Dr Ashok Collins

PhD, BA Hons (The University of Western Australia)
Lecturer in French Studies
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Areas of expertise

  • Philosophy 2203
  • Philosophy Of Religion 220315
  • Cultural Studies 2002
  • French Language 200306
  • Literature In French 200511
  • Comparative Literature Studies 200524
  • History Of Ideas 220209
  • Literary Theory 200525

Research interests

20th and 21st century French intellectual and literary history (esp. philosophical and religious history of ideas); 20th century French literature; continental philosophy (esp. French post-deconstructive and phenomenological thought); philosophy of religion; religious pluralism; philosophy of education; teaching and learning (esp. inter-cultural communication)


Before taking up his current position at the ANU, Ash taught French and European Studies at The University of Western Australia where he also completed his PhD on 20th century French literature and post-deconstructive French philosophy.

Researcher's projects

My current core research revolves around an interrogation of the binary division between atheism and theism in French thought and consists of four inter-connected projects:

  1. An exploration of the philosophical resource that a non-representational understanding of writing can provide to debate on the contemporary 'turn to religion.' In this project, I argue that the legacy of religion within secular modernity can best be framed by treading a pathway between the post-structuralist emphasis on language and a stream of thinking currently attempting to grapple with embodied subjectivity and the material world.
  2. An interrogation of the 'theological turn' in 20th and 21st century philosophy through a post-phenomenological framework of analysis. In this project, I aim to revise the categories of atheism and theism by exploring the new manifestations of French thought that have arisen after deconstruction. Philosophers I am currently focusing on include Jean-Luc Marion, Michel Henry, Paul Ricoeur, and Jean-Luc Nancy.
  3. A project carried out as Associate Investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions. In this study, I seek to capitalise on the point of intersection between the sacred and the secular by exploring how twentieth- and twenty first-century continental philosophy has appropriated a European tradition (1100-1800) of mystical emotional experience that ranges from the Judeo-Christian variety to more heterodox streams of thought, such as Spinozist pantheism and the sentimental aesthetics of early German Romanticism. I aim to ascertain in particular whether transcendent emotional states can be used to analyse the transition point between the secular and the religious in a way that challenges our understanding of these mystical traditions as well as our understanding of secular modernity.
  4. An examination of the presence of Spinoza in 20th and 21st century intellectual history through the thinking of Nobel Prize-winning French novelist, musicologist, essayist and historian Romain Rolland (1866-1944). In this project, I argue that Rolland’s unique positioning at the intersection of diverse streams of thought serves as a paradigm for how a new form of Spinozist critique of the boundary between atheism and theism within intellectual discourse may appear in the 21st century. Rolland’s insertion into such a history of ideas, I suggest, radically transforms our perspective on religion in globalised secular modernity.


Alongside these primary research projects, I also have an abiding interest in philosophy of education and teaching and learning. My current projects in this area include a collaborative investigation into the use of popular comedy in inter-cultural learning.

Available student projects

I am available to supervise PhD, Masters and Honours topics in any of my areas of expertise. I am particularly keen to be involved in projects spanning across the domains of 20th and 21st century French intellectual history, post-deconstructive thought, atheism and theism, religious pluralism, and cross-cultural learning.

Current student projects

French-Australian relations in the Pacific (PhD, Chair of Panel)

Aesthetics in post-phenomenological French thought (PhD, Chair of Panel)

Past student projects

'Whose Alterity Anyway? Reviving a Levinasian Ethic in Butler's Political World' (co-supervisor, joint Honours in Language Studies & Philosophy, 2015).

PhB Advanced Studies Course project on Roland Barthes, 2015.

'"Pardon my Québécois!" The use of religious profanities by Québécois youth and its role in Québécois society' (co-supervisor, Honours in Language Studies (French), 2016).

PhB Advanced Studies Course project on Albert Camus, 2016.

'Interior Freedom in the French-language Poetry Written in the Concentration Camps (1943-45)' (PhD, Chair of Panel, 2017).


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Updated:  21 January 2019 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers