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The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.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 2012, 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.


Dr Anthea Taylor: 'The Public Identity of Feminism: Popular Feminist Books in the Mediasphere', 13 March 2012

How have popular feminist books, and the public talk about them, worked to create Western feminism’s public identity? Feminist non-fictional bestsellers – from Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique to Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman – have contributed to, and often initiated, broader cultural conversations about feminism, women and gendered subjectivity; they have thus shaped how feminism has been publicly understood, discussed and contested over the past 50 years. Such texts, the cultural work they do, and their celebrity feminist authors are then an important part of feminism’s popular history yet there are a number of questions, in terms of how they have helped to publicly sculpt the meanings of modern feminism, that have been insufficiently addressed. What might these books and how they come to circulate reveal about the kinds of feminisms granted cultural legitimacy as well as who is authorised to speak for and about feminism in the mediasphere? What changes can they enable us to track in the relationship between mainstream media culture and modern feminism? This seminar discusses the guiding questions for this research project as well as canvass its possible directions and parameters.

Introduction: Professor Graeme Turner [1.8 mb]
Seminar Part One [11.0 mb]
Seminar Part Two [10.2 mb]
Seminar Part Three [10.2 mb]
Seminar Part Four [11.3 mb]


Professor Marcus Breen: 'Uprising: The Internet's Unintended Consequences', 29 May 2012

Professor Breen presented research from his recently published book, Uprising: The Internet’s Unintended Consequences. The seminar explored the foundations of the shift in the circulation of transgressive knowledge by developing the theory of proletarianization. The analysis included two case studies that illustrate the increased rise of transgressive knowledge due to the Internet: jihad and pornography.

Introduction: Professor Graeme Turner [1.8 mb]
Seminar Part One [12.1 mb]
Seminar Part Two [12.7 mb]
Seminar Part Three [12.1 mb]
Seminar Part Four [9.9 mb]


Dr Michael Skey: 'The Importance of Being National: The Struggle for Belonging and Security in an Unknown World', 24 July 2012

This seminar explored the reasons why national forms of identification and organisation (might) matter in the contemporary era. In the first part, recent research on everyday nationalism is combined with insights from micro-sociology and social psychology to highlight the importance of routine practices, institutional arrangements and symbolic systems in contributing to a relatively settled sense of identity, place and community. In the second, Dr Skey used data from his own qualitative research among the ethnic majority in England (alongside insights from researchers working on similar issues in the Netherlands, Sweden, US and Australia) to explore the hierarchies of belonging that operate within a given national setting. Here, there is a particular focus on how members of the majority position themselves as the arbiters of national space and culture and, as a result, lay claim to key material and psychological benefits. In presenting such views, they also point to the (perceived) threats that certain minority groups represent to both their own status and the nation, which are often articulated in relation to the most banal incidents and objects. In conclusion, it is argued that these insights may be used to offer a fresh perspective on current policy debates around national belonging, multiculturalism and community cohesion.

Introduction: Professor Graeme Turner [1.8 mb]
Seminar Part One [10.3 mb]
Seminar Part Two [8.8 mb]
Seminar Part Three [9.9 mb]
Seminar Part Four [12.6 mb]


Dr Jane Stadler: 'The Cinematic Journey of Alexander Pearce, Cannibal Convict', 31 July 2012

The story of the notorious “cannibal convict” Alexander Pearce’s journey through southwest Tasmania in 1822 and the gruesome fate that befell his seven comrades on their famishing trek across the island state has been narrated many times in song, on stage, in print, and on screen. This paper analysed changing representations of cinematic space over time by retracing Pearce’s footsteps through the wilderness. Moving beyond the Gothic, which is most often invoked in analyses of Tasmania’s landscape, Dr Stadler argued the films in this study both document and produce shifting perceptions of the environment, from the touristic gaze in For the Term of his Natural Life (Norman Dawn, 1927) to the haunted landscape in Van Diemen's Land (Jonathan Auf der Heide, 2009).

Each film in the cycle rightly treats the location of Pearce’s story as central to the action, yet each presents a different view of Tasmania. In what ways, Stadler asks, is the experience of place mediated within Tasmanian films? And since many films set in Tasmania take considerable liberties with the geographic locations they purport to represent, what difference does it make where the story is filmed? To address these questions, this longitudinal case study brings together historical, aesthetic, and spatial perspectives on film to develop a geocritical analysis of Tasmanian cinema.  


Professor James Hay: 'Reassessing the Utility of "Popular Culture"', 16 August 2012

No term was more at the center of conceptualizations of power and politics in “critical” theories of communication/media during the mid- and late- twentieth century than “popular culture.”  The term figured into the work of Leftist intellectuals such as Raymond Williams, Stuart Hall, and Richard Hoggart who were shaping a “cultural studies” in Britain before the 1970s, and after the 1960s the term became pivotal in explanations about the object of  Cultural Studies, particularly among theorists who invoked the newly translated writing of Antonio Gramsci to argue that popular culture is the terrain on and over which hegemonic struggle occurs–an argument famously elaborated in Hall’s “Notes on Deconstructing the Popular” (1981).  Professor Hay proposed that “popular culture” increasingly has become a useless way of thinking about the current mediascape, even as the term’s legacy and residual uptake provides a useful way of understanding emergent the political and economic dimensions of media cultures.  The “popular” (and Gramsci’s idea of the “national-popular”) pertained more to the institutional arrangements and the economies of communication/media until the late-20th century than to the current context.  The Gramscian fixation on “the popular” also overlooked certain related questions–particularly ones that Michel Foucault addressed through his writing about “population,” “biopower,” and the emergence of demography in the Modern world.  An analysis of how “the popular” matters politically and economically in the present, needs to grapple with the varied and proliferating institutions, arrangements, & technologies (“media”) of population-management.  Considering the changing technologies for assessing populations also is helpful in understanding current political “populisms” and in rethinking a recent discourse that has linked political populism to “media revolutions” and a “convergence culture.”

Introduction: Professor Graeme Turner [1.4 mb]
Seminar Part One [11.4 mb]
Seminar Part Two [11.1 mb]
Seminar Part Three [10.4 mb]
Seminar Part Four [10.3 mb]


Dr Alison Scott: '"Luxury" in the Age of Shakespeare: A Missing Chapter in the History of the Idea?', 4 September 2012

The idea of luxury has a rich history in western civilization. In contemporary culture it is a thing to strive for, something we deserve to indulge in, the epitome of style, but in pre-modern times its meanings were entirely different. In classical and early Christian thought it was defined, first against masculine empire, then against nature, but always against the order of things. It was variously imagined as a debilitating disease, a carnal sin, and as monstrous waste; unsurprisingly, when personified, “Luxury” almost always appeared as a dangerous and alluring woman.

Intellectual historians are in broad agreement that the watershed moment in luxury’s conceptual transformation from white devil to secular god arrives in the eighteenth century. With particular reference to the writings of Bernard Mandeville, David Hume and Adam Smith, Christopher Berry argues the idea of luxury was “de-moralised”; adopting a different term but with similar intent, John Pocock has spoken of its “rehabilitation” in the same period. 

According to current conceptual histories then, “luxury” in the age of Shakespeare was a relatively simple moral idea. The word is assumed to have been interchangeable with “lust” or “lasciviousness” as it was for Chaucer and the meaning of the concept is understood in limited terms as “carnal sin” or “carnal indulgence”. A cursory glance at a concordance of Shakespeare’s works does nothing to unsettle this position, but this paper explored a series of exemplary literary representations of luxury around the turn of the seventeenth century that suggest that the idea was far more encompassing in Shakespeare’s culture than eighteenth-century scholarship has assumed. Using contemporary works of lexicography to illuminate literary treatments of the idea, it was argued, first that “luxury” is distinguished from “lust” in the period; and second, that its conceptual vocabulary is enlarged and destabilised as it is deployed by writers in new and sometimes morally ambiguous contexts.   


Dr Anna Cristina Pertierra: 'Tranquility and Television in Southeastern Mexico', 23 October 2012

This presentation drew from ethnographic research in the city of Chetumal, Quintana Roo, to explore how Mexicans express their aspirations for safety and familial success through their use of television and other domestic technologies. The focus of the seminar is upon middle class consumers, who form a large part of the urban population in comparison to other Mexican cities, including many middle class migrants from other parts of Mexico. In Chetumal, such migrants typically seek a lifestyle characterised by stable employment, a lack of violence, and larger, more comfortable houses. This last characterisation is explored in some detail, examining television sets and air-conditioners as objects that produce desirable domestic environments. These technologies enable a retreat from the social life of the street, which in Latin America is often imagined as the space of the urban poor, and produce a material space which encourages young people in particular to spend much of their time within the household, which is both a refuge and a fortress against the environmental and social hazards of the outside world. This seminar considered how residents of Chetumal deploy televisions and air-conditioners to respond to national discourses of crime and danger in Mexico, as they work towards an alternative imagined national community of middle class consumer-citizens.

Introduction: Professor Gay Hawkins [3.6 mb]
Seminar Part One [10.5 mb]
Seminar Part Two [10.5 mb]
Seminar Part Three [9.9 mb]
Seminar Part Four [9.1 mb]