Deb Lee-Talbot

HDR student

My PhD thesis is tentatively titled A feminist frontier? Analysing women’s experiences on evangelical sites in Oceania, 1861-1907. There are two significant elements to my thesis. In one part I examine the Australian Joint Copying Project as a unique archive from which historians work. I also consider the impact that archivists have as cultural intermediaries. There are also chapters that examines letters, reports, magazine articles, and photographs held in public archives.

Using an intersectional feminist approach, I deconstruct the discursive processes at play on site at the London Missionary Society frontier. I focus on the relationships formed and performed between European men and women with various Indigenous intermediaries from Rarotonga and New Guinea. I describe how these people came to know one another within the context of the LMS, then I scrutinize their experiences.

I contend it was the social and cultural disruption caused by the arrival of the London Missionary Society members that positioned these women to obtain these politically powerful roles and be named accordingly- if only for a brief moment in history.  

  • What has been the highlight of your candidature so far?

    Travelling to Papua New Guinea. Meeting members of the Hanuabada community, hearing their perspectives, and seeing the landscape that I had written of, and imagined, for so long.

  • What has been the most unexpected moment of your candidature so far?

    Dealing with a pandemic and losing access to the archives, conferences and communities I had intended to interact with and learn from. Also, people actually want me to talk about my research. It has been a valuable experience to learn how to adapt to unexpected inference during a project and that I can adapt my research in response.

  • You are stuck on a desert island with four books. Three are related to your field/area and one isn’t. Which books do you bring with you?

    Shaking Hands on the Fringe, Tiffany Shellam 

    White Women, Aboriginal Missions and Australian Settler Governments, Joanna Cruickshank and Patricia Grimshaw.

    Gathering for God: George Brown in Oceania, Helen Gardner.

    How to Survive on a Deserted Island, by Tim O’Shei.

  • Writing is big part in the HDR process. Do you have any rituals that help you get in the writing mood/vibe/mindset?

    If I am at the writing stage, some freeform or journal writing for ten minutes. If I am editing, listening to a specific music playlist. 

  • If you could research another area/field/topic outside of your current area/field/topic, what would you research?

    Creation, negotiation and transformation of gender roles in asylum seeker communities within Australia. Research into changing trends in religion would also be of interest. Engage with museum practices to improve access. How particular books shape societies and culture.

  • What do you do to relax and unwind after a long day of research/writing? (Alterative question: what do you do when you’re not working on your HDR?

    Enjoy hearing what my family have been doing that day, listen to blues, jazz, talk with friends, garden, restore vintage furniture, craftivism, hike, haunt GLAM locations.

  • Imagine an ideal world with no constraints. What would you be doing with your HDR/where would your HDR take you?

    Upon completion, my PhD would take me across the Pacific and into various communities where I can learn from various people and societies what it is to belong to the Pacific, what it means to be what it is to be a man or a woman in these spaces and how religion functions in these communities. I’d also engage with archives at a deeper level, working with archivists to promote preservation, access and equity for these resources.

Australian Policy
 and History

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