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The Australian National University

Dr Carolyn Strange

PhD (U.S. and women's history) Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, USA M.A. (Canadian History) University of Ottawa, Canada B.A. hons. (European History) University of Western Ontario, Canada
Deputy Director and Graduate Director
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences

Areas of expertise

  • Culture, Gender, Sexuality 200205
  • North American History 210312
  • History And Philosophy Of Law And Justice 220204
  • Law And Society 180119
  • History And Philosophy Of Medicine 220205
  • Australian History (Excl. Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander History) 210303
  • Courts And Sentencing 160203
  • Social And Cultural Geography 160403

Research interests

My educational training in history branched out through my teaching appointments in the U.S., Canada and Australia in women's studies, law and criminology.

The range of my research is expansive, and I have published on Canadian, U.S. and Australian modern history in the following areas: the history of crime, punishment and mercy; the history of gender, sexuality and medicine; the history of geography; and the concepts of place, memory and identity in modernity. 

My research has been supported by major grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (Canada) and the Australian Research Council. In addition to institutionally-awarded funding I have received grants from the Hannah Institute for the History of Medicine, the Canadian High Commission, the National Institute for Social Sciences and Law and the National Centre for Indigenous Studies. 


I have studied and taught in Canada (Queen's University, Carleton University, the University of Toronto); the U.S. (Rutgers University); and Australia (Griffith University, ANU). With a focus on nineteenth- and twentieth-century history I have specialised in social, cultural and legal history.  

In addition to my academic publications I endeavour to bridge divides in scholarly communities and to reach out to the wider public to communicate my research. I have curated several museum exhibitions in Toronto, Canberra and Sydney and I have organised public symposia on a range of issues, including prison history tourism, the memory of lost places and environmental anxiety. In these projects and publications I have worked closely with collaborators in literary studies, law, anthropology, environmental science, criminology, and media studies.

My teaching speciality is graduate training, and I have directed graduate studies at the University of Toronto (Criminology) and ANU (Cross-Cultural Research and History). In addition I have devised and conducted workshops for graduate students in the social sciences and humanities, as well as specialised skills development workshops for history students. 

I have been awarded fellowships at Warwick University (Institute for Advanced Study); Macquarie University (Law); and the University of Sydney (Law).


Researcher's projects

My current project, supported by an ARC Discovery grant, examines the history of discretionary justice in New York State, from the foundation of the Republic to the end of the Depression. This extends the insights I developed in my 1996 edited collection, Qualities of Mercy: Justice, Punishment and Discretion (UBC Press, 1996). It also builds on my recent publication, “The Unwritten Law of Executive Justice: Pardoning Patricide in Reconstruction-era New York,” Law and History Review, 28 4(November 2010): 891-30. I challenge Foucauldian scholarship's fixation on sovereign power as the capacity to inflict violence by focusing on the gubernatorial prerogative of mercy, and I track its bureaucratisation over the late-19th and early-twentieth centuries through the emergence of a disciplinary apparatus, marked by indeterminate sentencing, parole and the rise of the 'psi' complex.  

Two further projects flow from this grant. The first is a feature radio documentary, produced for ABC's Hindsight: 'Patricide! A Murder Close to Home'. This production draws on interviews with historians Natalie Zemon Davis, Charles Rosenberg, and Timothy Gilfoyle, and includes dramatisations of an 1873 murder trial in New York City, which brought the relationship between family, violence and honour to the fore. Using this high-profile case, I interrogate contemporary concerns over the legal and cultural erosion of masculine familial prerogatives; the medicalisation of criminal responsibility; women's growing use of law to advance individual and collective ambitions and citizenship aspirations; and rising suspicion over the place of sentiment in legal dispositions.

The second project is a major international conference on 'Honour Killing across Culture and Time', to be held on 8-9 December 2011. This conference addresses an issue of grave concern to scholars and activists working globally to stem violence against women.  As the call for papers ( indicates, the conference will address this problem in a unique and unprecedented fashion, by approaching violence justified in the name of honour from an historical and cross-cultural perspective. This conference will be the ANU Gender Institute's first Signature Event, and it is supported by the Centre for International and Public Law and the College of Arts and Social Sciences in addition to the Australian Research Council.


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Updated:  24 April 2014 / Responsible Officer:  Pro VC (Research and Research Training) / Page Contact:  Researchers