[csaa-forum] cultural studies and (university) politics

Jean Burgess je.burgess at qut.edu.au
Sat Aug 27 17:46:36 CST 2005

Angi and list,

On 27/8/05 4:02 PM, "Buettner, Angi" <A.Buettner at massey.ac.nz> wrote:

> Dear CSAA members,
> Just another note in response to the discussion on cultural studies and early
> career researchers, and all these other important issues that have been raised
> so far. I am still surprised at how quickly we tend to move away from
> discussing the question whether in the discipline of cultural studies we have
> or have not lost our critical force, due to either content-matter or changing
> institutional structures.

I don't see how we've moved away from it in this discussion; but certainly
we've barely started. In fact, I would hope it was clear from the initial
email that this is one of the key issues we hope people will engage with.
There is a much deeper and longstanding question here about just what does
constitute "critical force" - it seems that there is something quite
commonsensical about the ways the  terms "critical", and perhaps even more
so, "theory", get employed.  Not to mention, what exactly does, could, or
should, constitute political (or community) engagement in current cultural
studies practice, in the emerging political and economic contexts of
universities and external organisations?  Are either "critical force" or
"engagement" incommensurable with "instrumentality"? I'd be really
interested to hear how the list members feel their own practice, or the
limitations on their practice, relates to these questions.

>Although I do not agree with the strong dichotomy
> suggested in Simon During's post to the list, the questions raised in his
> quote about enterprise universities and how their structures influence the
> practice of our discipline (and every other university discipline, for that
> matter) still need to be addressed. And particularly by us early career
> researchers. 
> In the context of these questions I am, for example, slightly alarmed that in
> Melissa's, Jean's and Joshua's invitation to debate the current state of
> Australian cultural studies, the Creative Industries seem to have slipped in
> as defining cultural studies and media studies as a discipline: "-
> disciplinarity: what it means (practically, ethically, conceptually) to do
> "media and cultural studies" within the CI paradigm", they ask.
> Given the current trend towards "instrumentalism" in university politics and
> cultural politics worldwide--with their direct implications for research and
> teaching (as described, if often polemically, for example by Frank Furedi's
> Where Have All the Intellectual Gone?)--I'd rather discuss what it means to do
> cultural studies or media studies within the important current political
> paradigms and within our respective governments we have to work under, such as
> "enterprise universities" or "the war on terror" for example. The Creative
> Industries are important, but I'd like to think that they provide just one
> paradigm for our discipline, rather than the paradigm.

Absolutely - I personally hope the debate both here and at the next MACS
will be broader than just Creative Industries' relationship with cultural
studies (as you will see from the original email, there are 3 related topics
for discussion, which I've pasted again below, and only the first of them
mentions CI):

- disciplinarity: what it means (practically, ethically, conceptually)
to do ³media and cultural studies² 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 ³humanities² research to project/team-based approaches
- the changing research culture of Australian universities, especially
the perceived incommensurability between "pragmatic" and "critical"

The reason the first topic is there is that we thought it would make a good
place to start in the context of this particular event given that it's going
to be held at QUT, rather than at UQ's Centre for Critical and Cultural
Studies, for the first time.  Apologies if there was some kind of slippage
that implied anything more than that, and hopefully the discussion here on
the list will go well beyond it.

However, we did also hope to enable some proper critical discussion (that
is, discussion with some specificity, informed by the kinds of research
people are actually doing) of just what impact the Creative Industries
paradigm has on cultural studies research practice, and vice versa. It is
time that discussion moved from being based on broad assumptions and/or
rhetoric to ground level. It is also timely given recent developments such
as the Centre of Excellence being funded.

Anyway, looking forward to hearing what others have to say!


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