The Centre for Critical Studies was incorporated in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in August 2015.

The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.

Below is an archive of CCCS Public Lectures delivered in 2013, along with their original abstracts. Audio files are provided for lectures that were recorded. For further information on any of these lectures, please contact CCCS Admin.


Professor Sarah Whatmore: 'Living with Flooding: Redistributing Environmental Expertise', 21 March 2013

As flood events become more frequent and severe so their toll on communities and livelihoods around the world becomes articulated, not least through the imperatives of a twenty-four hour global news media, as a shared matter of concern. For all the science / policy talk of improving flood risk management, affected communities are unavoidably in the business of learning to live with flooding. In practice, this means learning to live with the scientific uncertainties and policy constraints that characterise flood risk management expertise quite as much as with the hydrological parameters of how much rain falls out of the sky, over what time frame and onto what kind of landscape/topography. In this presentation, Professor Whatmore will argue that these two dimensions of flood risk management – expertise and hydrology – are inextricably linked. This makes the challenges of learning to live with flooding centrally concerned with how effectively communities are able to bring their experience and knowledge to bear on the framing and management of flood risk problems that affect them.

The presentation reports on a collaborative project in the UK that set out to effect just such a ‘redistribution’ of expertise by means of an experimental research apparatus – the ‘competency group’ (CG) – inspired by Isabelle Stengers' philosophical project of experimental constructivism. It draws on the work of one such group based in Pickering, a town in Ryedale in Yorkshire with long experience of flooding. This group involved social and natural scientists working collaboratively with people affected by flooding over a twelve-month period, to interrogate the science that informs local flood management and intervene in the public controversy to which it had given rise. The seminar focuses on the ways in which various artefacts that mediated our collective flood apprenticeship in Ryedale were recharged as publicity devices through which the working practices and knowledge claims of what became the Ryedale Flood Research Group gathered political force in the wake of the group’s work.will outline the pervasive ABC – Attitudes, Behaviour, Choice – model permeating policy making and program delivery, and introduce new theoretical perspectives that reframe the major sustainability challenges of our time.


Dr Dolly MacKinnon: 'History’s Cold Cases: Ned’s Head and Other Bodies of Evidence', 18 April 2013

The intense media coverage surrounding the rediscovery of ‘Ned’s Head’, a skull allegedly belonging to Australia’s most notorious nineteenth-century bushranger Edward Kelly, as well as the recent unearthing of the late fifteenth-century skeletal remains of Richard III in a car park in Leicester (UK) demonstrates the public’s ongoing fascination with history and forensic science.  Each of these cold cases centres on an iconic figure clothed in historical notoriety that inhabits a space in the public imagination where historical myth and reality are often blurred.

This lecture looks at Ned Kelly’s cold case, and locates his skeletal remains within the broader context of nineteenth-century medical practices of dissection, medical collecting, and the law. Within the context of colonial asylums and prisons, what happened to Kelly’s body was neither new nor exceptional. Over the last 130 years Kelly’s alleged remains have form part of the prized collections of both public institutions and private collectors. This was possible because medical men regularly handled the dead bodies they had ready access to within the colonial institutions of the asylum and the prison. This lecture hopes to show that in order to understand the nineteenth-century world of medical men we need to ask some fundamental questions. What actually happened to bodies within institutions immediately after death? What remains were committed to the earth? How did nineteenth-century medical men view these corpses? For what purposes could they be used? What did the law have to say about their uses, and also what did the law leave unsaid? Did any family or friends have any say? In the course of this lecture Dr MacKinnon hopes to fill in some of these historical gaps, by using diverse forms of evidence ranging from museum collections, bills and statues, built heritage, and the archives of the forgotten individuals from lunatic asylums and prisons. 

Historical analysis plays an integral and important part in an interdisciplinary process including forensic science and archaeology, intent on recovering the medical and cultural practices of the past. History when used in conjunction with the mitochondrial DNA, and archaeological remains, helps flesh out our corpus of knowledge about these bodies of evidence. What could happen between the time of Ned’s hanging, and his first, but not his last, internment then forms part of a broader body of evidence that tests our 21st-century assumptions about anatomical examinations and informed consent.


Mr Jonathan Holmes: 'Quis Custodiet...? Reflections of a Media Watcher', 16 May 2013

Jonathan Holmes will shortly be leaving the chair at Media Watch, which he has occupied for longer than any presenter since Stuart Littlemore (1989-1997). In this lecture, he argues that the program is no longer, as it used to be, the only effective check on the misdeeds of the Australian media. In the face of ferocious media opposition, the Gillard government seems to have backed away from trying to impose tougher regulation on the print and online media. Meanwhile, however, social media and the blogosphere are providing increasingly powerful means through which consumers and commentators can hold Australia’s mainstream media to account.

One newspaper proprietor put to Ray Finkelstein QC during hearings for the inquiry into press regulation that his journalists were “more afraid of Media Watch than of the Press Council”.  To counter what he saw as the APC’s ineffectiveness, Mr Finkelstein recommended a statutory News Media Council to enforce ethical and editorial standards on the print and online media.  Although, to judge by online comments, such a move might well have proved popular with consumers of news, the mainstream media rancorously opposed it, on the grounds that it would threaten freedom of speech.  The more cogent objection, however, is that would be ineffective.  Cases of individuals badly maligned, bullied or otherwise damaged by the media are comparatively few in Australia: those cited by Ray Finkelstein, on closer examination, were neither clear-cut nor amenable to regulation.  And, while regulating accuracy is possible, regulating ‘fairness’ (especially if that means attempting to root out political bias) is well-nigh impossible. The opportunity for the most desirable reform to media regulation – a self-regulatory regime that would cover all media on all platforms - has been lost.  In this lecture, Jonathan argues that the digital revolution might well provide solutions.  Over time, it will dilute the dominance of the major news outlets in Australia – especially News Ltd.  And for the first time it affords injured or affronted consumers a means to band together and hit back at the mainstream media, in ways that are both swift and effective.  We are all Media Watchers now.

Introduction: Professor Gay Hawkins [4.0 mb]
Lecture Part One [11.2 mb]
Lecture Part Two  [10.8 mb]
Lecture Part Three [11.6 mb]
Lecture Part Four  [10.6 mb]
Response: Dr Nick Carah [3.2 mb]

Professor Mike Michael: 'Engaging the Public: Science, Technology and the Politics of Participation', 22 August 2013

This lecture charts the rise of ‘public engagement with science’, especially in Europe, and documents some of the criticisms that have been levelled at this broad initiative. The lecture also asks why there is seemingly so little engagement with the public by scientific institutions in Australia and in the region.


Forum: 'Locating Television: Where Does Television Fit in the Digital Era', 5 September 2013

How is the role of television changing within the current media environment? In this forum, a panel of UQ television and new media researchers will present their view of the current role of television within an environment where broadcast or ‘appointment television’ is losing ground to time-shifting technologies and subscription TV, where social and mobile media are occupying increasing amounts of the public’s time, but where formats like reality TV are occupying much of the public’s imagination and binge viewing of ‘quality television’ is on the rise. Notwithstanding all the excitement in the news media, in the media industries, and among early adopters, about the potential of alternative platforms, television is still, in most places around the world, the dominant medium of mass communication – and it continues to grow. To understand its most likely futures, we need to better understand the present.

The panel will respond to that challenge by presenting accounts of the current place of television in the digital era by drawing on their research into particular aspects of contemporary television conducted in a range of countries and regions, including Australia. In their short presentations, speakers will discuss topics such as the diverse histories of television’s development outside the West; the connection between reality TV and an increased acceptance of modes of surveillance; the revival of television’s employment as a vehicle for a commercial form of nationalism; and the structural specificities of the Australian television system. International visitor, author of the highly influential World Television, Professor Joseph Straubhaar will respond.
Introduction: Professor Gay Hawkins [5.0 mb]
Professor Graeme Turner [7.5 mb]
Dr Mark Andrejevic [10.0 mb]
Professor Tom O'Regan [12.2 mb]
Dr Zala Volcic [10.3 mb]
Respondent: Professor Joseph Straubhaar [12.6 mb]

Professor Joanne Tompkins: 'Virtual Reality and London’s Early Stages: Interacting with Stage Props in The Rose Theatre in 3-Dimensions', 17 October 2013

This lecture demonstrates what Prof Tompkins has been able to learn about the conditions for performance in several of London’s early modern theatres, namely the Rose Theatre and the Boar’s Head Theatre. Her resources are not the usual ones of playtexts, financial documents, eyewitness accounts, etc. Rather Prof Tompkins and her colleagues have used virtual reality to recreate several early theatres that have not existed physically for some centuries. She will explore the logistics of actors moving around the theatres and the manipulation of some of the more complex stage props required to operate in these theatres. By demonstrating some of the performance practicalities associated with several plays that were known to have been performed in the Rose and the Boar’s Head, she argues that the tools of digital heritage and preservation help us discover a fuller understanding of performance potential then, now, and for the performance of early modern plays in the future. The presentation will be illustrated by a tour of the virtual environment. This work, through the company, Ortelia, also extends to contemporary theatres and gallery/museum spaces. The final part of the presentation will illustrate some of what she has been able to achieve in these venues.

Lecture Part Four  [13.2 mb]