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The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.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 Seminars delivered in 2008, along with their original abstracts. Audio files are provided for seminars that were recorded. For further information on any of these seminars, please contact CCCS Admin.

Professor Robert Allen: '“Going to the Show”: Representing the Spatiality of Film History', 11 March 2008
For more than thirty years, Robert Allen has explored the histories of and relationships among popular entertainment forms in America: cinema, vaudeville, burlesque, radio, and television. Of particular concern for him have been issues of exhibition, audience, and reception. In an essay published in 1999, he argued that a decade before the U.S. had entered a “post-Hollywood” era, in which the products, technologies, experiences, audiences, and locales associated with “cinema” were profoundly different from those assumed by most in the field of cinema studies.
In this paper, Professor Allen amplifies this argument and extends its implications back across the entire history of cinema in the U.S. With many more people today watching movies on DVD players than in movie theatres, we can now see the outlines of the epoch of cinema based upon norms of public moviegoing (1895-1990). He argues that the defining features of this epoch were the sociality and spatiality of the experience of cinema. Allen explores how these crucial features of U.S. film history might be theorized, documented, and represented through his own work on the history of the social experience of moviegoing in the American South. He will also demonstrate how historic maps and new technologies of spatial representation might be used to help us “see” the role movies and moviegoing played in cities and towns in the South during the first three decades of the 20th century.
Introduction: Professor Graeme Turner [0.7 mb]
Seminar Part One [4.5 mb]
Seminar Part Two [6.6 mb]
Seminar Part Three [6.5 mb]
Seminar Part Four [5.2 mb]
Associate Professor Jason Jacobs: 'The Third Man and the BBC', 8 April 2008
In 1948 British film producer Alexander Korda gave Graham Greene ten thousand pounds in order to find a story in Vienna; the result was The Third Man. Greene wrote it first as a prose narrative before working it into a screenplay in collaboration with director Carol Reed. The movie is therefore not an adaptation of the story but an early stage in the completion of one. As Greene points out in his 1976 introduction to the novella, ‘The film in fact is better than the story because it is in this case the finished state of the story.’ However, the story did not finish with the film - it was extended in different ways in different media. Orson Welles, whose performance as Harry Lime is rightly regarded with critical acclaim, developed the character for a radio series called The Lives of Harry Lime (1951-52). The television version of The Third Man (1959) was one of the first successful international co-productions created by the BBC. The partner was a US distribution company, National Telefilm Associates and the production of the first series was split between both with twenty episodes shot at the 20th Century Fox studios and nineteen shot at Shepparton. This seminar explores the history of this production in the context of the BBC’s ambition to sell its television programmes to the US and the rest of the world during the 1950s. In addition Jason will argue that original narrative and thematic interests of Greene’s story made it a particularly attractive choice for the BBC given the complex nature of British television exports at the time.
Associate Professor Jo Ann Tacchi: 'Affective Rhythms in Domestic Life: Soundscapes and the Quest for Affective Equilibrium', 27 May 2008
This seminar will explore sonic and affective aspects of domestic living. Based on an ethnographic study of radio sound in domestic spaces, it is about affective relationships and individual ‘mood’, or ‘feeling’, in routinised everyday domestic life in the context of wider society. It is about establishing the notion of ‘affective rhythms’ in everyday life. Through exploring the affective qualities of radio and other recorded sound and its capacity for mood generation in the home, this seminar explores personal affective states and personal organisation. These things are considered in relation to aspects of sociality, how sound can act to create links through time and space. The concept of ‘affective rhythm’ forces us to consider the idea of mood in the light of the routine nature of everyday domestic life. Affective rhythm’ relates both to mood, and to routine. It is the combination of both that allows the possibility of thinking about sound and affect, and how they relate to, and integrate with, routine everyday life. Underlying this research is a recognition of the impetus in domestic settings to achieve affective equilibrium which helps us to make our lives meaningful and feelingful. How we feel is important and the consumption of media, and in this study, specifically the use of radio sound, plays a significant role.
Dr Harriot Beazley: 'Street Youth in Transition: Becoming a Street Adult in Java, Indonesia', 29 July 2008
Previous research with a group of street boys and girls in Yogyakarta from 1995-1998, identified how street children in Indonesia contest their marginalisation through their socialisation to a street–child subculture, and by following a street ‘career’ (Beazley, 2000; 2003). This seminar will explore the issues that street youth confront as they reach the end of their street-child career, and become young ‘street adults’. The seminar draws on longitudinal qualitative research with ten street children who are now in their early to mid- twenties, and at the end of their careers as anak jalanan (street children). Interviews were conducted between 2005- 2008, and were focussed on ‘catching up’ on key informant’s experiences over the past ten years, looking at their transitions into different types of work, and their lifestyle transitions during post-crisis and post–authoritarian Indonesia. This included an inquiry into the problems which street youth faced as they had to make difficult decisions in the ‘liminal’ period between childhood and adulthood.
Recent research increasingly points towards the significance of ‘fateful’ or ‘critical’ moments on the life transitions of marginal young people. There is no doubt that the financial crisis of 1998 had a significant impact on street youth’s income earning strategies, which in turn affected some of the decisions they took. As well as reflecting on this critical moment in Indonesian history, this seminar also examines other fateful events in the lives of young street adults, and how these moments have also impacted on their transitions to adulthood. For some of the original key informants these events precipitated a strong desire to reintegrate back into mainstream society, by returning home or entering a pesantren (religious school), while others made the transition from the street into cohabiting relationships, or parenthood. Others are now dead, due to HIV/AIDS or drugs and alcohol abuse. Others have returned to or remain on the street and are part of the Indonesian informal workforce. These young people are struggling with their identities as street adults, but remain entrenched in a close-knit collective street community. The paper links into the concepts of ‘storm and stress’ and ‘subculture as resistance’, by exploring what happens when the ‘storm and stress’ period is over for street youth-if there ever was such a thing- and considers the claim made by some that being a street kid is 'just a phase' of their lives.
Associate Professor Jonathon Sterne: 'The Historical Emergence of Perceptual Coding', 12 August 2009
MP3s get their small file size through a process called “perceptual coding.” An MP3 encoder scans a soundfile, estimates which parts of the recording will be inaudible to the ear, and disposes of those parts, thereby making the resulting MP3 file considerably smaller than the “same” song on a compact disc. In this talk, Associate Professor Sterne will trace the origins of the ideas behind perceptual coding, and show how they traveled from psychoacoustics to communications and computer engineering in the 1960s and 1970s. Many of the key insights of psychoacousticians and engineers during this period carry strange and interesting parallels to key writings on music and sound in the humanistic tradition, most notably by Roland Barthes and Jacques Attali. The seminar considers what Pierre Bourdieu calls “the homology of the fields” among psychoacoustics, engineering, aesthetics, and political economy in an attempt to explain why perceptual coding emerged when it did, given that the technology and the theory were available for at least a decade before the process was first realized.
Introduction: Professor Graeme Turner [0.3 mb]
Seminar Part One [6.3 mb]
Seminar Part Two [5.3 mb]
Seminar Part Three [6.5 mb]
Seminar Part Four [5.4 mb]
Dr Melissa Gregg: 'Always On: Coping with Constant Connectivity', 9 September 2008
While expensive advertising campaigns continue to promote the benefits of new media technologies, particularly for time-poor executives at the business end of the ‘new’ economy, far less is known about how these same technologies are deployed in more traditional middle-class jobs. For those in large organisations, mobile and wireless devices deliver new forms of imposition and surveillance as much as they do efficiency or freedom, and with email increasingly considered an entrenched part of organisational culture, ordinary workers are finding it necessary to develop their own tactics to manage a constant expectation that they will be available through the screen, if not in person.
Some of these tactics – such as checking emails during breakfast, knock-off drinks and even in bed – should prove troubling to employers concerned about the long-term productivity of employees, just as they suggest the centrality of online technologies in any test of ‘work-life’ balance. And yet, along with these more worrying trends, workers are also developing ways of expressing intimacy, solidarity and friendship through online platforms, as evident in the ‘mood indicators’ available on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. White-collar workers are increasingly tethered to the keyboard for business and pleasure, the health ramifications of which will require serious discussion as ever more media-savvy generations gain employment.
Placing these findings in the broader history of white-collar work, however, this seminar will argue that the compulsiveness behind much online behaviour has a lineage that a fixation on new media technology actually overlooks. That is, the desire to be connected, and hence to be recognised as desirable, productive and efficient, has its roots in a middle-class professional persona that is only now learning to adjust to the demands of an ‘always-on’ society.
Professor Tony Bennett: 'On Not Watching Television: Character, the Will, and Social Class', 29 September 2008
This presentation will review the main findings from the Cultural Capital and Social Exclusion project (an ESRC-funded survey of cultural tastes and participation in the UK) relating to film and television. Contrasting these with the more general findings relating to other cultural practices (music, reading, visual art) shows that class is of relatively minor importance in dividing the media field compared to the influence of age and gender. There is, however, a notable exception to this in the gap between the very large number of viewing hours put in by the working classes and the low rate of watching television on the part of the professional-executive class, combined with the extraordinary importance that is placed on this by the members of this class. By taking this as a point of departure for the discussion of class/television relations, it will be argued that what is evident here suggests a different gloss on the Kantian legacy: one which places the stress on the exercise of character and the will, rather than the ethos of disinterestedness, as the key marker of distinction. This is evident too in the marked preference for documentary and ‘real world’ television formats on the part of the professional-executive class in contrast to cinema where preferences for aesthetic genres continue to divide and stratify. This will provide a basis for assessing what is invested in the intense hostility exhibited by members of the professional executive class to reality TV.
Dr Roxanne Marcotte: '(New) Muslim Discourses Online?', 21 October 2008
This seminar will explore how Generation Y Muslims (more than half (53%) of Muslims are under 25) engage in online Muslim forums that transcend the local and reach out to the global, as members connect with global Islam(s). The focus will be on the mapping of one virtual – a Muslim forum – environment’s gender representations in which the forums’ participants engage and discuss women and Islam (links, posted articles, news stories) in order to explore the possibilities and limits of the hypothesis that forums can encourage and privilege more negotiated gender views, as the global becomes local.
Dr Kayoko Hashimoto: 'The Politics of English in Japan: Cultivating “Japanese who can use English”', 11 November 2008
In 2003 the Japanese government announced a 5-year plan to educate Japanese youth to be able to use English in the workplace. The idea originated from a proposal to adopt “English as an official language” in the government’s vision for the twenty-first century that was formulated in 2000. In 2002, the government released a document entitled “Developing a Strategic Plan to Cultivate ‘Japanese with English Abilities’”, which was followed by another document of an action plan, published in 2003. The plan to cultivate “Japanese who can use English” reflects the current situation surrounding TEFL (Teaching of English as a Foreign Language) in many ways. This seminar will examine the policy texts of the plans and other related documents, and argue that these texts themselves embody problems and contradictions in the government’s attempt to promote English in an effort to boost the economy. These two policy texts are products of the necessary compromise between the maintenance of Japan’s cultural independence and the promotion of English as an indispensable tool for international market competitiveness. It will also demonstrate that there is rhetorical continuity between the policy texts and public discourse, which indicates that the Japanese government’s agenda of maintaining cultural independence in an era of globalisation is not a top-down project but is embraced by both private and public sectors.
Introduction: Professor Graeme Turner [1.1 mb]
Seminar Part One [6.5 mb]
Seminar Part Two [6.5 mb]
Seminar Part Three [6.6 mb]
Seminar Part Four [6.1 mb]