Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations

Dr Leigh Boucher

MHPIR - Leigh BoucherLecturer

BA (Hons) University of Melbourne
PhD University of Melbourne

Office: W6A 405
Phone: +61 2 9850 7041
Fax: +61 2 9850 6064

I completed my PhD at the University of Melbourne in 2006 under the supervision of Joy Damousi.  My doctoral research investigated the relationship between political rights, gender difference and settler colonialism in nineteenth century Victoria.   After the completion of my thesis I lectured in the School of Historical Studies at Monash University and in 2007 was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Visiting Fellowship (UK) to undertake research at the Centre for History and Theory at Roehampton University.  Recently I have published work that emerged out of my doctoral research and other work that centres on gender and sexuality in contemporary Australian political and cultural life.  At present I am completing a manuscript that investigates the relationship between settler colonialism, suffrage and sovereignty in the nineteenth century British World.  I am also an investigator on an ARC-funded project with Prof Lynette Russell that traces the influences of  anthropology and anthropologists on the history of Aboriginal protection in the 19th century British world. I am also currently the secretary of the Australian Historical Association.


My research centres on the construction and representation of difference in liberal democratic political and popular cultures. This has produced work that investigates a wide variety of historical contexts and representations. This includes research on the dynamic of settler-colonialism and changing constructions of manhood in nineteenth century Victoria, anthropological constructions of the "Aborigine" in nineteenth century Australia, sexuality in contemporary historical films, contestations over masculinity in the representation of the AFL, and the impact of changing ideas about sexuality on the operation of citizenship in late-modern Australia.

Current Projects

The Reach of Rights: The Limits of Liberalism in a British Settler Colony

Taking colonial Victoria as a case-study, this project examines debates amongst and between mid-nineteenth century liberals about the organisation of citizenship, a period in which so many of the everyday terms of our political life were becoming cultural common sense. The book will examine how liberals understood and managed the great contradiction of nineteenth century political life, namely, an expanding sense of democratic rights and increasingly punitive and exclusionary ideas about racial difference. In a theoretical sense, the book asks what the historiography of settler colonialism can teach us about British liberalism, and, what the historiography of British liberalism can teach us about settler colonialism. Colonial Victoria represents a paradigmatic example of settler-colonial dispossession, as land hungry settlers swamped an Indigenous population almost to the point of elimination and worked hard to exclude racially troubling populations at its borders; it presents a unique opportunity to examine settler colonialism in a condensed form and rework intransigent debates about the logics, limits and possibilities of both settler colonialism and liberal citizenship.

In the middle of the nineteenth century, Victoria achieved, in many ways, the kinds of democratic reforms liberals in Britain only dreamed about. At the same time, though, notions of gender and race were crucial axes of difference through political rights were granted, denied and challenged in this nineteenth century world. Crucially, the question of territorial sovereignty both prefigured and constantly unsettled these democratic reforms; racialized populations of Chinese miners and Indigenous survivors were a constant threat to the sovereign fantasies of exclusive settler possession. How then, did the historical relationship between settlers, migrants and indigenous peoples texture the history of British liberalism, and, what might this tell us about the limits and possibilities of liberal citizenship?

Selected Publications

  • 2016 Michelle Arrow and Leigh Boucher, 'Teaching Modern History Gives Me the Chance to Say What I Think' History Australia
  • 2016, Leigh Boucher, 'Different Abilities and Different Bodies' in Swimming with the Spit edited by Tanya Evans (Sydney: New South Press)
  • 2016, Kate Fullagar and Leigh Boucher 'Modern British history from the Antipodes' History Australia
  • 2016 Leigh Boucher, 'The sovereign contingencies of mid-Victorian liberalism: A view from the settler periphery' History Australia
  • 2015, Leigh Boucher, 'The 1869 Aborigines Protection Act: Vernacular Ethnography and the Governance of Aboriginal Subjects,' in Settler Colonial Governance in the 19th Century Victoria edited by Leigh Boucher and Lynette Russell (ANU E-Press)
  • 2015, Leigh Boucher and Lynette Russell, 'Colonial History, Postcolonial Theory and the "Aboriginal Problem" in Colonial Victoria' in in Settler Colonial Governance in the 19th Century Victoria edited by Leigh Boucher and Lynette Russell (ANU E-Press)
  • 2015, Leigh Boucher, 'Public Emotions and their Personal Consequences: The Nationalising Affects of the AFL since 1990' International Journal of Sports History (May)
  • 2013, Leigh Boucher 'Alfred Howitt and the erasure of Aboriginal history,' in The Aboriginal Story of Burke and Wills: Forgotten Narratives, edited by Ian Clark and Frank Cahir (CSIRO Publishing)
  • 2013, Leigh Boucher, 'New Cultural History and Australia's Colonial Past,' in Australian History Now, edited by Anna Clark and Paul Ashton (New South Press).
  • 2012, Leigh Boucher "Old Questions and 'New Biography': Labour Activism, William Murphy and Racialisation in 1880s Victoria" Australian Historical Studies 43,1.
  • 2012, Leigh Boucher and Lynette Russell "Soliciting sixpences from township to township?: moral dilemmas in mid-nineteenth-century Melbourne" Postcolonial Studies 15,2.
  • 2011, Leigh Boucher "Alfred Howitt: Anthropology, Governance and the Settler Colonial Order of Things" in Rethinking the Racial Moment: Essays on the Colonial Encounter edited by Alison Holland and Barbara Brookes, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Newcastle upon Tyne.
  • 2009, Leigh Boucher "Trans/national history and disciplinary amnesia: historicising White Australia at two fins de siècles" in Creating White Australia edited by Jane Carey and Claire McLisky Sydney University Press, Sydney.
  • 2008, Leigh Boucher "Whiteness, Geopolitical Reconfiguration and the Settler Empire in Nineteenth Century Victorian Politics" in Re-Orienting Whiteness, eds Leigh Boucher, Jane Carey and Katherine Ellinghaus, Palgrave Macmillan, New York USA.
  • 2008, Leigh Boucher "'Queer(y)ing' historico-genealogies of feminism for the university classroom" Identities: Journal for Politics, Gender and Culture 6,2 (forthcoming) [Published in English and Macedonian].
  • 2007, Leigh Boucher "Whiteness Before White Australia?" in Historicising Whiteness: Transnational Perspectives on the Construction of an Identity edited by Leigh Boucher, Jane Carey and Katherine Ellinghaus ( Melbourne : RMIT Press).
  • 2007, Jane Carey, Leigh Boucher and Katherine Ellinghaus "Historicising Whiteness: Towards a New Research Agenda" in Historicising Whiteness: Transnational Perspectives on the Construction of an Identity edited by Leigh Boucher, Jane Carey and Katherine Ellinghaus (Melbourne: RMIT Press).
  • 2007, Leigh Boucher and Sarah Pinto " 'I Ain't Queer': Love, Masculinity and History in Brokeback Mountain " Journal of Men's Studies 15,3.
  • 2006, Sarah Pinto and Leigh Boucher "Fighting for Legitimacy: Masculinity, Political Voice and Ned Kelly" Journal of Interdisciplinary Gender Studies 10,1.
  • 2004, Leigh Boucher "Masculinity Gone Mad: Settler Colonialism, Masculinity and the White Body in Late Nineteenth Century Victoria" Lilith: A Feminist History Journal 13.