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Curtin University of Technology
Curtin CSAA 2008 Conference

Panel Presentations

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The subterranean making of convivial culture: Mary G, Kaboobie and queer interventions

Troy-Anthony Baylis and Dr Vicki Crowley

Mary G is a little wild. She hails from the Pilbara, appears on radio, has had a TV gig and from time to time tours her reconciliation. Kaboobie is mayhem - she is ‘river deep, mountain wide’. She leaves you in that state of elated exhaustion haunted by the melancholia of what is no more and that is the aftermath of intense hilarity. In this paper we pursue the tension of postcolonial melancholia from the awkward space that postcolonialism holds for many Indigenous peoples in Australia. But more particularly we pursue questions of humour: he necessity of dark and blackly drag as intervention and practice of politics, sustaining and elevating life and lives lived; humour and satire, the intense pleasure of parody, the desire to excite and incite and to work as the strangeness of strangers; and this as survival, survival as functional and educative. Some of this overburdened intent leaves us, the audience, faced with considering the ordinariness of the everyday as well as those small moments when we glimpse critique and commentary that seems everywhere to be absent. We sit, we will contend, in the heart of colonial legacy - indeterminate, often cruel, desiring.

Ghostly Appearances: Representations of Queer Youth Suicide in the Australian Newsprint Media

Dr Katrina Jaworski

In many ways, suicide is about ghosts. As something that is both spectre and spectral, suicide haunts with aspects of the unfathomable. Shrouded by silence and secrecy, the ghostliness of suicide refuses to provide exact answers even when those who remain behind offer them. But what happens when the secrecy and silence weaved into understanding suicide is further curtained off by other silences, which by most part are almost impossible to recognise and “see”? Drawing on Guy Debord’s notion of spectacle and Judith Butler’s work on language and naming, the paper will address the ghost-like appearances of queer youth suicide in the Australian newsprint media. I will argue that the reporting of queer youth suicide is part of rendering suicide masculine and masculinist, invoked by deeply problematic gendered understandings of suicidal violence, intent and agency. Such a production, I will also argue, is rendered by sexuality as another condition of understanding how gender comes to reside in suicide. I will begin by examining the articulations of queer youth suicide in selected Australian newspapers. I will then interrogate the meanings and assumptions vested in what is represented, and the ways by which spectacle and language gender suicide. The purpose of the paper is to show that the gendering of suicide as masculine and masculinist is dependent on heteronormative conceptions of gender.

Appearance and Disappearance: A Queer Theory that had “No Future”

Julia Horncastle

If by speaking of the future we consider ourselves to be doing one of two things: explicitly speculating and speaking of likelihoods, or making implicitly firm calculations which manifest as explicit claims of assuredness, then I suggest that the very notion of ‘the future’ is so inherently problematic that to speak of it without first laughing at its irony, is to miss a vital and philosophical point. This is no grand claim. My grand claim is that queer theory which for the last eighteen years (and it has been considered ‘spent’) still provides us with a way of examining the seamless temporality of “then” and “now” as poetic and transformative oddities that coalesce around what I call an anti-futurist paradigm. Paradoxically ‘the future’ is also presented – as something to follow. In what might be considered a disjuncture between abstract notions of our being in time and our practical arts of living I will suggest that ontological endeavours which examine everyday experience, can speak of being in terms of ‘interstitialities’ – moments of in-between-ness that exists in such places as the propinquities of poetry and the mundane, theory and practice, self and other, and importantly, the past and present. ‘The future’ remains a constant and elusive bauble – a wildly exciting, bright, shiny, thing or a small speck of grit; an irritant with stimulating effects.

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Gambling Futures

Fiona Allon, Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney

Title: The Redistribution of Risk: You can bet your house on it!

Modern finance is replete with gambling metaphors: ‘great casino in the sky’, ‘blue chips stocks’, ‘betting on sub prime mortgages’, ‘market players’ and so on. In recent years, however, this metaphoric language of gambling, speculation, risks and returns has morphed into an uncannily accurate description of the steadily growing financialisation of everyday life. For example, individuals are increasingly exhorted to see themselves as ‘players’ in the financial marketplace and to view their lives in terms of investments, asset acquisition and wealth accumulation. Home ownership has become central to this image of privatised economic security and risk taking. The home has become redefined as a store of equity, and a vehicle for property investment, speculation, capital gains, and further wealth/credit expansion. In this way, individual homeowners have been encouraged to behave like risk takers and entrepreneurs, and to adapt to a social order of greater individual responsibility and insecurity. Risk has devolved to the level of individual identity and is now redefined as an issue for self-management and self-regulation, with individuals valued on their ability to successfully negotiate risk as a way-of-life. The current meltdown of the modern financial system — a system that ironically was deemed to be able withstand collapse because risk was spread far and wide — has revealed both the complexities and calamities inherent to this redistribution of risk.

Theorising Subjective Intersections between Investment and Gambling

This paper explores subjectivity in cultural contexts where gambling collides with various forms of investment within ‘real’ economic institutions and practices. Drawing on a range of popular cultural practices, technologies and texts from financial self-help literature to Texas Hold’ Em poker tournaments and poker machines, I critically evaluate Pierre Bourdieu’s treatment of gambling in his account of the illusio. I argue that, considered as cultural practices, gambling and investment highlight tensions between the way concepts of habitus and symbolic capital are elaborated within Bourdieu’s theoretical framework. I conclude by exploring alternative theoretical approaches to subjectivity that cultural studies might pursue at a moment when borders between gambling and investment appear to be constitutively porous

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Imagining the Great Southern Land: Utopia, Dystopia and Science Fiction

Convenor: Professor Andrew Milner

The three panel members are co-investigators in a Discovery Project, Imagining the Great Southern Land: Utopia, Dystopia and Science Fiction, which has been funded by the ARC with $A 185,711 in 2007, $A 196,065 in 2008 and $A 178,317 in 2009. Their project is a critical-historical appraisal of utopianism in Australian literature, architecture and popular culture (especially science fiction). It examines the ways Australia has been used as the setting, and sometimes as the inspiration, for imaginings of a significantly better or worse society than that in which the authors lived. Its special academic significance is in its use of a wide range of disciplinary approaches to analyse the specificity of Australian utopian traditions. This kind of interdisciplinarity was precisely what was intended by the early founders of Cultural Studies (Hoggart, Thompson, Williams). The panel will address the findings of the research project, especially what they show about how Australian utopian traditions were shaped by, and in turn helped to shape, real political and social developments.


Professor Ian Buchanan

Ian Buchanan is Professor of Critical Theory at Cardiff University. He is a former President of the CSAA and Partner Investigator for the Imagining the Great Southern Land project. His recent publications include Fredric Jameson: Live Theory (2006) and Jameson on Jameson: Conversations on Cultural Marxism (2007).

Professor Verity Burgmann

Verity Burgmann is Professor of Political Science at the University of Melbourne. She is Chief Investigator for the Imagining the Great Southern Land project. Her recent publications include Unions and the Environment (2002) and Power, Profit and Protest: Australian Social Movements and Globalisation (2003).

Professor Andrew Milner

Andrew Milner is Professor of Cultural Studies at Monash University. He is principal Chief Investigator for the Imagining the Great Southern Land project. His recent publications include Literature, Culture and Society (2005) and Imagining the Future: Utopia and Dystopia (2007).


“ Justice across Cultural boundaries”

Convenor: Kate Auty

Aboriginal panelists from Norseman and Kalgoorlie Boulder community courts together with Aboriginal Justice Officer and Magistrates to present on justice across cultural boundaries. Panelists and judicial officers to discuss their justice methodology on the floor of the magistrates community court, the reorganisation of the courtroom to incorporate Aboriginal people's cultural iconography and decentering power, the objectives of community courts including capacity building and community development, breaking down cultural barriers and potentially reducing recidivism. The panel would provide interested conference participants with a tour of the court precinct.

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Media Participatory Citizenship

Panel organiser

Dr Debbie Rodan


Dr Debbie Rodan (Media & Cultural Studies) and Prof Mark Balnaves (New Media) Edith Cowan University, Perth

E-democracy initiatives at the Oxford Institute for Internet Research and elsewhere have identified an urgent need to relate the rise of what are called ‘participatory cultures’ and ‘active forums’ to citizenship and representative government. At present, there are no empirical studies on how the participatory cultures that have emerged in social media might contribute to civic engagement. Fandom, textual poachers, mods, skinners and mappers, for example, are all part of a games world where participatory cultures have emerged and where affinity communities are built and resources shared. Active forums, similarly, engage citizen reporters to share news, nationally and internationally. What has not been examined is the ways in which various media including new media provide real options for participatory cultures. Undoubtedly there will be differences between participatory cultures that are considered a ‘genuine’ contribution to representational democracy and those that are not. The presenters in this panel examine the ways in which new media provide real options for participatory cultures now and in the future.

The role of new media in transforming citizenship: an investigation into active forums and participatory cultures.

According to Robert Putman in Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American Community (2000) civic engagement in the traditional sense of community values and civic participation appears to be declining. One aspect he claims contributes to this decline is electronic media; however, Putman mainly examined television (p.228, 284). What he has not examined is the ways in which various media including new media provide real options for participatory cultures now and in the future. Undoubtedly there will be differences between participatory cultures that are considered a ‘genuine’ contribution to representational democracy and those that are not. This paper will examine a couple of specific examples of active forums which we consider enable participatory citizenship from the aspect of media participation. This research will contribute to transforming future models of citizenship participation. The significance of the project to media and cultural studies is that there are very few examples of active forums that are considered a ‘genuine’ contribution to representational democracy.

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Religious and Secular Futures

In the range of topics suggested for the 2008 CSAA conference on ‘Futures’ religion is conspicuous by its absence. This panel seeks to address that absence. Everywhere around us we see the ‘return of religion’, whether in geopolitics, national concerns, local communities or everyday life. For this reason we feel that any consideration of cultural, economic, and political change must include religion.

Secularism and religious compatibility in Australia

Holly Randell-Moon, Doctoral candidate in Critical and Cultural Studies, Macquarie University

This paper argues that the legal and political operation of secularism in Australia is less about separating religion from politics than it is about the cultural compatibility of different religious beliefs with the sovereignty of the Australian state. Because the sovereignty of the Australian state has no religious competitor for authority, it can be said that Australian law is neutral and secular. Religious belief by contrast, is individual and specific (Ross, 2004, p. 53). For this reason, the law as universal and neutral is able to intervene in the religious beliefs of individuals whereas religion, ostensibly, has no power over the state (Mahmood, 2006 p. 327).

However, in order to uphold an opposition between Australian law as neutral and secular, and religious belief as individual and specific, the contingency of the state’s sovereignty must be made invisible. That is, the law’s foundations in colonial violence and the extinguishment of Indigenous sovereignty as a competing authority are removed from view in legal and political characterisations of the law as secular and neutral (Giannacopoulos, 2007; Langton, 2001; Moreton-Robinson, 2004). The colonial heritage of Australian law is not religiously neutral. The Australian Constitution recognises some limits to the secular authority of law. Its Preamble includes a Christian blessing to ensure “a layer of external sovereign authority to” the laws and acts made in the Federal Parliament (Ross, 2004, p. 53).

I argue therefore that the political and legal operation of secularism accommodates religious beliefs which legitimise the sovereignty of the nation-state. Thus the colonial foundation of the law means that the Christian beliefs of the dominant cultural group are built into the norms of constitutional and parliamentary arrangements. These norms do not contradict, but coexist with Australia’s secular culture.

From Natural law to Naturalised law

Christina Petterson, Doctoral candidate in Critical and Cultural Studies, Macquarie University

In his letter to the Romans, Paul the apostle draws on the Stoic doctrines of natural law and natural theology to undergird his argument on masculinity and natural sexuality. From here, the notion of natural law and natural theology became canon law in the Catholic tradition through the work of Thomas Aquinas. The reformation theologians rejected the notion of natural theology, but held on to natural law, in particular Luther, who used this as a way of bolstering the political authority of the princes. With Hugo Grotius and Thomas Hobbes, natural law is finally secularized and released from theology and drawn in to the state ideologies of mercantile Europe and implemented in its colonies.

This paper will take as its point of departure natural law, and move into discussions of secularization, as problematised by Talal Asad and applied to an Australian context by Holly Randall Moon, and apply these discussions to tensions between Australian law and aboriginal law as articulated by Maria Giannacopoulos.

The Antinomies of Secularism

Roland Boer, Research Fellow in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies, Monash University

In light of the flowering of all manner of religious and spiritual practices has the secular project run into the mud? This paper makes three related points: secularism suffers from some basic antinomies; post-secularism is a false path; a new secularism may be the way forward.

I begin with the definition of secularism: it is a way of thinking and living that draws its terms, beliefs and practices from this age and this world (Latin saeculum and saecularis). If we take this definition then the other senses of secularism become secondary or derivative: the anti-religious nature of secularism; the separation of church and state; the distinction between scientific academic study and theology. However, a close look at each derivative reveals some deep antinomies: the existence of religious secularism; the fiction of the separation of church and state; the impossibility of separating religion from secular academic work. The definition of secularism itself faces an antinomy: any project for the improvement of this world is both secular and anti-secular since that project looks forward to another age in the future.

What is to be done, as Chernishevsy once said? To begin with, the much proclaimed ‘post-secularism’ is a pseudo-option. Celebrating individual spirituality (I can choose what I like from the spiritual market –place all the way from wicca to fundamentalism) and the so-called resurgence of religious practice does not answer the antinomies of secularism. It merely flips to coin to argue that people still need a deeper, spiritual dimension to everyday life.
In order to advance the discussion we should explore what I call a new secularism. Given that an initial impetus for secularism was to challenge oppression at the hands of a reactionary church, this new secularism may want to explore the emancipatory elements of both religious and secular thought.

The Religious Futures of French Theory

Matthew Chrulew, Doctoral candidate in Religion and Theology, Monash University

The return of political theology at the forefront of critical theory has many secularists crying foul. But that philosophers might, at a critical historical juncture, seek inspiration from a return to the origins of Christianity is neither surprising or new. As Ward Blanton has shown, ostensibly secularist philosophers from Kant to Heidegger have performed this gesture. And Gil Anidjar has recently argued that the very distinction between religious and secular is internal to a broader and unquestioned Christian hegemony.
Perhaps this hegemony is demonstrated in the widespread arguments that in our era of imperial sovereignty and advanced global capitalism the most appropriate politics is one of love. These attempts to reinvigorate progressive materialist politics are often characterised as a break with the dominant tendencies of French philosophy. We must move, it is said, from the postmodern negativity of critique and disconnection to a new, positive politics of creativity and fraternity. In the wake of renewed debate over the legacy of poststructuralism in America and elsewhere, this paper will explore this untimely religious future of ‘French theory’.

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Sites/Sights: Consumerist spaces

Panel Convener

Dr Panizza Allmark, School of Communications and Arts, Edith Cowan University.


Dr Dennis Wood, Dr Panizza Allmark, Catherine Gomersall (School of Communications and Arts, Edith Cowan University)

This panel will present a visual sociology of consumerist spaces. It will highlight consumption and spectacle that permeate modern living. For example one presentation will focus on the bag as a by-product of shopping. The bag is explored in an attempt to navigate the value system informing the perception of the contemporary Western body, particularly the public body. The public bodily experience of encounters within shopping malls will also be examined. The controlled environment of the shopping mall as a public space presents global consumer culture in which the local is lost in the concrete jungle of corporate advertising. Window-shopping can be compared with the televisual experience and the mall could be a text in which the flaneur is faced with the spectacle of opportunities and is insulated from the grubby openness of the street and uncontrolled nature. Providing a sanctuary from the street, the geography of the shopping malls, moreover, offer the spectacle of affluent lifestyle choices that become centrepieces in which desire and excess are celebrated.

Dr Dennis Wood, School of Communications and Arts, Edith Cowan University
Window Shopping: TV and the Mall as Flaneurial sites/sights.

If the mall was to be read as a text, then it's closest counterpart would be the television. The televisual text is comprised of discrete, unrelated, juxtaposed, eposodic sequences. Thus advertisements, news bites, station promos and the programmes make up the viewing spectacle. The progamming of the networks assumes a flow of interrupting and interrupted sequences that may be thought of as a type of inverted flaneurial exercise. In the case of the flaneur it is 'he' who moves through the spaces taking pleasure in looking .However, with the televisual flaneurial experience, the watcher is fixed and the scenes, the snippets of the gaze, parade past 'him'. Both of these experiences are catered for in the malls with neither at any one time being priviledged above the other.

Dr Panizza Allmark, School of Communications and Arts, Edith Cowan University
Shopping Malls and Consumerist Encounters

Whether considered ‘Cathedrals of Consumption’ (Fiske, 1989) or ‘Temples of Consumption’ (Gill, n.d) the consumerist spirit is enhanced in the pilgrimmage to the shopping mall, which provide privilege places of communion and communication (Shields, 1992) In a visual exploration of shopping malls in various cities around the world, this presentation will examine the, arguably, secular sanctuary and ritual space for women and girls, as opposed to traversing the openness of street. The presentation will also, moreover, examine the controlled environment of the shopping mall as a public space that presents global consumer culture, in which the local is lost in the concrete jungle of corporate advertising and in which the spectacle of desire and excess are celebrated. The shopping mall the space may be seen as an interactive space which impacts on the self and in which affluent lifestyles are on offer.


Fiske, J. (1989). Reading the Popular. Routledge, London. p. 13
Gill, B.(n.d) Temples of Consumption: Shopping Malls as Secular Cathedrals
Shields, R. (1992). The Individual Consumption Culture and the Fate of Community, Washington, DC. 1980. Community, in Lifestyle Shopping: The Subject of Consumption, R. Shields, ed. Routledge, London, pp. 99–113.

Catherine Gomersall, School of Communications and Arts, Edith Cowan University
Plastic Bags: Desire and Excess

Not only has the ‘plastic bag’ become a controversial cultural artefact, furthermore it has come to symbolise a predicament of modern living. The plastic bag appears as an accessory to the famous Tiananmen Square protest of 1989. In 2004 a rubbish bag as an art exhibit makes headlines and is binned by a cleaner at the Tate Gallery in Britain. Petitions are currently in circulation by activists locally in their various communities encouraging members of the public to “Ban the Bag”. Has the introduction of the “Green Bag” actually altered the cultural phenomenon of the bag? Photographers around the world have documented the plastic bag on display in the public space, as exhibited in the London Photographer’s Gallery last year. As Gablik (1984) states, “the environment is merely a reflection of what is in us, and if the environment is to change something within us must change.” In the view of the plastic bag’s cultural significance I conceptualise our bag to be representative of the Western paradigm of the body. What ends up in the bag at its departure from the domestic sphere – the ‘shopping bag’ becomes the ‘rubbish bag’ - tends to be similar to what ends up in or around, and therefore in definition of the body. The bag is explored in an attempt to navigate the value system informing the perception of the contemporary Western body, particularly the public body. Incorporating a creative practice, I explore the cultural trajectory of the ‘plastic bag’. In its metaphor of the ‘abject body’: the tension between desire and repulsion, the discourse of the ‘rubbish bag’ shifts. In the view of our culture’s trashophilia, the bag, the body, has much less to do with repulsion than with desire and excess.

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The Future of the Teaching/Research Nexus: the challenges and opportunities of digital media studies.

Professor David Marshall and Dr. Christopher Moore

Cultural studies as a teaching and research practice has with differing levels of success integrated various approaches and techniques into its study of cultural activity and engagement. In a very real sense, its origins in the academy have been connected to teaching or doing "culture" in a manner that challenged conventions of knowledge or in Williams' terms selective traditions. This paper looks at a new challenge to the teaching/research nexus that is presented by the teaching of digital media, research and the cultural practices that are associated with the new forms of communication.

In the second half of 2008, the authors were involved in teaching two new courses to first year students: New Media Communication, where students developed their digital literary skills and analysed those practices; and a second course entitled Methods in Research in Digital Communication, where students developed their competencies in engaging with the forms of information and knowledge generated in online environments.

The key themes to be addressed in this paper are the challenges and opportunities presented by the dynamics of employing digital media technologies in the teaching of digital media studies. We will examine how the production of knowledge is shifting for students today and researchers and academics of tomorrow and we will explore the assumptions made of these digital natives and the past practices of teaching and assessment that don't quite mesh. Consideration of the logistical issues and the technical road blocks to the teaching of cultural studies in a computer lab environment will lead to imagining ways that this approach might encourage the future inclusion of students as codevelopers and innovators in the research process.
David Marshall is Professor and Chair of New Media and Cultural Studies and Head of the School of Social Sciences, Media and Communication at the University of Wollongong.
Christopher Moore, Digital Communication in the School of Social Sciences, Media and Communication at the University of Wollongong

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