‘Childness’: An Alternative Approach to the Archaeology of Childhood through Cemetery Studies – Mr Stephen Muller

Stephen Muller from the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences is one of the seven winners of the Best HDR Student Publication Award for 2019.

His winning article “Childness’: An Alternative Approach to the Archaeology of Childhood through Cemetery Studies” seeks to suggest an alternative way of approaching the search for the influence of children in the formation of the archaeological record. In this case, how aspects associated with children (childness) can be employed in their memorialisation by adults. His innovative research has an interesting story to tell about the way we, as a society, have viewed our children and given them identities over the last 200 years. Although the study of children within archaeological contexts is still a developing area of the discipline, Stephen said that significant progress has been made over the last three decades.

We invited Stephen Muller to share some insights into his PhD journey and what winning this award means to him.

“I’d been thinking about returning to study for a long time and I really wanted to challenge myself and see if I could do it. I haven’t got there yet!”, Stephen said. He then continued: “Professor Burke and Associate Professor Gorman had previously supervised my archaeology Honours thesis. The fact that they were willing to do so again was important in giving me confidence to commence such an undertaking. We have always worked well together, and I have very much appreciated their support, ideas and comments throughout this candidature.”

Stephen has enjoyed returning to Flinders after a 10 year absence to undertake this research and the casual teaching opportunities afforded him. He admitted: “The interaction with students has assisted my thinking on this project.”

For Stephen the best part of winning the award is that it recognised the value and relevance of the research he undertook. “All researchers are of course heavily invested in their field of interest, but there are times when you question what you are doing and its potential impact more broadly. Therefore, such awards provide encouragement that what you are doing is important.”, he stated.

When asked for a piece of advice he would give for current or prospective PhD students, Stephen said: “Take the time to develop a topic that you are really interested in, not something you are half-hearted about. It is a long, hard process, so maintaining your motivation is critical. You cannot do that if the interest is not there.”

Stephen is currently focused on completing his PhD and he hopes to write and publish more in the future.

He would like to thank his co-authors for their contribution and support in writing and preparing the winning article.

To view Stephen Muller’s full publication, click here.

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