[csaa-forum] the sixties

Mark Gibson Mark.Gibson at arts.monash.edu.au
Mon Jun 4 10:55:26 CST 2007

Clearly an active thread this. Interesting to hear from sixties specialists
and even more from scholars of Œother sixties¹ -- Japanese, Indian etc. A
welcome change from the collective groan you can sometimes get from
mentioning the sixties in cultural studies contexts.

I¹m interested in the sixties from a rather Œpresentist¹ perspective, as a
nucleus for ritual political antagonisms over the last decade or so. It
seems to me important for the quality of political debate now to shift some
of those hardened little formulae through which we relate to the decade ‹
not just Œlooney left excess¹ and Œgolden time of liberation and
experimentation¹ but perhaps also Œobject of baby boomer hubris and
nostalgia¹. I agree, Stephen, that the last thing we need is a nostalgia
fest. And yes, it¹s important for younger people to develop their own
sixties for the present. But I would also like to see BBs talking about the
sixties in more open and reflective ways ‹ without the presumption that
reasons for positions and actions were simply Œobvious¹. It¹s that
presumption, not talk about the sixties as such, which is the turn off for
those who weren¹t Œthere¹.

My own attempts to Œde-ossify¹ the sixties have centred on the concept of
power. A lot of contemporary readings of the decade view it as a drama
played out around power. But my argument is that there¹s often an
anachronism being perpetrated in this. If you look at the sixties
themselves, concepts of power (at least as we use them now in cultural
studies) didn¹t have all that much currency. We¹re reading the sixties
through the seventies, which is when concepts of power did become very much
installed. If you strip away the anachronism, you get a more interesting
sixties than the recent culture wars football. And perhaps also a more
useful sixties for cultural studies.


On 4/6/07 9:18 AM, "Stephen Muecke" <Stephen.Muecke at uts.edu.au> wrote:

> 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 I¹d 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, ŒThe Asian Sixties¹.
> 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 
> http://www.transforming.cultures.uts.edu.au/
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Mark Gibson
Communications and Media Program
National Centre for Australian Studies
Monash University
Caulfield East 3145
Victoria, Australia

Editor, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies

tel: +61 3 9903 4221
fax: +61 3 9903 4225

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