I live in the US now, and watch with a growing sense of fear and horror as women’s rights to reproductive care are gradually, methodically, stripped away by the states. Abortion clinics are closed; women are made to wait unreasonable periods of time and travel impossible distances; women in some states are forced to undergo an ultrasound before they can get an abortion, which is not very different from being raped with a thing they euphemistically call a wand, with its magic powers of showing you your own insides.
This rush to reclaim and reposition national ‘values’ and ‘culture’ is peculiarly context free. Such statements create the strategic impression of action and leadership, but also conveniently skate over deeper cultural and political issues of how vulnerability to violence is compounded by intersections of social class, race and ethnicity. By invoking the often-repeated claim that domestic violence transcends all social class boundaries, neoliberal politicians effectively avoid responsibility for creating a ‘lean and mean’ policy environment that makes some women more vulnerable to abuse.
A few weeks ago, Radio National’s Life Matters featured a discussion on the latest refugee crisis, with a focus on the emotional response evoked by the photograph of the drowned Syrian toddler, Aylan Kurdi. While a couple of panellists – and most callers – called for an empathetic response that extended beyond politics, one of the interviewees, sociologist Klaus Neumann, suggested that an emotional reaction is likely to be fleeting, and that we need to go deeper.
James’s account of the role of cricket in the emerging national consciousness of the West Indian people is one example. Cricket was the most thoroughly colonial of sports – exported across the British empire by white educators and officials as part of their arsenal of supposedly ‘civilising’ influences. But as the enthusiasm for cricket took hold among the mass of colonised peoples, the on-field triumphs of black West Indian and other ‘colonial’ cricketers became a powerful symbol of resistance.
Archiving and sustaining history is an impossible challenge for every art form. Old paintings fade, books go mouldy, original copies of films are lost in warehouse fires. The perceived immateriality of digital forms such as videogames is often seen as a miracle solution, not susceptible to the degradation of mere material artefacts. But the truth is far more dire: digital artefacts are no less dependent on their material grounding than non-digital artefacts.
At a recent rally to shut down Melbourne, held by Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance in solidarity with Western Australian Aboriginal communities under threat of closure, a non-Indigenous member of the crowd suddenly took to the stage and spoke passionately about the need for white people to ‘do something’ about ‘the situation’ of Aboriginal people in Australia. The atmosphere became uncomfortable. It looked like the speaker had taken the stage without asking. Standing between them and the line of police backing onto Spring Street, a lot of us were exchanging nervous glances.
After reading the entries blind, the judges have selected a shortlist of eight outstanding stories. The winning story will receive a $4000 first prize and be published on the label of a bottle of Story Wine, as well as in Overland’s print magazine. Two runners-up will each receive $500 and be published at Overland online, and on the labels of different Story Wines vintages. Winners will be announced next week.
In the acknowledgements of Foreign Soil, I credit Francesca Rendle-Short, Sam Twyford-Moore and Paddy O’Reilly, the judges of the Victorian Premiers Award for an unpublished manuscript: who in selecting Foreign Soil, made the bravest of decisions where others may well not have. This acknowledgement was carefully and painstakingly worded: what Indyk said recently in his Sydney Review of Books article about the commercial element of literary prizes is true, at least in part. Nobody wants a book or manuscript to win a prize and not be published or sell well.
Fear of books is an ancient phenomenon. Some 360 years ago, John Milton had what should have been the last word on the foolishness of book censorship when he published Areopagitica in 1644. Milton’s treatise on censorship seems particularly relevant to the discussion of Family First’s appeal against Dawe’s novel. How is it that Milton, a dedicated Christian – in fact a radical Puritan – could advocate ‘promiscuous’ reading (Milton’s word), while the modern Christian organisation Family First seeks to restrict access to certain books?
Early in September, Queensland video game developers Halfbrick fired their last remaining game designers. No, they’re not about to focus on more traditional smart phone apps, nor are they about to go out of business. They still plan on making video games, and they still remain a ‘design-focused studio’. Just, you know, without designers. The move was met with derision among many fellow developers, critics, and players, who saw it as the latest misstep of a fixture in the turbulent Australian video game development scene.
Kanye West’s speech at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards was lengthy, meandering and scattered, at best. At times he was humble, particularly as he stumbled through an expression of nuanced regret over his infamous interruption of Taylor Swift. Invariably, however, he swung back to the heightened dignity that he is so well-known and oft criticised for. There were glimpses of profundity, though often followed by the address ‘bro!’ perhaps scuttling the likelihood of some viewers to take his comments seriously.
Despite, or perhaps because of all this, I don’t think anyone saw that bombshell coming.
As Antjie Krog pointed out in Country of My Skull, her account of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, to hear the innumerable intimate stories of violence to which ordinary people have been exposed is to feel like you are living in a double world. The material processes of society continue as though they didn’t exist. In fact, they create the very violence on which they subsist.
It is not fashionable to write about ‘class’ in universities, unless accompanied by words like ‘transcend’, ‘post-industrial’ or ‘knowledge-economy’. And yet, academics should have a great deal to say about class, not least because they work in one of Australia’s most insecure work environments. If anyone doubts that casualisation is a class issue, just consider that, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, ‘the occupation with the highest proportion of paid leave entitlements was managers (93 per cent)’.