RAHS Special Lecture – Semut: An Australian Secret Operation in WWII Borneo
February 14 @ 13:00 - 14:00
This lecture explores a secret Australian operation that took place on the Japanese-occupied island of Borneo during WWII. Christine Helliwell will argue that while local contribution has been largely invisible in previous accounts of Operation Semut, Borneo’s indigenous Dayak people were in fact the backbone of the operation. Christine will also suggest that this ostensibly Australian operation was orchestrated by the British for their own political purposes and outline its hidden reliance on Dayak headhunting.
About the speaker: Christine Helliwell is an anthropologist and Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University. She has been researching Borneo’s indigenous Dayak peoples for almost forty years and has written widely on Dayak social life. Her recent book Semut won the PM’s Literary Award in Australian History and the Les Carlyon Literary Prize, was First Runner-Up for the Templer Medal (UK) and has been shortlisted for the NSW Premier’s History Awards, the Reid Prize and the ACT Notable Book Awards.