Intersections: Time, Materiality and the Humanities

26–27 November 2015, The University of Sydney

The Academy’s 46th Annual Symposium, ‘Intersections: Time, Materiality and the Humanities’, was convened by Dr Robin Torrence FAHA and Dr Anne Clarke, and was hosted by The University of Sydney on 26–27 November 2015.

The Symposium explored new frontiers in humanities research centred on intersections between objects and timescales. Scholars from across various disciplines investigated the ways in which the material world is used, shaped and negotiated over timescales of vastly differing depths. Expanding beyond texts and visual media, materiality also encompasses memories, objects and landscapes. Histories that draw on this broader palette offer new means of envisioning the past, including novel conceptions about ‘Deep Time’ or ‘Big History’. The Symposium addressed a wide range of perspectives on time and materiality in the fields of art practice, cultural studies, philosophy, history, linguistics, heritage, and archaeology. The intersections between these varied perspectives provided a forum for productive discussion and debate.

The principal sponsor of the Symposium was The University of Sydney. Further sponsorship was provided by Macquarie University, the University of Technology Sydney, Western Sydney University and the Society of Antiquaries of London.


Dr Craig Barker
The University of Sydney 
Professor Ann McGrath OAM FASSA
The Australian National University
Distinguished Professor David Christian FAHA
Macquarie University
Professor Ian McNiven FAHA
Monash University
Dr Anne Clarke
The University of Sydney
  Ms Keren Ruki
Australian Museum
Ms Vanessa Finney
Australian Museum
  Professor Kim Sterelny
The Australian National University
Dr Simon Greenhill
The Australian National University
  Mr Michael Turner
The University of Sydney
Professor Peter Hiscock FAHA
The University of Sydney


Download the 2015 Symposium programme here [pdf 2.3mb].

Feature items at the 2015 Symposium

2015 Academy Lecture by Professor Ian J. McNiven FAHA
The ethnographic echo: archaeological approaches to writing long-term histories of Indigenous spiritual beliefs and ritual practices
Professor McNiven's Academy Lecture explored the history of Torres Strait Islander ritual practices over the past 1000 years from an ethnographically-informed archaeological perspective. You can read an edited version of his lecture in the 2016 issue of our annual journal, Humanities Australia (forthcoming).

Museum Sessions
The 2015 Symposium included two concurrent sessions titled 'First Hand Intersections: Materiality and Art'. One presentation was made in the Macleay Museum, while the other was made in the Nicholson Museum, both located within the University of Sydney campus. Both sessions drew on the collections within the two museums.

Poster Presentations
Early career researchers (ECRs) and postgraduate students from all disciplines within the Humanities were encouraged to submit their research for a session scheduled for interactive discussion between presenters and Symposium delegates. Topics addressed the themes of the Symposium: time and materiality. Students were encouraged to register for the Symposium, and a reduced student ticket price was offered.

Intersections at the Quarantine Station
On the day before the Symposium opened, Dr. Anne Clarke offered an optional guided tour of the important historical site, Quarantine Station (c. 1830–1970) located on North Head, overlooking Sydney Harbour.
AAH 2015 Symposium poster
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