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Blog home | September 2006 »

August 2006

Here's an interesting article by Tirdad Zolghadr about the relationship between the academy and activism. You can read the whole thing at Frieze's website here. Here's the opening:

According to Genevan oral history, when Jacques Derrida visited the city’s university many years ago, he broke his arm falling off a skateboard on campus. Some weeks later a failed local poet by the name of Schlurick chose to confront the professor, saying: ‘Monsieur Derrida, you think you’re so bloody radical, but you never even leave the university – the biggest risk you run is breaking your arm showing off to the demoiselles.’ The philosopher reacted in a manner atypically abrupt: ‘Go ahead and hand out your flyers at the gates of the Renault factory – ils en ont rien à foutre [no one gives a fuck],’ he reportedly grunted; ‘the ideology of tomorrow is produced right here, at the university.’

UTSpeaks - Cronulla, Conflict and Culture
Tuesday 5 September

How can muslim women be heard in Australia?

Following the Cronulla riots, Muslim women have again found themselves
targets of violence and abuse in public places.

Meanwhile public figures claiming to defend women's rights have added to
conflict by damning Islam as misogynistic and a threat to Australia's
egalitarian culture.

In this climate, how can Muslim women speak publicly about cultural change
without fuelling further hatred? This free public lecture confronts issues
of feminism, nationalism and Islamophobia in the post-9/11 world.

Dr Christina Ho

Christina Ho lectures in Social Inquiry in the UTS Faculty of Humanities
and Social Sciences. She researches migration, multiculturalism and gender
and is currently working on a project in partnership with the Muslim Women
Association entitled "Sanctuary and Security in Contemporary Australia:
Muslim Women's Networks, 1980-2005".

Tuesday 5 September 2006
6pm drinks for 6.30pm start

Room 29, Level 4, Building 2
(access via the UTS tower main entrance)

Free Parking
Peter Johnson Building
basement carpark
702-730 Harris St Ultimo

Monday 4 September 2006
Contact Terry Clinton
Tel: 02 9514 1623

[This is the abstract for the paper I gave last Thursday at the Walter Benjamin and the Architecture of Modernity conference at UTS. In the end the paper turned out to be "about" something quite different (photographs, dead children) -- but this preserves the traces.]

Untidy child: Mapping Interest in Walter Benjamin’s Berlin Childhood.

Melissa Jane Hardie, University of Sydney

Untidy child—Each stone he finds, each flower he picks, and each butterfly he catches is already the start of a collection, and every single thing he owns makes up one great collection. Walter Benjamin

For Benjamin, the “untidy child” represents in larval form the figure of the collector, one for whom the objects of the world are potentially mesmeric and contagiously interesting. In Benjamin the collector is framed as denizen of both interior and exterior spaces. Untidy child roams nature; the collector dwells in the “asylum” of the interior as a natural habitat drawn inwards. For each the world is structured around the creation and sustenance of an interest in objects, objects which accumulate in, or as collections, and which function in, or as, interiors. Such proliferating interest in things manifests itself as “untidy,” yet subjective space and historical time are both potentially structured by the incitement of interest, by its catalogues, and by its aptness for recollection.

How is such “interest” constituted? Taking my bearings from the drafts of Benjamin’s Berlin Childhood and several other writings, I will explore its constitution through an analysis of interest as both an exemplifying and exceptional affect, as, for instance, it is used in the quotation which heads this abstract. For the untidy child interest is a matter of everyday life, but also a stimulus to exploratory, speculative activity. As Adam Phillips writes, “[i]t is both ordinary, in the best sense, and wishful, in the best sense, to take interest for granted” (The Beast in the Nursery) Benjamin always takes interest for granted, even or especially when it is exemplary. That species of curiosity Benjamin assigns to the infant remains the defining characteristic of his own scholarly accumulations in incomplete, untidy convolutes. How does the collection exemplify, simplify, or amplify the work associated with having an interest in things?

Welcome to the Theory Cluster Blog, intended to serve as a prosthesis of the Theory Cluster recently formed at the English Department, University of Sydney. The cluster brings together interested students and staff to discuss their theoretical investments and preoccupations. It will provide an hospitable environment for a number of distinct enterprises: a reading group, a dossier on theoretical specialisations and work within the department, a record of the activities of cluster members, a space in which to explore and propose new investments, ideas, and obsessions. We aim to host a conference next year (2007). Our definition of theory is resolutely entangled with the idea of praxis -- and in particular we embrace work that explores aesthetic objects and any object whose study may be called rhetorical. The cluster has strengths in poetics, rhetoric, psychoanalysis, discourse and media theory, queer theory, deconstruction, cultural materialism, affect theory, and brings together practitioners and theorists.