James Dunk

James Dunk

James Dunk is a historian and writer living in Sydney, on Wangal country. His latest book, Bedlam at Botany Bay, was published by NewSouth in June.

James Dunk reviews 'Mad by the Millions: Mental disorders and the early years of the World Health Organization' by Harry Yi-Jui Wu

September 2021, no. 435 23 August 2021
James Dunk reviews 'Mad by the Millions: Mental disorders and the early years of the World Health Organization' by Harry Yi-Jui Wu
World War II drew the still-marginal profession of psychiatry into the war effort, with psychiatrists screening recruits for mental disorders and predisposing histories. Trauma, or the fear of trauma, hovered. But after treaties were signed and soldiers returned to their loved ones, and the memory of war faded for those not condemned to be visited by it daily, what role was psychiatry to play? In ... (read more)

James Dunk reviews 'Psychiatry and its Discontents' by Andrew Scull

May 2020, no. 421 28 April 2020
James Dunk reviews 'Psychiatry and its Discontents' by Andrew Scull
Madness ‘haunts all of our imaginations’, writes Andrew Scull in Psychiatry and Its Discontents, but it is more than a nightmare. Each year, one in five Australians will experience mental illness, according to the Black Dog Institute, and the World Health Organization warns that one in four globally will experience a mental or neurological disorder during their lifetime. The essays gathered he ... (read more)

James Dunk reviews 'Wind Turbine Syndrome: A communicated disease' by Simon Chapman and Fiona Crichton

October 2019, no. 415 25 September 2019
James Dunk reviews 'Wind Turbine Syndrome: A communicated disease' by Simon Chapman and Fiona Crichton
‘Climate change is coming,’ fourth-generation farmer Charlie Prell told an Independent Planning Commission hearing on a proposed expansion of the windfarm near his Crookwell property on 6 June 2019. He and his family constantly hear the noise of the turbines spinning five hundred metres away, generating electricity. They hear the sounds of traffic from the road, the sheep and cattle on the far ... (read more)

James Dunk reviews 'The Environment: A History of the Idea' by Paul Warde, Libby Robin, and Sverker Sörlin

January-February 2019, no. 408 18 December 2018
James Dunk reviews 'The Environment: A History of the Idea' by Paul Warde, Libby Robin, and Sverker Sörlin
On 6 October 2018 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report warning of the dangers of surpassing a 1.5° Celsius rise from pre-industrial levels in average global temperatures. They are many, and dire. To halt at 1.5°, carbon emissions need to fall by forty per cent globally by 2030, and reach net zero by 2050. There had been other reports, but this one, according to ... (read more)

James Dunk reviews 'Memorandoms by James Martin: An astonishing escape from early New South Wales' edited by Tim Causer

Online Exclusives 06 December 2017
James Dunk reviews 'Memorandoms by James Martin: An astonishing escape from early New South Wales' edited by Tim Causer
In 1784 William Bryant was sentenced, rather optimistically, to be transported to the American colonies. Britain had just lost the War of Independence; Bryant thus languished in a hulk in Portsmouth while Britain adjusted to the loss. This meant that when he finally arrived in New South Wales with the First Fleet, Bryant’s sentence was set to expire in just three years. Perhaps he did not trust ... (read more)

Land of Mine

ABR Arts 27 March 2017
Land of Mine
Martin Zandvliet’s Land of Mine is unsettling from the very outset. During the credits a recurring sound becomes audible, then consuming: the sound of heavy, ragged breathing. Sergeant Carl Rasmussen, sitting in Danish army fatigues and a maroon beret, he is watching a column of grim-faced German prisoners of war. Inscrutable, he drives past soldiers, then stops and throws his jeep into reverse. ... (read more)

James Dunk reviews 'Dr James Barry: A woman ahead of her time' by Michael du Preez and Jeremy Dronfield

January–February 2017, no. 388 20 December 2016
James Dunk reviews 'Dr James Barry: A woman ahead of her time' by Michael du Preez and Jeremy Dronfield
‘The devil! It’s a woman!’ exclaimed a charwoman as she laid out the naked body of James Barry, MD, for burial. Seventy-six years earlier, Barry had been born Margaret Bulkley in a struggling Irish merchant family. After taking her uncle’s name and expending his estate on medical school, Margaret acted the part of a man for six decades. The life she enjoyed as a man was breathtaking. She ... (read more)

James Dunk reviews 'Finding Sanity: John Cade, lithium and the taming of bipolar disorder' by Greg De Moore and Ann Westmore

November 2016, no. 386 28 October 2016
James Dunk reviews 'Finding Sanity: John Cade, lithium and the taming of bipolar disorder' by Greg De Moore and Ann Westmore
Edward sits on Sydney Harbour Bridge, considering jumping. It is 1948, and he has written several times to George VI about building a new naval base in the waters below, and not hearing back, begun to build it himself. Edward was manic depressive, suffering from what is now called bipolar disorder. Greg de Moore and Ann Westmore begin their book Finding Sanity: John Cade, lithium and the taming of ... (read more)

James Dunk reviews 'The Profilist' by Adrian Mitchell

January-February 2016, no. 378 21 December 2015
James Dunk reviews 'The Profilist' by Adrian Mitchell
'Everything is so sedate you could weep for vexation.' The first novel of literary academic Adrian Mitchell is a strange one. It is a fictional memoir that aims to inhabit the imagined world of the colonial artist S.T. Gill. This is a conceit that should free the narrative from the mundane, but The Profilist is a study in the ordinary. The novel is narrated by Ethan Dibble, an imaginary artist st ... (read more)

Partisan

ABR Arts 19 May 2015
Gregori stares at the camera, his eyes hard and sure as he watches five babies being wheeled through the corridors of a maternity ward, selects a mother with a split lip and no flowers, and charms her. When he strokes the face of her child, Alexander, his eyes are tender. The range between these expressions is the heart of Partisan. Through an unmarked gate and a winding tunnel, some Soviet city ... (read more)
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