Romain Fathi
Romain Fathi
Project Title: On the other side of the mirror: Villers-Bretonneux and Australian national identity from the 25th of April 1918 to today
 
Principal Advisor: Associate Professor Martin Crotty
Co-supervisor: Professor Guillaume Piketty
 
Project Abstract: Villers-Bretonneux, in France’s Somme region, is one of Australia’s sacred sites due to its World War One significance. What is happening at Villers-Bretonneux goes far beyond commemoration or the concept of realms of memory. I study and analyse the tangible ties between Villers-Bretonneux and Australia – the memorial, school, museum, commemoration of Anzac Day (amongst others) – and what these links reveal about the building of an Australian identity. By analysing the Australian identity through the prism of Villers-Bretonneux, I demonstrate that this village is as much a showcase as a mirror of this identity. Here, there has been a constant rewriting of a national narrative, using the past to define oneself – collectively and individually – in the present. This identity in perpetual evolution is also inextricably linked to commemorative activities and collective memory. It seems that a part of the community – through the commemoration of Australian deeds and dead – has been and is still projecting itself beyond its national boundaries in order to define itself internally, and this self-projection helps the community to bind itself together back home, in Australia.
 
A little bit about Romain.....I am a Graduate from Sciences Po, Paris (http://www.sciencespo.fr/en) where I completed an undergraduate degree and a Masters by research in history, together with a professional Masters. I am now enrolled in a PhD program with UQ as my primary institution and Sciences Po as my host institution within the framework of a Jointly-Awarded PhD agreement. My doctorate is funded through the UQI scholarship scheme.
 
During the Fall Semester of 2014 I undertook a doctoral exchange at Yale University as a Visiting Assistant in Research under the advisorship of Charles J. Stille Professor Jay Winter. During this semester, I also took on a position of Teaching Fellow for Bird White Housum Professor Timothy Snyder’s course Eastern Europe to 1914. This exchange is supervised by the Centre for the Americas at Sciences Po and Yale University.
 
Publications:
 
Book
Abstract: Alternating the study of the Historial of the Great War of Péronne (France) and that of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, I propose a journey at the heart of cultural representations and perceptions of the Great War. One discovers the means through which a memory of the conflict was imposed in Australia and how the heroism of ancestors, supposed or proven, is mobilised to confer values and qualities on the whole nation. Through the prism that is each museum’s permanent exhibition, I decrypt the sense given to the first global conflict by these two institutions. History museums, on the condition that society valorises them as a place for knowledge or of cultural consumption, have in their hands an incredible power in that they can propose a vision of the past that is meticulously staged. It is this performative dimension of history museums that I invite to grasp so that visitors take a critical look at the version of history with which they are presented.
 
Book Chapters
  • Romain Fathi, “‘A piece of Australia in France’: Australian authorities and the commemoration of Anzac Day at Villers-Bretonneux in the last decade”, in Nation, Memory and Great War Commemoration. Mobilizing the Past in Europe, Australia and New Zealand, Shanti Sumartojo and Ben Wellings (eds.), Oxford, Peter Lang, 2014, 273-290.
  • Upcoming - Romain Fathi, “’Connecting Spirits’: comportements commémoratifs d’un groupe scolaire australien dans la Somme” in Penser la guerre autrement ? edited by Bérénice Zunino and Philipp Siegert, LIT-Verlag (Münster), 2015.
 
Peer Reviewed Journal Articles:
  • Romain Fathi, “‘Connecting Spirits’. The commemorative patterns of an Australian school group in Northern France”, Journal of Australian Studies, Volume 38, Issue 3, 2014, 345-359.
  • Upcoming - Romain Fathi, “La Grande Guerre de l’identité nationale : mémoire, politique et politiques mémorielles en Australie des années 1980 à nos jours”, Guerres mondiales et conflits contemporains, 2015.
  • Upcoming - Romain Fathi, “La Grande Guerre à l’Australian War Memorial ou l’élaboration d’un mythe national”, Matériaux pour l’histoire de notre temps, 2015.
 
Book reviews:
  • Peter Hart, The Great War, in Politique Etrangère, vol. 79; 1. 2014.
  • Bruno Cabanes, The Great War and the Origins of Humanitarianism, 1918–1924 In History Australia, 2015.
 
Newspapers, magazines and internet publications:
 
Conferences:
  • October 2014, Paper “Pratiques et discours commémoratifs australiens à Villers-Bretonneux des années 1990 à nos jours” for the conference Den Krieg Neu Denken? Neue quellen und methoden zur geschichtsschreibung des ersten Weltkriegs at, Goethe-Universität and organised by the Institut Français d’Histoire en Allemagne in Frankfurt.
  • October 2014, co-convenor of the workshop “Mobility and displacement during the First World War (1914-1923)”, Centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po, Paris.
  • October 2014, Paper “Exposer la Grande Guerre au musée-mémorial national australien. Le refus de la modernité au service de la fondation d'origines sacrées” at Séminaire Arts et Sociétés – Guerres et Paix, Sciences Po, Fondation de France, Paris.
  • July 2014, Paper “A School Or Nothing: Victoria’s Department Of Education And Post-war Aid To Villers-Bretonneux”, at the Australian Historical Association’s 33rd annual conference, Brisbane.
  • July 2014, chair for the panel “reading the war” at the Australian Historical Association’s 33rd annual conference, Brisbane.
  • July 2014, convenor of the public conference “Somewhere in France, Somewhere in Australia” at the Queensland Museum, Brisbane.
  • July 2014, Paper “Frederick Wecker’s Bayonet: an obsolete weapon in an industrialised war”, at Somewhere in France, Somewhere in Australia, The Queensland Museum, Brisbane.
  • December 2013: Presentation for German and Macedonian curators with regards to Australian collective memory and remembrance practices related to the Great War for the OFAJ (French German Youth Council) Held at the Mission du Centenaire (France’s official board for WW1 centenary commemorations), Paris.
  • January 2013: Paper for the seminar “the Great War Today” organised by Anne Hertzog and Nicolas Offenstadt under the aegis of the DMPA, Ministry for Defence, Paris.
  • April 2012: Invited to deliver a communication for an international symposium at the ANU organised by the Centre for European Studies of the ANU (Canberra) entitled ‘Politics of the Past’.
 
Teaching experience and training:
 
2014: Fall Semester, Yale University, Teaching Fellow for Professor Timothy Snyder’s course, HIST 263, Eastern Europe to 1914.
 
2013-2014: Autumn Semester, Sciences Po (Paris campus), teaching “A Global History of the Great War” (DHIS 1980A), a course that I designed myself (course, teaching, grading, excursions.)
 
August 2013: Sciences Po, (Reims campus) intensive week-long program for methodology class for first-year students.
 
2013: Semester 1, tutor for HIST1201 (Australian History: Current Issues in Historical Perspective) at The University of Queensland. I taught three classes and was assigned most of the marking for the course.
 
2013: Tutor for the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme (ITAS), an Australia-wide program designed to tutor Indigenous Australians at university and funded by the Australian Government.
 
2013 – Completion of UQ’s Tutor Training Program. Prior to being able to tutor, UQ’s staff must attend workshops dedicated to the acquisition of teaching strategies. Managed by teaching academics in the field of teaching and communication, the training is made of several workshops that simulate teaching situations.
 
2013 – Completion, on a voluntary basis, of the Certificate of University Teaching Practice (CUTP) program run by the Teaching and Educational Development Institute (TEDI), at The University of Queensland. The CUTP program aims to improve academic staffs’ teaching skills through workshops, professional activities and engaging with the academic literature concerned with teaching and learning so as to approach our own teaching in a more reflective way to come up with stronger strategies to ensure high student intake of knowledge and involvement in the course.
 
2012: Tutor in History and French at St Leo College (The University of Queensland), Semester 1 and Semester 2, 2012.
 
Peripheral academic activities:
 
I am part of a research network, taking the form of a website, dedicated to the study of the commemoration of the Great War. See the International Research Network for War Commemoration’s website where I have made several contributions: http://irnwc.hypotheses.org/author/fathi.
 
Invited by radio ABC (Canberra), I briefly spoke about my research and the paper I was presenting at the conference at the ANU. See http://irnwc.hypotheses.org/95 or http://hapi.uq.edu.au/radio.
 
2014: Scientific Coordinator for the event entitled “Somewhere in France, Somewhere in Australia”. The event explored the personal stories and experiences of Australians who served in France during the Great War and featured talks from historians and curators from France and Australia based on objects that belonged to these soldiers and that were brought to us by members of the public. For this event, I raised funding the Institut Français, the French Embassy to Australia, UQ’s Deputy Vice Chancellor Research and The Mission du Centenaire (France’s official board for the commemoration of the centenary of the Great War). The event was held at the Queensland Museum in July 2014. For more information please refer to an interview on radio ABC (Brisbane): http://hapi.uq.edu.au/radio.
 
Academic environment at UQ:
 
There are a fair few colleagues working on World War One at UQ, which enables me to progress in my research, as I can exchange with them and reflect on their feedback. In addition, the School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry is doing a great job to make my experience, at an administrative level, very easy and enjoyable. The school also organises various events and the multidisciplinarity attached to those events is intellectually stimulating. Right from the beginning, I have been able to associate my former university and my former M.A. supervisor, Research Professor Guillaume Piketty, who is now co-supervisor as a part of the Jointly Awarded Ph.D. agreement that was established between UQ and Sciences Po. I believe that building academic bridges will enhance the outcomes of my research.
 
Advice for applicants:
 
The academic culture here at UQ is very fulfilling. The emphasis is put on personal development. Not only can you complete a solid Ph.D. but you can do so while making the most of UQ’s library, roofless (and all year long!) swimming pool or cinema and you are provided with a desk with everything you need. Facilities at UQ are impressive, state of the art really! Contact someone you would like to work with and propose your project. Supervisors are very approachable and they will then orientate you towards the school to lodge an expression of interest and launch your candidature. I feel that there is always someone happy to help me achieving my goals in this university. Whether it is academic, administrative, recreational or anything really, I can knock at a door and get a friendly face to facilitate my journey. The availability of the staff is impressive.
 

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