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Blog home | September 2006 »

August 2006

The latest edition of Borderlands e-journal is now online, and it has writings around the theme 'regimes of terror'. I found one article particularly stunning, so much so that I want to publicise it further through this blog. Suvendrini Perera's 'Race Terror, Sydney, December 2005' is a thorough thinking through of the 'race hate' that permeates Australian culture at the moment, symbolised by 'events' like the Cronulla riots last summer and the rise of figures like Keith Windschuttle, the racist academic, to positions of cultural power (I'm thinking particularly of Windschuttle's appointment to the Board of the ABC, the public broadcaster, earlier this year). For example, in one section Perera explores race hate on telegraph poles, talkback radio and websites and connects them to broader cultural currents of racism in Australia which culminated at Cronulla over the summer. You can read or print the article directly off the web here. :-)


So the entirely predictable revelation that John Karr did not kill JonBenet Ramsey has broken to nearly as much fanfare as his preposterous "confession." Ariana Huffington has written here of the JonBenet addiction that afflicts mainstream media; People magazine has excerpts of his emails, in which he describes his passion for dolls and himself as a "dashing prince," "Daxis," in love with JonBenet. Elsewhere we find that Karr imagined Johnny Depp as the dashing prince Daxis in the movie -- Depp of Willy Wonka fame, not Libertine, of course.

So what is it about this case that so thoroughly confounds good sense -- not the medias' (as if!) but, for example, the legal team that sought Karr's extradition, rather than filing his "confession" with the no doubt countless others that the case elicited. You tell me.


Alice in Wonderland is even useful for 'Sport Research' haha

In the novel Alice in Wonderland (Carroll, 1990) Alice is frustrated and angry when she discovers that the croquet game lacks fair play and rules; that the croquet balls are hedgehogs; that the croquet loops run away and that the playing field is bumpy and full of holes. The frustration and anger arises because Alice
has a definite, but mainly implicit, conception of how croquet should be played and what the necessary qualities of the playing field should be. Both the sport and the facilities are different from what she is used to. In other words, the game and the facility are not as she expects and she feels bad about it. She is tempted to quit the game and leave the playing field immediately. The queen and her court, however,
experience this differently. To them this is how croquet should be played. They do not question the rules, the quality of the field or the equipment. All aspects of the game are in accord with their expectations.
I think we all agree that expectations are an important mechanism for the regulation of social behaviour. We may metaphorically say that expectations almost force us to comply with them, just as gravity makes the apple fall from the tree or the electromagnetic force of a magnet makes the iron filings line up from
the magnet’s north pole to the south pole. We may term this mechanism the force of expectations.


The Department of Gender & Cultural Studies is pleased to announce the next seminar in its fortnightly series;

Doing Commissioned Sex Research
Speakers: Dr Kane Race (UNSW): "Engaging in a Culture of Barebacking: Gay Men and the Risk of HIV Prevention"

Dr David McInnes (UWS): "Academic Sex Work: A musical"

The seminar will be held on Friday Sept 8 in the Refectory Room (downstairs in the main Quad, in the corner opposite the jacaranda tree) from 2pm-4pm.

All welcome.

Drinks afterwards in the Manning Bar


It seems that I should introduce myself. I'm really happy that Catherine asked me to contribute to the conversation on the "thinking culture" blog, and I've announced my arrival with an entry on the new suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey case, an old interest of mine. I work in the English Department, and may know some of you from there, or from my involvement with Gender and Cultural Studies. The entry on JonBenet introduces my current research fascination, which is with true crime and, in particular right now, the fugitive lives of murdered, missing and abducted children. I work with audiovisual media as well as print media; when not thinking about true crime I'm thinking with queer theory and/or rhetorical theory, Walter Benjamin, psychoanalysis -- sometimes all at cross purposes -- and most usually about the relationship between poetics and the everyday. It's great to have a chance to draw out some of those interests here, and learn more of what other culture thinkers in the university are thinking about.


If it fell to a comic postmodern to allegorise the collective American obsession with law and order and with paedophilia, sometime shortly after she had devised Law & Order: SVU she would have concoted a secret suspect in the JonBenet Ramsey case, one who might have something to do with children and education, an historical association with kiddie porn and mullets, and an answer to the riddling acronym "SBTC," initials which closed the ransom note found shortly before the murdered JonBenet herself at the Ramsey house Boxing Day 1996.

I doubt the most adventurous mind could have added the flourish of Karr's own discovery lodged in a cheap apartment hotel in Bangkok in anticipation of gender reassignment. Ogling press reports of Karr's meals (King Prawns and Valrhona chocolate cake) entertainment (Dan Brown paperback, The Last Samurai on screen) are oddly reminiscent of the final scenes of Hannibal, where Anthony Hopkin's Hannibal Lecter claws open a Dean & DeLuca boxed meal to be shared with a new young friend on board the plane they ride to Buenos Aires.

These vignettes of gustatory excess and abject criminality are emblematic of the late nineties' post-OJ demarcation of a celebrity public sphere replete with both its own criminals and its own "better than fiction" mysteries, and this makes Karr a curiously nostalgic figure, the return of a certain late 90s moment nearly a decade on. John Karr can distract, at least momentarily, an adult audience otherwise mesmerised by the decline of the American Empire, otherwise alienated by popular culture aimed firmly away from them, otherwise fixated on the freefall anxiety of a future framed in terms of escalating temperatures, gas prices, and wars.


GCS recently hosted a planning workshop at the Darlington Centre jointly organised by Elspeth, Clif and myself. The workshop represents Stage 1 of an international collaborative project to effectively communicate safer sex messages to young people (16-26yo) via mobile and online technologies. Not only are HIV infection rates on the increase, so too are STIs such as chlamydia which is now on the WHO list of morbidities because, while easily treated once detected, it currently stands as a major cause of infertility.
Among the 21 workshop participants were international researchers Yingying Huang from Remnin University, Beijing and John Nguyet Erni from City University, HongKong. There were representatives from community organizations concerned with sexual health such as ACON, AFAO, NSW Family Planning and Streetwize. A rep from the NSW Children and Young People's Commission was there, along with CRN members from QUT, UWoollongong, UQ, UTS and UWS. Then there were researchers from other depts here at USyd including MECO and the Marketing Dept.
The level of expertise in the room was impressive, covering such diverse areas as: sexual consumption, sexual health, sexual ethics, online communities, youth consumption, mobile technologies, mobile logics and the creative industries.
A follow up workshop is planned for October 06 where we hope to be joined by researchers from the UK (Sociology Dept, Goldsmith's College and the Centre for Social and Cultural Change). Workshop participants are also preparing to present a series of panels at the next Inter-Asian Cultural Studies conference in Shanghai, July 2007.
The workshop was funded by the Cultural Research Network (CRN) and the University of Sydney.
We'll keep you posted on upcoming developments so watch this space!


Four members of the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies presented papers to the Australian Women's Studies Association at their conference in Melbourne last month, and we were pleased to see the Association take an important new move in changing its name to the Australian Women's and Gender Studies Association (AWGSA rather than AWSA).

The new President of the Association is Dr Maryanne Dever of Monash University, and while the AWGSA's new website is being set up, queries about membership should be addressed to Maryanne.

As part of the Association's new activities it has announced it will be sponsoring two panels in December, at the Cultural Studies Association of Australasia's annual conference, and at The Australian Sociology Association's annual conference. Seven different university's women's or gender studies programs are represented on these panels, including the University of Sydney.

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Yesterday I met with Robert Rinck, a visiting researcher (from US) for the Refugee Youth Soccer Development Program. Cool bloke, and he's going to help me get involved in the program. It will be a good link for the Youth and Sport project I am working on. I love the work some people do ... and this is a good example of a community-based research project. Project Manager is Anne Bunde-Birouste in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales. What a top effort. If anyone else is interested let me know

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This is the blog of the Australian Research Council funded project:

The Well-Rounded Person: The Role of Sport in Shaping Physical, Emotional and Social Development.

The chief investigators are: Catharine Lumby; Elspeth Probyn; Jenny O'Dea; Kath Albury

The reason why I have started this blog is to provide a central hub for the project. As project manager it enables me to provide an online office for those involved. The chief investigators can know where the project is at, have easy access to the research and literature review, be informed about upcoming events, and provide feedback for one another. Often chief investigators and researchers are very busy with many projects, so it can be hard to get them together in a 'real' sense.

The blog also offers a central filing system and up-to-date database. Further to this, it's free and saves money for the project because we don't have to have a website built and a html-code expert to maintain it.

The user-friendly format and online aspect also makes the research available to other researchers, community groups and the media .The project is very public. Anyone can make use of the research as it happens and have a space to offer up-to-date suggestions and requests.

As a fan of cultural studies I like the way the blog offers up a way of doing cultural research that places it square in the public sphere for debate as it happens. The research is then with the public rather than about them. The blog opens up the research to as many voices as possible who may wish to debate the direction of the project, and the political, cultural and social issues that the research will bring up. By placing the research in the public sphere I hope it works to demand that the writing up of the research is as accessible and as practical as possible. .

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Melissa Gregg has this new book just about to come out.
I will put up a review as soon as I can get a copy of it. It's a bit expensive ...

There is a sample chapter here

For those who don't know Mel, she did her Doctorate with us.

Here's the blurb:

In a series of encounters with key figures in the field of cultural studies, this book draws attention to the significance of voice and address in enacting a political project from within 'the Academy'. Combining a focus on theories of 'affect' lately dominant in the Humanities with a history of cultural studies as a discipline, Melissa Gregg highlights the diverse modes of performance that accompany and assist scholarly practice. Writing from the perspective of a new generation of cultural studies practitioners, she provides a missing link between the field's earliest political concerns with those of the present. Throughout, the ongoing importance of engaged, public Intellectualism is emphasized.


Communicating Investment: Cultural Studies, Politics and Affect
Activating Empathy: Richard Hoggart, Ordinariness and the Persistence of 'Them' and 'Us'.
The Politics of Conjuncture: Stuart Hall, Articulation and the Commitment to Specificity
Fighting for the Future: Lawrence Grossberg, Messianic Zeal and the Challenge of Building a Legacy
Justice and Accountability: Andrew Ross, Intellectual Labour and the New Academic Activism
A Voice of Vigilance: Meaghan Morris, Anecdotal Critique and the Politics of Academic Speech


This is the new blog for talking about Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney, hosted by the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies.

In this blog you'll find information about Cultural Studies research and teaching at USyd, but you'll also find staff and postgraduate researchers talking about topics of current interest to them, and to the contemporary discipline of Cultural Studies in Australia.

Reading Australian newspapers in the last year or so might lead us to believe that Cultural Studies is responsible for many things - the decline of education, the corruption of Literature, and the end of History. But those dismissals are often not very clear about what Cultural Studies might be, apart from a Bad Thing. We hope this blog will give a picture of what Cultural Studies in practice means for one small slice of the discipline in Australia.

Comments are always welcome.


For anyone who doesn't want to specify their own avatar for the blog, these are going to be the two default ones. Jane Simon made them for us for our publications. One for Gender Studies and one for Cultural Studies. When used as your avatar they'll be placed where my Dodgson photograph is. If you want one of these as your avatar just email me and say so.

In general I might not think this worth a post to the blog, as it's sort of internal business, but I wanted a chance to publicly thank Jane - one of our postgraduate researchers and teachers for anyone else reading - for making these available to us. When I have some time I may explore working one or both of them into a banner for the blog.

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About the Blog

This is the blog for thinking and talking about culture, Cultural Studies and cultural analysis at the University of Sydney.