Professorial Lecture Series

This public lecture marks the culmination of our Professorial Lecture Series this year, a captivating series of four presentations, all dedicated to honouring our distinguished academics while highlighting their profound contributions to research and education.


About the event

Ambitious claims are often made today for big data analytics as the preeminent tool for understanding and predicting human behaviour. In this talk, Professor Benjamin Penny will 'zoom in' to consider the value of a micro- rather than a macro-perspective, focusing on the utility of the specific, the local, and the individual for analysing human society.

A famous aphorism, variously attributed to Roman Jakobson and Nietzsche, has it that philology is the art of reading slowly. It was only after Benjamin had completed many years of his education in Chinese that he realised that reading slowly had been the foundation of his disciplinary practice.

The intense focus philology has on the specific ramifications of each word as we read has been a key methodological underpinning of Benjamin's work. While 'big data' analytics undoubtedly has its value taking the specific instance seriously - a single life, one group of religious practitioners, the small data - can still be beautiful.



6-7pm Academic lecture

7-7.30pm Networking drinks & canapes


About the speaker

Benjamin Penny is a professor of Chinese history and religion in the School of Culture, History and Language at ANU College of Asia and the Pacific. His research examines religious and spiritual movements in modern and contemporary China as well as in medieval times; Taiwanese religion and society, and expatriate society in the treaty ports in the nineteenth century.

Read more about Benjamin's profile here.



This Robert O'Neill memorial lecture will be delivered by Professor Craig Stockings. 

Robert John O'Neill, AO, was an Australian historian and academic of the highest stature. He served at various junctures not only as Head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre here at ANU, and Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, based in London, but was also Chichele Professor of the History of War at the University of Oxford from 1987 to 2000. Bob was also this nation’s third Official Historian. In this last regard, to some considerable degree then it is in Bob’s footsteps I tread. In this vein, this talk will tackle to difficult issue of ‘Official Histories’, with a focus on the current series regarding Australian Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Australian Peacekeeping Operations in East Timor, and the sometimes-difficult, often-fraught, and ongoing process of producing it.

About the speaker
Craig Stockings is a Professor of History, and Head of School at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, UNSW Canberra. His areas of academic interest concern general and Australian military history and operational analysis. He has published a history of the army cadet movement in Australia entitled The Torch and the Sword (2007), and a study of the First Libyan Campaign in North Africa 1940-41: Bardia: Myth, Reality and the Heirs of Anzac (2009). He has also edited Zombie Myths of Australian Military History (2010) and Anzac’s Dirty Dozen: 12 Myths of Australian Military History (2012). In 2013 he co-authored an in depth study of the Greek campaign - Swastika over the Acropolis: re-interpreting the Nazi Invasion of Greece in World War II; and co-edited Before the Anzac Dawn: A Military History of Australia to 1915. His most recent book, published by CUP in 2015 is an investigation of turn of the century imperial defence entitled: Britannia’s Shield: Lieutenant-General Sir Edward Hutton and Late Victorian Imperial Defence. He is concurrently appointed at the Official Historian of Australian Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Australian Peacekeeping Operations in East Timor, is general editor of all six volumes of the series, and has authored the first: Born of Fire and Ash: Australian operations in response to the East Timor crisis 1999-2000, Volume 1: Official History of Peacekeeping Operations in East Timor, UNSW Press.


About Robert O'Neill
Emeritus Professor Robert O'Neill AO
was Head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre from 1971 to 1982 and remains an active part of the academic community. One of the world's leading experts on strategic and security studies, O'Neill previously served as Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies, London (1982-1987); Chichele Professor of the History of War at Oxford University (1987-2000); Chairman of the Council of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (1995-2001); and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Imperial War Museum (1997-2001). In remembrance of his invaluable contributions, it is with great sadness that we note the passing of Emeritus Professor Robert O'Neill AO in 2023, leaving behind a profound legacy in the field of Strategic Studies. 


If you require accessibility accommodations or a visitor Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan please contact the event organiser.

Moderated by Dr Katrin Travouillon from our  Department of Political and Social Change, the panelists make two key arguments. Firstly, the term ‘interference’ is not confined to actions that challenge a regime’s leadership, but may also encompass acts of shoring up regimes that lack popular support. Secondly, China’s ‘non-interference’ rhetoric is not demonstrated in the context of Cambodia, where it has on multiple occasions, interfered to reinforce Prime Minister Hun Sen’s leadership.

To illustrate the above arguments, the discussants will touch upon the history of Beijing’s interference in Cambodia with a focus on areas where Hun Sen’s regime backs China’s geostrategic interests.

This panel discussion will examine China’s non-interference policy, taking Cambodia as a case study.

Event Speakers

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Sovinda Po

Sovinda is a PhD candidate in International Relations at Griffith University and a Senior Research Fellow at the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace. His research agenda evolves the relationship between China and mainland Southeast Asia and the strategic use of minilateral institutions by both major powers and small states.

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Dr Kearrin Sims

Kearrin is a critical development scholar trained in sociology and international relations. Through ethnographic research methods and extensive in-country fieldwork, Kearrin examines the uneven ways in which development projects and interventions are encountered and experienced by vulnerable communities. 

There are recurrent debates in strategic studies that go back to Antiquity, before the word “strategy” even assumed its modern meanings.

They concern the role of chance, the role of higher forces (God, historical inevitability, having justice on one’s side…), the predictability of the outcome of battles and wars, and more recently, the nature of future wars. A key debate pitting the Clausewitzian School against Social Science Positivism but also against those interested mainly in International Relations Theories can also be traced back over the centuries: can strategic studies provide “principles of war” or prescriptions, or can they serve only to reflect on wars in general and a particular war so as to educate the minds of leaders who will have to judge and decide for themselves on what to do in each situation?

Beatrice Heuser is the Jeffrey Grey Visiting Professor at the Australian War College. She holds the Chair in IR at the University of Glasgow. She previously taught at the Department of War Studies, King’s College London; then at the University of Reading. She has also taught at French and German universities (most recently the universities of Sorbonne and Paris Panthéon-Assas, and at Sciences Po’ Paris). From 1997-1998 she worked at NATO HQ in Brussels. She holds degrees from the Universities of London (BA, MA), Oxford (DPhil), Marburg (Habilitation).

Her publications include The Evolution of Strategy (2010), Reading Clausewitz (2002), Strategy before Clausewitz (2017), with Eitan Shamir (eds) Insurgencies and Counterinsurgencies: National Styles and Strategic Cultures (2017) and, most recently, WAR: A Genealogy of Western Ideas and Practices (2022). She has also worked for the Bundeswehr, most recently lecturing at its General Staff College (Führungsakademie) in Hamburg, is a Senior Associate Fellow, Royal United Services Institution, and a Visiting Fellow at the Royal Navy Strategic Studies Centre.