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Unassessed Essay Deadlines Term 2 First Year Students: Your short essays will be due in Week 17, and your media/SecondLife journals in Week 20. Remember that you MAY submit one journal entry in advance to receive additional feedback. Second Year Students: Your short essays will be due in Week 17, and your media/SecondLife journals in Week 20 (remember that you MAY submit one journal entry in advance to receive additional feedback). However, if you will be doing a mock exam rather than a second short essay, you may choose to submit your journals in week 17 and your Mock Exams in Week 20.

4,500 word essays:

Students are encouraged to develop their own topics, subject to two constraints:

a) topics must be comparative in structure (for example, examining change over time; comparing responses to a particular technology in different national contexts; or comparing two or more technologies or medical interventions);

b) topics must be approved by the instructor IN ADVANCE, before you start your research!


Alternatively, students may choose topics from the list below:

  • Compare and contrast the role and use of genetics in surveillance and either medical screening or reproductive technologies. How has the rise of genetic science (and genetic technologies) changed each of them?
  • Comparing the Space Race and one other case study, analyze the relationship and interactions between medicine, technology and national identity. You must include assessments of historical context in your argument.
  • Explore the impact of national history on responses to new biomedical and/or surveillance technologies, comparing at least two different technologies or nations.
  • What factors have contributed to the increasing popularity of biogenetic understandings of identity and family? Answer this question by comparing specific examples from the past and present.
  • What do the roles played by medicine and technology in India and in Australia reveal about the relationship(s) between medicine, technology, and national identity? Has this relationship changed significantly over time?
  • Explore the impact of medicine and/or technologies on identity as represented in cinema, using films listed in this handbook or others of your choosing (subject to instructor approval BEFORE you begin writing). NOTE: students choosing this topic should consult with the instructor to frame a specific question.
  • Did science create race as we understand it today?
  • Explore the role of the media in shaping responses to sciences and technologies of identity. You must use evidence from the 19th century or before in framing your answer. 
  • Compare and contrast responses to 'cyborg' (eg artificial hearts, pacemakers etc) and biological (eg live and brain dead donor organs) transplant technologies in the US and Japan: how should distinctive responses to these technologies be explained?
  • Why has the history of the reproductive technologies been such a political one? Have the controversies provoked by these technolgies changed over time? Ground your answer in specific historical examples.

2000 word essays:

Students are encouraged to develop their own topics subject to two constraints:

a) Topics MAY focus on a single medical intervention or technology, IF that subject is examined through primary as well as secondary sources. Examples of suitable primary sources include films, science fiction, images, advertisements and historical news media sources (which you may compare with contemporary media accounts);

b) Topics must be approved by the instructor in advance, before you start your research!


  • Compare and contrast the impact of fingerprinting and one other technology of identification on personal OR national identity.
  • How have national cultures affected responses to technologies of identification?
  • Compare and contrast the conceptions of race exemplified by one 19th and one 20th century racial science/technology.
  • ‘Technologies of identification are inherently biased’. Argue for or against this statement, using historical evidence to make your case.
  • 'Adoption is a reproductive technology': Argue for or against this statement, using historical evidence to support your conclusions.
  • Assess the impact of medicine and technology on understandings of fatherhood since the early 20th century.
  • Was medicine an effective tool of empire in Australia?
  • Is the basis of individual identity different now than it was before the mid-19th century? Use specific historical examples to make your case.
  • ‘New technologies expand individual choice’. Argue for or against this statement, using historical evidence to make your case.
  • How has national identity affected responses to organ/tissue donations and transplantations?
  • How have historical factors shaped US and UK regulation of reproductive technologies?
  • Compare responses to the birth control pill in the US and one non-western nation: how and why are they similar or different?
  • Assess the cultural impact of one technology covered in this module, using sources from literature, popular fiction, TV, theatre or cinema. Make sure you adequately explore the historical context of your sources and the technology in question. YOUR APPROACH AND SOURCES MUST BE APPROVED BY THE INSTRUCTOR BEFORE SUBMISSION. If you have a technology you want to study, but need help finding an source, come see me!



Note that significant overlaps in content between different pieces of assessed work (e.g. essay topics, exam answers, or overlaps between assessed essay topics and exam answers) will be penalized.



A few informal notes on assessment

In this module, I will follow the standard historical conventions and rubric for assessment. These are available in full from your History handbook. However, I thought it might be useful to offer a few informal notes on the things I will be looking for as I mark:

As I assess your written work, I will look at the following factors:

1. empirical coverage of the relevant literature: Have you drawn upon a wide range of readings, going beyond the lectures and required reading? Have you included primary sources (this will not always be possible, but can 'add value' to your work where such sources are available)?

2. understanding: Did you grasp the main concepts and arguments presented in readings, lectures and the wider interdisciplinary literature?

3. structure of the argument: Is your argument clear, persuasive and insightful? Is it thoroughly supported, point by point, with evidence, rather than opinion or assumptions? Is it comprehensive? Is it original?

4. critical capacity: Have you spotted the limitations of your sources, and the weaknesses of authors’ arguments, etc.?

5. prose: Is your writing clear, grammatical, properly punctuated and without spelling errors?



Note in particular that in all assessed and non-assessed work, I will be looking for critical engagement with and evaluation of the historical literature and other secondary sources. In other words, although this module will address many contemporary debates and issues, we will be examining them from a historical perspective, rather than in terms of opinion, ethics, or political debate. Avoid assumptions, whether rooted in ‘common sense’, in precedent, or in cultural habits.


Essay due dates:

Short Essay 1: Due no later than 4PM Thursday, Week 7, Term 1

Short essay 2: Due no later than 4PM Thursday, Week 7, Term 2

Media/SecondLife Journals Due no later than Thursday Week 10 Term 2 [But note that you may turn in one entry earier to get formative feedback]