Diese Seite ist nur auf Englisch verfügbar.


What were your first thoughts when you saw the call for applications for the fellowship?

Coming from a context where the current government was actively hostile to humanities scholarship, I was amazed that there was funding to think deeply about something so humanisties-orientated. But also it fell extremely timely, as the academy’s attention slowly shifts towards our own planetary challenges, and where engaging with how we live well and flourish seems to require a recognition that old ways of living are no longer sustainable. I was excited to be able to engage in that conversation.

What does the apocalypse and/or post-apocalypse mean for you? 

Much of my research focuses on early modern Europeans and their emotions, and that is closely wrapped up with faith practices. For early modern Christians, the apocalypse was a central part of everyday imaginaries, shaping how people thought about their lives, relationships, futures, and ends. At the same time, we live in a world where the ‘end’ is held out as something within reach; this is perhaps especially the case in places like Australia where the impacts of climate change are very visible. So for me, apocalypse is shaped by a Christian imaginary of ‘end points’ and ‘transformations’, but also considered from a contemporary perspective as we grapple with our own ‘end’.


What is your fellowship trying to achieve?

My research is exploring how families who believe they are living at the end of the world create conditions for feeling safe and building futures for themselves and their children. It was inspired by the many contemporary children who feel deep anxiety for our futures, and the parents, teachers, and governments who are themselves concerned by their emotions. My project explores early modern European families, who also believed they were living at the end of the world, but nonetheless pursued futures for themselves and children. I consider how they did this and also how they might provide insight into how people live with uncertainty and pursue new types of futures. As a historian, I use a broad range of historical sources to build a picture of human experience, and I use theories and methods from the history of emotions to denaturalise feeling and to attend to how emotion acts as a structure for social and cultural life.

How does the fellowship project build on or connect to your previous career or biography?

I am a historian of emotions, childhood and families, and so I have thought a lot about love and connections, loneliness and loss, and the ways they shape people’s lives. I am particularly interested in emotion not just as a biological feeling, but something given shape to by culture and society, and so ‘performed’ by individuals and groups. This project builds on that work but now turns to consider the emotions associated with safety, security, and future-imaginaries, considering how people persist in unsettling times. This fellowship comes at the start of this project for me, and will, I hope, lead to a monograph on this topic and some significant outcomes that help us consider how to live in challenging times. 

What do you hope to take with you from the project and its results?

Before I got here, I was looking forward to working with people thinking about similar topics, and particularly saw this as an entry point into some German scholarship which I knew was fruitful but which I hadn’t really looked much at. Very quickly, however, I realised that the breadth of thinking that had been done about this already in the Centre added some ‘deep veins’ to strands I had noticed but not deeply considered. This has been quite invigorating, and I feel like I am benefiting from readings and themes that I may not have noticed, or might have taken a long time to do so.

What are the aspects you are looking forward to at CAPAS?

Most of my career has been spent in interdisciplinary centres, so I particularly value that exchange of ideas, methods and perspectives. I like the ways that different areas form parallel conversations – similar but never identical – and the ways that interdisciplinary conversations allow you access to a parallel world that has some familiar strands but takes its own shape. This is its own form of ‘unsettling’. It is invigorating in that it reminds you of the joy of learning something new, sometimes even something hard.

To get some practical advice: What would be the three things you would definitely need in a post-apocalyptic world?

My post-apocalyptic world is utopian, so we’re not so much struggling to survive as considering what it means to flourish. And I think every utopia requires music, wine, and good company.

What are some of your favourite pop culture references to the/an (post)apocalypse?

Funnily enough, I have a bit of hate-hate relationship with representations of the apocalypse in popular media, especially tv and film, and have had that since I was a child. I have a strong memory of watching the television version of the book series, Left Behind, which imagined events after the ‘rapture’, and particularly listening to Larry Norman’s ‘All Been Ready’, which was a key song for the show, and finding it deeply disturbing. Since then, I have a low tolerance for apocalyptic tv. In recent years, I’ve been trying to figure out what I dislike about it, especially because I don’t generally mind supernatural, fantasy or science fiction. And I think it is something about the aesthetics of the end of the world – how it sounds and feels – and so I now spend a lot of time thinking about how you produce art that unsettles.

Katie Barclay is Professor, Head of Historical and Classical Studies, and Director of the Fay Gale Centre for Research on Gender at the University of Adelaide. Her main areas of research include the history of emotions and family life and the history of subjectivity and identity creation, especially with respect to gender.