Dr Karen Fox

BA (Hons), MA (Canterbury); PhD (ANU)
Research Fellow, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, School of History, RSSS
College of Arts and Social Sciences

Areas of expertise

  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander History 210301
  • Australian History (Excl. Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander History) 210303
  • Biography 210304
  • Maori History 210309
  • New Zealand History 210311
  • Culture, Gender, Sexuality 200205

Research interests

Karen's research and supervision interests include

  • famous lives, reputations, and biographies; 
  • media and cultural history, especially about representations of gender and race; 
  • women’s, gender, and feminist history;
  • comparative and transnational history of settler societies, particularly Australia and New Zealand; 
  • political and legal history, particularly relating to issues of gender and race; 
  • cross-cultural encounters, colonialism, and imperialism; 
  • Aboriginal Australian and Maori history; 
  • nineteenth- and twentieth-century Australian and New Zealand history.


Karen Fox is a research fellow in the National Centre of Biography and a research editor for the Australian Dictionary of Biography. Karen joined the NCB in 2011, after completing her PhD at the Australian National University and her MA at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. Her PhD thesis was a study of the shifting ways in which ideas about race, gender, and nation were reflected and constructed in print media depictions of prominent Aboriginal and Maori women during the second half of the twentieth century. Her MA thesis was a history of knighthoods and damehoods in New Zealand since 1917, with particular emphasis on the awarding of titles to women.

Karen’s research interests include Australian and New Zealand history, imperial and colonial history, gender and feminist history, media history, the history of fame and celebrity, and biography and life writing. She has taught Australian and imperial history and biography at the Australian National University, and her research has appeared in national and international journals, including the Australian Journal of Politics and History, the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, History Australia, and the Women’s History Review. Karen has two current major research projects, a history of the Australian honours system and a history of fame in Australia.

Current teaching (2020):

HIST8011 Writing Biography (member of teaching team)

Researcher's projects

Karen is currently writing a history of imperial and national honours in Australia, exploring the transformation of the honours system from an instrument of imperial unity to a national institution rewarding service and achievement in a uniquely Australian mode. The project emphasises issues of gender, race, and class; the evolving nature of Australia’s national identity; and the nation’s imperial history and post-imperial inheritance. She is also interested in the transnational and comparative history of imperial honours, and has researched the use and abandonment of imperial honours in other settler societies, especially New Zealand and Canada.

Karen is fascinated by questions of significance and reputation in the representation of famous lives, and is also developing a major research project on the history of fame, celebrity, and heroism in Australia.


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Updated:  19 September 2021 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers