity for a self-published not-quite-academic book, available worldwide through e-book distributors. Print copies could be made and sold within Cambodia for a very modest price. So I think that will be my final academic publication project.