Skip to content
Curtin University of Technology
Curtin CSAA 2008 Conference

Individual Papers

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z |


“I know it’s wrong, but I don’t buy by the hundreds…”:
Performances and reconfigurations of digital piracy consumption

Trina Joyce Sajo Agena

Amidst the staggering poverty, mass-market consumption reeks everywhere in the Philippines. Malls loom large in urban landscapes and modernizing provincial cities. And then there are alternative sites of counterfeit commerce in street corners, rundown buildings, and overpasses, where fashion, food, music and electronics are sold at cheaper prices and with supposedly lesser quality compared to those in malls and licensed shops.

Despite the government’s crackdown on piracy, Filipinos continue to patronize digital piracy consumption – be they physical, optical discs sold in the streets, or illegally downloaded films, videos, and music. It is easy to assume that consumers are enticed by overwhelming affordability of bootlegged goods, and the easy access to a variety of goods offered by the Internet. However, consumers attach or even invest symbolic meanings on piracy and the practice of consumption, which lead to reconfigurations of piracy, consumption and middle-classness.

This paper illustrates the consumption of digital piracy in the Philippines based on the narratives of consumers of digital piracy. Using the perspective of social performance, I look at the reflexivity of middle-class identities and consumption practices, and its implications on the normative field of piracy and copyright.
Trina Joyce Sajo Agena, (Third World Studies Center, University of the Philippines-Diliman)

Back to top


The Wyrd Museum: Delirious affect in future museum discourse

Janice Baker

Understanding museums may be enhanced by expanding the focus of ‘new museology’ to give credence to attributes such as the weird and fantastic. Qualities that are often associated with museums in popular film and literature, but largely absent in scholarly analysis where ‘affecting’ encounters are associated with the ‘uncritical’ and ‘subjective’. Since the 1970s museum discourse has been influenced by critical theory which understands the museum as an inherently capitalist, patriarchal, elitist and rational institution. Whilst structuralism and semiotics provide a rigorous and imperative explanatory tool for museum studies and art history, they seem a limiting application when it comes to engaging with affect—automatic pre-personal responses that are prior to emotion or decision-making. I suggest that a critical engagement with the museum in film may elucidate what a museum does rather than means. Giving credence to the museum as an affective entity does not detract from rigorous investigation of its exhibitions and practices. Rather it may path the way to discourse that accommodates the possibility of the museum impacting upon us in unexpected and unlikely ways.

The Desert, Memory, and the Pine Gap Women’s Peace Camp, 1983.

Alison Bartlett, UWA

This research is part of a larger project to document and analyse the Pine Gap Women’s Peace Camp which took place just outside of Alice Springs in 1983 to protest against the US military base which still exists at Pine Gap. While this larger project is interested in the peace camp as a pivotal but largely forgotten event in the history and politics of Australian second-wave feminism, this paper focuses on the rich symbolism offered by the central Australian desert as a site of protest.

The iconography of the desert and its ambivalent meanings for white Australia unsettles Pine Gap as a site of protest, and also differentiates it from more traditional sites of protest in urban streets as well as from the most famous women’s peace camp at Greenham Common in the UK. The spectacular landscape and the spectacle of women-only non-violent protest captured the media’s attention, as the desert has always captured the imagination of white Australia. Both the ‘centre’ and ‘the middle of nowhere’, the desert can be traced through the images, memories and writing of literate participants as an ontological presence and an epistemological actor. It also brings with it the more acute politics of Aboriginal land rights and gender practices. I argue that the sheer proliferation of meaning and memories of the desert at Pine Gap acts to render the protest with similar symbolic significance, but also relegates it to the recesses of cultural memory.


Alison Bartlett teaches Women’s Studies, English and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia. Her previous research has been in maternal embodiment, Australian literature, and feminist pedagogy. Her books include Breastwork: rethinking breastfeeding (UNSWP 2005) and Jamming the Machinery: contemporary Australian women’s writing (ASAL 1998). She edits the online journal Outskirts: feminisms along the edge and is currently working on a project about embodied activism, with particular reference to the Pine Gap women’s peace camp of 1983. She grew up in Alice Springs.

When size really does matter: Scale and the domestic interior

Gene Bawden

It is pity we are persuaded to feel when Jane Austen’s female protagonists are forced to evacuate their grand country home in “Sense and Sensibility”, the first of her novels to be published in 1811. When ownership of the beloved ancestral home of their father passes to their half brother upon his death, the Dashwood sisters are forced to decamp to a much smaller four-bedroom “cottage” by the sea with only three servants to their aid. This is a typical Austen architectural purgatory: a waiting room for young women until they are wed to the well-to-do and returned to their rightful place amid the aristocracy. It also presents a stereotypical gender bias of real estate: for women it is an emotional attachment, for men, a financial investment; but for both its scale speaks of social standing and authority.
Today, a four-bedroom house nestled on any coastline, would seem a real-estate triumph: a distinct “I’ve made it” architectural statement. This paper will investigate the process of time and its impact on the physicality and psychology of domestic spaces. Why is it that so many scoff at the ownership of outer suburban home dismissively termed “McMansions”; yet so readily accept the soaring values of tiny inner-city terraces, now valued at close to a million dollars, but not 50 years ago were cheap working class homes? How do we negotiate domestic scale as we physically get larger? Petite Victorian parlour chairs are less likely to accommodate our Twenty-first Century bulk than a velour covered home cinema recliner resplendent with built-in bottle cooler designed to minimise too many movements from the seat. Does the carving up of grand old estates modernise their function and protect their future, or simply humiliate the original integrity of the structure and space? Can we be entirely convinced of the ecological validity of small living spaces when our desire for domestic objects appears to be ever increasing? How will we negotiate ownership of domestic space as actual ownership becomes further removed from average Australians?
Domestic interior spaces are an intriguing and at times contradictory mix of closely guarded privacy and lavish public presentations of self and worth. The anonymous space; its scale, its surfaces, its contents and its location; will continue to embody a wealth of meaning both personal and public.
Gene Bawden, Monash University, Faculty of Art & Design

Tourism Technotopia and it's Others:
The Fading Future of Offline Agency in Tourism Discourse

Dr Rebecca Jane Bennett

Considering the future of tourism and Tourist Studies, this paper contributes to discussions about the increasing interdependence between tourism and digital technology. Moving off a technotopian track outlining an increasing spectrum of leisure-possibilities for 'jacked-in' tourists and the tourism industry, I wish to focus on the future of the Other side of the digital divide. Leisure travelers can instantaneously upload subjective travel experiences into Weblogs, discussion forums and personal websites through laptops, mobile phones and internet cafes; transforming locals, workers and landscapes into malleable bits and bytes of digital information. 'Jacked-in' to a post-industrial hyper-developed cyber-‘mainline’, tourists have unprecedented opportunity to write tourism destinations in their own image for an imagined audience of millions. RealLife corporeal locals, workers and hosts often do not have the time, literacy, currency or hardware to participate in the creation of tourism techno-space. Offline tourism identities thus appear to be losing a tenuous hold over their own representation as they disappear into the digital divide at increasing rates. This paper hopes that re-focusing Tourist Studies to include discussions about power, agency and representation might persuade future tourists, and tourism agents to visualise their part in – and realise their power to affect – a dystopian future for the digital subaltern in global leisure discourse.
Dr Rebecca Jane Bennett, Murdoch University

Identity, ontology and the cyborg: the presence of (hu)man in figurations of the future

Dr Rebecca Bishop

Tales of humanity in a state of posthuman emergence are not only increasingly the stuff of mass media conversation and popular culture, but are surfacing across a number of disciplinary fields. Questions concerning the nature and parameters of the human, the breaking down of boundaries between human and machine, and the fusion of organic and inorganic life forms has inspired new directions in feminist epistemology and Deleuzian philosophy. Recently the figure of the posthuman has existed alongside an emergent theoretical dialogue on the breaking down of humanist binaries and the development of a teleological connectivity, hybridity and alliance between the human and its other(s). Yet what remains problematic in both popular discourse and theoretical refigurations of the cyborg/posthuman entity is that the category of the ‘human’ itself remains largely universalized and unproblematized.

In this paper I will explore the way in which the liberatory discourses of posthuman alliance and heterogeneity paradoxically rely on a confirmation of humanness as a stable subject position out of which hybrid identities and becomings emerge. I will suggest that notions of posthumanity have relied on a logic of separation, that dialectic of ‘translation and purification’ that Latour recognizes as an essential feature of modernity. Travelling through both the theorizations of hybrid identity and representations of the cyborg body in popular culture, we find the spectre of the human, that enigma that riddled both Enlightenment philosophers and modern ethicists, that corpo-reality that has underscored EuroWestern identity politics, resurfacing even as it is left behind.
Dr Rebecca Bishop, School of English and Media Studies, Massey University

Between Utopia and the Prince of Darkness: Adorno and Cultural Policy.

Mike Blanchard

This conference addresses the spaces between real and fictional futures, and the hopes and anxieties that emerge from those spaces. This paper makes a case for renewing the explanatory relevance of Theodor Adorno’s model of the culture industry. It examines the recent context in which the Howard Coalition posed commodification as integral to the future of Australian cultural production. Drawing from Fredric Jamesons’ argument that Adorno’s philosophy is well-suited to the postmodern context, this paper seeks to create some anxiety over whether critical cultural policy studies are sufficiently theoretically equipped to explain tactics central to government-sanctioned cultural production.

In presenting a study of the claims that underpinned the Howard Government’s cultural policies, this paper reveals commodification as central to the coalition’s approach to culture. While numerous attempts have been mounted to make Adorno’s philosophy irrelevant (Kellner 2002; Modleski 1986; Eco 1986; Collins 1987), Adorno more or less anticipates a society that, as this paper will argue, falls under the purview of some of those tactics unique to the Howard coalition’s cultural policies. This paper will put forward a discussion of how tactics of this sort, both now and into the future, must be considered in light of Adorno’s model of the culture industry. It is in this context that this paper will assess whether Adorno’s philosophy needs to be moved to the foreground of critical cultural studies.
Mike Blanchard

Living Under the Light of an Australian Sun: The Glare

Barbara Bolt

This paper employs the experience of the blinding glare of Australian light to challenge European and enlightenment assumptions that the work of art is a revealing. Drawing on the experience of working as a landscape painter in Kalgoorlie, Bolt suggests that the particular experience of the “glare” of the Australian light fractures the nexus between light, form, vision and knowledge: Too much light is both disorientating to the eye and mind and may reveal no-thing at all. In this challenge to the ‘revealing’ light of European sunshine, the blinding glare of the Australian sun suggests that we think differently about the assumed relationship between light, vision and knowledge. Rather shedding light on the matter, the paper suggests that in the fuzziness of practice, there is a performative relationship between art and artists. In this radical performativity, meaning and effect emerge through matter.


Barbara Bolt is a senior lecturer in the VCA Graduate School at the Victorian College of the Arts. She is a practicing artist who has also written extensively on the visual arts and its relationship to philosophy. Her publications include a monograph Art Beyond Representation: The Performative Power of the Image (I.B.Tauris, 2004) and two edited publications, Practice as Research: Approaches to Creative Arts Enquiry (I.B.Tauris, 2007) with Estelle Barrett and Sensorium: Aesthetics, Art, Life (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007) with Felicity Coleman, Graham Jones and Ashley Woodward. She is currently working on a book Heidegger Reframed, part a series written specifically for visual arts students. Her essays have been published in edited books including Differential Aesthetics: Art Practices and Philosophies: Towards New Feminist Understandings (Ashgate, 2001) Penny Florence and Nicola Foster (eds) and Unframed: The Practices and Politics of Women's Painting (I.B.Tauris, 2004) Rosemary Betterton (ed.) and in refereed journals such as Hypatia, Womens Philosophical Review, Studies in Material Thinking, Working Papers in Art and Design, Cultural Review and Social Semiotics. As an arts writer, she has also been published in Australian art magazines including Artlink, Eyeline, Craftswest and Real Time. She is on the editorial board of the online journals Creative Approaches to Research (RMIT) and Material Thinking (AUT). She exhibits with the Catherine Asquith Gallery in Melbourne and her latest artist project Neon Blue (2008), was commissioned by BBC World Service and Slade School of Art for the View From Here.

Back to top


Saving the world with song: exploring the future of resistance through Live Aid and Live 8.

Felicity Cull.

Orwell's 1984 was a novel that came to signify a modern dystopian future; its narrative framed a future that was characterised by totalitarian authority and surveillance that impacted every level of everyday life. Orwell's modernist nightmare has become engrained in our popular memory in a particular mode; it reminds us of the fear of total governmental control and has become a way for us to compare our present to the projected future of 1948. As Zygmunt Bauman argues, in the actual year 1984, the attention paid to this nightmare in popular culture reflected a change in cultural perceptions. This paper takes the year 1984 as a point in time where it is possible to visualise a shift from heavy to liquid modernity , and suggests that as these changes had an impact on the ways in which we might resist. Live Aid, a benefit concert held in 1985, reflects these shifts. This paper will analyse how the benefit concert Live Aid operated within this transitional context, and will conceptualise the potentialities for future resistance in popular culture as it is increasingly connected with the power of the collective consumer rather than the collective worker. This paper shows that Live Aid - exalted as 'the day that song changed the world' - in fact has a much more complicated relationship with tactics of resistance in an increasingly politically ephemeral world. This paper analyses the year 1984 and Live Aid, unpacking the changes that occurred from 1985 to 2005, when Live 8 was held. Through this, it considers the possibility of resistance enacted through popular culture in the future.


Mobile Populations, Transnational Connections

Julie Dare

As a country of migrants, where two-fifths of the population are first or second generation immigrants (Julian, 2005, p. 150), Australia has historically been represented as isolated and remote (Blainey, 1968). Within this context, Perth – the most isolated city in the most isolated continent, symbolises an even more extreme form of separation. For previous generations, the ‘tyranny of distance’ (Blainey, 1968) symbolised not only a physical isolation, but perhaps more significantly an intellectual and emotional separation as well. Even just a quarter of a century ago new migrants to Perth faced a number of hurdles in maintaining close bonds with those they’d left behind. Long delays in exchanging letters, combined with the expense of long-distance telephone calls – assuming both parties had access to a telephone - meant that for many ‘transnational families’, communication was infrequent (Wilding, 2006, p. 130). The intervening years have seen a number of changes to the communications landscape which have significantly ‘changed the game’. Not only have international calls become considerably cheaper (Wilding, 2006, p. 130), and home telephone connections more common, but a number of new communication technologies have emerged that offer much greater opportunities to connect with others who are separated by time and distance. Of these, the Internet has been the most instrumental in providing a range of platforms through which individuals can communicate, irrespective of place or time. Drawing on the findings of a research project currently being conducted in Western Australia, as well as a number of other studies investigating the social implications of new communication technologies on transnational connections, the paper considers the role of emerging technologies in enabling family and social networks to transcend both physical and emotional distance.


Blainey, G. (1968). The tyranny of distance: How distance shaped Australia's history. Melbourne: Macmillan.
Julian, R. (2005). Ethnicity, health and multiculturalism. In J. Germov (Ed.), Second opinion: An introduction to health sociology (pp. 149-167). South Melbourne, Vic.: OUP.
Wilding, R. (2006). 'Virtual' intimacies: Families communicating across transnational contexts. Global Networks, 6(2), 125-142.
Julie Dare, PhD Candidate, Edith Cowan University, Faculty of Education and Arts, School of Communications and Arts

Wars and Washing Lines: Mobility, Aesthetics and Everyday Life in Contemporary Bosnia

Andy Dawson, University of Melbourne

Ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) was accompanied by domicide, through which landscapes were stripped of their erstwhile meanings. In the post-war era the contradiction between the means for establishing peace and reversing ethnic cleansing has created residential conditions that render human mobility, in its multiple forms, ubiquitous. One key consequence of this has, I argue, been the production of (using Auge’s terms) post-domicidal ‘supermodern’ landscapes characterised by aesthetic ‘excess’, rather than, as might once have been expected, ethnonationalist landscapes. A further consequence has been the production of social relations that are characterised by profound estrangement. The combination has led to a heightening of the significance of the aesthetics of everyday life in ordinary peoples’ attempts to render comprehensible BiH’s post-war social and cultural milieu. Based on in-depth ethnographic observation in a cluster of ‘inter-entity’ Bosnian villages and, in particular, on ‘tellings’ based on people’s observations of their estranged neighbours’ domestic practices and artefacts, this paper explores these processes. It concludes by considering briefly the challenges that post-conflict(?) situations, a state of exception that in the post-Cold War and 9/11 world is becoming anything but exceptional, raise for the theorisation of everyday life.


Disability and Web 2.0: Opportunity Lost?

Dr Katie Ellis and Dr Mike Kent

“The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
-Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web
This paper explores how this early promise of the World Wide Web for access for all people regardless of disability has been challenged by more recent developments in the online environment. When the social model of disability was established in the 1970s, technology in a broad sense was identified as having the potential to alleviate impairment and hence change institutions, practices and ideas. The benefits of the Internet, and web 2.0 in particular, for people with disability have been recognised in relation to building community through social networking sites and virtual worlds. However, the tendency to focus on mobility has resulted in a lack of understanding around accessibility for other impairments such as those with vision impairment and dyslexia as web 2.0 sites become more complex and harder to translate using assistive technologies.

The increasingly complex online environment that produces a richer experience for Internet users creates accessibility problems that the original World Wide Web designs had served to alleviate. As Goggin and Newell argued in their 2003 seminal book on this topic Digital Disability the Internet will not be fully accessible until disability is considered a cultural identity in the same way that class, gender and sexuality are. This paper builds on their ideas and explores them in relation to more recent web 2.0 phenomena such as social networking sites and virtual worlds.

Virtually real: Avatar embodiment and the re-thinking of the self

Judith Elund

The embodiment of an avatar, an individual's alter-ego resident on the internet, has a profound influence on the way the self is understood. Historically, the body and mind were conceptualised on dualist principles, a view that was supported by scholars from Plato to Descartes. The mind was perceived as a discrete physical entity separate from the body; anchored in the metaphysical and far removed from the body's corporeal existence. Communications technologies, alongside artificial intelligence and advances in cognitive science have questioned this long-held assumption, and suggest that embodiment has complexities that incorporate an individual's physical and experiential existence. Far from conceptualising the mind as a discrete unit, objectively removed from corporeal and external influence, technological embodiment instils a subjective view of cognition, consciousness, socialisation and interaction. This paper will look at the concept of technological embodiment and how it can challenge perceived objective scientific and philosophical thought concerning the relationships between mind, body and the external world. Primarily the research will focus on embodiment within shared virtual environments where individuals' avatars reside within graphically rich environments.
Judith Elund, PhD candidate, Edith Cowan University

Back to top



‘As long as it’s not Frankston!’ – Creative Futures in Outer Suburbia

Mark Gibson and Anna Daniel

Outer suburbia has generally had a poor image in the Australian national imaginary – an image captured in a ‘Frankston Fest’ spoof of a stand-up comedy program on The Chaser’s War on Everything: ‘Three hours of hilarious put-downs about every comedian’s favourite suburb’. Yet the outer suburbs are also a key site at which Australia’s future is being formed. The two fastest population growth areas in the country are currently outer suburban Melbourne and the ‘two hundred kilometre city’ of south-east Queensland. While planning for this growth has generally concentrated on physical infrastructure, there are also important questions about cultural development.

The paper will report on the early stages of research on an ARC Discovery funded project, ‘Creative Suburbia’, examining the conditions and networks of outer suburban workers in creative industries. The project aims to test common assumptions that the only fertile ground for these industries is in inner-urban locations with, as Richard Florida has put it, high ‘bohemian’ and ‘gay’ indices. While it includes sites in Brisbane and Melbourne, the paper will discuss early findings from – yes – Frankston
Mark Gibson and Anna Daniel, National Centre for Australian Studies, Monash University

Terrifying Prospects and Resources of Hope: Minescapes, Timescapes and the Aesthetics of the Future

Rod Giblett

I begin in hope, and end in hope. In the middle I consider the way we look at the future as a time-scape that stretches before us, at how we regard the future in some ways like a landscape with various aesthetic possibilities as either, to cut a long story short and simplifying to the extreme, a pleasing prospect (with the double spatial and temporal meaning of ‘prospect’) or a terrifying prospect with also the same double meaning. Along the way, I draw on the past work of Walter Benjamin and Raymond Williams who both provide some resources for a journey of hope through the landscape of the future. These resources have a different spatial and temporal orientation than pleasing or terrifying prospects. The photographic minescapes of Edward Burtynsky, including his aerial photograph of ‘the Super Pit,’ are terrifying prospects as they do not provide much by way of resources of hope as they aestheticise mining and its impacts on and in the earth, though they do demonstrate the monumental threat that the depths of mining pose to human habitation of the earth, not least in and for Kalgoorlie. The surface of landscape photography portrays and betrays the depths that mining goes to in its greedy lust for resources of ore just as landscape and portrait painting and photography reduce depth to surface, diachrony to synchrony, life to death. Despite the doom and gloom of these minescapes, however, hope lives on – the note I end on.
Rod Giblett, Edith Cowan University

‘Advance Australia’s Fears’ : Racism in Asian-Australian Literature

Paul Giffard-Foret

This paper proposes to study how issues of racism are tackled by Australian writers from Asian descent. The latter mostly draw from their own experience of living in a country with lingering xenophobic feelings towards Asians. The term ‘Asia’ is an (un)easy lumping together of various and all very diverse cultures and nations that shows, if anything, how Australians remain fundamentally ignorant when it comes to their Northern neighbours. Ignorance is the root of fear, and fear is the root of anger and hatred, as Asian Australian writers have well emphasized. However, the fact that Asian-Australian literature is hyphenated means that it is both foreign and familiar, and in the end, easily accessible and consumable to a white, ‘mainstream’ Australian readership. This has positive repercussions in combating racism, by in particular debunking stereotypes about Asia and Asians through a technique of ‘strategic essentialism’, although such a ‘domestication’ somewhat defuses the radical edge of the literature and its potential for social change. Nevertheless, by speaking the same ‘language’ as them, a language of racism, that is, but through a reversed gaze and from an outsider’s perspective, Asian-Australian literature ‘writes back’ Australia’s definition of itself in confronting all Australians in their comfort zones and implicitly asking for change through recognition, even if it means falling into caricature and at the risk of exacerbating conflict, hence the ambivalent significance of ‘advancing Australia’s fears.’ This paper draws from a PhD thesis currently conducted in Australia and entitled: ‘Place Tectonics in Austral/ Asia: Hybridity and Identity Drift in the work of Southeast Asian Australian Women Writers.’
Paul Giffard-Foret, Université du Havre (Research Center on the Pacific)

The future of subculture: ‘Art’ as cultural totem, distinction and confluence.

Stephen Glackin

This paper examines the growth of art in urban cultures, and the way that contemporary subculturalists now view themselves as the creators and consumers of art, as opposed to consumers of resistance paraphernalia. The effect of this has been twofold. Firstly it has created a common discourse across previously divergent subcultures allowing for multiple groups to overlap and for greater though more superficial connectivity to occur across the cityscape. This has simultaneously led to the internal distinction between the members of this subcultural milieu and an ultra-mundane mainstream consisting of anyone not pursuing an artistic, alternative, or non-mainstream lifestyle. The second effect has been the taking up of individualistic traits, where those who would have been previously described as being part of a distinct subculture are now attempting to step outside of the confines of ascribed and collective identities and into the more reflexive position of an individualised cultural producer or critic, and in doing so are making an art form out of identity construction and the public performance of their personae. In both this respect and the way in which cultural creation has become a cultural norm, art and the numerous and divergent social spaces in which it is shown, is setting a template for group belonging and identity that simultaneously allows for individualism and community to occur. Furthermore, it is providing mechanisms for hierarchy development, reciprocity, gossip and other tools of communal existence to develop across the cityscape. Ultimately, this paper will show how the take-up of art by urban communities has allowed them to create a new cultural totem around which to gather, and in doing so create a space where they can retain both individuality and access to a community; albeit a community of superficial interaction.

Back to top

Hip Hop and Disciplinary Time: Sampling Black Nationalism, Doing Time and the Hip Hop Elegy

Liam Grealy

This paper considers Foucault’s discipline thesis and its relationship to mainstream U.S. hip hop’s representations of time. I utilise two case studies through which I examine two strands of Foucault’s argument concerned with the rationalisation of time and the delinquentisation of temporality. I focus on Public Enemy and Tupac Shakur as the most influential band and icon in hip hop history respectively, employing textual and discursive analysis to their representations concerned with time, history and death. Regarding Public Enemy, I examine the debates surrounding sampling’s relation to premodern, modern, and postmodern musical aesthetics. I then argue that Public Enemy utilise sampling (for which they are widely known) as a means to construct a critical black “history for the present” that undermines disciplinary historical time on behalf of their project for collective black political empowerment. The second case study is foregrounded by an outline of the state of the U.S.’s contemporary criminal justice systems, considering their role in delinquentising black masculinity and examining the applicability of Foucault’s discipline thesis to this context. I consider how Shakur’s relationships with prisons and his notion of authentic blackness underpinned his engagement with time, arguing that his temporal approach distanced him from mainstream, disciplinary life. Finally, I examine how Shakur’s continued existence through eulogy, elegy and rumour has overridden the historical amnesia of progressive time, exploring the relationship between death and black masculinity in the U.S. Public Enemy’s “history for the present” and Shakur’s “no-future” underpinning his reckless approach to the present, demonstrate dominant approaches to temporality, history and the future correlating to the “conscious” and “gangsta” archetypal identities of mainstream U.S. hip hop. These contrasting representations articulate the imagined potentialities and the limitations of futures for black men in the U.S., where political and economic “progress” is threatened by an expanding prison-industrial complex.
Liam Grealy, University of Sydney

The ghost of radio past and projections towards a new media future

Lelia Green

This paper is based in a 20-year old ethnographic study of the advent of satellite broadcasting in remote and regional Western Australia, and the use of technologies referred to as ‘the radio’ in constructing an approximated and anticipated future.

These technologies varied from the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) communities – which were open channel broadcasting and which built shared social capital at the expense of private family and business life – to the eventual delivery of a satellite-based radio service, largely replacing a long-standing dependency upon shortwave broadcasts. Although the research primarily concentrated upon the introduction of satellite television broadcasting, the anticipated-future was articulated in terms of three key differences involving some use of radio: between the satellite services and the previously-existing shortwave radio broadcasts; between telephone and the RFDS connections; and between the radio services available in the 1980s to city and urban centre residents and those people living in remote areas.

Some constructions around radio translated difference into an absence via a self-conscious awareness of the lack of choice in country services and the range of radio programming available in the city. This was especially the case for people who had experienced both lifestyles; for example newly-graduated students returning to the country. (Interviewer) ‘DID YOU FEEL IN ANY WAY CUT OFF FROM YOUR OLD LIFE {IN PERTH}?’ (Female respondent, Broome, 18-24) ‘Yeah, and also because of the radio. We only got the ABC radio. We didn’t like that very much. It was good when we could go down to Perth for holidays and we’d tape 96FM and bring it back up with us so we could listen to it.’ This capturing of ephemera to create a city soundtrack in the country is just one indication of how the radio played a critical role in the shifting environments accompanying the introduction of satellite broadcasting, and how the future anticipated was very much a matter of achieving equitable services with contemporary but different media spaces.
Lelia Green,Communications and Arts, Edith Cowan University

Back to top


The Management of China’s Blogosphere 博客 boke (Blog)

Kay Hearn

'When you open the window, some flies may come in' (打开窗户,苍蝇可能会飞进来) Deng Xiaoping on the Open Door Policy.
Blogs or weblogs are online journals that are regularly updated, and cover thousands of topics. In a way Blogs represent the free speech philosophy of the early days of the Internet in that they allow users to distribute opinion on an enormous variety of topics, and in some countries relatively uncensored opinion, though potentially they can be monitored everywhere. The blogosphere creates a new space in which public discourse can be widened and viewed. During the Burma protests in September 2007 blogs were on of the few sources of information about the unrest not directly controlled by the Junta. Reporters without Borders claims on its website that “Bloggers are often the only real journalists in countries where the mainstream media is censored or under pressure” (Handbook for bloggers and cyber-dissidents Unknown). Authoritarian regimes are often cast by western media as under threat from the Internet and more recently Blogs have been hailed as the final nail in the coffin of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), though so far this has not happened.

A predominant utopian discourse created by commerce, governments and citizens was that as a decentralised communications tool, the Internet via human agency has the potential to deliver democracy to the most totalitarian countries, and also perhaps lead to the rebirth of ‘the media as fourth estate’ or ‘public watchdog’ with a twist - via activities such as citizen journalism whereby individuals or groups can disperse information not being released by governments or reported by the traditional news sources. This paper will look at the regulations and the promotion of self censorship to manage the Blogosphere of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The strategies used to manage Blogs are the same as those employed to manage the flow of information and the circulation of ideas as a consequence of the adoption of the Internet and related technologies. Those strategies include the development of content, regulation and the code used to build the architecture of the Internet as a means of filtering and censoring information. Thus the future of Blogs in China looks set to be shaped by the central government.
Kay Hearn, PhD Candidate, University of Canberra

Horizontal billboards: the commercialisation of the pavement

Megan Hicks

When companies post advertisements for their products in places that are novel, inventive or borderline illegal, they call it ‘guerrilla marketing’. Urban footpaths have become a site for such tactics with advertisers appropriating the means and methods of pavement artists and stencil graffitists to generate brand awareness. In fact, the practice of advertising on the pavement is not new. For as long as the streets have been surfaced small businesses and individual vendors have utilised the asphalt to chalk their notices and arrow trails. These days cameras and computers, satellites and sponsorship deals have expanded opportunities for the placement of horizontal advertising, and it is not only on flat roofs and football fields that gigantic logos and slogans can be applied. Acres of pavement still remain available and it is likely that in the near future we will see advertising guerrillas adding to the already crowded textualisation of public roadways.

This paper forms part of a post-graduate photographic project to document pavement inscriptions in urban and regional NSW.
Megan Hicks, Macquarie University, NSW

Back to top

Retirement Mobilities and the Future of Grey Nomading in Australia.

Donell Holloway

Globalisation has given rise to new and changing patterns of mobilities. These include retirement mobilities which range from the return migration back to country of origin upon retirement; northern Europeans moving to southern European countries when they retire; or, the seasonal movements of Canadian snowbirds (retirees) to the sunbelt states of the USA. At a more local level these retirement mobilities include movement to retirement communities or sea change areas such as Mandurah in Western Australia or the Gold Coast in Queensland, as well as the seasonal, north-south movements of grey nomads in Australia.

This paper reflects on the future of the grey nomad tradition in Australia, which is under threat. This is due to the decline in the number of caravan parks which has occurred, for the most part, as a result of the phenomenal rise in land values in sea change and tree change communities. It discusses the escalating numbers of grey nomads expected to occur when our baby-boomer cohort retires and resultant predictions of extraordinary growth in the manufacturing of caravans and motorhomes. The most probable outcome of this supply-and-demand squeeze is the loss of caravan park sites at relatively affordable prices—both for disadvantaged Australians who are excluded from the private rental market, and Australian vacationers, including grey nomads. Thus, as a ‘grass roots’ movement that has not been completely colonised by the tourism industry, the tradition of grey nomading may well be under threat. The important freedoms associated with grey nomading—the ability to travel freely, without scheduling and pre-booking accommodation and at a relatively low cost—is in jeopardy.

“Writing the Disaster: John Kinsella’s Wheatbelt”

Tony Hughes-D’Aeth, UWA

John Kinsella is Western Australia’s, and one of Australia’s, most prolific and successful contemporary poets. Whilst his work is diverse in its subjects and forms, the enduring focus has been on the wheatbelt of Western Australia, a crescent of land extending for two to three hundred kilometres inland from the coast around the south-west of the continent. The wheatbelt is a product, in the main, of the twentieth century, and its emergence was concomitant with the destruction of the biota of a region roughly the size of Scotland but with a biodiversity greater than many rain-forests. Kinsella’s poetic work has been to document the exact nature of the destruction of this nature.

This paper places Kinsella’s task into two main contexts. The first is the context of other literature written about the wheatbelt. Here the archive of work extends back to the 1920s and forward to the present day. It includes significant works by Dorothy Hewett, A.B. Facey, J.K. Ewers, Peter Cowan, Glen Phillips and others. The second context is given by the invocation of Maurice Blanchot’s classic articulation of the paradoxical necessity and impossibility of writing “the disaster”.

The wheatbelt that Kinsella draws is one that is profoundly fearful of the future and posits a region beset by a litany of modern ills, especially soil salinity, species extinctions, chemical fertilisers, herbicides and fungicides, genetically-altered plants, and the eradication of Noongar histories. Yet there is more wheat produced in the wheatbelt than ever before, although by far fewer people. This leads to the somewhat unusual characterisation to emerge in Kinsella’s work of a successful wasteland.

The question I seek to answer, though, is whether the problem of John Kinsella is also the problem of the wheatbelt. To perhaps open up a little space between these two elements, if only to see how closely they do or don’t fit.

Collecting Feminism for the Nation’s Archives

Margaret Henderson and Alison Bartlett

Feminists have always been suspicious of national and state institutions as sanctioned repositories of official histories and memories because of the traditional exclusion and devaluing of women’s lives. Now that we can ‘look back’ on decades of second-wave feminism, is it time to insist that it be included in national institutions and thus part of official memorials to the nation? This paper is interested in creatively imagining and provoking questions about what Australian feminist activism would look like in the National Museum of Australia. What items would be ‘significant’ to the movement? What would be feminist about a collection? What would an exhibition look like? What objects could tell the story of the Australian women’s movement (and where are they?)


Margaret Henderson teaches literary and cultural studies at the University of Queensland. She is the author of Marking Feminist Times: Remembering the Longest Revolution in Australia, and is currently working on a study of Kathy Acker and late capitalism.

Alison Bartlett teaches Women’s Studies, English, and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia. Her books include Breastwork: rethinking breastfeeding, and Jamming the Machinery: contemporary Australian women’s writing. She edited Transforming R/Elations: postgraduate research supervision with Gina Mercer, and Giving Breast Milk (forthcoming) with Rhonda Shaw, and is Editor of the online journal Outskirts: feminisms along the edge.

Back to top



Atomic Familiars: Animal Guides to the Radioactive Landscape in Early Cold War America

Bo Jacobs

This paper will look at representations of animals in relationship to atomic weapons in the US during the era of the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons (1945-1963). From stories about animal surrogates placed close to atomic detonations during the 1946 Bikini tests, and then the first tests in Nevada, animals were then used in civil defense literature as guides (Bert the Turtle) to how to respond naturally to atomic detonations. In science fiction films during the middle and late 1950s, this role would mutate into one in which animals were invoked as sentinels to warn humans of the dangers of radiation. The different depictions of animals reflected the changing awareness of the dangers of both nuclear weaponry and radioactive fallout from weapon testing.
Bo Jacobs, Hiroshima

Critical Narratives: Fact or Fiction- The Beaconsfield Mining Tragedy

Sarah Jones

Newspapers offer a framework from which to observe personal histories, our own histories, histories that shape and formulate our relationship with and response to society. The newspaper actively engages and confronts, soliciting reactions unsettling the frameworks in which we desire and evaluate change. In defining a case for the study of historical context within objects, Meaghan Morris writes, 'A critical reading can extract from its objects a parable of practice that converts them into models with a past and a potential for reuse, thus aspiring to invest them with a future.' (Morris 1988, p.3) .
Morris goes on to qualify that she attempts to study an object from a 'literary solution', one which favours, 'however domestic the setting, a picaresque form of narrative'. (Morris 1988, p.3) It is this notion of a picaresque narrative that intrigues me, because it allows for slippages and seepages of lived experience to accumulate and become transparent. For my purposes I have adjusted Morris's concept of picaresque narratives, to develop the concept of gothic tales to describe those newspaper stories of everyday human drama. The ‘Beaconsfield Gold Tragedy’ aptly fits into this category a sensational and suspenseful narrative unfolding daily in newsprint.
The title of this paper, Critical Narratives- Fact or Fiction, alludes to my investigation of a method for constructing and graphically presenting texts as critical narratives. I use this phrase to refer to and classify a style of story telling which actively comments on the way we engage and create meaning within the social sphere. I intended Fact or Fiction-The Beaconsfield Mining Tragedy to function as a critical narrative, a gothic tale appropriated from the newspaper, to be sliced, dissected and reconfigured to reveal fissures and gaps. Multi-layered text restlessly moves between the intersections of fact and fiction.
This paper seeks to use the newspaper and a constructed gothic narrative to challenge graphic design’s involvement in shaping the public social discourse. It asks if graphic design, which is essentially a servant of the media, can be turned back on itself and used as a strategy for social and cultural intervention, for critiquing and deconstructing the conventions of the media, its employment of language, and its visual and verbal narratives.
Sarah Jones, Monash University, Faculty of Art & Design


Rock-collecting and the home display: from museum emulations to magic

George Karpathakis

“From museum emulations to magic” enters the domestic sphere of rock-collectors and examines how they display their collections at home. Humanity’s relationship with rocks is a long-standing one. Historically, apart from being used as material for tools and buildings, rocks were also used for magical, pharmaceutical and decorative purposes. During the Renaissance and Enlightenment, the practice of collecting rocks became associated with the sense of discovery and the colonial expansion of western European civilization across world, and with advances in mining, science and industry. It is a practice that continues through to the present day. In contemporary Australian society,as I discovered during my research, collectors’ approaches to rock collecting range from the taxonomic and scientific to the aesthetic and utilitarian, personal and historical, and, for some, to the metaphysical. Many of these collectors display their rock-collections in their homes. And while some collectorsin their homes emulate the protocolsof displaying found in museums, reflecting the hegemony of science and industry, otherseither approach the displaying of their collections in a more informal fashion ordraw upon personal and alternate interests to challenge the dominance of science.“From museum emulations to magic” concludes suggesting it would beinteresting to examine in what ways museums interact with rock-collectors and reflect in their collections and displays the interests and the diversity found in domestic rock-collections.
George Karpathakis, Edith Cowan University

The Fourth World of Obscurity: Development Communications in the Current Network Society

Kai-Ti Kao

The Network Society, a concept explored in depth by Manuel Castells just over a decade ago, is now an everyday reality for a large part of the world. Yet with the spread of the Network Society, we are also seeing the rise of another of Castells’ concepts, the Fourth World – a world consisting of countries and communities shut out of the network due to their structural irrelevance in the current economy.
For these countries not integrated into the globally networked information economy, participation in the Network Society via the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) is perceived as the gateway to global trade and economic development. As a result, national and regional policies focus on the need to cultivate local access to ICT infrastructures and resources. Often this falls under the rhetoric of implementing the newest technologies in the belief that developing communities will be able to bypass traditional stages of development and ‘leapfrog’ into the Network Society.

The difficulty with this perspective is that it configures development as a linear progression with a fixed status to be achieved, privileging technology as the method by which this status is reached. Combined with the increasing influence of the private sector in ICT development, this simultaneously reinforces and obscures the increasing entrenchment of capitalism as the global economic system of this Network Society, resulting in a climate that privileges the elite and exploits the disadvantaged.
This paper will explore current debates in Communication and Development Studies and argue the need to update current discourses of ICTs for development. Most policy and academic discussion on the subject is still heavily characterised by the debates that surrounded the rise of the Network Society ten years ago, and does not adequately reflect its current pervasive reality. Rather than just looking at ways of accessing the network, attention also needs to be directed to reincorporating those the network has left out.
Kai-Ti Kao, PhD Candidate, Media Communication & Culture, Murdoch University

Back to top

The Culture of Mobile Lifestyle: Reflection on the Past
The Afghan Camel Drivers, 1860-1930

Nahid Afrose Kabir

In modern times when we speak of a mobile lifestyle we think of backpackers, fruit pickers, tourists, bikies or people living in caravans. People sometimes deliberately choose such a lifestyle. In the context of the historical past, the people who moved in and out of this place – Kalgoorlie (our conference venue) one group in particular had a very mobile lifestyle though it was not by choice but by necessity. This was the way of life of the Afghan camel drivers who came to Australia for economic reasons. They mostly arrived as single men and assisted the explorers in their expeditions, and contributed to the development of the infrastructure of the Australian outback.

The camel drivers steered the camels, “the ship of the desert” that carried water tanks out to the mining areas such as Kalgoorlie and Coolgardie, and other areas where water was scarce. The camels also carried wool bales and boxes of merchandise from one part of Australia to another. The camels carted sleepers for the construction of railway lines from Perth to Coolgardie, and the strings of camels carried materials for the development of the Overland Telegraph Line in South Australia back in 1870-72. The mobile nature of the lives of the Afghan camel drivers never permitted them to stay in one place for long.

The Afghans were predominantly Muslims. But with such a harsh lifestyle, were they able to retain their culture and religion? In this paper I examine the pattern of their mobile lifestyle from 1860-1930 that reflected their loyalty to their Australian employers (and explorers). I also discuss their identity when they were with other ethnic groups, conflict where they faced resistance and their outspoken nature when they were regarded as the ‘other’. This paper relies on both primary and secondary sources, including oral testimonies.

The Magnificent and the Monstrous: Oscar Pistorius and the future of high performance sport.

Rachael Kendrick

In January 2008 the International Association of Athletics Federations ruled that Oscar Pistorius, a South African bilateral amputee athlete, was not eligible to compete against able-bodied athletes as his carbon fibre Cheetah prosthetics offered clear mechanical advantages over flesh-and-bone feet. He later appealed that decision and won, but the IAAF ruling set an alarming precedent for high performance sport. While athletes with a disability had competed against able-bodied athletes before, including amputee swimmer Natalie du Toit, no ruling body had openly speculated that an athlete with a disability might surpass an able-bodied athlete, or speculated that prosthetic technology might constitute a form of doping. This paper will explore the role of anti-doping regulations in high performance sport through the case of Oscar Pistorius. It will argue that anti-doping regulations continually define and redefine the boundaries of the human body and its abilities, as high performance athletes are simultaneously charged with the task of pushing beyond those boundaries, and it will explore the critical category of the ‘cyborg’ in accounting for the technologization of contemporary athletics.
Rachael Kendrick

Back to top


Traumatic dead-ends

Jennifer Lawn

This issues that I hope to address in this paper emerge out of my research and teaching in two fields of cultural analysis that seem to be becoming increasingly complementary: gothic studies and trauma theory. These fields are currently facing substantive criticism from within, in part because of the challenge of conceptual exhaustion. They have become victims of their own success, in the sense that their characteristic features -- such as a haunted or dissociated consciousness -- have become generalised, and hence diffused, by being theorised as structural conditions of contemporary Western subjectivity. Alexandra Warwick has mooted the “death of gothic,” with all of the pleasurable paradox that the phrase implies. No longer marginal, contemporary gothic manifests “the desire for trauma, not the trauma of desire that finds itself prohibited, but something of a sense that trauma itself is the lost object” (11). In a densely argued companion piece, Greg Forter proposes that under the sway of the idea of trauma as “unclaimed experience”, trauma theory has developed into a series of self-protective gestures: by fostering the idea that limit events should be felt, not known, cultural critics can “embrace an aestheticised despair while construing that embrace as political wisdom” (282). The effects that Warwick and Forter raise have politically blunting implications, which I have observed among my students and within my own teaching. The theoretical and pedagogical challenge is how to revitalise traumatic discourses, perhaps by re-embedding them within specific histories of suffering and resistance.


Forter, G. (2007). Freud, Faulkner, Caruth: Trauma and the Politics of Literary Form. Narrative 15(3), pp. 259-85.
Warwick, A. (2007). Feeling gothicky. Gothic Studies 9(1), pp. 9-15.
Dr Jennifer Lawn, School of Social and Cultural Studies, Massey University, Auckland

Belonging and Survival: the future of family circuses in Australia.

Andrea Lemon

Traditional family circuses have been an integral part of Australian communities since the 1830s. Some of the family names appearing in circus programmes today are the same as those appearing over 150 years ago. And in many ways these circuses are the same beasts they were in the 19th century, performing their moves and their culture with strict ritual, discipline and routine, yet constantly adapting to changing physical and social environments.

However the odds are mounting against traditional circuses in Australia. The past 70 years have seen changes that are deeply affecting the way they operate, and often their ability to operate at all. Drought, rising fuel prices, urban development, changing social attitudes, competition for the entertainment dollar, and conflicting federal, state and council regulations are all taking their toll on this unique culture. The past ten years have seen the demise of three of Australia’s largest and most popular traditional circuses. Traditional circuses are one of the very few remaining actively nomadic communities in Australia. As such they are suffering the same issues and potentially the same potential demise as nomadic cultures across the globe. Can they survive into the future? If so, how?

Traditional circus culture has much to offer in the current debate about ‘belonging’ – a concept most often argued in terms of ‘place’. However, as a nomadic culture, traditional circus people express an extraordinary sense of belonging, in which the concept of ‘place’ has no place. Their sense of belonging is expressed through extended familial connections, their art and culture, and their connection to personal and cultural history. Their sense of belonging is expressed through the question ‘who am I?’ not ‘where am I?’

Circus life has never been easy. Technological changes bring better living conditions and greater ease of communication. Yet life on the road entertaining rural communities is as fraught as ever for these nomadic people. This paper examines the potential future of this unique culture and the flexibility, sense of belonging, and extended understanding of community which may be key to their survival.

Andrea Lemon is a highly awarded scriptwriter, author, theatre director, curator and now Doctoral candidate. Her PhD - Tough as Buggery: traditional Australian circus, community and belonging – is a partnership with the Australian Centre of the University of Melbourne, and the (Victorian) Arts Centre’s Performing Arts Collection. She has spent much of the past three years on the road between Melbourne, Cairns and Perth, interviewing circus elders and travelling with currently operating traditional circuses.
Andrea Lemon , PhD candidate, University of Melbourne.

Back to top

Blogospheric Pressures in Singapore: Internet Discourses and the 2006 General Election

Terence Lee & Cornelius Kan

Singapore’s technological prowess as one of the most networked city, society and nation is reflected in most statistical data. Indeed, Singapore is relentless in its pursuit of making technological and Internet history/ies. In its latest Intelligent Nation 2015 (iN2015) master plan, Singapore plans to integrate all aspects of info-communications into a single ultra-fast broadband platform that will be capable of delivering ultra-fast Internet. This paper provides a brief update on the extent of technological and Internet deployment. More importantly, it looks at how the Internet has further developed by analysing the events surrounding the 2006 General Elections in Singapore. Each election in Singapore is arguably a key regulatory milestone for the Internet because new rules are either invoked via new or revised legislation or new warnings issued to keep a lid on the effectiveness of new technologies. While Singapore has undoubtedly made ‘history’ in its regulatory approaches and strategies in managing the liberatory impulses, with outright censorship of racial, religious and pornographic – and, since 11 September 2001 (9/11), terrorist-related – websites making headlines around the world, it has also been able to score impressively in the technological competencies of its citizens. In the discussion that follows, we examine the current state of the Singaporean blogosphere and considers if the regulatory landscape has been altered following pressures brought about by blogs and other alternative websites. It argues that the implementation of both overt and subtle controls of alternative political websites as well as heavy-handed actions by the authorities to rein in on errant Internet users and bloggers, along with the occasional talking-down of the significance of the Singaporean blogosphere, have accentuated the ambivalence that the Internet in Singapore has (re)presented.

Authors’ Biographies:

Terence Lee is Associate Professor of Mass Communication in the Faculty of Creative Technologies and Media and a Research Fellow of the Asia Research Centre, both at Murdoch University, Perth, Australia. He has authored many articles and book chapters on various aspects of media, culture and politics in Singapore.

Cornelius Kan is an independent scholar based in Singapore. He is currently doing accounts management work with a design and publishing house in Singapore. He graduated in Mass Communication from Murdoch University in 2006 and obtained First Class Honours in Mass Communication from Curtin University in 2007 for a thesis on the Singaporean Blogosphere.
Terence Lee & Cornelius Kan, Faculty of Creative Technologies and Media & Asia Research Centre Murdoch University

Franchise Nations: the Future of the Nation?

Susan Leong

In this paper, I use the concept of the franchise nation to explore the future of the nation as extended through digital diaspora. Introduced in the science fiction novel, Snow Crash (Stephenson, 1993), the franchise nation is “a private, wholly extraterrestrial, sovereign, quasi-national entity” whose citizens pay for memberships that entitle them to conduct the daily business of life according to the self-styled laws of their nation of choice.
In the novel, Stephenson likens franchises to (computer) viruses because they are both modules of data encapsulated for replication without loss or change in quality. This assumption that once encoded information is endlessly replicable is, I contend, akin to Anderson’s (1991) portrayal of the nation as modular, imagined political community ready to be pirated.
I argue that Stephenson’s anarcho-capitalist exaggeration captures the salient characteristics of current online attempts to ‘brand’ the nation as a desirable object for holidays, investments and cultural enrichment to tourists, investors, returning emigrants and diaspora. Further, while understood by home nations or master franchisors as efforts to attract the necessary social, intellectual, cultural and economic capital necessary for national development, these exhortations have greater implications. This is because these reconnections rely on a blend of cultural essentialisation and “ethno-orientalism” (Carrier, 1992) that can have unpredictable consequences for affective loyalties.
To illustrate, I cast China as a master franchisor and the overseas Chinese as its franchisees and submit that their fervently nationalistic responses, on and off the Internet, to the pro-Tibetan protests of the Beijing Olympics torch relay and the Sichuan earthquake of May 2008 bear witness to the complications that a successful China franchise can bring. Finally, I suggest that re-casting digital diaspora as contemporary prototypes of nations as franchises may offer some insight as to where the future of the nation as social institution may lie.
Susan Leong, PhD Candidate, Media, Culture and Creative Arts, Curtin University

Back to top


The New York of Australia: North Arm Cove and the remnant capital

Emily Murray, PhD candidate, University of Melbourne (School of Culture and Communication)

In 1918, Stroud Shire Council approved plans for a major industrial port city adjacent to Port Stephens, designed by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mohony. The Griffins considered this location on the mid north coast of New South Wales as a viable alternative to Canberra as the site for a national capital.

The New York of Australia: North Arm Cove and the remnant capital

The scheme, with the grandiose moniker of the “New York of Australia”, never developed beyond a few evocative drawings. However the land was purchased by Henry F. Haloran, land developer and surveyor, and the subdivision proceeded as far as a series of roads in the recognisable curves of a Griffin masterplan carved into the bush. Today, the land remains zoned “non urban”, effectively freezing any building development apart from a compressed waterfront fringe. However, the outline of the urban plan remains on the landscape, an aerial trace that mirrors the abstractions of urban planning.

This ghost capital continues to generate unrealised ambition and recurring speculation, including thwarted plans for a Club Med resort. In the 1980s and early 1990s, it notoriously emerged as the site of deceptive conduct by property developers as investors unwittingly purchased land that could never be built upon. Optimistic buyers continue to buy waterfront lots under the promise of the cheapest coastal land in the country and an imminent zoning change, although there is no sign of policy change.

The persistent potential of North Arm Shore demonstrates the imaginative power of the unbuilt and unrealisable planned city: the competition losers and would-be capitals. Urban designs from the Griffin office replayed and reworked the pattern of an ideal city across multiple Australian rural sites, compulsively seeding capital fragments that were prequels and sequels to Canberra. More than a work on paper, but never able to take shape beyond the line, the Griffin’s dream of an Australian Manhattan is both rural ruin and urban fantasy.

A point of anxiety within the present

Paul Magee

‘That the sun will rise tomorrow is a hypothesis’ (1922: p.181). Wittgenstein’s statement of radical uncertainty might lead one to think of the future as at least a day away. But there is no reason why one shouldn’t contract his proposition’s time frame to the uncertainties of the next instant: ‘that this day will not cave in in five seconds’ is also a hypothesis. I draw on Wittgenstein to argue that the radical unpredictability of the near future is a key conditioning factor of what it means to live in the present. One can blot it out with both nihilism and utopia, but neither are overly convincing. Indeed, the ‘future’ is best understood as a point of anxiety within the present. Che speaks to just this anxiety, in On Guerrilla Warfare: ‘It is not necessary to wait until all conditions for making revolution exist: the insurrection can create them’ (1969: p.13).

Each new first time as Dee had subcategories. For instance, the shoe store she finally got to that Saturday was not an unqualified first time, since she’d bought shoes at cross-dressing shops and conventions, and later in a North bay mall with Marty and Esther. But it was the first time in a regular shoe store alone, without a genetic woman friend. Like an obscure category in the Academy Awards. Yes: for acting. (1999: p.156)

In this paper, I draw on Che’s manual, and Deirdre McCloskey’s account of ‘passing’ as a pre- then post-op transsexual, to exemplify two key aspects of Anne Freadman’s theory of generic behaviour, a theory based upon the inherence of the future in the present (1994, 1996, 1997, 2001). Freadman argues that all human action revolves around generic rules, based on past – or even just imagined - convention. Only the terrain is never fully marked: it is never entirely clear just what the rules are / have been, nor whether they will hold in this particular instant. For the present is thoroughly haunted by the future. On these bases, I develop an argument about creative art, considered as a work practice.
Paul Magee, Faculty of Design and Creative Practice at the University of Canberra, and President of the Cultural Studies Association of Australasia.

The proposed theme of this paper is ‘bodies: sexualities; genders; virtual; post-human; cyborg’.

Cathleen Maslen

Dead Weight: melancholy fetishism in Guys and Dolls and Lars and the Real Girl

‘They’re not real so they last forever: isn’t that neat?’
- Lars gives his Real Doll, ‘Bianca’, fake flowers in Lars and the Real Girl

‘We could all fit in a coffin … and turn into dust together’
- Gordon, owner of two Real Dolls, in Guys and Dolls.

Real Dolls are sold on the web as virtually authentic women for authentically needy men. In the documentary Guys and Dolls (dir.Nick Holt, 2007) and the film Lars and the Real Girl (dir. Craig Gillespie, 2007), men invest in these very literal ‘love objects’ as a substitute for sexual (inter)activity. Real Dolls are not mundane masturbation aids–they require ‘care’, they are cumbersome, they even have quasi-gynecological troubles. The Real Doll is, of course, speechless, but as a symbolic object ‘she’ both asks and answers a question for the benefit of ‘her’ owner: ‘what does he lack?’ The answer, as announced by the scandalous ‘anatomical [in]correctness’ of the Real Doll, amounts to: ‘he lacks everything’, but also: ‘he lacks nothing.’ Hence there is a fetishistic theme in the Real Doll ‘relationship’ in that an intolerable lack is at once represented and disavowed. That is, a dismal absence of ‘real girls’ is simultaneously signified and denied by the no-less dismal presence of fake girls. In this paper, I will critically examine the psychoanalytic self-narrativisations evinced by these apparently disappointed men. I will briefly review Freud’s essays, ‘Mourning and Melancholia,’ and ‘Fetishism’, as well as other psychoanalytic approaches to intersubjectivity and desire in the work of Lacan and Winnicott. I will argue that the grotesque, ambivalent autoeroticism of Real Dolls signifies not just narcissistic ‘deviancy’, but also insistently alludes to the sexual culpability of ‘Real’ women, and as such participates in a cultural tradition of eroticised misogynist pathos and nostalgia.

Cathleen Maslen graduated with a PhD from the University of Western Australia in 2006. Cathleen is the author of many essays on melancholia and mourning theory. Cathleen teaches contemporary literature, cultural theory and Renaissance studies at the University of Western Australia. Cathleen lives with her young daughter in the port city of Fremantle, Western Australia.

Transcultural genealogies: Re-articulating Australianness on screen in the twenty-first century

Maja Mikula

In his influential critique of Australian multiculturalism, White Nation, Ghassan Hage has posited that the institutionally sanctioned treatment, in Australia, of ‘white-Aboriginal’ relations and ‘Anglo-ethnic’ relations as if they were two separate spheres of life has left the rapport between Aboriginal and ethnic communities largely unexplored (1998: 24). In this paper, I argue that this blind spot – deeply rooted in Australia’s troubled colonial and postcolonial history – represents a longstanding discursive constraint in the narratives of Australia’s national identity, which has only recently been challenged by a number of mediated cultural texts.
The paper focuses on three case studies – Mojgan Khadem’s film Serenades (2001), Julie Nimmo’s documentary Pioneers of Love (2005) and the children’s television drama series Double Trouble, produced by CAAMA, the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (2008). Each case study, in its own way, brings together the two ‘strands’ of the Australian national narrative, built around ‘white-Aboriginal’ and ‘Anglo-ethnic’ relations respectively, and opens up possibilities for meaningful relationships across historically disempowered groups. By doing so, each of them constructs a postmodern narrative of Australianness, no longer dominated by the notions of Anglocentrism and whiteness or governed by the modernist binary of ‘self’ and the ‘other’, but rather attuned to the new articulations of belonging progressively ushered in by the evolving transcultural dynamic of contemporary Australian society.
Maja Mikula The Cultural Studies Group, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology Sydney.

Back to top

From Wiluna to Kalgoorlie with GB.

Hamish Morgan

This paper is a journey from Wiluna to Kalgoorlie. It happens because Georgina Brown and I are driving to see her sick father in Kalgoorlie. GB has just got back from living out ‘my side’ as she says, out Patjarr way (half-way between Wiluna and Alice Springs). GB’s family was the last family to be living traditionally in the Gibson Desert, she was nine years old when she was ‘brought in’ with her family in 1976. Needless to say she’s an extraordinary woman. As we drive things happen, events and memories jump-up from the side of the road. We are taken along, back to the past and into the future, things get caught up in one another and extend into the horizon. We are moved and forced onwards by these things that are happening.

A ficto-critical narrative of drive, memory and event. Come along, be taken away.

My research is based in a little Aboriginal community near Wiluna called Ululla.
What I gained a sense of there was that the claim of another, their work, forces one’s sense of responsibility outward, towards other gatherings across time and space; an extension that does not rest, stay put, but that moves. Extensive relatedness puts a community in motion, forces a thought of community without notions of bounded identity. Drawing on the work of Jean-Luc Nancy I explore a rethinking of community in my thesis.

Managed Wilderness: the environment as technical fact

Warwick Mules

This paper explores the paradox of a ‘managed wilderness,’ that is, a pristine area untouched by human endeavour yet managed by humans at the same time. The paradox of a managed wilderness is founded, I argue, on a misunderstanding of the relation between nature and being, where nature is set aside as having its own unique being, sustained through supplementary management practices. Drawing on Heidegger’s writings on technology, and on Jean-Luc Nancy’s discussion of global ecotechnics in his books The Sense of the World, and The Creation of the World, I propose an account of the environment as a technical fact. My aim is to open the problem of the environment – its degradation and toxification –not just to a solution in technological management, but to the question of the being of the human-technology relation itself, and the urgent requirement to think this being otherwise.
Warwick Mules, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, University of Queensland.

The Shape of Things to Come: Metamorphic Comic Characters and Posthumanism

Ross Murray

While the subjects of metamorphic characters and posthumanism may not appear to have a certain linkage, it is my endeavour to show that, in a posthumanistic way, superhero characters are embedded in narratives, in mediums and genres, and thus in a world in which they can affect consciousness. It is through the continual re-invention of the superhero narrative, superhero characters are necessarily re-inscribed as posthuman subjects. Thus characters such as the X-Men represented in the re-boot comic series Ultimate X-Men are portrayed as posthuman, or the next level of humanity. Metamorphic characters and posthumanism are also linked through the figure of the cyborg which has come to dominate posthuman theory. I will provide a succinct overview of posthumanism and posthuman theory using the work of Ihab Hassan, Donna Haraway, Katherine Hayles, and Robert Pepperell. I will present how the literal figure of the cyborg has come to dominate posthuman debates, and how this applies to metamorphic comic characters. I outline how comic characters such as Jack Hawksmoor, Shift, and Jean Grey, can be theorised as posthuman. In drawing upon both the cyborg man/machine and philosophical posthuman theory that of embedded consciousness I position the cyborg shapeshifter, The Engineer, from the DC comic title, The Authority, as an ideal posthuman subject.


Digital traces: The role of ephemeral personal photography in post-modern society

Daniel Nevin

This paper examines the effects of new technologies and ways of using and sharing personal photographs on the status of these “objects”. The development of new photographic technology has been a characteristic of the medium since its invention. This has seen the physical form of photographs transmute from a treasure made of precious metals to an ethereal magnetic trace. What has been the impact of this transformation on the status of personal photographs as talismans against change and loss? Personal photographs provide a means of reducing levels of uncertainty that is common to much of what is significant in our lives. Relationships, rights of passage, and status are without physical substance. Photographic images can sooth feelings of anxiety generated by change and the passage of time by converting a fleeting moment into an object that can be held, stored and made safe. It renders something that would otherwise only exist in the mind as a memory, an experience or an idea as a physical object in the world. This serves to confirm memories, ideas and concepts with physical observations. In the age of Flikr™, camera phones and Facebook the quantity of personal photographs being taken is greater than ever. Yet they exemplify Marx’s assertion that “All that is solid melts into air…” with ever greater insubstantiality and impermanence. I argue that the use and production of personal photographs reflects the wider social trends of post-modernity, where immediacy and quantity is valued above permanence and a unique physical presence.
Daniel Nevin ECU

A Query Into the Social Construction of (Un)natural Disasters: Unintended or Inexorable?

Dara Nix-Stevenson

Disasters are an ever-present aspect of the human condition. They occur around the globe, and with all-too-regular frequency. In a seven-year period, they included but were certainly not limited to the terrorist attack on New York City in 2001, the South Asian tsunami in 2004, the Gulf Coast hurricanes of 2005, the Pakistani earthquake of 2005, the Turkish earthquake of 2007, the Myanmar cyclone of 2008, the Chinese earthquake of 2008, and countless episodic flooding and wildfires in the United States in 2008. Within minutes, disasters can destroy a community and change the lives of its residents forever. The United States, particularly in relation to flooding and heat waves, have experienced a number of calamities throughout its history which have caused problems for underserved populations. Hurricane Katrina is no exception. In fact, Hurricane Katrina’s dramatic and devastating path exposed fault lines between the American ideal of equality and the realities of a social system shaped by its free market economy. One of the most vexing questions about the tragedy associated with Katrina and the breach of the levees has to do with why some people did not evacuate the city as the hurricanes approached: Many answers have been given. Some answers are historical: some people turned a deaf ear to the warnings because of past false alarms. Some answers are sociological: the elderly and sick were trapped in hospitals and nursing homes. Some answers are economic: the poor lacked credit cards, cars, gasoline, and even radios and televisions so they may not have known of the storm or had ways of getting out of the city. Katrina and the resulting breach of the levees is only one of the many disasters to befall the nation over its history. If the research on global warming is accurate, then the country and the nation are in the midst of an ecological crisis and in store for more devastation on the scale of Hurricane Katrina. A legitimate question may be raised about the degree to which government, whether it be federal, state, or local, should expand resources to help out those who are victims of such events, especially when citizens choose to “live in harm’s way,” for example, in coastal areas susceptible to hurricanes. Though disasters are part and parcel of the human condition, I contend that there is nothing “natural” about them and that, to some extent, they are human-made. Overlapping questions that will be addressed in this paper are:

  1. What constitutes a “natural disaster”?
  2. What outcomes are produced by a rhetoric of natural disasters?
  3. Since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, as a case in point, what social networks have formed to better equip regions to adapt to natural disasters?
  4. What is the link, if any, between terrestrial ecosystem degradation and cultural attitudes and beliefs?
  5. How do the ethics underpinning international climate regimes mitigate or impact the devastation experienced by natural disasters?

Dara Nix-Stevenson, Doctoral Student, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Dr Barbara Bolt, Senior Lecturer, VCA Graduate School, Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne

Back to top


The End of Australia: the Northern Territory intervention as the final act of a dying nation

Mary O’Dowd

The paper argues that the Australian government’s racist intervention in the Northern Territory is the end of Australia. Through a discussion of identity that highlights the non-identity of non-Indigenous Australians in the context of Indigenous presence it puts the case that Australia has no future as a nation. It discusses how things were ‘good’ for Australians in the Lucky Country until the 1967 referendum. Then, with little recognition, national identity began to drift and slowly disappeared behind an identity prefaced by ‘not being’. Most people became ‘non-Indigenous Australian’, that is defined by who they were not. In contrast Indigenous Australians became and now are, finally, defined by who they are. With the High Court Mabo decision in 1992 came further and final legal proof that most Australians could only be defined nationally not by who they were, but by who they are not. While the concept of reconciliation provided some hope during the years from 1967, and the Racial Discrimination Act evidenced a legal power that a nation could be, the issue of reconciliation was lost it is argued when the Prime Minister played his trump card the apology both too late and, sadly, too soon. It was too late as it was long overdue. Yet ironically it was too soon as at that time the ‘not Australians’ were in a racist attack on Indigenous people in the NT, a racist attack that was later endorsed by the same government who apologised while violating a law so essential to nationhood. Through suspending the Racial Discrimination Act the government built on a tradition of allocating and then revoking justice to Indigenous people and so, at a pivotal point in the history of this country after the apology, it is argued that nationhood was lost. The paper traces the death of Australia and the problem of its ‘ghosts being heard as they walk by its billabongs’ for the future/s.
Mary O’Dowd, Charles Sturt University


Audio memories: Sound and the performative museum

Ember Parkin

Museums of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have been evermore inclined to inhabit a performative model of politics (Chakrabarty 2002). Many museum professionals and theorists have touted the positive potential of multi-sensory exhibits and embodied learning as an effective way of achieving a pluralist agenda (Hooper-Greenhill, 1994; 2000; Chakrabarty, 2002; Messham-Muir, 2003). However, while there is a large body of literature that examines the nature of multi-sensory learning in the museum, such writing often remains heavily rooted in visually-based epistemologies and as such, the potential of hearing, smelling and touching in the museum often been overlooked (except Classen 2007).

This paper attempts to address the lack of critical thought about sound in the museum and argues that projected museum sound can work in support of the contemporary museum mission. In order to achieve effective results in such exhibitions, museums must have a deep understanding of the actual physiological and psychological capacities of museum audio. This paper examines case study exhibits at the National Museum of Australia and Melbourne Museum in order to demonstrate some of the specific capacities of museum audio that work in support of a performative model of politics. Namely:

to produce ‘sonic anamnesis’ (Augoyard and Torgue, 2005);
to act as symbolic archetypes that incite embodied collective memory (Augoyard and Torgue, 2005; Schafer 1993);
to provide intangible information that cannot be expressed through visual or textual means (Smith, 2007; Classen, 2007);
and lastly, to cause distraction, confusion or frustration (Schafer 1993).

As many museums are ambling towards being truly multi-sensory in their approach to the interpretation and display of history, it is necessary to consider the real potential of all sensory stimuli in the museum. In examining sound, this paper examines just one of those.

Cited References
Augoyard, Jean-Francois, and Henri Torgue. 2005. Sonic Experience: A Guide to Everyday Sounds. Montreal: McGill Queen's University Press.
Chakrabarty, Dipesh. 2002. Museums in Late Democracies. Humanities Research IX (1):5-12.
Classen, Constance. 2007. Museum Manners: The Sensory Life of the Early Museum. Journal of Social History 40 (4):855-914.
Hooper-Greenhill, Eilean. 1994. Museum Education: Past, Present and Future. In Towards the Museum of the Future: New European Perspectives, edited by R. Miles and L. Zaval. New York: Routledge.
———. 2000. Museums and the Interpretation of Visual Culture. New York: Routledge.
Messham-Muir, Kit. 2005. Affect, Interpretation and Technology. Open Museum Journal 7.
Schafer, R. Murray. 1993. The soundscape : our sonic environment and the tuning of the world. Rochester, Vt.: Destiny Books
Smith, Mark M. 2007. Sensing the Past: Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Tasting, and Touching in History. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Ember Parkin, Master of Arts (Public History & Heritage)
University of Melbourne,

Provocative Women in the Borderzone

Kristen Phillips

Since Federation, Australian discussions of population policy and the racial or cultural constitution of the nation have repeatedly drawn connections with anxieties about the control of women’s bodies, especially, the fear that white women might be unwilling to reproduce (Baird, 2006). In one memorable recent example, as part of a 2006 campaign to restrict the availability of the abortion drug RU486 Federal Liberal MP Dana Vale suggested that Australia was in danger of becoming a Muslim nation in 50 years time because ‘we are aborting ourselves almost out of existence by 100 000 abortions a year’. The Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, reassured the white public that this fear was unwarranted. Six months earlier Bronwyn Bishop, another Liberal MP, had backed a call for Muslim women’s headscarves to be banned in Australian public schools by suggesting that wearing a headscarf was an ‘iconic act of defiance’. In light of such anxieties about national futures, this paper will consider discourses of female transgression and defiance in relation to national biopolitics. My discussion will focus on a number of narratives about women and girls ‘in the borderzone’—that is, women who are imagined as not (or not really) belonging to the nation, or citizen women who transgress national borders in some way. Drawing on texts such as Randa Abdel-Fattah’s 2005 teen novel Does My Head Look Big in This?, the 2003 documentary Molly and Mobarak and Tom Keneally’s The Tyrant’s Novel (2003), I will discuss how themes of pregnancy, birth and female transgression intersect with discourses about the reproduction of the nation.
Kristen Phillips, Communication and Cultural Studies, School of Media, Culture and Creative Arts, Curtin University of Technology

Back to top



Poetic Documentary and Life Stories of People with Intellectual Disability

Author: Cameron Rose: Lecturer – Faculty of Art and Design, Monash University

A ‘life story’ is the autobiographical presentation of an individual’s life through a variety of media. Life stories seek to give the subject a singular ‘voice’, without the embellishment of an expert narrator. Institutions such as the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) and the Center for Digital Storytelling in Berkeley, California often facilitate life stories for particular communities.

In some cases it is difficult for the individual to produce their own life story. For example a person with an intellectual disability might require assistance. In this case, how can the integrity of the life story be preserved and what are the issues surrounding the representation of people with intellectual disability?

Cameron Rose is the media artist on the Kew Cottages* History Project, an ARC Linkage Grant between La Trobe University and DHS Victoria. This paper explores the use of poetic documentary as a life story for some of the former residents of the Cottages and its efficacy as a vehicle for representing people with intellectual disability.

*Established in 1887, Kew Cottages (now Kew Residential Services), Australia's largest and oldest institution for people with intellectual disability, closed at the end of 2006.

A Postfeminist Generation and Popular Television: Young women discuss Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives

Penelope Robinson

This paper explores the connections between real and fictional women via interviews with young Australians and an analysis Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives. It develops and mobilises postfeminism as a useful theoretical and analytical tool for characterising the current generation of young women and for examining the way generations are marked by popular culture. This paper utilises postfeminism as a framework for better understanding contemporary television, the entanglement of feminist discourses in the popular, and the cultural atmosphere influencing the hopes and beliefs of today’s young women. Theoretical understandings of postfeminism are integrated with ethnographic material to demonstrate the ways in which cultural representations resonate with the aspirations and anxieties of young women. In teasing out the consistencies between the texts and the lives of young women, this paper argues that just as popular television can be interpreted as postfeminist, so too can the historical climate in which these shows are created and consumed. These television programs help to illustrate the theoretical shifts in feminism, while simultaneously illuminating the socio-political climate that young women are experiencing.
Penelope Robinson, UWS


The Future of the Past

Katrina Schlunke

The future of the past has already been painted by Daniel Boyd in his rendition of Cook's landing at Botany Bay as 'We call them Pirates Out Here'. This paper takes the opportunity of the conference theme to think about the future of thinking about the past through a particularly cultural studies lens. What will cultural studies do differently in the future to think better, culturally about the past? One of the key ways may be a more complete engagement with art. Through looking at the specific case of Boyd's painting this paper will seek to imagine a past that belongs to the future, a past that is sustainable and re(k)newable.

Back to top

A World Without Rape: Feminist Politics and the Decline of Utopianism

Tanya Serisier

In the last thirty years, social and legal discourses and practices surrounding rape have been transformed, both in Australia and internationally. Feminist activism and theorising has substantially impacted on victims’ services, legal practices and broader social understandings of sexual violence.
However, despite these successes, increasing numbers of critics have expressed concern about the decline of utopianism in feminist anti-rape politics. Far from imagining a world without rape, much feminist activism and analysis is focused on situations in which rape has always already occurred and will continue to do so. Indeed, even the majority of ‘prevention’ measures could more accurately be described as ways for women to avoid a danger imagined as ever-present and unending.
In this paper, I critically examine the decline of utopianism in feminist narratives around rape. I explore visions of the future, both explicit and implicit, in several feminist narratives about sexual violence. I am particularly interested in the impact of these visions on politics and critical practices in the present.

Cultural Innovation for Sustainability: Some Strategic Principles

Zoë Sofoulis and Carolyn Williams

Australian policymakers are currently caught between a dominant paradigm giving primacy to the economy, and emergent one prioritizing the environment. Symptomatic of this are mixed messages about the extent to which our current ways of living will have to change in order to mitigate future climatic disturbances. For example, Sen. Penny Wong introduced the Green Paper on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme as a “responsibility agenda” where this generation had to decisively counter bad effects of past actions. But she also promoted it as a scheme to modernize the economy and “protect our standard of living,” without clarifying the difference between the lifestyles to be protected and those whose bad effects we must ameliorate. This position typically relies on technological innovations to improve efficiency while preserving current ways of life, alongside campaigns to adopt these devices.

This paper arose from research undertaken in partnership with Sydney Water to identify future directions for urban water demand management, taking a cultural innovation approach. Our simple starting point was that demands for water, energy and other resources could be directly reduced by facilitating collective changes in expectations about what is deemed desirable, necessary, and worthwhile. The most effective ‘units of change’ for sustainability are not private individuals or households but intermediate (or ‘meso-‘) level social networks and organisations. Reflections on the research findings, and a thought experiment to apply insights from cultural studies and sociotechnical perspectives, led to the set of strategic principles and guidelines for facilitating cultural innovation we present here.
Zoë Sofoulis, Adjunct Fellow, Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney.
Carolyn Williams, Senior Research Associate, School of Education, University of Western Sydney.

“Deifying the English Word: Defining secularisms with the Oxford English Dictionary

Sophie Sunderland

The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) is commonly perceived as a ‘companion’ text resorted to only when settling Scrabble disputes or contextualizing a given term. However, an analysis of its cultural politics is useful in understanding how secularisms are imagined and made. The OED followed King James Bibles throughout the British Empire and deigned to ‘fix’ the English language through etymological principles that represent English words with ‘sacred’ origins in Latin, Hebrew and Ancient Greek. The most influential generalist monolingual English dictionary to date, it was initiated by Archbishop Richard Chevenix Trench in London in 1857, and published seventy years later in 1928 as the New English Dictionary on Historical Principles. The third edition is an equally ambitious textual project, entailing full revisions of all etymologies and definitions, and is currently scheduled for publication in 2037, though this proposed date may prove ambitious. This paper argues that the OED both structurally and socio-culturally reproduces a secular discourse that is inextricably linked to Christianity through notions of religio-cultural heritage, language and ‘neutrality.’ Analysis of the OED Tabernacle at the University of Western Australia and the 1998 ‘Sefton mosque case’ in suburban Sydney, where dictionaries were used to argue that a disused church could not be defined and therefore used as a mosque, exhausts ideas of discrete boundaries between the religious and secular. Rather, constructions of Christian privilege within, and in relation to, the dictionary shape the ways in which meanings are made and produced as ‘objective.’ Here, Christianity and the OED melt into one another structurally, historically and socio-politically, such that this ‘beacon’ of historical exactitude cannot be unbound from the religious. By extension, this evokes an understanding of the discourse of the secular as that which enables the making and representation of a paradoxical secular, Christian ‘standard’ English.

Biographical Note

Sophie Sunderland is a doctoral candidate in English and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia. Her dissertation, due for submission in January 2009, is an analysis of representations of the secular in Australian and Canadian popular cultural contexts, with a specific focus on representations of embodiment and the ‘Judaeo-Christian tradition.’

Back to top

“An Imagined Future; an Ambiguous Past – Dr Modiri Molema’s vision of a Black South African Future

Jane Starfield

The future, as the first black South African to publish an extended work of cultural history and (auto)ethnography imagined it in 1920, is the subject of this paper.

In 1917, a South African medical student in Glasgow foresaw the future. Modiri Molema (1891-1920) presented a paper on the “Intellectual Possibilities & Impossibilities” facing black people to the “African Races Association [ARA]”, fellow students from the black diaspora. Harnessing historical, ethnographic and scientific discourses, he mapped a future for South Africa’s almost 4 million blacks beyond the destiny of segregation ordained by the newly-unified white government in 1910.

Seeking to extrapolate his imagined future, the young nationalist (an African National Congress member since 1914), historian and doctor expanded his paper into The Bantu Past and Present (1920). Realising that he could not explain the ‘future’ without a narrative history of black South Africans, he cogently traced a trajectory though the precolonial era and the colonial past to the invidious present and the imagined future. His powerfully argumentative style, based on “standpoint knowledge” and many secondary sources, makes, in De Certeau’s (1975: 15) phrase, the silences of the past, the “... unknown vastness that seduces and menaces knowledge” speak.

The Bantu’s final section, “Possibilities and Impossibilities”, proposed the future inclusion of disenfranchised black inhabitants into a non-racial body politic. This paper argues that the works of black writers like Molema were, themselves, silenced under apartheid. Now, fourteen years into the democratic period and a future that Molema began to imagine, these works are being reassessed as a way of understanding the roots of South African modernity, identity and democracy; in academic circles, they now merit re-insertion into the historical and cultural canon. Molema began this process in 1920, when he attempted to wrest the writing of history from the dominance of white historians.
Jane Starfield. English, University of Johannesburg

Post –Human/In-Human

Jon Seltin

Over the past two decades the cyborg and the post-human have become increasingly common figures in both popular culture and the academy. For some, the post-human signifies the ultimate evolutionary telos of humanity; technological intervention leading to the transcendence of disease, senescence, and ultimately even embodiment. Others see this technological colonisation of the body as a corrupting force that threatens to erode a universal and intrinsic Human Nature. Both these approaches have in turn been troubled by critical theorists who deploy the post-human as a deconstructive metaphor for thinking through the limits of the Human. Through the figure of the post-human we are able to ask ‘what is human?’, ‘what informs and who draws the line separating animals, machines and the inhuman from the human?’ and ‘what are the ethical, political and economic implications of these limits?’ Although this deconstructive/critical post-humansim redresses the myopia and simplicity of previous post-humanist theory, it remains primarily concerned with the discursive figure of the post-human and rarely engages with situated bodies and the networks of power and economics in which they are instantiated. Recognising the inseparability of discursive and material bodies means that any critical theory interrogating the figure of the (post)human should be performed alongside an interrogation of the economic materiality in which it is instantiated.

This paper seeks to redress this gap in the literature by calling for a critical political-economy of the post-human. It will focus on the ways in which the emancipatory and transcendental understandings of ‘post-human’ are contingent on the strict biopolitical control of bodies. The post-human, I will argue, functions as a derivative of labour that is rendered in-human in that it is denied access to the symbolic, judicial and economic spaces of ‘the Human’. This paper will focus specifically on the bodies of electronics assembly workers in Export Processing Zones, whose labour forms the basis for contemporary global information networks, but who are in turn alienated from the subject-positions and signifying spaces made possible by the products they manufacture.
Jon Seltin, Department of Critical & Cultural Studies , Macquarie University

Back to top

After the End: Towards a Theory of Worldlessness

Mark Steven

In his essay entitled "The Caesura of Nihilism" (2004), Alain Badiou makes the audacious claim that "we are at a very special moment, a moment at which there is not any world." His claim is counterintuitive as it is polemical, and so it begs further inquiry. How, exactly, can there be no world? Why is our moment special enough to have no world? What significance does this hold for critical theory today?

Taking these questions as a point of departure, this paper draws on the critical theories of Giorgio Agamben, Alain Badiou, and Slavoj Zizek, discussing their intersection in the contexts of global capitalism and liberal democracy as a means of exploring one of the most interesting and complex issues in critical theory today, the phenomenon of "worldlessness".

Because this phenomenon manifests, primarily, as a globally pervasive crisis in representation, this paper argues that worldlessness sustains the coexistence of global capitalism and liberal democracy with their adverse effects or supplements. If this is the case, the advent of worldlessness implies that our civilization has, as Francis Fukuyama once proclaimed, reached the end of history. However, this end refers not to the naive Fukuyamaian sense of achieved reconciliation but, rather, to the effect of mass deception. Furthermore, it fails to account for those subjects excluded from an idea of globe yet upon whose lives worldlessness takes the most significant toll: refugees, for instance. Hence worldlessness is not just an epistemological or ontological crisis but also a matter of ethico-political consequence.

As the debates surrounding this topic seem to circle an undefined subject, this paper interrogates multiple perspectives in order to devise a theory of worldlessness. Rather than simply combining the abovementioned theorists to see what their ideas of worldlessness involve, this paper exposes the contradictions between them in order to extend their polemics into a shared theoretical schema.

Flushed down the dunny?: Ageing bodies, bodily competence and intelligent toilets

Elisabeth Schwaiger

This paper examines some of the contradictions in the ways older Australians are depicted in popular media. Specifically, some representations of ‘seniors’ depict youthful, idealised, independent and active consumers, with fit, tanned bodies, who visibly signify activity, while others emphasise decline and disengagement in frail, dependent, health- and mobility-challenged bodies. I will discuss these two strands of representation of older people in the light of an ethic of consumption and autonomy driven by a neo-liberal Western society which values these attributes. Accordingly, it can be argued that older adults are exhorted to actively participate in consumption for as long as possible, as self-governing, gendered citizens, where failure to do so through decline in the body’s ability to engage in productive consumption diminishes the person-as-citizen and socially marginalises her or him as ‘draining’ the state’s resources. Issues such as incontinence are interpreted as decline in (gendered) bodily control and bodily competence. The development and marketing of the increasingly intelligent toilet will be used as an example of not only overcoming the problematic ‘leaking’ subject who is perceived to be lacking in bodily competence, but of new and emerging possibilities for increased surveillance and control of body-subjects through various forms of health screening.
Elisabeth Schwaiger, Centre for Social and Community Research, Murdoch University


Self Giving: Stem Cell Research, Donation and Clinical Labour

Sarah Tayton

During the debate over stem cell research that took place in Australia in the lead up to 2006 conscience vote, the medico-scientific community was often wary about making claims regarding what the consequences of the proposed legislative changes might be in terms of demand for ova. Instead, focus tended to remain on various enabling fantasies that effaced the issue of the embodied labour involved in the provision of ova. These included the idea of stem cells as a source of excess, an endlessly self-replicating renewable resource; the future redundancy of ova through technological advancements; and the idea of autologous donation, that is, the gift to oneself. When the issue of egg vending was addressed, it involved, predictably, the sanctification of bodies and tissues and remained contained within the discourse of the gift economy. It has been suggested that the consequence of this may be the sourcing of oocytes from unregulated states. In this paper, I will consider the situation in regards to demand (and supply) by Australian researchers for ova and stem cell lines two years after the introduction of the legislative changes. I will discuss recent literature on stem cell research and women’s clinical labour outside the borders of regulated nations such as Australia where this work is figured as a potential new site for precarious, gendered labour in a global context. At points this clinical labour is likened to slavery and I will question the implications of this comparison for an understanding of both labour conditions and the types of value ascribed to particular bodies and their ‘products’.
Key words: biopolitics, biotechnology, reproduction, labour, gender.
Sarah Tayton is a PhD candidate in the Centre for Comparative Literature and Cultural Studes, Monash University.

Watching Me Watching You

Christine Teague

Over recent years there has been a proliferation of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras in public and private settings in a bid to increase security and combat crime. Whilst concern abounds from citizens that the use of these cameras are an invasion of personal privacy, governments and organisations have continued to view them as a panacea in the fight against crime and public disorder.

Drawing on a research project currently being undertaken in a metropolitan railway environment, this paper aims to address a gap in the CCTV literature and examines the use of CCTV cameras as a ‘safety protection’ for railway transit officers. These transit officers, who have similar powers to police on railway property, provide the frontline of deterrence against anti-social behaviour and violence on the rail system. Like police, these transit officers are also subject to similar investigative procedures following any complaint received from a member of the public regarding their handling of an incident. However, radioing the monitoring room and calling for a camera to be focused on them as they deal with members of the public has a number of advantages. The camera footage provides a ‘security blanket’ for the transit officers should any complaint be received by the organisation that they handled a situation inappropriately; secondly, it provides evidence against an offender for any subsequent court action arising out of an incident; and thirdly it provides the ability for the situation to be monitored and additional support deployed to the area should the situation warrant it.

Based on the researchers observations, both working with railway transit officers and in the central monitoring room of the railway organisation, this paper explores the present use of the CCTV cameras in this environment, and explores how this technology could evolve in the future.
Christine Teague, PhD Candidate, Edith Cowan University

Back to top

The future of football is female: A case of fan-tastic imaginings?

Kim Toffoletti

Consistent with FIFA president Sepp Blatter’s proclamation that the future of football is female, the Australian Football League (AFL) has instituted a range of initiatives in an attempt to present a ‘female friendly’ face and garner women’s support for the national game. Given the large number of women who follow the AFL, especially in comparison to other football codes nationally, it’s worth considering the motivations behind the AFL’s tactics. To what extent does what the AFL think women want correlate with women supporters’ experiences and realities of being a football fan? This paper presents findings from semi-structured and focus group interviews with female AFL fans to gauge their perceptions of being an Australian rules football supporter and its impact on their lived experiences and sense of self. The responses of women supporters are critically assessed in order to contemplate how women negotiate gender identity through their support of a male dominated sport. As well as offering insights into the role gender plays in leisure pursuits such as sport spectatorship, this paper considers how femininity and masculinity might be contested and/or remade through the practice of following football in the Australian context. By demonstrating the range and diversity of women’s experiences, this research has the capacity to generate alternative imaginings of fanship and sporting community beyond gender stereotypes.
Dr Kim Toffoletti , Gender Studies, Deakin University.

Back to top

Wastelands: Landscapes for the Future.

Juha Tolonen

Ruins were an important component of the nineteenth century Romantic imagination. They invited reflection on the transience of all living things, and were useful symbols for the excesses and hubris of humankind. Their popularity was such that the aristocracy were even known to create simulations of ancient ruins to embellish their Arcadian landscapes. Contemporary ruins, however, have a different flavour to the noble ancient ruin. Rather than invite quiet contemplation they invoke more ominous feelings of anxiety. The lunar-like landscapes left in the wake of modern industry are much more threatening than a crumbling ancient temple. In these wastelands we are witnesses to destruction that is too close to our own existence and time to view them simply with the wonder and awe associated with age-old ruins. Ruins tend to be safely located in the past while wastelands seem more like anxious projections of the future.

To label space as wasteland usually places it at an end point, as land fully consumed and without value. While the ruin has redeeming features (like cultural heritage for example) the wasteland often has none. Instead, they are signs of excess, the negative image of a life of abundance. When it finally becomes necessary for civic authorities to confront these landscapes the common reaction is to limit their impact by some form of amelioration, in the process the negative images of modern progress are destroyed while the positive images are retained.

In a future burdened with greater levels of waste we will need to change the way we currently engage with wastelands. This paper will look at some alternatives and sift through recent trends in the treatment of wastelands in photography.
Juha Tolonen

Towards a revitalised academic dialogue on Indigenous issues in Australia

Kathryn Trees

In Australia, there is a tension between Indigenous and non Indigenous academics about who has the right, to say what, about Indigenous issues. This tension is entrenched in a history of paternalism; Indigenous peoples’ historical lack of access to public forums; the rise of Indigenous organisations and spokespersons. Theorists, Indigenous and non Indigenous, have created a dialogue work within theoretical frames including post colonialism, feminism, critical legal theory, etc; however, further progress is required.

In 2008, Prime Minister Rudd made a formal apology to Indigenous Australians. The Federal Government has committed to lower the unacceptable gap between Indigenous and non Indigenous life expectancy, health, education and living standards. It is maintaining the Northern Territory intervention, with a strong focus on neglect and child abuse, with the support of many Indigenous people; although there are also strong objections to the approach initiated by the Howard Government. There is currently a window of opportunity to develop new ways to address these issues, free from some of the limited past positions.

In this paper, I discuss proposals for enhancing academic contributions to this important debate. I acknowledge, these are still uncertain waters but we must find cooperative strategies to support a fruitful discourse, for instance by engaging more actively with Indigenous people and communities and providing conduits for their ideas. I argue we must do this without playing into the old “them” and “us” dichotomy.
Kathryn Trees, Murdoch University


When virtual and real worlds clash

Lynsey Uridge

Virtual ethnography provides a challenge to the researcher when
boundaries between the 'virtual' and 'real' world clash. Prior to the online environment people affected by chronic diseases or illnesses sought support from face-to- face communication with medical staff, family, friends and their support network. The advent of the Internet has changed this and now therapeutic communities have developed in the online environment. This means that individuals do not have to travel to participate in therapeutic interaction and can do this at home. Access to the support community is available at any time of the day or night, allowing for exchange of information and empathising with others in similar situations.

Unfortunately, relationships developed among members can sometimes go awry. Situations can arise where matters between members becomes public knowledge and may result in members taking sides and discussing the matter on the site’s bulletin board. At this point, a self-regulating community tends to polarise and ask for adjudicatory intervention. What happens when the moderator is perceived to be doing nothing about the situation and members of the community take matters into their own hands?

This paper discusses the implications of on-line moderation in a therapeutic community where members behave inappropriately and the moderator is asked to intervene. It details the steps taken to bring about a healthy conclusion but acknowledges that sometimes the situation is too complex and withdrawal from the site for a period of time may be the only reasonable outcome for all parties involved.
Lynsey Uridge, PhD Candidate, School of Communication and Arts, Edith Cowan University

Back to top


The Future of Indefinite Detention

Dimitris Vardoulakis

According to Judith Butler, the indefinite detention of prisoners by the US administration impacts on the political because it changes the way we think of time, and in particular the future: “The fact of extra-legal power is not new, but the mechanism by which it achieves its goals under present circumstances is singular. Indeed, it may be that this singularity consists in the way the ‘present circumstance’ is transformed into a reality indefinitely extended into the future, controlling not only the lives of prisoners and the fate of constitutional and international law, but also the very ways in which the future may or may not be thought” (Precarious Life, p. 92). The present paper will seek to contextualize Butler’s statement with recourse to Cesare Beccaria’s assertion in On Crimes and Punishments – a formative text of jurisprudence – that “Within a country’s borders there should be no place which is outside the law. Its power should follow every citizen like a shadow.” According to Beccaria, the citizens are prisoners of the sovereign’s law. If Beccaria was correct, then is the indefinite detention devised by the Bush administration qualitatively different from the conditions of citizenship in any liberal state? Or, is the difference merely quantitative? An answer to this question will necessary involve an investigation of temporality and in particular the future.
Dimitris Vardoulakis, University of Melbourne

Urban Screens: Navigation In Contemporary Urban Screen Space

Nanna Verhoeff

In this paper, I will analyze the performativity of urban screens through an investigation of several contemporary urban screens, the screening practices these screens involve, and their construction of urban space. This paper aims to revamp the notion of a one-directional screening practice of display by considering the collapse of making and viewing that can be witnessed in contemporary screen culture.

I will analyze several different urban screens that change the experience of urban space. These architectural or environmental, and sometimes interactive screens raise questions about the borders of screen-based dispositifs, or screening arrangements. The spatial as well as physical “programming” of urban screens triggers the deconstruction of both the process of making and of spectating. Pervasive and unfinished, these screens come to live in the presence of the mobile, urban spectator, who finishes the constructive work of screening. I consider this co-dependency between the screen as architectural interface and the mobile spectator as a form of performativity, in the sense that this form of screening is practice that constructs, spatializes and temporalizes the experience of urban space.

Keywords: urban screens, mobility, navigation, performativity, interactive environments, haptic spaces
Nanna Verhoeff, Utrecht University, Dept. of Media and Culture Studies


Nanna Verhoeff is associate professor at the Department for Media and Culture Studies at Utrecht University, The Netherlands. Author of The West in Early Cinema: After the Beginning (2006, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press), she is currently working on a comparative study of screens media and spatial practices, ranging from painted Panorama's to mobile game consoles and interactive, hand-held navigation devices.

"Changing media scenario and its impact on growth of advertising in India"

Dr.Manish Verma

According to the Pricewaterhouse Coopers report on the Indian entertainment and media industry, the industry is expected to grow to INR 837400 million by 2010. This growth has been mainly fuelled by the country’s high economic growth, its citizens’ increasing income levels, customer centricity, technological advancements and liberalization of policies.
By 2009, the total number of channels on air is expected to reach 700. Over the next 12 months alone, more than 100 new television channels are expected to be aired. With the increase in the number of channels, it will become mandatory for broadcasters to reduce advertising rates and spend a larger amount on improving technology. With the Indian economy growing at 9 percent, advertising expenditures are expected to increase by a fifth to USD 4.4 billion in 2007.

This paper will try to find out the impact of these developments on India Advertising Industry.
Dr.Manish Verma, Assistant Professor, Amity School of Communication, Amity University, India

"Europe Whither?"

Floarea Virban

Abstract: After almost a century, at the turn of the third millennium, Europe is eventually attempting to take back the leadership of the world, a position that it has gradually lost since the First World War and an aspiration which it definitely had abandoned at the end of the Second World War. Europe entered the third millennium as a growing economic power, but particularly as a new model of democracy - an alternative to the American way. Despite the efforts to build stability and cooperation, the world is actually confronting with instability and disagreements. The world is waiting for a new scenario and new credible actors. Europe has a unique chance right now to enhance this extremely challenging role or let the world getting into chaos.

This paper will offer two parallel sceneries, as sides of the same medals: one optimistic, which foresees a radiant future for Europe and humanity, the other pessimistic, taking into account the possibilities for Europe to fail. The first scenery projects Europe at the leading of the world and sees it as the maker of a new democratic global order. The second, inspired by Bukovsky's dark premonitions (in L'union européenne, une nouvelle URSS? 2005), attempts to find out to what extent a less radiant future can occur and how it would look like. Our present history (historicity) is the turning into reality of one of many possible sceneries. For a possibility to turn into reality certain condition should be created. Some depends on our actions, other are rather fortuitous. We definitely cannot plan our future, but we can try to anticipate its course, to catch a glimpse of it.
Floarea Virban


The experience of dislocation and its embodiment in material culture in a ‘globe trotting’ world

Associate Professor Andrea Witcomb

This paper is interested in exploring how the material world is used by migrants to help them work through their sense of displaced identity in a world where it is increasingly possible to return ‘home’ for holidays. In Australia, most migration displays tend to automatically represent migrant identities through displays of the migrant suitcase – that is, what they chose to bring with them, particularly those objects that signify their ethnicity. I am interested in exploring the possible meanings of an alternative category of objects in order to open up a more complex understanding of migrant identities in a world where migration no longer necessarily signifies a point of no return. The paper is inspired by my experiences when curating a small exhibition with the Portuguese community in Fremantle, Western Australia. Some of the objects I was offered on loan for the exhibition were tourist souvenirs bought while on holiday. I am interested in exploring how migrant uses of souvenirs might open up different frameworks for understanding and representing the experience of migration in ways which are sensitive to the process of imagining homelands and negotiating the process of multiple identities. The paper represents my initial tentative steps into what I hope might become an international comparative study.


Andrea Witcomb is a former social history curator who is now an Associate Professor at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. Her work traverses a number of concerns in contemporary museology. She is interested in the relations between museums and contemporary media culture, particularly around the notion of interactivity, in the use of affective forms of interpretation in museums and heritage sites as well as in questions surrounding the politics of representation. She is the author of ReImagining the Museum: Beyond the Mausoleum (Routledge 2003), co-editor with Chris Healy of South Pacific Museums: An experiment in culture (Monash e-press 2006), as well as a contributor to a number of books including Museum Revolutions (Knell, Macleod and Watson (eds.), Routledge 2007) and A Companion to Museum Studies (Sharon Macdonald (ed.), Blackwell 2006).

Back to top

Future spaces in contemporary Australian art: Spectacle, overexposure and the city

Kit Wise

Popular culture is strewn with visions of the urban spaces of the future. How do artists of our time navigate this territory? This paper addresses Paul Virilio’s notion of the ‘overexposed city’ through contemporary Australian art practice, in order to investigate the current cultural imagining of the ‘future spaces’ of the city. In one sense updating the cliché that a painting offers a window on the world, this paper substitutes recent art works by contemporary Australian artists for Virilio’s ‘door without a city’.

In his essay The Overexposed City (1984), Paul Virilio first described what he was to later refer to as a ‘law of proximity’ in his understanding of constructed space, where ‘the city of the future is the pleasure of the interval’. Virilio’s ‘interval’ equates to the unit of time, increasingly measured through light, rather than the unit of space: such that the desire-driven temporal sequencing of spaces through visual systems such as film, television and the internet has come to replace our usual topological understanding of space, in an ‘aesthetics of disappearance’.

Virilio uses the notion of the door, the screen and the surface to explore this condition of the contemporary city, where ‘replacing the old distinction between public and private and “habitation” and “circulation” is an overexposure in which the gap between “near” and “far” ceases to exist’. He asks: ‘Where does the city without gates begin? [...] Where is the door without a city located?’

In attempting to discern the status of urban architecture in relation to the exponential development of technology, Virilio identifies ‘a transmutation of representation’ that he discusses in terms of film: ‘Here, more than anywhere, advanced technologies have converged to create a synthetic space-time’. The video-based art works selected – by Philip Brophy, Shaun Gladwell and Kit Wise - serve to chart this filmic ‘transmutation’ from a geographical to a temporal representation of space as motion, where ‘the living and the living dead merge to the point of delirium’.

Imagining Lesbian Futures

Becky Walker

Lesbian communities are often imagined in utopian or dystopian ways (Gwennlian Jones, 2002; Phelan, 1989). The future of lesbian communities in a time of competing claims to space and recognition in lesbian communities has been a subject of contention and bitter border wars. I argue that discussions, contestations and flame wars in online lesbians fan groups could be said to represent a process of deliberative democracy. The online forums could be said to be a kind of assembly, a space for deliberation and civic engagement, that form part of a lesbian polis. This polis is more restricted than that of the original polis, the city-state of Athens 400bc (Haworth 2004) but nevertheless, the lesbian forums offer a space for community formation, engagement and deliberations which have echoes from this earlier, more extensive site of policy making and debate of civic affairs. These debates are not necessarily seeking consensus or majority votes, but are part of a process of change and development of individual and community opinion that are helping to shape and form current and future diverse lesbian communities.

Lesbian fan forums also offer ways of imagining lesbian communities, identities, bodies, sexualities and futures through the posting and sharing of fan fiction which is centred on lesbian desires. The fiction could be said to represent part of the lesbian imaginary. Laura Doane and Jane Garrity (2006) describe a same-sex imaginary as a shared culture and identity formed through artefacts and iconography. The concept is a useful extension of a discussion of lesbian deliberation and interaction. Beyond the negotiations over inclusions or exclusions or interpretations of popular culture that occur in lesbian fan communities is a celebration and a joy over the reworking and sharing of lesbian desire and fantasies. The lesbian fan fiction, which can be written, posted or read by any member of the groups, offers a space where the current and past lesbian imaginary can be celebrated and shared, and future lesbian cultures and communities can be imagined and developed.


Doane L & Garrity J 2006, ‘Introduction,’ in Sapphic Modernities: Sexuality, Women and National Culture, eds L Doane & J Garrity, Palgrave Macmillan, New York.
Gwenllian-Jones S 2003,‘Histories, Fiction and Xena: Warrior Princess,’ inThe Audience Studies Reader,edsW Brooker & D Jermyn, Routledge, London,pp.185-191.
Haworth A 2004, Understanding the Political Philosophers from Ancient to Modern Times, Routledge, Taylor and Francis, London and New York.
Munt, S 1998, Heroic Desire: Lesbian Identity and Cultural Space, Cassell, London.
Phelan S 1989,Identity Politics: Lesbian Feminism and the Limits of Community, Temple University Press, Philadelphia.
Becky Walker, PhD candidate, University of Wollongong

Mining Culture: Reflections on Land & Identity in Western Australia

Dr Virginia Watson

The idea for this paper comes from a series of realizations that Australian culture – ideas, identity, community and nation- is drawn deeply out of the economy generated by wealth fetched from mining. Yet also central to this settler economy and culture – the way we sustain ourselves materially, and make sense of ourselves in cultural terms and our place on this ancient continent – are our efforts to excavate and understand the original owners of the land, to make some sense (if it were possible) of the vast scale of their dispossession (and what we might do about this) in the face of our desire for and development of the country’s mineral wealth.
Taking this idea as my starting point I want to examine and reflect upon some of the ways in which this ‘mining culture’ has been configured in Western Australia. Here my concern is to draw attention in particular to the ways in which the history of mining culture at once constrains and facilitates possible ‘imaginings’ and practices ‘of the future’.
Dr Virginia Watson, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney

Back to top




Back to top