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Keynote speakers

Humanities and...

2020 Conference and Annual Meeting of the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres

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Photograph of Mark Ledbury.

Professor Mark Ledbury

Power Institute, University of Sydney

Mark Ledbury's website

Speaking on
What Price the Humanities? (opening lecture)

‘You can’t put a price on human life’ is a truism that has been countered by economists, politicians and policy makers who do precisely set that price, for many social and economic purposes. What if we asked the same question of the humanities? What are the costs and benefits of the humanities? What kind of price, what kind of value, should we set on the intellectual and cultural constellation of humanistic research and scholarship, and how might we begin doing so? And why carry out such an instrumental and perhaps absurd exercise? I will argue that ‘running the numbers’, is both an effective and a necessary method to demonstrate why all societies should prize and preserve the Humanities research and education.

Professor Ledbury took his degrees at the University of Cambridge and the University of Sussex, and his first academic post was as lecturer in Cultural History at the University of Portsmouth. He then moved to the University of Manchester where he was Lecturer in Art History, until he joined the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Massachusetts, in 2003. As Associate Director of the Research and Academic Program at the Clark, he oversaw the expansion of the research program's ambition and reach. He devised, planned and ran workshops, conferences and partnerships and worked to develop and oversee a lively residential scholars' program. As Director of the Power Institute, Professor Ledbury ensures that the Power furthers its research and public engagement mission through talks, conferences and the support of research and publications.


A man wearing a hat and jacket.

Associate Professor Grayson Cooke

Southern Cross University

Grayson Cooke's website

Speaking on
Humanities and… Interdisciplinarity

Under the Anthropocene, our cyborg Earth reminds us of the urgency of finding new figures by which to enquire into, represent and communicate about humankind’s impact upon the planet — something interdisciplinary enquiry is perfectly situated to do. In this talk, I will discuss some of the recent projects that have allowed me to follow this path between and within art, science and the environment. From creative investigations of the waste product of 19th century copper mining in the Flinders Ranges, to the algorithms used by geoscientists to filter clouds from satellite data, my concern throughout has been to bring scientific tools and urgency to art, and artistic open-endedness to science. 

Born in New Zealand and based in Australia, Grayson Cooke is an interdisciplinary scholar and media artist, Associate Professor of Media in the School of Arts and Social Sciences at Southern Cross University.  Grayson is an award-winning media artist whose work shows regularly in galleries and festivals around the world. His collaboration with sound artist Mike Cooper, “Outback and Beyond”, was the winner of a “New Face” award in the 16th Japan Media Arts Festival in 2012. This work and others have been exhibited or performed at major festivals such as the WRO Media Art Biennale and the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York, and at key venues such as MONA in Hobart, the National Art Centre in Tokyo, and the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts. As a scholar, he has published many articles in highly regarded media/technology journals including Leonardo, Convergence, Body and Society and Culture Machine. He writes on many topics including art/science, new media, live audio-visual performance and the archive. He holds a BA (Hons) from Victoria University of Wellington and an interdisciplinary PhD from Concordia University in Montreal.


Portrait of a woman in a blazer, leaning against a fence.

Dr Meredith Lake

Professional Historian

Meredith Lake's website

Speaking on
Humanities and… the Public Conversation

Religion is a fraught theme of public discussion in Australia. Even in our so-called 'secular age', the sheer strenght of eeling on the topic is not to be underestimated. I learned this the hard way, writing about the history of the Bible in Australia. To me, it seemed a rich theme for historical enquiry. Australians have had all kinds of reactions to the Bible — from ignoring it to embracing it, from quiet reading to open preaching, from copies gathering dust at home to passages tattooed onto the body. The cultural history of the Bible is bound up with that of the nation itself — and, from the outset, just as complex and contested. When my work was suddenly thrust into the spotlight, it was met with everything from outright hostility to collegial camaraderie. This talk will reflect on the reception of The Bible in Australia: A Cultural History, to explore the key role of the humanities in broaching polarising subjects, as well as the importance — and the difficulty — of good public conversation.

Meredith is an historian, broadcaster and award-winning writer interested in how Australians understand the big questions of faith and meaning. She currently hosts Soul Search on ABC Radio National – a weekly show about the lived experience of religion and spirituality. She is an Honorary Associate of the Department of History, Sydney University, where she did her PhD on religious ideas about the environment in Australian colonial history. She tweets at @meredithlake1.