The CSAA 30th Anniversary Conference will host an exciting array of plenary sessions, including keynotes and roundtables across the three days.

Keynote: Professor Stephen Muecke (with Dr Max Brierty)

Stephen Muecke is Adjunct Professor at the Nulungu Research Institute Notre Dame University, Broome, an Emeritus Professor of Ethnography at the University of New South Wales, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. Recent books are Latour and the Humanities, edited with Rita Felski, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020 and The Children’s Country: Creation of a Goolarabooloo Future in North-West Australia, co-authored with Paddy Roe, Rowman and Littlefield International, 2020. His most recent book is a translation of Olivier Remaud, Thinking like an Iceberg, London: Polity, 2022.

Whitefella Mischief: A Tour of the Museum of the Magicians of Reason

Positivist social sciences and rationalist philosophies are pretty sure they have established that there is one real world, and the rest is mere illusion, representations thereof, or post-truth fakery.  We can thank the Enlightenment for that, along with its denunciations of religion, superstitions, pagan practices and charlatanism. A lot of ground had to be cleared, and the benefits have been enormous, for the enlightened ones.    But ‘symmetrical anthropology’ (Bruno Latour) has intervened, casting doubt on any certainty that what we call ‘the West’ has been purged of fictions, rituals, and magical tricks contributing to its mastery of the one real world it created and called Nature, objective and inert. We shall ask Donna Haraway what she meant by the ‘God Trick’, and see how it was deployed once again by Sutton and Walshe in their attack on Bruce Pascoe.    Disconcertingly for the masters of mastery are the resurgence of Indigenous knowledges and their ‘multiple universes’, as well the assertion of ‘living worlds’, kinship with non-humans, and the notion of an active Gaia. It is no accident that this is the result of a growing awareness of the destructive effects of a universalising modernity. But are multiple worlds the answer? Surely exposing one set of tricks only reveals other kinds of power?

Keynote: Distinguished Professor Larissa Hjorth

Distinguished Professor Larissa Hjorth is a digital ethnographer and socially-engaged artist in the School of Media & Communication at RMIT University. Hjorth has two decades experience leading mobile media projects to explore innovative methods around intergenerational connection, intimacy, games, play, loss and death in the Asia-Pacific region (Japan, South Korea, China and Australia). Hjorth has also worked extensively on how mobile media is used for grief, loss and recovery—including the Fukushima disaster (2011), Queensland floods (2011) and Australian bushfires (2020). She is passionate about creative, inventive and playful methods for community engagement, communication science, research translation and sharing images of animals doing funny stuff.

The Mourning After: A cultural studies approach to grief, witnessing and mobile media in Australia

Once upon a time, Australian media images of beautiful beaches and “dropbear” koalas represented the everyday. However as climate change disasters and pandemics become more commonplace—the unprecedented becoming precedented—narratives of grief and witnessing dominate our contemporary media culture. Mobile media practices—from Instagram pictures to online funerals and mass media images of grief—represent, interpret and memorialise grief as part of everyday life. Media narratives including mass animal death, unanticipated futures, disenfranchised (unacknowledged) grief, solastalgia (how the environment in crisis is impacting our sense of wellbeing) and more-than-human ecological grief, ecogrief. Grief is an important cultural practice which is crucial in recovery from loss and developing resilience. Given much of these narratives of grief are experienced in, with and through our mobile devices as both witnesses and companions, what can mobile media teach us aboutgrief as a reflection of contemporary Australian culture?   Drawing on a cultural studies approach to grief as a social, cultural and political practice, this talk seeks to understand Australia’s media culture as a fabric of differentiated textures of grief—that is, it is experienced in diverse ways by different people for numerous reasons. I explore some case studies that draw from human and more-than-human contexts to make sense of the plethora of relational grief practices omnipresent in our quotidian lives. I also turn to the role of indigenous knowledges and cosmology and creative practice methods to not only make visible some of these tacit rituals but also to develop a cultural studies grief literacy framework (as opposed to a psychological one). In understanding the complex role grief plays in Australian lives as a cultural practice we can think about methods for hopeful futures, social action and change.

Keynote: Associate Professor Fran Martin

Fran Martin is Reader in Cultural Studies at the University of Melbourne. She recently concluded an ARC Future Fellowship project whose findings have been published in Dreams of Flight: The Lives of Chinese Women Students in the West (Duke U.P. 2022).  Fran’s prior research focussed on television, film, literature and other forms of cultural production in the PRC, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, with a specialization in cultures of gender and sexuality. Her monographs include Situating Sexualities: Queer Representation in Taiwanese Fiction, Film, and Public Culture (HK U.P., 2003); Backward Glances: Contemporary Chinese Cultures and the Female Homoerotic Imaginary (Duke U.P. 2010); and Telemodernities: Television and Transforming Lives in Asia (with T. Lewis and W. Sun, Duke U.P. 2016).

Australian education export: What is it good for?

This paper draws on a recently concluded 5-year study of the social and subjective experiences of fifty+ young women from China through the years of their university study in Australia. It focusses on the ethical dimensions of Australia’s engagements with these students; that is, the extent to which current practices of Australian “education export” contribute to various kinds of public good. I begin by contextualising what I term the “transnational education assemblage” that links China and Australia through the vector of hundreds of thousands of mobile students, as the result of education’s commercialization in both nations. I will consider how Australian degrees are marketed to students and families in China by commercial education agents and universities, and the ethical implications of this advertising when considered in light of students’ actual experiences living in Australian cities. Drawing on these analyses, I propose that for Chinese students, Australian international education as it is currently practiced may tend to support intensifying class stratification (in China), sub-optimal social and personal wellbeing (in Australia), and identification with a neoliberal ethos at the expense of deeper cosmopolitan connection. For Australian universities, meanwhile, this type of internationalization represents one aspect of the privatization and marketization of education: properly a public good. However, centering gender in our analysis complicates this picture. This is because for Chinese women students, subjective alignment with neoliberal-style values through international education can in fact provide gendered benefits vis-à-vis their positioning in systems of familial and patriarchal power at home. The paper concludes with a utopian speculation on a future in which we might better realize international education’s potential to support mutual transformation for both Chinese students and the cultures of Australian universities.

Keynote: Professor Mark Deuze

Mark Deuze is Professor of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam’s (UvA) Faculty of Humanities. Mark has held honorary appointments at the Faculty of Journalism at Lomonosov Moscow State University, Russia, the School of Communication of the University of Technology Sydney, Australia, and the Department of Communication and Media Studies of Northumbria University, United Kingdom. Publications of his work include over one hundred papers in academic journals and twelve books. Before that he worked as a journalist and academic in the United States, Germany and South Africa. He is also the bass player and singer of Skinflower.

Media Love

What does it mean to love media? What does the love of media do, what does it bring us, and how does love help us to live a good life in media?

This project answers these questions using artistic and scientific perspectives on love (in biology, sociology, psychology, anthropology, history, philosophy, as well as throughout popular culture and the arts), the self-confessions of young people from different parts of the world, and the method of autoethnography and artistic exploration/experimentation to authentically capture what ‘media love’ is.

At the heart of the project is a recognition of the fact that people’s relations with media (and through media with each other, society and the wider world) are profoundly intimate, personal and affective. However, this ‘loving’ dimension of our lives in media tends to be ignored, ridiculed or seen as a problem to be solved. In this book, people’s love for media is taken as an emancipatory and empowering force in society. Conjoining love and media as a transformative force – for better or worse – opens up new ways for thinking about the role of media in society and everyday life, and inspires a particular approach to (developing and teaching) media literacy to include emotional literacy.

The argument and conclusions of this project contribute to contemporary debates about digital literacy (in the context of a global ‘infodemic’), doing media and cultural studies, digital ethics, aesthetics and governance.