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

Jason Wilson jason_a_wilson at yahoo.com.au
Fri Jul 28 22:00:22 CST 2006

Hi all,

You know, I find the flurry of activity on the list
surrounding incidents of this kind slightly

At bottom, this is someone asking us to communicate
our debates and ideas a little more effectively to a
wider public. It could be that there wouldn't be the
space to make these kinds of criticisms if we were
already doing this effectively. In other words: it
could be that we have a case to answer. 

I don't read it as an attack on Cultural Studies,
veiled or otherwise, but as an invitation, or a
reminder that maintaining and managing our presence in
the public sphere is a constant, ongoing process.
However abstruse the professional language of science
may be, the sciences actually manage their presence in
the public sphere quite well, have a wonderful
tradition of work by professional scientists that
popularises professional debates, and are able to make
the case that what they are doing is beneficial to the
public: i.e .science is very good at creating and
talking to a public beyond its professional ranks. The
argument that the media is predisposed to receiving
science more hospitably doesn't alter the observation
that science handles its own publicity very astutely.
Maybe that's why you don't hear many similar
criticisms of scientific discourse. A lot of us are
concerned with the workings of popular media and the
public sphere as a matter of expertise, and some of us
use this expertise to engage with broader publics: why
can't this work continue and be extended?

Its disappointing that a few posts on this issue have
resorted very quickly to veiled personal attacks on
the author and/or patronising suggestions that she
isn't quite up to the task of understanding
theoretical debate. This doesn't help anyone, and it's
puzzlingly and unnecessarily defensive.I'm glad that,
already, some voices have been urging that we don't so
quickly assume the role of victims of the big, bad
Murdoch press (again). Let's engage with the criticism
on its own terms and see if we can address it.

Since I moved to the UK I have been in a Media Studies
department, and this discipline is under practically
constant attack in right wing national newspapers,
which have a place and influence in the public sphere
that The Australian can only dream of. If the reaction
to every such attack over here resembled the CSAA
list's on this and other prior occasions, we'd have
very little time to do anything else. Instead, my
colleagues get on with passing critical practices and
knowledges on in their teaching, carrying out their
research, and where possible intervening in public
debate. As a result, I have often had pause to wonder
where the "whingeing pom" stereotype could possibly
have come from... 

Playing the victim consumes a lot of energy, and it
seems particularly wasteful where its not even clear
that we've been attacked. The public sphere shouldn't
be seen as a source of danger, but as a arena of
opportunities to expand our publics.

Jason Wilson

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