[csaa-forum] the sixties
J.Stratton at curtin.edu.au
Mon Jun 4 11:23:03 CST 2007
By the way, some people might not be able to contribute to this thread at the moment as they may be travelling to the conference on the sixties that is about to be held in Canada at Queens University, Kingston, Ontario, June 13th-16th. You can find out more about this at: http://www.culturescope.ca/ev_en.php?ID=11797_-839&ID2=DO_TOPIC or http://www.queensu.ca/history/News/NewWorldComing.htm .
From: csaa-forum-bounces at lists.cdu.edu.au on behalf of Mark Gibson
Sent: Mon 4/06/2007 9:25 AM
To: CSAA discussion list
Subject: Re: [csaa-forum] the sixties
Clearly an active thread this. Interesting to hear from sixties specialists and even more from scholars of 'other sixties' -- Japanese, Indian etc. A welcome change from the collective groan you can sometimes get from mentioning the sixties in cultural studies contexts.
I'm interested in the sixties from a rather 'presentist' 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 'looney left excess' and 'golden time of liberation and experimentation' but perhaps also 'object of baby boomer hubris and nostalgia'. I agree, Stephen, that the last thing we need is a nostalgia fest. And yes, it's 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 'obvious'. It's that presumption, not talk about the sixties as such, which is the turn off for those who weren't 'there'.
My own attempts to 'de-ossify' 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 there's 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) didn't have all that much currency. We're 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 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'.
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