[csaa-forum] the sixties

Stephen Muecke Stephen.Muecke at uts.edu.au
Mon Jun 4 08:48:13 CST 2007

The Sixties Revisited

There are many reasons for a renewed interest in the sixties. The worst 
reason is, of course, for superannuated baby-boomers to indulge in 
nostalgia, the best is for people born, say in the eighties, to analyse 
a period where there were real and effective languages of political 
contestation, which could be taken even to a national scale (Mai '68, 
the Cultural Revolution in China, student movements toppling the 
governments of Sth Korea and Thailand, national liberation movements 
against colonialism).

In terms of culture there were radical forms of experimentation in 
everyday life, the birth of ecological movements, homosexuality was 
legalised, a stunning new visual style emerged in in iconography, 
fashion, fine arts and cinema. Popular music came of age in the USA and 
the UK, and there was a new cosmopolitanism of youth movements. In 
science and industry plastics emerged, the transistor made electronics 
portable, Man walked on the Moon, nuclear met counter-nuclear...

Today, in repudiation of the sixties, the world seems engulfed by a 
neo-liberal market-driven culture which has narrowed the language of 
political analysis. Conservative opinion-makers are busy characterising 
the sixties as a time of looney left excess, a smokescreen perhaps for 
the excesses of global corporate capitalism today.

Are the current forms of political and cultural activism derived from 
the sixties? Community-based localist or micro-activisms, autonomists, 
hackers and bloggers, ferals and sub-cultural communities?

Serious research should determine how cultural and political analysis 
of this four-decade-old history can sort out continuities and 
discontinuities. Most world leaders grew up in the sixties, so the 
period still has a hold on their unconscious: Can they let it go? Can 
people in their twenties and thirties teach them to look at the present 
more clearly?

The question I’d like to put to the List, perhaps with a view to a 
seminar, is who in Australia is working on the sixties (really the late 
50s to the early 70s)? Who is prepared to work up a topic? There is the 
potential for interesting Asian links—see Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 
issue of December last year, ‘The Asian Sixties’.

Stephen Muecke
Director, Transforming Cultures Centre
Humanities and Social Sciences
University of Technology, Sydney
Box 123 BROADWAY NSW 2007 Australia
Ph: +61 2 9514 1960
Fx: +612 9514 4344
mb 042 5261 232
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