Truth, Memory and the Media symposium

Truth, Memory and the Media symposium

Truth, Memory and the Media symposium

September 6, 1:00-5:30, 2018, State Library of NSW

In September 2018, Centre for Media History (CMH) and Centre for Applied History (CAH) collaborated to host a very successful History Week symposium on ‘Truth, Memory and the Media’ symposium at the State Library of NSW. The symposium initially devised by Jeannine Baker (MMCS & CMH, MQ), and was convened on the day by Justine Lloyd (Sociology & CMH, MQ) and Saartje Tack (Gender Studies and Modern History, MQ).

This half-day symposium explored the intersections of truth and memory in journalism, documentary and feature films, and the ways that crime, in/justice and death are documented and remembered. Keynote speaker Associate Professor Rebecca Scott Bray canvassed the rise in mediations of death in the contemporary digital media landscape, and explored the forensic role of podcasts and online interventions such at the Guardian Australia’s Indigenous ‘Deaths in Custody’ project.

Other speakers covered topics relating to contested knowledge and media representations and historicisations, including Jerome de Groot (University of Manchester) who spoke on the use of DNA testing in family history and its links to televisual representations of contested genealogies, Katherine Biber (UTS) on the final days of Aboriginal ‘bushranger’ Jimmy Governor, Heidi Norman (UTS) on the interplay between truth and memory in the search for Indigenous sovereignty, and James Findlay (University of Sydney) on Australian convict history on 1970s and 80s television and film. CMH members Peter Doyle and Tom Murray, spoke about fascinating historical discoveries and media-based research for short film projects that they had recently made for The Guardian website and Margaret Van Heekeren (University of Sydney and Centre for Media History, MQ) spoke on the history of ‘fake news’. Robert Sinnerbrink’s (Department of Philosophy, MQ) talk explored the mediated performance of witnessing historical trauma in Joshua Oppenheimer’s 2014 documentary The Look of Silence.

The symposium also included a presentation by Jerelynn Brown, SLNSW Manager of Collection Strategy and Development, about collecting media history and the Library’s role in sourcing and managing both traditional and social media archives.

The CMH wishes to acknowledge the support of the History Council of NSW and the State Library, especially the Library’s Coordinator, Education & Scholarship, Rachel Franks, in making the symposium as resounding success.

Full program is below or here <,-memory-and-the-media-symposium>

You can download the recordings of the event (the Keynote, Panel 1, and Panel 2) here.


Date: Thursday 6 September

Time: 1.00 – 5.30pm


Metcalfe Auditorium

(enter from Macquarie Street)

State Library of NSW

Corner of Macquarie Street and Shakespeare Place
Sydney NSW 2000

Get directions

Co-hosted by the Centre for Media History &

the Centre for Applied History,

Macquarie University

History Council of NSW History Week event

2018‘Life and Death’

1 – 1.45

Introduction and acknowledgement of country – Justine Lloyd

Keynote: Afterimages: Contested Death in the Digital Age – Rebecca Scott Bray, Associate Professor of Criminology and Socio-Legal Studies, University of Sydney

Chair – Saartje Tack

Ours is an age of ‘death scrutiny’, where death has assumed a fervent agency and an elevated place in public life; as we move to become less a thanaphobic society, it is more visible and more audible across various media. We are redesigning our rituals around death, our architectures, methods of disposition and remembrance, such that this deathwork and deathtalk animate the media. Yet terrible and troubling contexts of preventable death, such as crime, and deaths in custody, deaths of refugees and asylum seekers, and avoidable disasters, all challenge our language for, representation of, and responses to death precisely at a time when death positivity is capturing the social imagination. We might ask: where are the opportunities to consider contested deaths beyond the headlines? Which digital encounters energise and agitate us? What understandings can mediated death bring us when decoupled from the newsflash? This talk will survey the contemporary digital terrain to explore how contested death is being navigated in the digital age.

Dr Rebecca Scott Bray is Associate Professor of Criminology and Socio-Legal Studies in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Sydney. Between 2012-2016 she was Director of the Sydney Institute of Criminology, Sydney Law School. Rebecca’s research lies at the intersections of criminology, law, medicine and culture, with a focus on issues around death and the deceased. She has particular interests in death investigation and the coronial jurisdiction, and in cultural practices such as death-related art and media.

1.45 – 3.15

Panel 1: Truth and History

Chair – Justine Lloyd

Jerome de Groot (Manchester, UK) – ‘History on screen: DNA as evidence and documentary narratives’

Margaret Van Heekeren (USYD and CMH, MQ) – ‘Fake news, faked news, false news: a history’

Tom Murray (MMCCS, MQ) – ‘Drawing histories from the archive: Extracting stories’

James Findlay (USYD) – ‘Frontier fictions: Australia’s colonisation on the small screen’

3.15 – 3.45 Afternoon tea in Macquarie Room

3.45 – 4.00 Jerelynn Brown, Manager, Collection Strategy and Development, State Library – ‘The Late Edition: Collecting media history’

4.00 – 5.30

Panel 2: Trauma, crime and memory

Chair – Saartje Tack

Heidi Norman (UTS) –  ‘Truth telling about our history and the search for sovereignty’

Katherine Biber (UTS) – ‘Doing Duty over Jimmy Governor: Documenting the last days of the condemned murderer, Darlinghurst Gaol, 1900’

Peter Doyle (MMCCS, MQ) – ‘On the trail of the Kingsgrove Slasher’

Robert Sinnerbrink (Philosophy, MQ) – ‘The Act of Witnessing: Cinematic Ethics in The Look of Silence’

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