[csaa-forum] But wait, there's more

Danny Butt db at dannybutt.net
Sat Feb 26 11:30:42 CST 2005

Melissa, I agree with most of your interventions on this list but frankly, I
couldn't care less about the Australian (or it's NZ nationalist equivalent,
the Sunday Star Times), and their routine white power diatribes. When I was
growing up, I read it every week for a decade. What I wouldn't give to have
traded that time for reading articles from Subcomandante Marcos.

There are 295,629 copies of the Weekend Australian, in a nation of 20
million people. Even though The Australian calls themselves the newspaper of
the nation, I think it's worth remembering that circulation figure and
trying to put a community of readers next to it. Imagine them all at a
barbeque. Pretty scary isn't it? That's who's listening. If they don't
listen to Graeme Turner and Elspeth Probyn, are they going to listen to any
of us? They won't even look at us!

What it seems is more needed to me - and what places like this list work
toward, thanks! - is build a sense of shared purpose among those working
toward a broad set of progressive ideals (with significant internal
differences) that characterise cultural studies and related disciplines. I
don't think that's primarily going to happen through the struggle against
our representation in the Weekend Australian, a) due to the dynamics of
recognition Fanon outlined clearly; b) to bring our major support base
(students) into the mix, we first need to convince them to read the
Australian, and my classroom experience suggests they don't; and c) we
direct our attention toward representations rather than building
conversations with each other.

It kind of bugs me that this list spends so much time on these issues. It's
a very reactive position, one that creates a sense of siege and isolation,
and directs energy toward benefits that I see as being not particularly high
or tangible for young academics/graduates. I think there's an important link
to the "policy moment" debate in CS here, and some lessons to be taken from
it. For academics, responding to The Australian "feels like" a practical
intervention, i.e. it is outside the academy, but it is, like policy, an
environment where the *actual* impact is very hard to assess, and it's
within a genre that remains deeply disconnected from the bulk of our
potential political support base.

That's not saying no-one should bother, I just think a better role for we
youngsters is to be prototyping new ways of working together, and not
lamenting that the old fogies (or young fogies :7) don't understand.


http://weblog.dannybutt.net  <<-- new!

#place: location, cultural politics, and social technologies:

[ Lilith] laughed bitterly. "I suppose I could think of this as fieldwork -
but how the hell do I get out of the field ?" (Octavia E. Butler, _Dawn_)

On 2/25/05 9:32 PM, "Dr Melissa GREGG" <m.gregg at uq.edu.au> wrote:

> For those who missed it, especially our international readers, this piece ran
> in The Australian today. I would really like to know people's thoughts on it.
> I keep thinking, 'Why now? Who is listening anymore?' But I'm not sure it's
> exactly the same alarmism of an earlier moment in cultural studies'
> institutionalisation/emergence. Will people on this list be ignoring it? (and
> I don't just mean the professors who keep having to take the blows for us, I
> also mean postgrads and ECRs. Many younger academics have been trained in the
> 'New Humanities' from day one, and I guess that means we've never known 'hard
> work' or 'rigour'!) Is it time for a new generation of cult stud graduates to
> start talking back to this tiresome critique?
> Gregory Melleuish: Out with Thucydides, in with the Barbie dolls
> 25feb05
> IN the late 19th century Charles Badham, professor of classics at the
> University of Sydney, argued that the university man trained in the techniques
> of a liberal education would possess a clear consciousness, "full of
> reverence, refinement and clear-headedness ... by the very conditions of his
> discipline temperate in opinion, temperate in measures, temperate in
> demeanour".
> He advocated culture, "the thought of our permanent humanity and of the
> ineffaceable identity between the soul of the past and the soul of the
> present", as the ideal to guide the Australian colonists and save them from
> the superficiality and charlatanism of the modern age.
> Now, compare this with the way in which proponents of cultural studies - the
> New Humanities - describe the role of their discipline: Culture is a
> "contested and conflictual set of practices of representation bound up with
> the processes of formation and re-formation of social groups". The contrast
> between the two ideals of culture could not be starker.
> Alas, the New Humanities are now in the ascendancy. Last year, the Australian
> Academy of the Humanities elected Graeme Turner, a well-known cultural studies
> practitioner, as its president. The executive of the academy, moreover, is
> dominated by other figures from the world of the New Humanities: Elspeth
> Probyn, Stuart Cunningham, Anne Freadman.
> The New Humanities are now firmly entrenched, in one form or another, in our
> sandstone universities. Cultural studies is touted as something in which
> Australian academe has a world-class reputation.
> Many people today think of arts as some sort of soft option. But traditionally
> liberal education involved hard work in the shape of textual analysis and
> emendation. It gave access to the best that had been written.
> The men who created the Australian commonwealth were largely products of this
> liberal education. Edmund Barton was reputed to carry a copy of Thucydides
> with him. Samuel Griffith published a translation of Dante.
> Traditional liberal education had both rigour and excellence. It also
> encouraged humility as one encountered some of the greatest minds of
> humankind. Thucydides or Shakespeare or Augustine have more to tell us about
> the human condition than the superficial scribblings of yet another
> denunciation of sexism and racism in Australia.
> Compare some of the key characteristics of cultural studies and the New
> Humanities. 
> The focus is on popular culture and everyday life.
> You don't need to be able to read a language other than English.
> You don't need to know about any society other than your own.
> You don't need to know anything about any time except the present.
> You don't need to know anything about religion.
> You don't need to read any works that are more than 30 years old.
> At a time when more and more Australians are engaging with an
> internationalised world, the New Humanities would seem to lock people into a
> very narrow and restricted view of the world.
> Let's take some examples from Australian universities of what one can learn
> from the New Humanities:
> At the University of Melbourne one can study a unit entitled "Contemporary
> Culture and Everyday Life", which "introduces students to concepts such as
> hegemony, ideology and culture, in order to provide intellectual frameworks
> for the reading of diverse cultural sites such as the family home and
> practices (shopping, fandom)".
> At the ANU in "Reading Popular Culture: An Introduction to Cultural Studies"
> one is able to study "how objects such as the Walkman, the Holden and the
> Barbie doll have been represented in advertising and in product promotions".
> At UWA in a unit entitled "Sex, Bodies, Spaces: Gender and Pop Culture" the
> question is asked: "How can the practices of everyday life be interrogated to
> yield insights about the relationships between the body, gendered identities
> and prevailing cultural 'norms'?"
> One must truly wonder how a person who had spent some three or even four years
> studying Barbie dolls, shopping malls and gendered identities would measure up
> to Badham's ideal of culture. Would they be "temperate in opinion, temperate
> in measures, temperate in demeanour"? Given the opportunity, what sort of
> constitution would they be able to write for this country?
> Gregory Melleuish is associate professor of history and politics at University
> of Wollongong. This is an extract from his address to a Quadrant dinner on
> Wednesday.
> © The Australian 
> _______________________________________
> csaa-forum
> discussion list of the cultural studies association of australasia
> www.csaa.asn.au
> change your subscription details at
> http://lists.cdu.edu.au/mailman/listinfo/csaa-forum

More information about the csaa-forum mailing list