Dr Patricia O'Brien

BA Hons (Sydney); PhD (Sydney)
Australian Research Council Future Fellow
ANU College of Asia and the Pacific and ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Areas of expertise

  • Pacific History (Excl. New Zealand And Maori) 210313
  • Maori History 210309
  • Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander History 210301
  • Australian History (Excl. Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander History) 210303
  • British History 210305
  • Culture, Gender, Sexuality 200205
  • Pacific Cultural Studies 200210

Research interests

My research interests include indigenous resistance, colonial violence, power, gender and race.  My work is primarily focussed on Australia and the Pacific but extends further afield. My current ARC Future Fellowship project is concerned with the interwar colonial period, and the histories of League of Nations Mandated Territories within a long view of imperial histories from around the world. The impact of World War One on Pacific imperialism and reforged nationalisms in Australia and New Zealand after this event are some focal points of this study, as is the shifting landscape of ideas about race, gender and violence in this age of 'protective' colonialism. I explore the impact of these changed circumstances and ideas on indigenous peoples, especially in Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea and Samoa in a number of ways; first through a biography of the Samoan nationalist leader Ta'isi O. F. Nelson. 

In 2021 she became a regular contributor in the Australian, New Zealand and US editions of The Conversation on a range of contemporary Pacific issues from the September 2021 announcement of AUKUS Agreement between Australia, the US and the UK, the 70th anniversary of the ANZUS Treaty, a mid-2021 Pacific-wide report on Covid-19, Samoa's constitutional crisis, the 75th anniversary in 2021 of the launch of the US atomic testing program in the Marshall Islands and Australia's relations with Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. She is also a feature writer and Oceania blogger for leading foreign policy publication, The Diplomat, as well as regularly being called on as a media expert and podcast interview subject. She is currently working on a co-edited book on Samoa's 2021 Constitutional Crisis with Tamasailau Suaalii Sauni (University of Auckland).  She is a visiting Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington D.C. and teaches on the Pacific in Georgetown Uniersity's Asian Studies Program. 


I am a cultural historian of colonialism, race relations and indigenous histories within a broad arc of imperialism. 

I was visiting Associate Professor in the Center for Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Studies and the Department of History in the Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University Washington DC from 2001 to 2013. In 2011 I was the Jay I. Kislak Fellow in American Studies at the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress, Washington DC. In 2012 I was JD Stout Fellow in New Zealand Studies at Victoria University Wellington, where I began researching New Zealand’s Mandate over Western Samoa, focusing particularly upon the nationalist leader Ta’isi O.F. Nelson.  

I was awarded an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship at the Australian National University in 2013 for my project 'Colonialism, Violence and Resistance in the interwar Pacific: Australia, New Zealand, New Guinea, Samoa and beyond'.  


Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  13 June 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers