[csaa-forum] Conformist and lacking critical force

Jean Burgess je.burgess at qut.edu.au
Fri Aug 26 17:32:58 CST 2005

Thanks Terry, that journal issue is indeed one of the few public fora where
any explicit, grounded debate on similar issues has taken place recently.
Moving the Creative Industries debate forward though, and particularly in
relation to the During quote, I wonder how those postgrads and early career
researchers who identify primarily or substantially with cultural studies
feel about his characterisation about the state of cultural studies - a
characterisation that is not unique to During, but that crops up frequently.
Just as frequently, as in this case, the tone is distinctly casual and
dismissive, apparently requiring little in the way of careful substantiation
(the mere mention of Hartley and Fiske is enough for the eyebrows of a
knowing and complicit audience to be raised, I guess). Nor, I might add, is
there much in the way of a critical reading of the key terms employed -
"populism" stands out like a neon sign for me.

Secondly, I remember that Ien Ang's keynote address at the closing of the
CSAA conference last year provoked virulent debates on the bus and in the
pub about whether the increasing top-down demands for research to be
instrumentally "useful" constitute a threat or a positive challenge to the
practice of cultural studies in Australia.  I certainly come down on the
side of "useful" work  rather than whatever might be implied by During's
rather strange juxtaposition of "abstract and theorised" research in the
quote below - useful to whom, and in what way, are additional questions.
But I'd love to see that debate rehearsed on the list, rather than just in
the comfort of closed circles.

On 26/8/05 4:29 PM, "Terry Flew" <t.flew at qut.edu.au> wrote:

> Dear Mel, Jean, Josh and CSAA'ers
> Another place which people may wish to go on the issues below is the
> special issue of Continuum (18:2, June 2004) edited by Mark Gibson and
> myself on cultural studies and the 'new humanism'. The dialogue between
> James Donald and myself in that issue, as well as Mark's introduction, may
> provide an interesting counterpoint to the quote you provide below. It may
> also be suffused with the perspective of the 'old tertiary technical
> training departments' that Simon During comments on in your earlier email.
> Anyway, very interested in the discussion.
> http://journalsonline.tandf.co.uk/app/home/issue.asp?wasp=8ff3c39f1c00484ebedb
> 909dc0709b2f&referrer=parent&backto=journal,5,19;linkingpublicationresults,1:1
> 04563,1
> Cheers
> Terry
> At 02:03 PM 26/08/2005, you wrote:
>> In the lead up to our first meeting at QUT's Creative Industries Precinct
>> on Friday September 9, the Brisbane-based Monthly Media and Cultural
>> Studies (MACS) network
>> (<http://cccs.uq.edu.au/index.html?page=22640&pid=21774>) would like to
>> invite debate and feedback on the current state of Australian cultural
>> studies and particularly how the Creative Industries paradigm fits within
>> this discussion. As younger researchers inheriting these debates we are
>> keen to discuss issues such as:
>> - disciplinarity: what it means (practically, ethically, conceptually) to
>> do “media and cultural studies” within the CI paradigm
>> - opportunities for and the politics of academic labour for RHD students
>> and Early Career Researchers in the context of the shift from
>> individualistic “humanities” research to project/team-based approaches
>> - the changing research culture of Australian universities, especially the
>> perceived incommensurability between "pragmatic" and "critical" approaches
>> as evidenced in the following quotation:
>> "Nowadays Australian cultural studies is increasingly normalised,
>> concentrating on cultural policy studies and, often uncritically, on
>> popular culture and the media. Indeed it is in Australia that the
>> celebration of popular culture as a liberating force
 first took off
>> through Fiske and Hartley’s contributions. The young populists of the
>> seventies now hold senior posts and what was pathbreaking is becoming a
>> norm. The readiness of a succession of Australian governments to encourage
>> enterprise universities has empowered the old tertiary technical training
>> departments in such areas as communications, allowing them to have an
>> impact on more abstract and theorised cultural studies in ways that appear
>> to have deprived the latter of critical force. Furthermore, the structure
>> of research funding, which asks even young academics to apply for grants,
>> has had a conformist effect. Perhaps Australian cultural studies offers us
>> a glimpse of what the discipline would be like were it to become
>> relatively hegemonic in the humanities."
>> -Simon During, Cultural Studies: A Critical Introduction (2005) p.26
>> More details for the MACS forum will follow shortly, but in the meantime
>> we are keen to use the CSAA-forum as a means to hear others' experiences
>> and opinions on the topic so that a dialogue might take place around the
>> actual event.
>> Melissa Gregg, Jean Burgess and Joshua Green
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