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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 'Admissions: Voices within mental health' edited by David Stavanger, Radhiah Chowdhury, and Mohammad Awad

January-February 2023, no. 450 28 December 2022
'There are 206 bones in our bodies / and mine / are just like yours,’ writes Luka Lesson, rejecting the idea of the fundamental difference between the neurotypical and those who fill the pages of Admissions: Voices within mental health. ‘But I’ll be white ochre if I want to,’ the poet clarifies. ‘I’ll be eaten and reclaimed / decomposed and desired / if I want to.’ These words are ab ... (read more)

James Dunk on the struggle between historians and microbes

November 2022, no. 448 25 October 2022
In the middle of 2022 researchers at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales announced that Covid-19 had infected more than half of Australia’s twenty-six million people. The number came not from polymerase chain reaction tests, nor from the results of rapid antigen home tests, but from the sampling of Australian blood banks. After all the tables, graphs, and pressers, the seros ... (read more)

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
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
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
‘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
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
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
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
‘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
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)
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