Researcher of the month

Professor David Walker

At a ceremony in July 2010, Professor David Walker received an award for ‘research excellence’ from the outgoing Vice Chancellor. The award acknowledged Professor Walker’s outstanding research and publication record over a number of years. David Walker is recognized as an innovative cultural historian whose prize-winning book, Anxious Nation: Australia and the Rise of Asia, 1850-1939 (UQP, 1999) helped create a new field of research. Anxious Nation has been translated into Chinese and published by China Renmin University Press (Beijing,1999). An Indian edition was published by SSS publications, New Delhi, in the same year and a Hindi translation will follow in 2011. Professor Walker is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Social Sciences and the Australian Academy of the Humanities.

Anxious Nation is the first of a three volume study of Australian responses to Asia from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. Since the publication of Anxious Nation Professor Walker has been awarded Australian Research Council Discovery Grants for two subsequent volumes of this study. The most recent of these Discovery Grants was awarded in 2008 to complete the final volume which examines ‘Australia’s Asian Futures’ from the 1970s to the present. The final volume will examine both the policy responses to Asia and the speculative, often unstable terrain of imagined threats, vulnerabilities and opportunities generated by Australia’s proximity to Asia. Assessors provided a strong endorsement of ‘the sustained long-term research agenda’ informing the project. It was ranked in the highest category for successful grants in 2008.

Related projects include a co-edited volume of essays, Legacies of White Australia: Race, Culture and Nation, University of Western Australia Press, (2003) and the preparation of an edited collection of essays addressing the largely overlooked Asian dimension of Australian history. Professor Walker is also working on a Linkage Grant with colleagues from La Trobe University examining the history and impact of the Fulbright Commission in Australia from its inception in the late 1940s to the present. Professor Walker was a former chair of the Victorian selection committee for Fulbright awards.

In March 2011 Professor Walker’s new book on sight, memory and history will be published by the Sydney publisher Giramondo under the title, Not Dark Yet: Ordinary Lives. Two chapters from this book have been published as essays in the literary magazine, Heat. The book examines the possibilities for auto-ethnography and modes of life writing that connect family memory to larger historical themes and contexts. Professor Walker has been invited to speak on this project at the University of Copenhagen, the University of Geneva and the Mildura Writers’ Festival. An interview with Ramona Koval on the ABC’s Book Show explored key themes of the book. Not Dark Yet represents a new departure in historical writing and has already generated considerable interest.

From 1 February to 30 June 2010 Professor Walker held the ‘Distinguished Visiting Chair of Australian Studies’ at the University of Copenhagen. While there he taught an MA class on ‘Australian perceptions of Asia’ and lectured to undergraduate students. The Copenhagen Chair is supported by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. Since 2005 Professor Walker has been a Visiting Professor in the School of Foreign Studies at Renmin University, Beijing. The Australian Studies Centre at Renmin University runs a successful MA program with between eight and twelve students working on theses with an Australian dimension. Professor Walker helps supervise the students, gives public lectures on Australian topics and contributes to the annual Australian Culture Week run by staff and students in the Australian Studies Centre. Two Renmin students, Guan Dongqian and Sun Bing, are currently studying at Deakin University on Australia China Council and Renmin University scholarships. In 1997/98 Professor Walker held the Monash Visiting Chair of Australian Studies at Georgetown University, Washington, DC.

Professor Walker has an impressive record of PhD supervision. His students have explored a range of topics including the critics of the White Australia policy, the significance of the 1955 Bandung conference, the place of the Church in modern China, the responses of the medical profession to Asia, post-war literary nationalism and the life and career of the Geelong medical practitioner, Dr Mary De Garis. David Walker heads an ADRI/CCG research cluster examining Asian Regionalism and Asia Literacy. An Alfred Deakin Post-Doctoral Fellow, Dr Yoko Harada, has joined ADRI/CCG  under Professor Walker’s supervision and will examine the cross-cultural tensions that have arisen between Australia and Japan over whaling. A workshop on the missing Asian dimension of Australian historiography is scheduled for April 2011 with support from the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia and the University of Copenhagen. Professor Walker is planning a new ARC Discovering Grant application with early career researcher Dr Kane Collins on the iconography of mapping in Australia which draws upon and extends debated about the peopling of Australia, its climate, future and place in the region.




Professor David Walker

Professor David Walker was elected as a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia in November 2001.  His citation at that time read:

David Walker was already recognized as a leading cultural historian at the time of his appointment to a Chair at Deakin University in 1991.  He has had a profound influence over the way Australia has been thought about over the last 25 years.  David has published widely in the field and his reputation has grown considerably in Australia and abroad.  His recently published book, Anxious Nation: Australia and the Rise of Asia, 1850-1939, effectively redraws the boundaries of scholarship, moving ‘Asia’ into the mainstream of Australian historical writing.  That Anxious Nation is also lucid, witty and compelling comes as no surprise to those familiar with his work.  His Dream and Disillusion showed how historians and cultural analysts could use literary sources to understand the formation of cultural attitudes and ideological positions, including the disdain of suburbia.  His editorship of the journal Australian Cultural History has given expression to a new generation of cultural historians, publishing pioneering work which traverses, to paraphrase Bernard Smith, place, taste and tradition.

Professor Walker’s writing on Asia is complemented by the important role he has played in the development of Asian Studies programs in Indonesia, Japan and PR China.  There is no question that he has played a leading role in this culturally complex and sensitive area.

Professor Walker has given recent keynote addresses to conferences in Copenhagen and Stirling and was selected as one of six speakers in the inaugural North American Speakers’ Program.  His appointment as Monash Chair of Australian Studies at Georgetown University, Washington DC, in 1998/98 confirmed his reputation as a fine teacher and innovative thinker.

"Not Dark Yet: Reading and Seeing"
David Walker talks about his relationship to books and reading as a result of losing his vision.

On ABC Radio National's ' The Book Show', Ramona Koval speaks with Prof Walker | read transcript | listen to audio (mp3)


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