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2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

HIST3453 The Body in Australian History, 1788-2007

20 creditsClass Size: 30

Module manager: Dr Alexia Moncrieff

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

How are bodies policed, restricted and defined? How does the state exert control over the bodies of its subjects or citizens? How do individuals and groups resist that control? How have bodies shaped the experiences and political significance of different groups in Australian society? This module will explore these questions by assessing the ways ideas about sex, disease, eugenics and disability have shaped key moments in Australian history. Beginning with the invasion in 1788, this module examines the ways perceptions of physical difference shaped ideas about cultural difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. It looks at changing ideas about sex and sexuality and investigates shifting notions of who it is permissible to have sex with, when and why. It also considers the debates around the making of babies and the status of wounded and heroic bodies in Australian culture, delving into the development of new technologies and their role in redefining non-normative bodies.This module will include the discussion of topics students may find difficult, including sexual violence. Any questions should be directed to the module convenor


This module aims to:
1. Explain and evaluate the changing relationship between the state and the bodies of its subjects/citizens in Australia since 1788
2. Examine the histories of sexuality, disease, eugenics and disability in Australia since 1788
3. Equip students to incorporate theories of embodiment into their consideration of historical events and periods
4. Evaluate key historiographical and methodological developments in relation to the history of the body in Australia
5. Critically analyse a range of primary sources in a variety of forms
6. Consider what constitutes ethical practice in the writing of intimate histories

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module students will have demonstrated the following learning outcomes relevant to the subject:
1. Critically assess events, people and themes in the social and cultural history of Australia
2. Engage critically with the historical human body and its interpretation in Australian history
3. Apply the methodologies of social and cultural history, particularly the close reading and interpretation of texts
4. Carefully and critically evaluate the approaches and arguments of scholars working in the field.
5. Locate, assess and synthesise relevant information from a range of sources.
6. Communicate complex ideas verbally and in writing


Topics may include:
Attempts to define racial difference
Ideal and problematic bodies
Policing and restraining bodies
Sex and disease
Sexual and reproductive rights
War-related disability
Technological developments that alter, protect and/or assist bodies

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours178.00
Total Contact hours22.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

-Preparatory reading and tasks before seminars
-Further self-directed research and reading
-Preparation of assessments

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Students will deliver a group presentation on the first essay topic in the relevant seminar (Weeks 2-6) in which they can test out ideas and familiarise themselves with the literature for their first essay. Feedback will be provided in time to be useful for the essay due in week 8. Individual consultations will be available to discuss feedback on the first essay before the second is due.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay1500-word essay (40%)60.00
Essay2500-word essay40.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

The first essay will require students to use the secondary literature evaluate what an embodied approach can reveal about a particular theme. The themes will relate to the topics of the seminars in weeks 2-6. The second essay will be in response to set questions and require the use of both primary and secondary sources.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 10/05/2024


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