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July 17, 2006

Grants to Grumble

Posted by dogpossum on July 17, 2006 1:07 PM in the category academia

No area was so associated with bullshit as cultural studies, where sociology and anthropology met literary criticism and produced prose that repelled the lay reader like a mouthful of Mace (Haigh The Nelson Touch: The New Censorship)
And while I find the thought of a mouthful of mace kind of interesting (I'm thinking of the Christmasy spice I use in Indian cooking and interesting baking), I can see Haigh's point.

This is a quote from an interesting article by Gideon Haigh in The Monthly - you can read it here. The article discusses the recent ARC funding fisticuffs, something I remember mostly as a fairly painful moment in academic funding where the then-Education minister Brendan Nelson apparently crossed a few applications off the funding list for having the words 'feminism', 'gay' or 'postmodern' in the title. Haigh's article The Nelson Touch The New Censorship adds a tad more detail to my memory and is well worth a read. One of the most interesting comments in the article is this one:

McCalman observes that the ripple effects are still to be reckoned with: “What this has done and will do for a long time to come will bring about self-censorship. You watch: young academics will sheer away from gender, because of the perception that it’s being monitored. The fact is that in this country we have no other form of research advancement apart from the government. And it gives them a power like no other country.”

A point which is certainly true in my case - I consciously chose not to position myself as a 'feminist researcher', despite the fact that my thesis is riddled with the words 'gender', 'sexuality', 'power', 'resistance' and so on. It simply seemed a sensible move to position myself within a different discourse. And perhaps to get all subterfuge-ey, exploiting the notion held by some male cultural studies academics, that if it's got woman in the title, it should be in women's studies rather than cultural studies.* It's actually far more exciting to think of myself as sneaking a little illicit Sisterhood into the mix.

I'm not really clued in enough to comment critically on the article, but if it quotes Gray-bags, it's worth a glance:

College of Experts member Professor Graeme Turner recalls:
At the end of 2004, there’d been a bit of an attitude from the other disciplines of: “Well, humanities people are wankers, Nelson was probably right.” But the second time, when the social sciences as well as the humanities were questioned, there were rumours that science would be scrutinised as well. Other people started saying: “What’s going on?” In fact, the position I took with people in science was to say: “What’s the position going to be in a few years on stem cell research? All you need’s a shift in the politics to be in the same position.”

*Is that bitterness you sense? Oh no. Not at all. Not one bit.

Posted by dogpossum on July 17, 2006 1:07 PM in the category academia