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Personal profile


Dr Agnieszka Sobocinska is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies (SoPHIS). 

She is an historian with an interest in the intersection between public opinion and international affairs, with a particular focus on the North-South divide in the mid-twentieth century. Her first monograph, Visiting the Neighbours: Australians in Asia, situated travel as a politically significant element in the history of Australian-Asian relations. Her current projects examine humanitarianism and international development below the official level, at the intersection of decolonization and the Cold War.

Her name is pronounced Ag-nesh-ka So-bo-chin-ska.


Agnieszka holds a PhD from the University of Sydney. Her work has been distinguished with prizes from the Australian Historical Association, the History Council of New South Wales, the Asian Studies Association of Australia and the International Australian Studies Association. She has held fellowships supported by the National Library of Australia, the Australian Government's Endeavour Awards, and the Australian Academy of the Humanities. She has been a visiting researcher at Georgetown University and Udayana University, Indonesia. 


She is currently working on an Australian Research Council DECRA fellowship project that traces the rise and influence of development volunteering programs during the 1950s and 1960s. Her forthcoming book is provisionally called Saving the World: Western volunteers and the humanitarian-development complex. The project examines personal, intimate and political encounters at the intersection of decolonization and the Cold War, and contributes to the historiographies of humanitarianism and international development. 


She is also involved in a number of collaborative research projects situating Australian relations with Asia within global histories of East-West and North-South encounter. These methodologically ambitious projects seek to redraw the boundaries between political, economic, military and cultural histories to produce more holistic accounts of cross-cultural interaction.


Her first monograph, Visiting the Neighbours: Australians in Asia, was published in 2014 by the University of New South Wales Press, a leading Australian academic publisher. Based on extensive primary research, this monograph tracked the intersection between political mentalities and the travel and tourism industry, and argued for the significance of people-to-people contact in the history of Australian-Asian relations.

‘ [Visiting the Neighbours] puts travel to Asia firmly on the ‘Asia-literacy’ map. This is not only a richly detailed, subtly argued and historically informed study of the Australian traveller in Asia. It is also smart, sharp and a very good read.’ – David Walker, BHP Billiton Chair of Australian Studies, Peking University.

Visiting the Neighbours: Australians in Asia is available at:https://www.newsouthbooks.com.au/books


With David Walker, she co-edited Australia’s Asia: From Yellow Peril to Asian Century (UWA Publishing, 2012).

‘Every now and then a book comes along that forces us to reconceptualise our national history, to see that history, and thus ourselves, in a new way, and to understand how we failed to see what is now so strikingly obvious. Australia’s Asia should be credited as one of these landmark collections.’ – Peter Cochrane review of ‘Australia’s Asia’ in ‘The Australian’, 26/01/2013
Australia’s Asia: From Yellow Peril to Asian Century is available at: http://uwap.uwa.edu.au/products/australia-s-asia-from-yellow-peril-to-asian-century
I am available to supervise postgraduate projects in the history of humanitarianism/international development; history of Australian relations with Asia; history of travel and tourism; international history and global history.


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