Since receiving my teaching award, I have been lucky enough to be invited to attend conferences and universities all over the world… it is an amazing experience and I have never felt so lucky.
My most recent travel was to South Africa to visit University of Witwatersand, Johannesburg (known as Wits) and Rhodes University, Grahamstown.
Before going to South Africa I must say I knew little about the country apart from some of the history of apartheid. The country has such is a rich a complex history with apartheid only one of many significant chapters. I found the country and the many people I met to be inspiring and hopeful, though much of what is happening is also heart-breaking.
In response, I did what I usually do when I try and make sense of the things that I see… I wrote an article in collaboration with Dr Nicky Falkof who is based at Wits. What I found was that apartheid might be over, but racial categorisation continues in South Africa. So after 20 years since the (official) end of apartheid, race still colours almost every national conversation . As an outsider, I found this confronting. Even polite dinner discussions raise all sorts of questions about white economic privilege, affirmative action policies, guilt, responsibility, retribution and blame. You can read the article here…
Over the last few years, I have written, debated and analysed many different aspects of Australian politics. It has been a torrid time.
Many conservative commentators have described the Gillard Government as ‘the worst in history’. This is a ludicrous assessment and the list of achievements should never be forgotten. Here are only three examples:
In late November (2012) I was lucky enough to receive the Prime Minister’s University Teacher of the Year Award - see the nice awards in the photo!
In giving me the award, the Office of Learning and Teaching described my philosophy of teaching as having three broad pillars: working with students as agents for change (rather than seeing them as ‘citizens in waiting’); bringing theory to life; and, promoting a sense of agency and active citizenship.
I have attempted to achieve these goals by implementing a number of innovative strategies including a textbook commissioned by Oxford University Press, summarising key theoretical concepts in YouTube videos, and even this blog-site.
Every year we witness dozens of ‘natural’ disasters from all over the world which are usually accompanied by a devastating loss of life, the displacements of thousands and the loss of livelihoods that compounds the suffering. From the earthquakes in Haiti (2010), to the floods in Pakistan (2011/2012), we see these events and stare in wonder thinking about how lucky we are.
Then there are the social and political disasters such as wars.
The easiest thing to do is draw a neat divide between ‘natural’ and ‘social’ crises: seeing one as the result of nature and the other as failed political and social processes.
Recently I was asked to write my first catalogue essay for the work of Chen Ping – an artist who works in both Australia and Beijing (pictured here with me at the opening of his exhibition, September 2012). The essay was an exhibition titled Complex Emotions to be held at ArtEquity. I had never written anything like this before so approached the task with both some trepidation and excitement.
I had seen Ping’s work before and had loved it but was challenged with the idea of writing about ‘art’: for art is not something that you can really describe, but rather something that you must sense, see and feel. After spending time in the gallery for a private showing of the work and a having a long conversation with Ping, I began to reflect on the role of art in our society.
Though many conservative commentators would never admit it, there is no doubt that much of the criticism leveled at the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, is because she is a woman – revealing an underlying sexism in our society. This is not defending her policies, performance, or any other aspect of her government. This was well documented in an essay by Anne Summers for the Sydney Morning Herald. Looking at female politicians, Summers makes some very important observations which are well worth reading.
Much of this goes to the way that the gender is socially constructed in our society. This social construction often places women in categories: often as being over emotional or Continue reading
One of the low points in Australian political and social history over the last decades has been about refugees. The way that both major parties have used some of the world’s most vulnerable people to score cheap political points has been shameful. This began with John Howard’s mantra of ‘we will decide who enters our country and how they enter’ has continued. Though Tony Abbott and his immigration spokesperson, Scott Morrison, have taken the debate to new lows, we should not forget that the Gillard Government has had Indonesian minors sitting in prison and charged with people smuggling.
The outrageous has moved to the absurd and ridiculous with our politicians failing to come up with a solution that treats people with dignity while dissuading people to attempt the treacherous voyage. In my frustration, I wrote the following article. Before you read it, remember, it is meant to me satirical… I hope you understand what I am trying to say…
A solution to refugees
I have just returned from some research work in Europe. Being the political geek that I am, I spent much of my time check in on what was happening in Australia. (I lost interest in the league as the Roosters season got increasingly worse.)