Thinking for Yourself

rmanneA Conference in Honour of Professor Robert Manne

In the course of a controversy with Gershom Scholem over her book Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt wrote: "I have great confidence in Lessing's selbstdenken (thinking for oneself) for which no ideology, no public opinion, and no 'convictions' can ever be a substitute." In a similar fashion, George Orwell, in his essays, deplored the conformity of politically-engaged intellectuals and their tendency to hunt in packs. Arendt and Orwell had a profound influence on Robert Manne at the beginning of his adult life. During his almost four decades as a university researcher and teacher and public intellectual he has been involved in a series of bitterly contested controversies concerning the interpretation of the Holocaust, the nature of Communism, the Cold War, social democracy and its neo-liberal critics, the dispossession of the indigenous population of Australia, multiculturalism, the state's responsibility for asylum seekers and, most recently, the politics of climate change. This conference will revisit and review many of these public questions with original papers from several thinkers Manne has worked or argued with, and whom he presently most admires. At its centre will be the core value of intellectual engagement and independence—or of thinking for oneself.

The conference, organised by La Trobe's School of Social Sciences and Communications, will examine a number of themes and issues that have been integral to Robert Manne's intellectual work. They include: the Cold War and intellectuals, the Public Intellectual and Universities, the Public Intellectual and Publishing,Twentieth Century European History, Indigenous Politics and History, Australian Political Culture and Multiculturalism and Contemporary politics.

Date and Location:

Thursday 28 February and Friday 1 March 2013

John Scott Meeting House
Bundoora Campus


Download the latest version of the program [DOCX 52KB].

Keynote speakers:

The conference features keynote addresses by Professor Pat Dodson and Professor Raimond Gaita. The conference also incorporates a special Ideas and Society event featuring Professor Manne in conversation with Professor Mick Dodson around the topic Indigenous politics: Reflections on the stolen generations report, the Northern Territory 'Intervention', and the constitutional referendum.

Other confirmed speakers include:

  • David Manne, Executive Director of the Refugee and Immigration Legal Centre
  • Professor Hugh White, Professor of Strategic Studies and Head of the Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, ANU
  • Associate Professor Mark McKenna, Department of History University of Sydney
  • Dr Carmen Lawrence, Winthrop Professor at the School of Psychology UWA
  • Professor Clive Hamilton, Professor of Public Ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics
  • Professor Ghassan Hage Future Generation Professor of Anthropology and Social Theory at the University of Melbourne
  • Professor Sanjay Seth, Goldsmiths University of London
  • Greenpeace Australia CEO David Ritter
  • Professor Dennis Altman, Director - Institute for Human Security
  • Journalist and social philosopher Anne Manne,
  • Professor Martin Krygier, Gordon Samuels Professor of Law and Social Theory a the University of NSW
  • Dr Gwenda Tavan, senior lecturer in Politics at La Trobe University
  • Associate Professor David McKnight, Senior Research Fellow at the Journalism and Media Research Centre at the University of NSW
  • Journalist and author Mark Aarons


To register your interest please contact Bree Ahrens (

Further Information

Information for participants: Information about the conference, including the programme, will be added to this site as it becomes available.

Speakers should submit a 200 word abstract by 21 January 2013.

Any queries about the conference should be directed to Bree Ahrens (