DECRA success for Dr Kate Ariotti

Monday, 9 December 2019

Early career researcher with the Centre for 21st Century Humanities, Dr Kate Ariotti has received $379,405 to enable her to conduct research into the history of the war corpse.

Kate Ariotti

Dr Kate Ariotti has been awarded Federal Government funding through the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) scheme, which aims to advance the career of promising researchers by providing funds over a three-year period.

Dr Ariotti’s research aims to provide the first-ever account of changing policies, practices and attitudes that shaped how the physical remains of Australian war dead were dealt with between the First World War and wars in the Middle East between 1915 and 2015.

Dr Ariotti hoped new knowledge of war corpses would advance national understanding of the realities of war and provide valuable information and informed perspectives about death in war to history educations, cultural institutions, military units and the public.

“This funding will allow me to focus purely on my research for the next couple of years,” said Dr Ariotti.

“It will mean I can visit archives overseas, attend conferences and develop global networks. It will enable me to say something significant about how Australians view their war history and hopefully get us thinking about the realities of participating in war,” Dr Ariotti said

Dr Ariotti said that by investigating this invisible aspect of our military past, it will create new directions in Australian war history and provide an Australian perspective on global conversations about the history of the corpse in war.

“The objective of the project is to investigate what happened, and happens, to the bodies of Australian military personnel when they have died on active service. The project will examine how factors including the conduct of the war, the different contexts in which military personnel were involved, and advances in forensic technology have affected Australian policies and practices regarding the recovery and treatment of the corpse (including corpses of the enemy),” she said.

The project will also examine the experiences of those involved in the handling of war corpses and will reveal the impact of this work on Australian military personnel. Additionally the project will analyse where the war corpse fits within broader cultural attitudes towards death in Australia, and how and why this type of corpse has assumed such a prominent place in Australian hierarchies of the dead.

Dr Ariotti said as a nation we invest heavily in commemorating military personnel who have died in war, but understand very little about what happens to their actual remains.

“This study of the changing treatment of Australian war corpses from 1915-2015 will generate new historical knowledge and perspectives on death in war. These outcomes will be disseminated to audiences outside of academia via public talks, podcasts and accessible publications.”

The project will benefit end-users such as history educators, cultural institutions and military units, as well as the public more broadly, by revealing an invisible aspect of Australian war history and advancing national conversations about the realities of war in the Australian past and present.

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