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Eras Journal - Editorial, Edition Seven


Welcome to the seventh edition of Eras, the journal produced by postgraduates of Monash University's School of Historical Studies. The aim of our journal is to publish articles and reviews from among the fields of History, Archaeology, Religion and Theology, and Jewish Civilisation, as well as encouraging cross-disciplinary approaches to these fields, by current and recently graduated postgraduate students from around the world. Once again this edition of Eras showcases a diverse and eclectic mix of talented postgraduate work both within Australia and overseas. A common theme running across each of our articles is a sense of history as empowering and as intimately related to current debates. Historians are not sage-like, and nor can studying the past somehow prevent humanity repeating its mistakes. Yet the historical disciplines do posses a unique ability to interpret and understand the politico-historical context of the present. The past, as the saying goes, is all around us. Across the Western world, to which Australia is no exception, capitalist economic growth continues unabated. Yet concurrent with this ostensibly positive experience are reports of collective ill-health manifesting itself through an out of proportion though governmentally cultivated fear of the (terrorist) other, family and community breakdown, loneliness and atrocious levels of mental illness. This is without mentioning older but increasing levels of disadvantage and inequality across and within nation-states, nor environmental degradation. Such profound changes to the category of 'the social' and the possibilities for collective action are inevitably related to the atomisation of human experience. Despite the triumphal tribunes of Western civilisation, such contradictions of individualised/collective and material as against holistic well-being seem blatantly unsustainable. It is within such a context that a historicised sense of the present offers new vistas for thinking about and acting out social change. For instance it should seem fairly obvious that neither the draconian anti-terrorism measures currently being rammed through the Australian Parliament nor a set of antiquated nineteenth century anti-collectivist workplace laws will be likely to address the deeper malaise of our hyper-individualised, mutuality-free and deeply anxious contemporary human experience.

In line with this interpretation of historical scholarship, you will find for the first time a section devoted to opinion pieces, which we discuss below.

Beginning our new edition is David Davis' article 'Regarding Men: the insufficiency of the current early modern witchcraft paradigm'. While most examinations of gender in history explore the absence of women in the historical narrative, Davis chooses to explore the less common absence of men. Using close textual analysis of both the texts used by witch-hunters and the transcripts of witch trials, Davis re-examines the paradigm of witchcraft and questions whether the assumption that accusations were primarily directed against women is truly unproblematic.

It's always exciting, as the producers of a scholarly journal, when an article you have seen to publication goes on to incite discussion and debate from others in its field. This edition includes a response from Arie Dubnov of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to Jonathan Hogg's article 'The Ambiguity of Intellectual Engagement: Towards a Reassessment of Isaiah Berlin's Legacy' (ERAS edition 6, Nov 2004). In his 'Liberal or Zionist? Ambiguity or Ambivalence?: Reply to Jonathan Hogg', Dubnov contests the frames of reference used by Hogg in his analysis of the 'legacy' of the thinker Isaiah Berlin. He argues that Berlin's thought needs to be understood beyond the context of British liberalism, and that a true understanding of Berlin's Zionism and its relationship to his liberalism needs to be more nuanced. His Berlin is a 'thinker of ambivalence, inner doubt and skepticism'.

Meredith Lake's article traces the Australian Council of Churches' involvement with Asian Christians and church councils during the 1950s and early 1960s, arguing that this interaction reflected wider changes in understandings of Australia's place in the Asia Pacific region. These shifts, in which the notion of a 'Far East' was exchanged for that of 'the near north', together with the mutual understandings fostered between Asian and Australian Christians in this period, had important implications for Australian Christianity, particularly in respect to its perception of its social and political role in the region, one which stressed cultural understanding, tolerance, and social justice. The ACC in Lake's words was prompted by this interaction with Asian Christians 'to pursue a view of politics in substantial disagreement with the prevailing policies of the time'.

David McBride's piece 'American Nativism & Common Misperceptions' revisits the nativist politics of post-war America in light of its implications for the establishment of a viable Jewish state in Israel. McBride argues that the practical establishment of Israel was aided by a combination of factors. While the Anglo-American failure to reach an agreement on a Palestine policy was crucial, the rising nativist and exclusivist sentiments in post-war America (that opposed easing America's restrictive immigration quotas but would have allowed a large number of displaced persons resettlement) combined to resettle the displaced persons in Palestine. This domestically pragmatic result for American President Truman was aided and abetted by a skillful Zionist lobby group inside and outside of the United States.

Evan Smith offers new insights into the issue of race relations in 1960s-1980s Britain through his examination of the handling of that issue by the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB). Peculiarly relevant in the current Australian political climate, Smith examines the Communists' active opposition to the increasingly racist, anti-immigration policies of both the post-Macmillan Conservative and Wilson Labour governments, as well as those of the early Thatcher period. Smith also tackles questions as broad as the very concept of 'race' in the context of the Communist Party's Marxist-Socialist ideology, and also the continuing impact of the CPGB's heritage as the leading opponent of Mosley's Fascists in the 1930s for its later anti-racism campaigns.

Yannick Thoraval's article 'Broad Appeal: How Pearl Harbor and September 11 Helped Locate the Essence Of American National Identity' critically compares the reactions to two of the most significant events in American history, Pearl Harbor and September 11, and the importance of rhetoric within subsequent presidential State of the Union addresses. Thoraval's comparison of the rhetoric within the State of the Union addresses investigates the parallels between American ideals and imaginings following the shock of Pearl Harbor at a turning point in the twentieth century, to the trauma of September 11 at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Finally, we come to André Veldmeijer. Over a number of years a great wealth of archaeological material has been excavated at the Ptolemaic and Roman port Berenike on the Red Sea coast in Egypt. The focus of Veldmeijer's article is the cordage from the site, an artefact category often overlooked. Veldmeijer's paper offers an important outline of currently applied terminology and discussion of proposed new terms.

You will also find a number of reviews in Edition Seven on a range of recent publications.

The continued publication of Eras would not be possible without the valuable support of the Editorial Committee. Most importantly my thanks goes out to last year's editor Kate Murphy, who has acted as a de-facto co-editor throughout most of the year. Thanks must also go to Richard Scully, Paul Kucera, Lachlan Grant, Hannah Fulton, Meighen Katz, Ben Suelzle and Selena Costa-Pinto for all their help and hard work over the year. We should all like to acknowledge the support and understanding of our academic supervisors, without which the production of Eras would be rendered significantly more difficult.

Special thanks also goes to Marian Quartly, Gillian Bowen, Marc Brodie, Rosemary Johnston, Barbara Caine and other members of the School of Historical Studies at Monash University who have advised and assisted us on various issues throughout the year.

The Editorial Committee are also thankful for the technical support of Arts IT in particular Johnathon Blythe, Ken Blakey and Ian Coulter.

Articles included in Eras maintain such quality due to the anonymous (and largely thankless) refereeing process, which is shouldered on a voluntary basis, by academic staff both in Australia and internationally. We thank them warmly for giving up their time, despite the many claims on their attentions and energies, to allow the ongoing publication of journals like Eras.

We aim for Eras journal to provoke vigorous and passionate discussion among postgraduates, the academic community, and the wider public. We hope this discussion will be facilitated by the link, included within each article, which allows readers to respond by email to the ideas presented. Reasonable comments are posted on the Eras discussion page, in the hope that they will provide stimulus for continued discussion. We welcome your contributions.

We do hope you enjoy Eras Edition Seven.

Nick Dyrenfurth

(Eras editor-in-chief)