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

Vera Mackie vmackie at unimelb.edu.au
Sat Jul 29 09:39:31 CST 2006

It seems to me that there is a constant slippage in this debate.
The theories we deploy to understand cultural phenomena are one thing.
The language we use to communicate our conclusions based on testing 
those theories is another thing.
It's quite possible to deploy the insights of our favourite theorists, 
but to choose how we communicate this.
This could be the choice between 'quotidian' or 'everyday' as we have 
seen in this debate (although quotidian is hardly an abstruse word!).
Or it could mean choosing to use technical words like 'habitus', but 
adding a gloss in simpler language
We do this all the time, when lecturing to undergraduates, or when 
reviewing books for the newspapers rather than academic journals.
We need to keep the practice of rigorous theorising and testing of 
We need to expose the unarticulated theories behind the popular debates.
(There's nothing more dangerous than an unarticulated theory masked as 
common sense.)
In other words, we shouldn't go along with this slippage of equating 
academic  rigour with difficult and exclusionary language.

Vera Mackie

Begin forwarded message:

> From: "Mark Davis" <davismr at unimelb.edu.au>
> Date: 28 July 2006 10:43:24 PM
> To: csaa-forum at lists.cdu.edu.au
> Subject: Re: [csaa-forum] RE: Another attack on CS in the Oz
> With all due respect to those concerned, I'm not convinced that Emma
> Dawson is making any attempt to 'delegitimise' academic discussion. As 
> she
> writes:
>> Lest I be sternly rebuked by fellow students and researchers, let me 
>> make
> it clear that I fully >support rigorous scholarship and will vigorously
> defend the right of academics to contribute to >the intellectual
> development of the human race at the most theoretical level. The
> apparently >abstract and often obscure work by researchers in social
> sciences and cultural studies is >essential to the development of 
> ideas.
> Nor, as someone suggested, is she suggesting that: 'it is OK for 
> academics
> to engage in abstract theorising, but then says we can't do it in 
> relation
> to this topic.'
> Rather, she raises some salient points about the failure of 'theory' in
> public debate, whilst deriding conservative anti-multiculturalism.
> There is, I think, a useful and necessary debate to be had about this 
> lack
> of impact. Bewilderingly, from where I sit, even after three decades of
> 'theory' - and of neoliberalism - it is still primarily old-fashioned
> liberals representing progressive positions in public debate. While 
> there
> are plenty of institutional reasons for that, I don't think 'we' can 
> blame
> others for ever. The penultimate para of her piece stands both as a
> defense of our intellectual practice, and as an indictment of our 
> relative
> failure to work the public sphere proper:
>> Australia can ill afford this kind of intellectual segregation: while
> conservatives lament that our >universities are held captive by 
> left-wing
> thought, progressives should also be distressed by >their inability to
> penetrate the public sphere and to counter the often destructive and
> ill->informed statements of commentators whose pronouncements could
> easily be destroyed by a >well-researched and clearly written argument.
> Disclosure: while I don't know Emma, I do know her work and am one of 
> the
> OzProspect board members who granted her fellowship.
> Best wishes for the conference
> Mark
> NB: someone earlier made a throwaway point about Emma's belonging to a
> tank whilst criticising them. OzProspect is non-partisan and survives,
> just, on a miniscule budget compared to multimillion dollar partisan
> juggernauts like the CIS. Equivalence? We wish!
> M
> --
> Mark Davis
> Publishing and Communications Program
> Department of English with Cultural Studies
> University of Melbourne
> 61-3-8344-3349
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