Friday, February 23, 2007

...and an update...

For those of you interested in hearing more about The Australian Journal of Cultural Studies and the origins of the journal Cultural Studies, Jon Stratton has provided some follow up. Most intriguing to me is the proposal that Cultural Studies be published on a rotating basis in Australia, the UK, and the US. That reminds me a bit of what the Traces series aspires to do, though significantly without the commitment to translation. In any case, I hope you enjoy hearing more about cultural studies' intellectual and institutional history.
Hi Everybody,

First of all, thank you to everybody who has emailed me with congratulations on getting the journal put up on the web. A couple of people have emailed me asking for some further information on the Editorial Board and such like. So, here goes.

The Editorial Board for the first issue was Peter O'Toole, Murdoch University, Brian Dibble and Graeme Turner, Western Australian Institute of Technology (now Curtin University of Technology) and Brian Shoesmith, Western Australian College of Advanced Education (now Edith Cowan University). The Editorial Advisors were Bill Bonney, Iain Chambers, John Hartley, and Horace Newcomb. By the final issues the Editorial Board had expanded. It was: John Frow, Anna Gibbs, John Hartley, Robert Hodge, Michael O'Toole all of Murdoch University; John Fiske, Barbara Milech, Graham Seal, all of WAIT (now Curtin); Brian Shoesmith of WACAE (now Edith Cowan); Graeme Turner of Queensland Institute of Technology (now Queensland University
of Technology).

You might also find interesting that there was an announcement in the final issue that was headed: "From The Australian Journal of Cultural Studies to Cultural Studies." The first paragraph reads: "The Australian Journal of Cultural Studies will undergo a transformation in 1987. It will become an international Journal with the title Cultural Studies and will produce three issues a year, normally one from Australia, one from the UK and one from the USA. It will be published by Methuen (London) Limited, which will relieve the board of our permanent problems of finance and marketing." The announcement continues for a further six or seven paragraphs. I should, perhaps, see about getting some of this material added to the website.

I hope this is of interest,

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Archive fever

...courtesy of Jon Stratton, Curtin University of Technology, Australia. Apparently the complete contents of The Australian Journal of Cultural Studies, which was (if the oral histories I've been told are correct) the precursor to the Routledge journal Cultural Studies, have been digitized and made available for free on the web. These are crucially important documents with respect to cultural studies' own intellectual history, which is to say nothing of the journal's significance relative to the field's institutionalization and internationalization. The link follows below. Check it out.
Many years ago, in the early 1980s, before the journal Cultural Studies was a twinkle in anybody's eye, there was a journal in Australia called The Australian Journal of Cultural Studies. It was possibly the first refereed cultural studies journal. It ran for four years from 1983 to 1987 and was started by people at Curtin University of Technology and Murdoch University, both in Perth, Western Australia.

Originally, the journal was typed up and photocopied. Others can tell the history of the journal much better than I. The journal carried articles by people such as Graeme Turner, Stephen Muecke, John Hartley, Tom O'Regan and John Fiske. It also included, for example, a translation of an extract of Bakhtin's doctoral thesis.

The journal has both historical value as an artefact of early cultural studies in Australia and also a continuing intellectual importance. Through funding by the Faculty of Media, Society and Culture at Curtin University I have been able to have the contents of the journal scanned and put on the web. I would also like to acknowledge the help of Garry Gillard at Murdoch University who made available the material that he had already scanned in. The journal can be found at:

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Conflicts of interest

Okay--I know D&R hasn't ever been given over to sports, and I'm not planning on making a habit of it. But for whatever it's worth I do follow professional cycling, albeit infelicitously. And reading today's New York Times, I couldn't help but be struck by this story:

Organizers of the Tour of California, who boasted after last year’s race that no riders tested positive for banned substances, have acknowledged that riders were not tested for what has become the sport’s most abused drug--the blood booster known as EPO.

That failure is more surprising because the lead sponsor of the Tour of California is Amgen, the California biotechnology company that produces the genetically engineered version of EPO, which is sold primarily to help cancer and dialysis patients battle anemia.

Now, I can understand why Amgen would want to "educate" people about (and advertise) EPO and it's proper uses, but within the context of a professional cycling event that just seems to me a bad idea. If nothing else it ought to raise serious conflict of interest flags. I mean, who would want to associate your product with a sport or an event in which it's a banned substance? That's about as sensible as permitting baseball stadiums and games to become venues for marketing steroids and publicizing their proper medical uses.

Sounds like someone needs some remedial articulation theory here--stat!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Alfred Jarry

No, I hadn't heard of him, either...that is, until I ran across his name in Deleuze's Essays Critical and Clinical. I've owned the book since it first appeared in English in 1997 (has it been a decade already?), and I've trudged several times through the chapter called, "An Unrecognized Precursor to Heidegger: Alfred Jarry." Admittedly, I never got it, owing largely to the fact that I had no idea who Alfred Jarry was. I assumed--erroneously--that he was a philosopher, given his pairing with Martin Heidegger, coupled with Deleuze's gesture toward phenomenology. I should have realized that Jarry was a writer, since most of the chapters in Essays Critical and Clinical concern literature and literary figures.

In any case, I returned to the book this past week while working on my essay, "What Is This Critical in 'Critical Cultural Studies?'" and decided to give the Jarry chapter a long-overdue rereading. And by the good graces of the folks at Google and Wikipedia, I was able finally to get some much-needed background on Alfred Jarry. Evidently he was a forerunner of the theater of the absurd, and as my extended but still preliminary research tells me, he's influenced radical puppet theater, spawned a mock institute, and even infiltrated the work of Michel de Certeau, among others.

Mostly, though, I'm intrigued by Jarry's notion of pataphysics, "the science of imaginary solutions...extending as far beyond metaphysics as the latter extends beyond physics." I should say, on a note of caution, that Jarry intended pataphysics to be something of an absurdist joke. Evidently those who take it too seriously open themselves up to all sorts of rebukes and recriminations by its self-appointed guardians--who, I'd suggest, probably take themselves much too seriously, as evidenced by the uncharitable review of Christian Bok's Pataphysics: The Poetics of an Imaginary Science appearing on So what I'm about to say I say knowing full well that I'm probably not "getting" the joke: pataphysics seems to me a name for talking about a "science" or study of virtuality, in the Deleuzo-Bergsonian sense of the term.

Indeed, what I find most lacking in contemporary critical philosophy and practice is both a willingness and a vocabulary by which to talk about imagination, creativity, and what used to be called the classical canon of "invention." What I'm after is, I think, a speculative orientation that would embrace that which "is real without being actual, ideal without being abstract." And my sense, despite (or perhaps because of) the jokes, is that the notion of pataphysics might begin to point the way there.

For further reading: Gilles Deleuze, "How Jarry's Pataphysics Opened the Way for Phenomenology," in Desert Islands and Other Texts (1953-1974) (Semiotext[e] 2003).

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Save public broadcasting

...from the good folks at Please click on the link below and do your part to rescue public broadcasting in the United States.
George W. Bush is trying—yet again—to slash funding for NPR and PBS. This week, Bush proposed a new budget with devastating cuts to public broadcasting. Sesame Street and other ad-free kids' shows are under the knife. So is the independent journalism our country needs.

Enough is enough. We've fought this fight before and won—but we can't afford the risk anymore. With the new Congress, we can make sure this never happens again. We need Congress to insulate NPR and PBS from the political winds.

We can make it happen if enough of us sign this petition: "Congress must save NPR and PBS once and for all. Congress should guarantee permanent funding and independence from partisan meddling." Clicking here will add your name to the petition:

After you sign, please forward this email to your friends, family, and co-workers to keep this campaign going. We'll deliver the petition to members of Congress as they consider Bush's budget—offering a public counterpoint to this dangerous attack.

Congress can protect NPR and PBS from future cuts. The long-term solution to save public radio and TV is to:

  • fully restore this year's funding

  • guarantee a permanent funding stream free from political pressure

  • reform how the money is spent and keep partisan appointees from pushing a political bias

  • Bush's budget would cut federal funds for public broadcasting by nearly 25%. According to PBS, the cuts "could mean the end of our ability to support some of the most treasured educational children's series" like Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow, and Arthur."

    As telecommunications chair Rep. Ed Markey said, "In a 24-7 television world with content often inappropriate for young children, the public broadcasting system represents an oasis of quality, child-oriented educational programming. We owe America's children and their parents this free, over-the-air resource."

    The cuts could also decimate one of the last remaining sources of watchdog reporting on TV—continuing the partisan war on journalism led by the ex-chair of public broadcasting, Ken Tomlinson. More people trust public broadcasting than any corporate news media. President Bush would rather undermine our free press than face reporters who are asking tough questions.

    Let's put an end to the constant threats to NPR and PBS. Let's ask Congress to guarantee funding and stop partisan meddling. Clicking here will add your name to the petition:

    Thank you for all you do.

    –Noah, Marika, Eli, Adam G. and the Civic Action Team
    Thursday, February 8th, 2007

    P.S. Our friends at Free Press have more on how to save NPR and PBS once and for all:

    Tuesday, February 06, 2007

    It's in the jeans

    Busy, busy, busy! That seems to be the word around here these days and indeed the reason for my relative quiet on Differences & Repetitions. The semester began more than a month ago with a fantastic, graduate student-initiated symposium involving folks from IU, the Universities of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Pittsburgh, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Northwestern, all of whom gathered here to discuss the relationship of rhetoric and democracy. Next came the job searches, which we've nearly wrapped up, and this week we have on tap the 11th annual IU cultural studies conference, where I'll be presenting a paper on cultural studies and academic journal publishing. Life's been something of a blur, needless to say.

    I'm writing now to discuss an article I ran across recently in The Washington Times about the Levi-Strauss Company--you know, the apparel manufacturer best known for its jeans. Well, as it turns out, the company has fallen on something of hard times of late, owing to the declining popularity of its jeans and other clothing lines. What's intriguing to me is the strategy the company has adopted to get its act back together. Rather than seriously rethinking its brand associations or updating its designs, it's taken to suing competitors who've stitched arches on the back pockets of their jeans. Levi's evidently has trademarked that detail and, publicly, at least, says that it's convinced its economic downturn is related to the piggybacking of other companies on its design.

    Really? I see this as a desperate measure on the part of a company that refuses to get creative. At bottom, I think, is the widespread presumption that Levi-Strauss--a company that's more than 130 years old--is frumpy...and I say that, admittedly, as someone who has a pair or two of Levi's hanging in my closet. Rather than spending millions of dollars to litigate arches stitched in gold thread, wouldn't it make more sense to try to create a hipper image or product line for Levi's jeans? I ask this not because I'm particularly concerned for the wellbeing of the Levi-Strauss Company, but rather because I'm discomforted by the company's leveraging its trademarks to forestall what in a reasonable world (as opposed to what Jane Gaines calls the "legal real") would amount to appropriate competition.