Dr. Julie Thorpe

2014 | The Vaughan Park Scholar in Residence

Julie received her PhD in History from the University of Adelaide in 2007 and from 2007-2009 held visiting research and teaching positions at the Australian National University and University of Konstanz, Germany; Julie was awarded an ARC Discovery Grant for a study of World War One refugees in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the role of the international community in responding to the empire's displaced populations. She also has an interest in Catholic pilgrimage in Central Europe in the twentieth century.

Julie's project explores the role of silence in traumatic histories, drawing on the interdisciplinary work of scholars of pilgrimage, war and memory. The specific focus is an ethnographic collection of textiles embroidered by wartime refugees in the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the First World War that were sold to the Austrian Museum for Folk Culture after the war. The objects will be exhibited in Vienna in 2014 as part of the centenary commemorations of the war. Julie's role in working with the museum is to place the collection in its historical context, and to write (or stitch) silence into the history of these lost threads of war.

The role of silence in traumatic histories relates more broadly to a liberal tradition that removes religion to the private realm, but allows the return of the sacred into the state through mourning and commemorative practices. Yet there is a specific connection between the sacred and stories of dispossession in the etymological relationship between 'hospitality' and 'hostility'. This connotation of the sacred as something that is untouchable, and associated with both hosting and hating, has resonance with traumatic histories. If silence can be framed in the context of the sacred, and not just the politics of repression and essentialist debates about who has the right to speak, then declaring stories of dispossession sacred by making them accessible in the present through the absences of the past, will also require empathic responses that disrupt and displace conventional narratives about the past.