PhD Candidate Nathan Coffey Presenting at The Australian Historical Association’s 2016 Conference

PhD candidate Nathan Coffey will be presenting at the upcoming Australian Historical Association’s 2016 Conference at Federation University. This is Nathan’s first presentation for the AHA and he has written about his preparation and let us share his abstract:

The idea of presenting at a conference at first was an exciting prospect. I was excited to take an idea that I was struggling with, tease it out into a conference paper and present it to an academic audience. The closer it comes, however, the more the nerves begin to kick in. It is true what everyone says, the most difficult part is to start. The best thing I found to do was to just dive straight in and start writing.

The application process itself was quite challenging. I had never before been forced to take an idea that I would spent twenty minutes fleshing out, and summarise it in under 150 words, at the same time making it compelling so that the organisers and people would want to come hear it. I found this extremely useful for later applications. It appears that being extremely concise is a skill most applications require.

The idea itself has also been difficult to tease out. I wanted to take a part of my thesis that I was unsure about, and force myself to consider it on its own – away from the whole project. Due to the small time limit for presenting, this forced me to significantly cut down my time frame of discussion – my thesis will discuss approximately two decades of history, whereas, this paper will only focus on two years. I also wanted to apply a theoretical framework to the idea. I am the first to admit that I shy away from using theory, so this paper was designed to push me out of my comfort zone and challenge me in ways I had yet to be challenged.

Overall, the whole process has been a game changer. I more forward towards the conference with nervous excitement. I am glad that I forced myself to overcome these mental blocks and develop these skills. They will, as most things in the PhD candidature are designed to do, make me a better writer, researcher and historian.


Competing publications: materiality, text and the decolonisation of New Guinea

This paper will examine the competing materiality of two published texts concerning the decolonisation of Papua New Guinea. Both were produced from two Visiting Missions to New Guinea from the United Nations Trusteeship Council during 1965 and 1968. The first, titled The People Speaking, was published by the Australian Minister for Territories Charles Barnes. The second are the United Nations Official Reports that were composed by the visiting delegates from the UN.

This paper will challenge existing colonial histories by examining the origins of the two texts in question, through a framework of materiality. Questions include the political imperatives served by the publication of these texts; where these texts are now and how they might be developed in new historical narratives. It will be argued that both texts were created to convey competing arguments on the proposed independence of the indigenous peoples of New Guinea.


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