[csaa-forum] a possible letter from CSAA about the Howard/Brough intervention

Stephen Muecke Stephen.Muecke at uts.edu.au
Mon Jul 9 08:52:27 CST 2007

The letter I suggested was in the spirit of keeping the issue on the 
boil, in the direction of urging the right sorts or resources to the 
right people and places. My cynicism sometimes tells me that next week 
there will be another issue on which Howard will want to be seen to be 
acting decisively.

But you are right, we are not the right kind of advocacy body to make 
such suggestions, nor do we have any clout.

And Paul is right that it is not a question of getting us all to agree 
on an  issue, it is to keep thought on the move, including providing 
good information...

> Paul,
> I agree. Realistically, a drafted letter from an organization that 
> garners
> very little political might seems futile and more bureaucratic than 
> anything
> particularly useful.
> The shift needs to occur at the root and not at the branch. On the
> anniversary of celebrating the aborigine's shift from fauna to 
> citizen, many
> of my students were a little shocked to realize they knew more about 
> the US
> civil rights movement than Australia's. Even in mapping the term
> UnAustralian and including aboriginality in there, some uncomfortable
> silences gave way to something a little more fruitful. I think in 
> teaching
> the basics of cultural studies 101 - the interrogation of institutional
> power, hegemony, symbolic violence, the making of common sense - 
> something
> more dynamic and useful might be gained because the great thing about 
> those
> first year communications/cultural studies courses is the sheer volume 
> of
> students they attract, with most going on to other areas and majors. In
> locating these ideas in their everyday, we might nurture a little 
> critical
> inquiry in them.
> Thanks,
> Kiley
> Kiley Gaffney
> School of English, Media Studies and Art History
> University of Queensland,
> St Lucia.  Qld.  4072
> (617) 3365 2687
> On 7/7/07 5:55 PM, "Paul.Magee" <Paul.Magee at canberra.edu.au> wrote:
>> Dear All,
>> Sorry to take a while to respond to the suggestion of a CSAA letter to
>> Howard/Rudd; I’ve been on hols. As President this would be an 
>> appropriate
>> thing for me to do. Yet much as I appreciate Stephen’s suggestion, 
>> backed up
>> by a few people now, I’m disinclined to follow it up. This is for a 
>> number of
>> reasons:
>> The first, is that I’m not convinced that such a letter, to either 
>> leader,
>> would have any impact on their actions. That’s not an overwhelming 
>> reason,
>> however, as it might still be a good thing for us as an association 
>> to take
>> public stands.
>> The real reason is that I don’t think unanimity is the best place for 
>> us to be
>> at the moment. Partially this is because I don’t believe we actually 
>> have
>> unanimity on this issue. I mean, I could write a letter against the
>> intervention, but then again, I’m got some pretty weird ideas, as 
>> many of you
>> know. I’m not sure you’d all want me putting the name of your 
>> association to
>> them. I might sound trite here, but actually this is precisely my 
>> point. If I
>> were to draft the sort of document that averaged out the opinions of 
>> all of
>> us, I think we’d lose much of the value of what we, as Cultural 
>> Studies
>> scholars, have to offer on this, or any other political issue – the 
>> freedom
>> and experience to say, from an informed perspective, exactly what one 
>> thinks.
>> We, as a discipline, have allowed freedom of expression more than 
>> most others
>> and it often produces exciting work. On the other hand, I don’t think 
>> we’ve
>> ever done consensus particularly well. Not that we’ve tried all that 
>> often.
>> It’s not what we’re trained for.
>> I think we should particularly avoid unanimity when it comes to a 
>> wedge issue
>> designed, as Mark pointed out, to make firm stances appear foolish. 
>> I’d rather
>> we treat this association as a space in which we disagree on and 
>> debate over
>> issues that are contentious, precisely on the grounds that we don’t
>> necessarily have all these things in common. In other words, I think 
>> the CSAA
>> should be a space for risky thinking – seeing what happens when you 
>> throw an
>> idea that you’ve thought long and hard on out there. I’m delighted 
>> that CSAA
>> forum has taken on this character over the last week. Here's to 
>> disagreement,
>> and feedack!
>> I think that the real possibility for political action for CSAA 
>> members at
>> this particular moment is much closer to hand than Parliament House. 
>> The
>> election’s looming and we, those of us who are teachers in 
>> particular, have a
>> very real capacity to have impact upon one of the Howard government’s 
>> most
>> vulnerable support bases: the young. I won’t rehearse the distressing
>> statistics on Australian youth’s support of the Co-alition. I’d 
>> rather focus
>> on the fact that we’re in a very good position to make them think 
>> very hard
>> about it. Maggie Nolan’s suggestion, on this list, that we 
>> incorporate issues
>> like Mal Brough into our teaching strikes me as a great one. Teaching 
>> that way
>> is risky of course, ‘cause you can often, in the heat of the issue, 
>> get the
>> facts wrong, and you can also often fall into the trap of preaching, 
>> when the
>> real challenge is to persuade people to think. That’s also where I 
>> think the
>> politics of this list come into play. The discussions and 
>> disagreements we
>> have in spaces like this list inform our teaching, not to mention our 
>> general
>> interaction with other minds. So too can the valuable resources 
>> people have
>> been putting forward all week. This is a good thing - though the 
>> issue itself,
>> like so many Howard issues, is so distressing and many of the 
>> political
>> manouvres are so disgraceful. We should be confronting them. CS has 
>> been far
>> too reticent in the past – with notable exceptions of course – about 
>> applying
>> its various methodologies and expertises to Australian parliamentary 
>> politics.
>> Maybe we took Foucault’s comments about the “Head of the King” in the 
>> History
>> of Sexuality too seriously. Or maybe we shied away from what is an 
>> inherently
>> risky endeavour. Either way, I want to call - in lieu of a letter to
>> politicians who can’t read - for us to use this forum as a space for
>> discussion of each and every upcoming political ploy over the next 
>> few months.
>> I’d particularly like to see people sending in more links to good 
>> resources.
>> This is where we do our real political work, right here in the so 
>> called ivory
>> walls. They're not any more. The democratisation of the Australian 
>> university
>> system, these last 30 years (we've gone from 2% of school leavers 
>> attending
>> Uni, to something more like 30%), has also vastly increased our 
>> potential
>> political power. Let's focus it.
>> In sum, I suggest we fly under the radar, and rely on the fact that 
>> the true
>> politicians are the teachers, 'cause they're closer to the future.
>> best
>> Paul
>> Dr. Paul Magee
>> President, Cultural Studies Association of Australasia
>> Lecturer in Creative Reading
>> School of Creative Communication
>> University of Canberra
>> ACT 2601
>> 02 6201 2402
>> Australian Government Higher Education (CRICOS)
>> Registered Provider number: #00212K
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