[csaa-forum] Another attack on CS in the Oz

Amanda Wise amanda.wise at scmp.mq.edu.au
Fri Jul 28 13:57:08 CST 2006

Thanks for all this input. I was furious this morning, but have calmed down
substantially! Softly, softly, I promise.

I think Greg (and others) make important points. I'll synthesise these
arguments and write to her and something for the oz. Indeed; I might just
invite her to give her a paper!

Its always the problem writing about the 'everyday' as you've all pointed

Another point to be made is that ED is quite patronising towards
non-academics. We have lots of non-academics coming to this conference. They
come in droves because they enjoy the stimulation of hearing fresh ideas
which are theoretically informed. They are quite capable of understanding
the work we present. Indeed, we deliberately pitched the conference CFP at
attracting 'grounded' work; esp based on ethnographic and/or interview based
approaches - so it's a conference full of accessible work. 

But as Greg says; theory or otherwise, we have a perfect right as academics
to congregate and discuss academic ideas in an academic forum. It is quite a
separate question as to whether and how we subsequently communicate those
ideas to the wider public. 

Many of the speakers at our conference (including myself) are engaged in
public debate through the media; through consulting with local, state and
federal govt; through working community groups. We are quite capable of
working at different registers. Ien Ang and Greg Nobles work (who are
keynotes at the conf) is a case in point. 

Thanks for the input. Lets see if the oz publishes my rebuttal op ed. I Hope
you're all ok if I quote some of your emails


-----Original Message-----
From: csaa-forum-bounces at lists.cdu.edu.au
[mailto:csaa-forum-bounces at lists.cdu.edu.au] On Behalf Of Gregory Noble
Sent: Friday, July 28, 2006 1:59 PM
To: Laknath Jayasinghe; csaa-forum at lists.cdu.edu.au
Subject: RE: [csaa-forum] Another attack on CS in the Oz

Hi all

Whether Emma Dawson is a decent person or not is beside the point - the
article in questions rests on a dubious leap that is too frequent in
contemporary journalism. The author says it is OK for academics to engage in
abstract theorising, but then says we can't do it in relation to this topic.
Indeed, it takes what is a simple call for papers and makles it stand for
what the author sees as the left's failure to communicate with a broader
public. That's just plain silly, for several reasons.

1. This is a document designed to address academics - and it's not
particularly obscure in any case. If it is OK for academics to talk amongst
themselves at some point, then it is ok for them to use a language that
those addressed will comprehend.
2. To say we can't do this because the topic is of public importance is like
telling scientists and engineers not to use terms drawn from mathematics and
physics when they are considering solutions to Sydney's water supply and
3. The conference is designed to get academics thinking differently about
multiculuralism - get out of ther attack/defend mode and generate new
approaches to understanding the complexity of the day-to-day experiences of
diversity - this has ramifcations for informing interventions in public
debate, but this process always requires some spoace for thinking away from
the pressure of translating this into public debate.
4. The article assumes that because some academics use theory to talk about
issues germane to everyday life that they are unwilling or incapable of
changing register and communicating with a non-academic audience at other
times. This is, of course, a non sequitur. It would be like me assuming that
because the author has made a mistake in her logic that she is incapable of
engaging with intelelctual debate.
5. Related to this, it claims that, apart from 2 exceptions, that academics
have not engaged in public debates about multiculturalism specifically in
the aftermath of the Crionulla riots. This is just factually wrong - I could
name more than a dozen Sydney academics who have been involved in public
discussions about these issues - it is a sdhame the author hasn't come
across these items in the press, TV and radio - and on the internet

I have read other work by the author and yes there are better examples of an
engagement with these issues - and talking with her rather than against her
is the best way to proceed. Perhaps the conference organisers might ask her
to attend and give her paper and listen to others - maybe a specific session
on the issues she raises.

(oh, and by the way, let's not get sidetracked on the left/right terminology
debate - they are the author's terms in any case)



Dr Greg Noble

School of Humanities and Languages
University of Western Sydney
Bldg C - Penrith campus
Locked Bag 1797
Penrith South DC, NSW 1797, Australia
The Centre for Cultural Research
Bldg EBa - Parramatta Campus

Tel  +61 2 47 360 365

Co-author of 'Bin Laden in the Suburbs' (Sydney Institute of Criminology,

-----Original Message-----
From: csaa-forum-bounces at lists.cdu.edu.au on behalf of Laknath Jayasinghe
Sent: Fri 28/07/2006 1:07 PM
To: csaa-forum at lists.cdu.edu.au
Subject: Re: [csaa-forum] Another attack on CS in the Oz
  Sorry. I really do apologise for the repeat post, but that should read:
"not remain on separate islands...".

Laknath Jayasinghe <think_broadly at yahoo.com.au> wrote:
    Hi all--and good afternoon.
  Actually, to be fair, I know Emma; and I know that both her politics and
her heart is firmly planted in the right place. Although there are some
things I could pick apart in the article, she does make a legitimate
criticism--that cultual and media studies researchers should also engage
with the broad community. I thoroughly agree with that. We do much exciting
work in fresh and interesting areas, but quite often it seems that the ideas
just don't get out to the broad public. Of course, given the climate of
Nelson-Bishop, McGuiness and Bolt, the task is more difficult. We have to be
more creative and more persistent.
  In fact, this is something that Graeme Turner alluded to in a paper he
delivered in 1999, arguing that--apart from the academic stuff we do--we
should be doing more work in the 'public sphere', the broad public sphere,
that is. I take my cue from him. I believe that we should build academic
bridges, but remain on separate islands. The mass media here in Oz, from
both my professional and academic experience, are open to articles and
letters that take new and exciting ideas to the public--from all political
positions. Of course, language must be modified and the ideas recrafted and
tailored to the audience; very few allusions to Bhabha, Butler or Bourdieu
  Also, must we always 'dichotomise' our debate into 'left / anti-left'
etc.? I remember having a brief chat with Toby Miller after he presented a
paper here  in Melbourne a few months ago, and he was aghast at the polarity
of discourse in some Australian cult studs work. Much of the work we do is
so inspiring--politically, ethically and academically. I know I'm guilty of
this at times, but does our politics move within frames of the "either/ or";
or is it really a case of a trillion shades of grey? 
  Were the Cronulla Beach rioters, for example, "racist"? I don't think so.
We need a more nuanced language to describe contemporary Australian, indeed
global, politics. Left and right (and upper, middle, working class etc) seem
such ancient terms and they so imprecisely get at what is really going on in
contemporary everyday life. What do these terms mean, particularly at the
level of a rapidly globalising and shrinking everyday? Perhaps commercial
research organisations such as Roy Morgan Research and AC Nielsen are more
on the ball in terms of describing and classifying some of the social and
cultural trends in contemporary Australia. 
  I recently completed my MPhil in cultural studies at UQ, where I examined
masculinities in Nick Cave's early performances. Now I'm at Unimelb's
Melbourne Business School, researching a PhD in marketing (using much
cultural and media studies research, by the way). It's certainly a more
conservative space from the one I previously moved within. Ian Harper, an
economist over here at MBS, was recently appointed by John Howard to chair
the IR / Fair Pay Commission. Does that mean I must abdicate my "left-ish"
politics? I certainly hope not!
  Anyway, look forward to hearing the many and varied takes on this issue.

Laknath Jayasinghe
BSc, BBus (Mktg), MPhil

PhD student (Marketing)
Melbourne Business School
The University of Melbourne 
200 Leicester Street 
Carlton 3053 

p. +(613) 9349 8297 (Daytime)
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