Alfred Deakin Research Institute


ADRI Staff (2014)

On the 1st January 2015, the Alfred Deakin Research Institute merged with the Centre for Citizenship and Globalisation to create the Alfred Deakin Research Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADRI-CG). For information about the new Institute, including staff and membership, please visit

Dr Cassandra Atherton

Dr Cassandra Atherton

Position: Lecturer in Text - Literary Studies & Professional & Creative Writing
Phone: +61 3 522 72585
Campus: G


Research interests:

Cassandra is working on a series of projects on Japan:


Atherton's work on Japan and the floating world investigates the fissuring of Japan in a multiplicity of ways. Her research identifies the 'split personality' of Japan in the form of the floating world and the role of the salaryman. However, since the recent tragedy, her research on Japan has developed into an exploration of Japanese community and environment. Although the Japanese mostly live in urban environments, they have a deep reverence for nature. This is seen in the enduring appeal of Shinto, and in surnames which feature links to nature, such as yama (mountain) ishi (stone) and mori (forest.) These devices recall a time before nature was threatened by technology, and in a sense use memory to buffer the negative impact of innovation. This project seeks to investigate ways the Japanese memorialise nature in Shinto shrines, and how they use modern memorials (for example, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial) and anime (in particular Studio Ghibli films like Ponyo and Grave of the Fireflies) to warn of the dangers posed by technology.


Atherton's second project has developed out of her previous work on the way the Japanese drew on their relationship with the natural environment when they were forced to respond to disasters such as the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima and the more recent nuclear reactor meltdown at Fukushima. examining the relationship the Japanese have with their traditional companion animals, the akita inu (dog) and the neko (cat.) Atherton intends to explore this enduring relationship, and the way it bolstered the Japanese when disaster struck.

She has begun her investigation by visiting historical sites: The temple at Gokokuji where the "lucky cat" myth began, and the Aoyama cemetery, where the dog Hachiko, a national symbol of loyalty, is buried. She is now focusing on popular culture today: she is exploring the phenomenon of the cat cafe and the way the Japanese routinely use cats in literature and film. In particular, she will explore the use of cats in Studio Ghibli films like The Cat Returns, and the way a dog named Otosan has been used in a series of television advertisements for the telecommunications company Softbank. In the advertisements, Otosan is the father in a human family. Westerners find this quirky, if not bizarre, but to the Japanese it makes sense, and Otosan has become a national celebrity.

University recorded publications

Researcher output profile for Dr Cassandra Atherton

Brief Biography

Dr Cassandra Atherton is one of the leading Australian experts on contemporary American public intellectuals. Her book of interviews with American public intellectuals in academe (including Noam Chomsky, Camille Paglia, Todd Gitlin, Harold Bloom) is currently in press and she is currently finishing a critical monograph, Wise Guys: The Changing Role of the Public Intellectual with information garnered from her interviews. Her interview with Howard Zinn was awarded the Mary Schroeder Prize and she is a member of the Australian public intellectual network.


Wise Guys: The Changing Role of the Public Intellectual.

'It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies.' Noam Chomsky's famous remark from his 1967 article in the New York Review of Books is still, perhaps, the best description of the role of the public intellectual today. It is certainly the most quoted. It is appropriate to start any discussion of public intellectuals with Chomsky. His name is the one most often invoked in discussions of contemporary public intellectuals, certainly in this climate where even the existence of public intellectuals has been called into question, or, as Posner's infamous book argues, is "in decline", Chomsky stands as proof that the public intellectual is not extinct, but rather changing and adapting to new technologies.

This book investigates the role of the public intellectual in America. In a series of critical essays and case studies, Wise Guys focuses, first, on the history of the public intellectual and then on questions of responsibility and a public intellectual's place in contemporary society. This book enters the debate led by Derek Jacoby and Richard Posner concerning the death of the public intellectual and posits the re-birth of the public intellectual in the New Media. This book uses Atherton's interviews with public intellectuals to inform her discussions.

In So Many Words: interviews with writers, scholars and intellectuals.
(Forthcoming from Australian Scholarly Press)

As a collection of interviews, this book investigates the role of the public intellectual in America. By way of incisive and well researched questioning, Atherton enters the debate about whether a public intellectual should work in academe and how the writing and teaching processes in academe are linked to the public intellectual's work. The nature and role of the public intellectual has undergone major change over the last two decades. From both inside and outside the academy such figures have features increasingly prominently in public debate and discussion. In this book, Atherton attempts to discover just how and why these changes have occurred and what the current state of play is. This book responds to arguments that the public intellectual is dead, endangered or in decline. It posits the re-birth of the American public intellectual through a reinvention of him/herself in the New Media. Interviews are with: Harold Bloom, Noam Chomsky, Jim Cullen, Dana Gioia, Todd Gitlin, Jim Green, Kenneth T Jackson, Stephen Greenblatt, Paul Kane, Camille Paglia and Howard Zinn.

'Travelling Without Gods': Chris Wallace-Crabbe Reader
(Forthcoming from Melbourne University Publishing, 2014)

David McCooey and Cassandra Atherton will edit a book focusing on Chris Wallace-Crabbe's career and contribution to the Creative Arts, in particular. It will include a series of scholarly and creative essays alongside biographical elements, photographs, poetry and visual arts.

Select another contact

Deakin University acknowledges the traditional land owners of present campus sites.

4th February 2015