Philanthropy and public culture The influences and legacies of the carnegie corporation of New York in Australia

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  • Philanthropy and public culture The influences and legacies of the carnegie corporation of New York in Australia

The workshop will address four core themes that are directly relevant to both the history of the social sciences and contemporary debates: citizenship, national and cosmopolitan identity; globalisation, international relations and public policy; self and collective or national improvement; and taste, cultural judgement and modernity.

Objectives and rationale

The Carnegie Corporation of New York was a large philanthropic trust established by Scottish steel magnate Andrew Carnegie in 1911 for the ‘advancement and diffusion of knowledge’ in the USA. According to Carnegie’s wishes, the fund was extended first to the UK and, from 1917, to the British Dominions and Colonies, including Canada, South Africa, the West Indies, Australia and New Zealand. Ellen Lagerman, author of the official history of the Corporation’s philanthropic activity in the US, acknowledges these grants as ‘vitally important’ to ‘the transfer overseas of American patterns of social organization, and to international politics’.

The Carnegie Corporation’s interventions in public affairs in Australia were far-reaching. It provided foundation funding for the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), and supported significant initiatives in curriculum programs and educational policy; influenced developments in public health, including eugenics and child psychological guidance; contributed to the analysis of racial policy; and influenced the reform and modernization of cultural institutions such as libraries, art galleries and museums. The Corporation also fostered international relations through the dissemination of knowledge about Australia in the US (and vice versa) and through the development of Asian-Pacific studies. Few professional fields were untouched by Carnegie’s influence – either through the travel grants it awarded to Australians or through the importation of foreign experts to Australia to observe cultural and educational practices and to offer advice for their improvement. For example, from the 1920s-50s, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace advocated the reform of international relations through formal study. While expertise in international relations is generally presumed to have resided within government or the academy, in this period both relied on the expertise, relationships, and personnel of philanthropic networks such as the Carnegie Endowment. High-profile diplomatic personnel, international affairs experts and academics such in Australia as Sir Frederic Eggleston, H. V. Evatt and H. Duncan hall enjoyed a relationship of mutual influence with the Carnegie Endowment.

Relation to social sciences research

Research on the Carnegie Corporation in Australia has been limited, with a focus on particular areas of activity, such as education or the reform of libraries. But there has yet to be a comprehensive and detailed investigation of the contemporary influence and legacies of the Corporation on the politics of knowledge and the development of the social sciences (and humanities) in Australia; and, by extension, of the relationships between international philanthropic aspirations (other examples include the Rockefeller Foundation and the Commonwealth Fund) and the shaping of national public culture.

A study of the Carnegie Corporation’s activities in Australia opens up opportunities to assess the changing form of public sector governance and the reconfiguring relations between the corporate, government and philanthropic sectors. In addition, the workshop will examine issues that are prominent in current national policy agendas, such as education and citizenship, and which were at the heart of many Carnegie projects. By standing outside the present and looking historically at these and related matters, the workshop will provide a forum to reflect on current policy commonsense and taken-for-granted directions.

The workshop will address four core themes that are directly relevant to both the history of the social sciences and contemporary debates: citizenship, national and cosmopolitan identity; globalisation, international relations and public policy; self and collective or national improvement; and taste, cultural judgement and modernity. These themes, in turn, will be developed across four main strands which represent key sites of Carnegie influence: International Relations, Education and Citizenship, Public Health, and Cultural Institutions.

The workshop brings together early career academics and established researchers who are currently engaged in research projects that provide a useful reference point from which to explore the impact of the Corporation on the cultural life of Australia. Of particular interest for this workshop is the Corporation’s influence on the development of the social sciences in Australia, a topic that has much contemporary salience given the renewed attention to the impact of international social theoretical trends on Australian social sciences (eg: Connell 2006). The papers, with a mix of case studies and thematic approaches, will provide both an overview of the impact of the Carnegie Corporation in diverse social fields, and a basis for extending important themes in contemporary social science research, and for a greater understanding of the history of international philanthropy.

Event Schedule

Contact Information

Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia

    ABN: 59 957 839 703
  • Location: 26 Balmain Crescent, Acton, ACT 2601
  • Postal: GPO Box 1956, Canberra, ACT 2601
  • +61 .2 62491788
  • +61 .2 62474335
  • secretariat@assa.edu.au