Current and Previous Funded Research Projects
Policing Noise: The Sounds of Civility in British Discourse c.1700-1850:
Funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant 2013-15 (with David Ellison and Peter Denney). This three year project uses historical judgements about sound and noise to uncover the variable meanings ascribed to civility in this dynamic period of British and world history. Work is now progressing on publishing new research presented at two of three research symposia held as part of this project. My contributions have included new papers on ‘The Civil Noise of Empire, c. 1690-1790’ and ‘Civility at Sea: From Murmuring to Mutiny’.
Enlightenment Natural History, Scottish Stadial Theory, and European Colonisation c. 1760-1850:
Funded by a Riksbankens Jubileumsfond Research Network Initiation Grant (200,000 Swedish kroner) 2013-16. In conjunction with Dr Linda Andersson Burnett (Linnaeus University, Sweden) I am investigating the colonial and conceptual history of Scottish Enlightenment stadial theory and Linnaean ‘natural scientific’ ideas of race. Funds will support two symposia, the first held in Sweden (February 2014), to coordinate an international team of collaborators.
The outlines of this research project were presented to the Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security (CEPS) Annual Research Colloquium at the Australian National University, 17-18 November 2009. The presentation was entitled ‘Dying for Security’.
A Colonial and Conceptual History of Asymmetric Warfare:
This project is currently funded by an Australia Research Council Future Fellowship, 2010-2014. The four year program of research focuses on how ideas of civilized warfare, as an activity pertaining to the subjects of sovereign states, emerged in European political and international thought c.1650-1800. Specifically, Bruce’s research seeks to recover the British colonial history of asymmetric warfare in India, North America and Australia throughout this period, tracing the articulation of the difference between 'civilized' as opposed to 'uncivilized' forms of conflict. War and terrorism feature prominently in popular, political and scholarly perceptions of Australia's colonial past and its geopolitical future. Our understanding of what constitutes war and terrorism however, emerged from long colonial histories of asymmetric conflict and protracted conceptual contestation in Western political and international thought. This ambitious project will draw on both of these sources and will aim to provide new perspectives on global problems of warfare, terrorism and security today.
War in the Dialogue of Nations: Adam Ferguson and the Paradox of Enlightenment Civilization:
This project is based on Bruce’s previous research and publications on the political thought of Adam Ferguson and his Scottish Enlightenment contemporaries. The project is also related to his ARC Future Fellowship and will be undertaken while he is a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh in late 2010.
The Death Scene: Perspectives on Mortality:
This joint project (with Margaret Gibson and David Ellison of the School of Humanities, Griffith University) was funded by the Centre for Cultural Research at Griffith University. This ambitious project centred on a two-day multidisciplinary symposium of leading national and international scholars in the humanities and social sciences who each investigated aspects of human mortality through reflection on the idea and representation of a scene of death. This innovative and highly successful symposium was held in July 2009 at the State Library of Queensland and will result in two special editions of leading scholarly journals: Cultural Studies Review (edited by Bruce Buchan, Margaret Gibson and David Ellison), and South Atlantic Quarterly (edited by David Ellison and Katrina Schlunke).
The Subject of War: An Intellectual History of Asymmetric Warfare and Colonization c.1650-1850:
This research project was funded by a Griffith University Research Grant in 2009-10 to investigate the conceptual history of the distinction between supposedly ‘civilized’ and ‘savage’ ways of war. Civilized war was considered to be warfare fought by conventional means in a symmetrical manner (ie, between professional militaries under sovereign command); whereas savage war was conceptualised as an asymmetrical conflict involving unconventional means. This project highlighted not only the ways in which this distinction was employed in colonial settings, but was also used to obscure active European employment of asymmetrical and unconventional military means inside Europe and beyond.
Corrupting Government: An Intellectual History of Political Corruption:
This joint project (with Professors Lisa Hill and Wilfrid Prest of the University of Adelaide) was funded by an Australian Research Council Discovery Grant, 2007-09. The project investigated the rich conceptual history of corruption in British political thought since the late Middle Ages. Among the outcomes of this project was a re-evaluation of the role of European aspirations to global governance (especially in the eighteenth century) in the articulation of a notion of corruption as the misuse of public office for private gain. This notion of corruption subsumed but never entirely replaced earlier notions of corruption as the moral decay of individuals and polities; a notion that relied on the salience of the metaphor of the body politic in early Christian and Medieval political thought.
Trafficking for Empire: Trade, Treaties and the Expansion of the British Empire in the Pacific 1750-1837:
This project was funded by a Griffith University Research Development Grant in 2005-06, to conduct research on how eighteenth century understandings of commerce and trade influenced the willingness of European colonists to negotiate treaties with Indigenous people in Australia and North America. Outcomes from this project included a reconsideration of the American experience of colonial trade negotiation (between Indigenous traders and colonists) as a form of frontier diplomacy, and its possible ramifications in the very early European exploration and colonization of Australia.
Treating With Indigenous Sovereignty: Australia and Canada:
Funded by a Griffith University New Research Grant in 2004-05, this project involved a historical and comparative investigation into concepts of Indigenous sovereignty in Canada and Australia. Outcomes from this project included publications on the use of ideas of civilization and savagery in the dispossession of Australia’s Indigenous people. Importantly, these publications pointed to the salience of a range of ideas (including, civilization, savagery, government, and society) in effecting this colonial dispossession, and strongly argued for the need to avoid an over-emphasis on the legal doctrine of terra nullius.