A (sceptical) judge of the experts

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No 22. October 2002

 Manila trip takes historian on new course
For historian Mina Roces, from the              became increasingly modernised
University of New South Wales, an AAH           under America’s influence.
Travelling Fellowship resulted in a             Despite this, Dr Roces, says there
welcome change of direction in her              was still a general nostalgia for
research.                                       the ideal Filipino woman at this
    Dr Roces used the fellowship to travel      time.
to the Philippines in January and found,            In her current research, Dr
by the end of her three-week stay, that her     Roces     is    examining     this
research project on the Filipino suffragists    juxtaposition     between      the
had taken a new course.                         changing social and political
    “Before then I was just writing about       culture and the persistence of the
the dilemmas of the suffragist movement         idea of the traditional Filipino
– my original title was ‘Problematising the     woman, taking into account the
Suffragists’ – but since my trip to the         art and fashion of the period.
Philippines it has changed.                         “In the 1920s, national artist
    “I realised that all the debates around     Fernando Amorsolo continued to
the suffragists were about defining the         paint rural scenes featuring this
Filipino woman, so this became more the         dalagang Pilipina dressed in
focus of my work and I am much happier          traditional     balintawak      or
with it now.”                                   kimona, shy, smiling, timid,
    The traditional, ideal Filipino woman       posed against the backdrop of a
– shy, timid, beautiful and obedient – was      never changing romantic rural
disappearing by the 1920s as a suffragist       landscape,” Dr Roces said.
                                                                                      Maria Kalaw, suffragist and beauty queen – just
movement emerged and the Philippines                                continued p. 2
                                                                                      like her mother (see p.2)

A (sceptical) judge of the experts
Truth can be a complicated thing, perhaps       has an astute understanding of the             the evidence or criminal act – not the whole
most so in the courtroom. Indeed, for the       profound complexities of proof, truth and      picture. “Scientists are only looking at one
Hon. Justice Ken Crispin, the “refracted        expertise.                                     little bit of knowledge that relates to one
truth” that jurors receive – after it has           All evidence – from whatever field it      aspect of the crime, so they are really
passed through the tangled wires of             comes – has to be taken on its own merits,     expressing an opinion having seen only five
translation,     reinterpretation,      and     Justice Crispin says.                          per cent of the jigsaw,” he said.
rhetorical embellishment – almost has the           “Until, say, the Chamberlain case, there                                continued p.11
form of a Chinese whisper.                      was an assumed stark difference between
    “Truth [in the court] is refracted at a     Science and Humanities; there was an            INSIDE:
number of levels. Scientists interpret          expectation that anything said by a             P.5:     Special     guest   columnist,
results, then communicate results to            scientist was absolute fact. But there isn’t    Opposition        Foreign       Affairs
lawyers, who then re-package it for the         any across the board difference at all. The     Minister Kevin Rudd MP, argues for
jurors, who themselves can be influenced        cross-examination of a psychiatrist,            the value of Asian language study in our
by subjective impressions and limited           economist, anthropologist, and biologist is     schools.
understanding.”                                 not all that different in terms of the
    Justice Crispin, an ACT Supreme Court       considerations that may undermine               P.3: Terrorism and Australia’s
judge, is one of the speakers at the            evidence.”                                      research priorities – there is a link,
Academy’s 2002 Symposium, Proof &                   For this judge, and most others, all        as Dr Lawrence Warner demonstrates.
Truth: The Humanist as Expert, being            expert opinion is received with a sceptical
held in Canberra on 14-15 November.             ear. Not only is such opinion all too often     P.6: The refugee crisis and the
Having been involved in numerous                swayed       by      presupposition     and     Humanities – Dr Ann Kumar puts
controversial and high profile legal battles,   assumption; it usually only reflects the        forward a case.
including the Azaria Chamberlain case, he       (probable) truth or falsity of one aspect of
No 22. October 2002                                                                                                            page 2

    The Australian Academy
       of the Humanities                Manila trip takes historian on new course
 President                              Continued from p.1
 Professor Iain McCalman                    For Filipino women, American
                                        colonisation brought with it a dilemma
 Dr Ann Kumar
 Secretary                              central to their identity and power. The
 Emeritus Professor Graeme Clarke       Americans were pro-women’s rights, so to
 Editor                                 support suffrage was to side with the
 Professor Bruce Bennett AO             colonial rule and oppose national
 International Secretary
                                        independence. “For Filipino women,
 Professor Robin Jeffrey
 Council                                supporting the nationalist project meant
 (All of above)                         lobbying for a government that would
 Professor Ien Ang                      disenfranchise them as women,” Dr Roces
 Professor Barbara Caine                said.
 Professor Peter Cryle
                                            The irony of the battle was exemplified      Above: UNSW historian Mina Roces.
 Professor Malcolm Gillies
 Professor Nerida Newbigin              in 1935 when women voters were asked to          Front page shot: Maria Kalaw was the
 Professor Graeme Turner                vote for a constitution for the Philippine       daughter of suffragist Pura Villanueva,
                                        commonwealth that would disenfranchise           who won the title of Carnival Queen, 1908.
                                        them. The paradox that women were                Kalaw was also a prominent suffragist
 Executive Director
 Dr Lawrence Warner                     allowed to vote for a constitution but not       and was Carnival Queen in 1931. A                   to vote for politicians in office is not lost    Barbour scholar to the University of
 Executive Assistant                    on Dr Roces.                                     Michigan, she worked as a journalist
 Dr Justine Molony                          Dr Roces said the travelling fellowship      before becaming a senator in the 1950s.
                                        was useful because it had been difficult to
 Finance Officer
 Lynn Parry                             find relevant sources in libraries in            extremely useful source material, such as                  Australia and the United States. “It is a        articles from women’s journals and
 Publications & Publicity Officer       problem with this topic, the sources are         magazines held in private collections.
 Jane Castles                           really scrappy and you won’t find them in            For more information about the
                                        very many libraries.” Using her own              Academy’s Travelling Fellowships and
 Library & Archive Officer
                                        contacts initially (friends and relatives), Dr   other international programs visit
 Dr Janet Hadley Williams             Roces was able to discover rare and    

 Postal Address
                                        AAH project on collaboration gets ARC backing
 GPO Box 93, Canberra, ACT 2601
                                        An AAH project on collaborative work with             Preliminary results of the evaluation
 3 Liversidge Street, Acton, ACT 2601   cultural institutions will receive $95,000       will be presented at a symposium with
 Tel. numbers                           under the Australian Research Council’s          relevant stakeholders, from which a
 General inquries [+61 2] 6125 9860     Special Project scheme.                          monograph will be published for
 Publications               6125 8950       “Partnerships in Humanities Research:        Humanities academics and those working
 Publication subsidies      6125 8950   An Evaluation of Collaborative Projects          within cultural institutions.
 Travel fellowships         6125 9860   with Cultural Institutions”, to be led by             It is hoped the project will increase the
 Overseas exchanges         6125 9860   Council member Ien Ang FAHA, will                capacity of Humanities researchers to
 Accounts                   6125 9871   comprehensively       evaluate     research      contribute to innovations in the cultural
 Media                      6125 8950   collaborations involving Humanities              sector. It will provide the Australian
 Fax. number                6248 6287   researchers and various industry partners        Academy of the Humanities, the ARC and
 E-mail                                 within the broad cultural sector. The            the Government with new knowledge
 See staff e-mails above
                                        emphasis will be on on collaborations            about how Humanities researchers can
 Web                  between Humanities scholars and                  respond more effectively to the economic,
                                        representatives of cultural institutions,        social and policy conditions and challenges
 SYMPOSIUM NEWSLETTER                                                                    of the 21st century.
                                        such as museums, libraries, media
 Professor Bruce Bennett AO             organisations, or relevant government                 For more information contact Ien Ang
 Deputy editor and designer             agencies.                                        at
 Jane Castles
 Contributing editors
 Dr Lawrence Warner                        PROOF AND TRUTH                                          November 14-15 2002
 Dr Justine Molony                         THE HUMANIST AS EXPERT
 Printing                                                                                            The Shine Dome
 Paragon Printing
                                             THE AUSTRALIAN ACADEMY
 ISSN 1446-3261                                 OF THE HUMANITIES                                       Canberra
 Comments, letters and contributions             2002 SYMPOSIUM                          
 to Jane Castles:
No 22. October 2002                                                                                                                  page 3

Languages, terrorism, Skaldic poetry, and Australia’s research priorities
Below, in an edited version of a talk given     German; we are down to four professors of
at the National Research Priorities             French. Moreover, Asia knowledge and
Strategic Forum, 26 June 2002,                  language skills (see p. 5) are of critical
Canberra, AAH Executive Director Dr             importance to Australia’s future security,
Lawrence Warner argues that the value           as the recent tragic bombings in Bali
of Humanities research and education            highlight.
cannot be denied in a post-September 11             As Australia undertakes the research
world.                                          priority setting exercise, it is imperative
                                                that we protect and nurture pure research.
On 11 September 2001 (Australian time),         We simply do not know where future
the Languages Committee of the Australian       benefits will come from and we must
Academy of the Humanities convened in           ensure that doors are not closed: our
the Academy’s brand-new home. We had            priorities on September 10 might differ
been frustrated in our attempts to secure       greatly from those we recognise on
funding for innovative language-teaching        September 12. The assumption behind the
schemes from the Department of                  Government’s decision not to implement              The Skaldic Poetry Project is also at the
Education. This led us to wonder: Does our      Humanities priorities until next year’s         forefront of the use of information
country not have a need for intelligence-       round was that our disciplines really aren’t    technology to push the boundaries of
gathering capabilities? Colin Nettelbeck        priorities at all.                              knowledge and innovation. The Academy’s
FAHA brought to the committee’s attention           One problem the Humanities always           E-Humanities special project (http://
an article in the April 2001 New York           face is how easy it is for others to ridicule recently sponsored a
Times which claimed that the FBI had in         obscure research that seems to have little      seminar on the Text Encoding Initiative, a
hand evidence of terrorist activity directed    direct “relevance” to our lives today.          computer markup language that has placed
against the World Trade Center in 1993,         During the weeks leading up to the              what might seem to be terribly old-
but that no one who understood Arabic was       Strategic Forum at which I presented this       fashioned materials at the forefront of
involved in the relevant intelligence-          talk, I heard three very prominent people       scholarship in ways immediately attractive
gathering operations.                           quip about Old Icelandic Skaldic poetry in      to our students (who are too easily ignored
    By the next morning, the awful              connection with the term ‘basketweaving’,       in discussions about Australia’s research
consequences of that situation had become       offered as areas of research of no relevance    priorities). The seminar was led by a
all too evident. Little had changed since       to Australian priorities.                       scholar of Chaucer who was assisted by the
1993. On 8 September 2002, the New York                                                         research associate with the Skaldic poetry
Times would again report: “The chronic               Intelligence veterans stress the           project.
shortage of language experts is the National         importance of getting back to the              Before we dismiss Skaldic poetry as
Security Agency’s Achilles’ heel — so much           basics: better trained intelligence        obscure, we should ask where New
so that one of the most sensitive bits of            officers, experts in Middle                Zealand’s tourism industry would be if
intelligence revealed about Septempber 11            Eastern and South Asian cultures           Tolkien had not studied Old English and
was that the N.S.A. had intercepted an al            who are fluent in the languages            Old Icelandic – by no means a frivolous
Qaeda message on Septempber 10 saying,               of the region.                             question. Where, too, would the Australian
‘Tomorrow is zero hour.’ But no one                                                             film industry be if George Lucas had not
translated it until after it was over.”                                                         been so interested in the writings of Joseph
Intelligence veterans stress the importance         This is a salutary example to take on
                                                                                                Campbell? And setting aside such questions
of getting back to the basics: better trained   board as we think about the process of the
                                                                                                of applicability (an area with which we
intelligence officers, experts in Middle        priority setting exercise. We should not be
                                                                                                Humanities        scholars      are    often
Eastern and South Asian cultures who are        too quick to pigeonhole either Skaldic
                                                                                                uncomfortable), we should also ask: what
fluent in the languages of the region.          poetry or, indeed, knowledge at large, into
                                                                                                will future generations make of the cultural
    This is only the most dramatic sign of      predetermined categories.
                                                                                                activity in which we are engaged today?
the simple fact that a nation’s foreign             People are not just talking about clouds
                                                                                                Discussion of research priorities is no less
language capacity is crucial. An                in the sky when they mention Skaldic
                                                                                                concerned with national identity, and is no
unfortunate truth, however, is that the         poetry. Skaldic poetry of the Scandinavian
                                                                                                less a creative process, than was the
situation in Australia is no more promising.    Middle Ages (http://skaldic. arts.usyd.
                                                                                                creation of Skaldic poetry in the
Recent statistics indicated that the number     edu. au/), based at the University of
                                                                                                Scandinavian Middle Ages. In that sense,
of languages taught in Australia went down      Sydney, is a good example of how
                                                                                                our nomination of ‘Creative Australia’ as
from 67 in 1995 to 53 in 1999. In the 1970s     Australian research has achieved
                                                                                                one of three priorities is already bearing
there were five professors of Russian; today    international prominence: the project is
                                                                                                fruit. For more information on the
there are none, and virtually no                sponsored by the Australian Academy of
                                                                                                Academy’s position on research priorities
independent departments of Russian.             the Humanities and endorsed by the Union
                                                                                                visit the policy section of our web site.
There is no fully dedicated professor of        Académique Internationale.
No 22. October 2002                                                                                                                    page 4

  The E-Humanities Gateway: an Australian first
The enthusiasms of the early 1990s digital       steady development in Australia of             is to prosper in Australia. The Academy is
gurus have been replaced by a more sober         individual projects within academic            active in addressing them: through this e-
realisation that traditional humanities skills   departments and centres, but it was time       humanities project, the NSCF series of
and values can be extended in their reach        that initiatives were plotted and linked.      forums, and other projects (such as the
by engagement with digital technology. Our       Often the only way we knew that work           Authenticated Electronic Editions offshoot
modes of research , and our communication        was being done in a particular field in        of the Academy Editions series).
of it, are gradually changing.                   Australia was when someone overseas                 Melissa McMahon has been appointed
    Funded by an ARC Special Project grant       told us about it.                              as our E-Humanities project officer, and
to the Academy, the E-Humanities Gateway             The other main aim has been to             Creagh Cole (Sydney), Hugh Craig
is a first for Australia. There have been        provide training in digital research           (Newcastle) and others have been guiding
other initiatives to chart digital library       methods for scholars, librarians and           the project’s activities.
projects, but this is the first attempt to       advanced students. The Text Encoding               The e-humanities gateway will be
coordinate information for scholars on           Initiative guidelines and Geographical         officially launched on 1 November by
Australian developments in information           Information Systems have been the              Professor Iain McCalman at University of
technology as it applies to the creation and     subject of the two workshops held so far.      Sydney (Woolley Building). A highlight of
analysis of humanities source materials in       Selected papers from the 2001                  the launch will be a presentation by Anne
digital form. The creation of the gateway        conference, together with a report on          Kenney, a specialist on digital preservation
(still in progress) follows the Computing        several Australian projects, are to be         at the Cornell University Library, on future
Arts conference in Sydney in 2001.               published soon, and another conference         e-humanities possibilities.
    There was a general feeling at the           is planned for 2003.                               For further information, please visit the
conference that the time had come for a              Many challenges remain if the              project’s website
stocktake of work in this general area, with     teething problems of e-humanities
its many methodologies. There has been           research are to be overcome and the field
                                                                                                                          Paul Eggert FAHA

PROFILE: Tim Rowse                                                                              What’s the future for Humanities in the 21st
Continued from p. 12
                                                                                                Questions like that make me feel
servants are supposed to be guided by a                                                         inadequate, but what the hell. Public policy
democratic mandate. Their service of this                                                       will be very foolish not to invest money in
mandate is what counts, not whether that                                                        training an intelligentsia through exposure
mandate and their ‘heart’ are in alignment                                                      to the Humanities and Social Sciences. So
(think of Howard on gun control in 1996).                                                       I’m optimistic that it will always be possible
To be true to one’s own lights is more an                                                       to make a case for the social utility of the
aristocratic than a democratic virtue. So                                                       Humanities. Perhaps it reflects my own
whatever Coombs’ virtues were, they are not                                                     position within the Humanities, but I think
captured well by words such as “true” –                                                         that we must be careful to cultivate a kind
unless we specify “true to what is expressed                                                    of ambivalent partnership with the Social
or implicit mandate”.                                                                           Sciences. On the one hand, there is much
    Another way to understand your word                                                         overlap between the Humanities and Social
“true” is “typical or exemplary of public                                                       Sciences. On the other hand, I think there
service tradition”. Coombs could be                                                             are critical elements and reflexive habits in
described as atypical in his public service                                                     the Humanities that can be brought to bear
career. Apart from eight months in 1942 as                                                      on the Social Sciences, particularly on those
Director of Rationing and his years as Chair                                                    disciplines whose public authority is in
of the Australian Council for the Arts and                                                      inverse proportion to their reflexivity (an
then the Australia Council, he was never a       attached to government – hardly the
                                                                                                inverse relation that we Humanists
senior officer in           a department         typical opportunities of an Australian
                                                                                                sometimes envy).
administering a service or a social field. He    public servant.
                                                                                                    On a slightly different tack, recently I’ve
was either in a department or council                Your word “last” evokes the nostalgic
                                                                                                been reading (dipping, to be precise) in the
dedicated to generating policy ideas for         element in the popular regard for
                                                                                                sociology and history of science. I’m
other departments to implement (Postwar          Coombs. He’s often an icon of values
                                                                                                impressed by the richness of this branch of
Reconstruction, the Council for Aboriginal       thought to be under threat from neo-
                                                                                                learning. It has much to say to us about the
Affairs), or he was the CEO of a large           liberalism. In Nugget Coombs: a
                                                                                                forms of modern authority and about our
Statutory authority with commercial              reforming life I’ve tried to distance myself
                                                                                                own complicities, as intellectuals, with
functions (the Commonwealth Bank) or a           from this way of valuing Coombs. I find
                                                                                                authority. In the teaching of all the
central banker. His trajectory was in this       that it puts a screen between us and the
                                                                                                Humanities, I’d like the history of forms
way extraordinary. It maximised his              history of Coombs’ own styles of
                                                                                                of intellectual authority to become a core
chances of being a Public Intellectual           economic rationalism.
No 22. October 2002                                                                                                                  page 5

Asia knowledge crucial to future prosperity                                                    Roundtable on Asia report
Below, Federal Opposition Foreign                                                              A roundtable to discuss the recently
Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd MP                                                                 released report, Maximizing Australia’s
says an Asia-literate Australia – the kind                                                     Asia Knowledge: Repositioning and
fostered by a recently axed Asian                                                              Renewal of a National Asset, was held in
language and studies in schools                                                                August. Participants included Shadow
program – is crucial to the nation’s                                                           Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd MP.
economic competitiveness.                                                                          The report was produced by the Asian
                                                                                               Studies Association of Australia, with the
The decision taken in the last Federal                                                         help of a $2000 grant from the Academy,
Budget to discontinue funding for the                                                          and calls for a range of measures aimed at
National Asian Language and Studies in                                                         promoting Asia knowledge in Australia.
Australian Schools Strategy (NALSAS)                                                           Professor Tessa Morris-Suzuki FAHA, of
from 1 January 2003 is short-sighted and                                                       the Australian National University, said
not a decision in the long-term national        the total student population) were studying    economic globalisation and security
interest.                                       a NALSAS language by the end of 2000.          concerns meant it was “more vital than ever
    We are now in the eighth year of the        The strategy was demonstrably working –        for Australians to know their neighbours”.
implementation of NALSAS – conceived            and this is supported by the 1999 and 2002         “We’ve got a quiet crisis,” accoding to
originally as a twelve-year strategy. A         evaluation reports of NALSAS, both of          Professor Robin Jeffrey, FAHA, FASSA,
longer term strategy was agreed upon for        which recommended the continuation of          one of the authors of the report. “Australia’s
the simple reason that in order to obtain       the program for a further four years.          expertise on Asia has been a small but
real rather than nominal benefit to both            The decision to pull the plug on this      significant presence in world scholarship
Australia’s social and cultural fabric as       program – which for a decade up until the      and on the Australian landscape for 40
well as real benefits to the economy, any       last budget enjoyed rare bipartisan support    years; but it’s withering away at the very
strategy needed to be implemented over          – will mean that the collective energy,        time that more and more Australians
the course of the education of an entire        dedication and vision of thousands of          engage with Asia regularly for work and
generation of Australian school children.       Australians over the past decade toward        pleasure. We are in danger of engaging
    Australia’s international competi-          closer engagement with Asia will be further    more and understanding less.”
tiveness lies not just in the creation of a     undermined.                                        Maximizing         Australia’s      Asia
competitive exchange rate, competitive              Why axe a program that had previously      Knowledge argues that the need for
interest rates, the removal of trade            enjoyed the political goodwill across both     Australia to make special efforts to
barriers and increasing productivity of the     major parties, that was clearly equipping      understand countries of Asia is unique,
economy. Our international competi-             the next generation of Australians with the    Professor Jeffrey said. “Culturally, there is
tiveness depends on the ability to              necessary cultural and linguistic toolkit to   so much that is so different; geographically,
penetrate the range of linguistic and           operate within, and benefit from, our          Asia is so close and so intimately connected
cultural barriers which exist and which         region, and that was providing clear and               We are in danger of
prevent or limit our ability to sell products   tangible benefit to our economic wellbeing?            engaging    more   and
and services in the emerging markets of             As a nation, we need to set a course on            understanding less
our region. Equipping the next generation       Asian engagement – a bipartisan course –
of Australians with the full range of                                                          to Australia’s economy and security.” The
                                                and stick to it. An essential part of this
linguistic and cultural skills necessary for                                                   report includes many statistics that
                                                approach needs to be the creation of an
Australia to maximise its opportunities                                                        highlight the contraction of opportunities
                                                Asia-literate Australia.
throughout Asia makes economic sense.                                                          for Australians to learn about Asia: study
                                                    What is now necessary is a campaign of
    As a direct result of the NALSAS                                                           of India/South Asia, once possible at 15
                                                national advocacy – to restore not just the
strategy the total number of school                                                            universities, is now conducted at only five;
                                                centrality of comprehensive engagement
students studying Asian languages more                                                         study of west and central Asia has shrunk
                                                with Asia to its proper place in this
than doubled over the past eight years. As                                                     to the point that Australia’s only journal
                                                country’s continuing foreign policy, but
an example, in 1994, there were 200 000                                                        devoted to the region has closed.
                                                also NALSAS and other programs
students of Japanese in Australian                                                                 “For Australia’s long-term harmony,
                                                dedicated to the development of Australia’s
schools. By the end of 2000 that figure                                                        prosperity and security, we need a far larger
                                                long-term Asia-related skills base. The
had risen to 425 000. Similarly, in 1994,                                                      proportion of Australians equipped with
                                                burden of advocacy does not lie just with
there were 90 000 students of Indonesian                                                       languages and knowledge of Asia,”
                                                those in the business of professional
in Australian schools – a figure that had                                                      Professor Jeffrey argues. “We need both
                                                politics. The burden also lies with
risen to 260 000 by 2000, while over the                                                       diffusion and depth. Our report outlines
                                                professionals beyond the business of
same period the total number of students                                                       costed policies... to maintain Australia’s
                                                politics who must now participate fully in
of Mandarin had jumped from 40 000 to                                                          specialist knowledge and to spread it more
                                                the public political debate on this
nearly 80 000. In total, 750 000                                                               widely in the community.”
                                                important national enterprise.
Australian students (nearly 24 per cent of
No 22. October 2002                                                                                                                     page 6

The refugee crisis and the Humanities
Dr Ann Kumar, historian, Indonesian              been subjected to megaphone diplomacy             the work of Foucault, Derrida, and Lacan.
specialist and Vice-President of the             and made a scapegoat for election                 Though the category of difference has
Academy, says the Humanities have a              campaign politicking;            that the         perhaps mainly been used to explore
major role to play in developing long-term       Government has used the media to try to           differences within populations, it could
strategies to tackle the refugee crisis.         “shame” Indonesia by presenting a highly          also be used to explore differences between
                                                 prejudicial picture of its actions before         populations, if intelligently handled.
Reaction to the “refugee crisis” now needs
                                                 discussing these through diplomatic                   Like difference, the subject of
to be moved out of panic mode and into the
                                                 channels; and that moves to repair the            representation      is     also    a   major
development of sustainable, long-term
                                                 bilateral relationship have been driven by        preoccupation of the new Humanities, and
strategies. The Humanities can make a
                                                 Australia’s narrow interests alone. Nor has       in the case of the present issue one thinks
vital contribution to this process in at least
                                                 any sensitivity been shown with respect to        of Said’s famous work Orientalism, which
three different ways.
                                                 Indonesia’s much larger problem of over a         draws on the work of Foucault. In it Said
1. Providing specialist expertise
                                                 million internal displaced persons.               argues (to put it considerably more baldly
Of immediate practical and financial use
                                                 Abandoning careful diplomacy for self-            than he does) that the much-touted
are strategies addressing the need to
                                                 indulgent grandstanding and ignoring the          scholarly production of the West on the
identify the origin of refugees, in a
                                                 other side’s problems are luxuries that           Orient was in fact a project of mis-
situation where bona-fide refugees tend to
                                                 Australia simply cannot afford. They will         representation designed to reinforce the
come mainly from Afghanistan or Iraq, and
                                                 cost too much in terms of developing the          West’s sense of self and subjugate the
illegal immigrants mainly from Pakistan
                                                 cooperative strategies with Indonesia that        Orient by creating a negative stereotype of
and Iran. The Government has been using
                                                 we need if we are to contain this and other       the Oriental “other”. The “refugee crisis”
soi-disant speaker-profiling services
                                                 important ongoing problems.                       has produced a much cruder sort of
located in Europe, an expensive option
                                                                                                   stereotyping, such as the use by prominent
with the additional disadvantage of having
                                                                                                               figures     of      verbs    with
recognised and acknowledged methodo-
                                                                                                               incorporated nouns like “lip-
logical problems that make it unlikely that
                                                                                                               sewing” (and for all I know
results obtained will withstand scrutiny in
                                                                                                               “child-throwing”) to indicate
                                                                                                               habituality      of    abhorrent
    What is really needed is a report on the
                                                                                                               practices in other cultures. This
linguistic situation in the areas concerned,
                                                                                                               stereotyping can only be
looking at language, dialect and socio-
                                                                                                               inflammatory          and     the
linguistic variation. Australian linguists in
                                                                                                               Humanities        must      draw
the area of Descriptive Linguistics and
                                                                                                               attention to such mischievous
Sociolinguistics possess the expertise to
                                                                                                               manipulation of language.
produce such a report. Some also possess
                                                                                                               3. Addressing the media.
the expertise necessary to then evaluate the
                                                                                                               I have given a necessarily
probative value of tests devised to indicate
                                                                                                  reductionist account of some complex
the origins of applicants for refugee status,
                                                                                                  ideas up to and including formal logic.
using fairly complex statistical procedures
                                                     The Asian Studies community also has         But, as our science colleagues have already
based on Bayes’ theorem, which is now
                                                 scholars with a deep and thoughtful              learned, we have to do just this if we are
increasingly used in the judicial system.
                                                 understanding of Islam, which is clearly a       to be heard. We have to develop media
This is a procedure for continuously
                                                 major issue in the unusual levels of public      competence and not succumb to failure of
updating belief in the truth of a hypothesis
                                                 hostility to this particular refugee group. It   nerve in addressing issues which are
using a formula that contains a term for
                                                 need hardly be said how urgent it is to          certainly as important to our future as any
quantifying the strength of evidence. It
                                                 establish dialogue in this area.                 in science.
belongs to the “logic and mathematics”
                                                 2. Providing a space and frame-                       We in the Humanities are always
area to which the Humanities can
                                                 works for discussion                             claiming support on the grounds of how
legitimately lay claim.
                                                 The Humanities can also make an                  much we contribute to society. Unlike
    Such specialised skills are essential not
                                                 important contribution by providing a            Indonesian intellectuals, we have not had
only for the achievement of the utilitarian
                                                 space where the issue can be discussed in        to face prison for expressing our views on
ends of government but also for one of the
                                                 a more dispassionate and informed way            important issues. If, when such issues
major humane values: the achievement of
                                                 than if it is left to the shock jocks.           arise, we cannot even bring ourselves to
justice and fairness through the legal
                                                     And we have the frameworks for this          provide the expertise and insights that are
system, for all of us. Experts on Indonesia
                                                 discussion. The category of difference, in       well within our competence, we can hardly
– the nearest transit stop to Australia –
                                                 one way or another, has been central to          complain if scholars in the Humanities are
could do more to inform the wider
                                                 most of the important theoretical                seen as either dusty specialists in the
community of the Indonesian perception
                                                 approaches of the last generation, such as       arcane or trendy po-mo babblers, neither
of the crisis. This is that Indonesia has
                                                                                                  group of any use to the wider community.
No 22. October 2002                                                                                                               page 7

Tall poppies get their reward
The following is a response by Professor
A.N. (Derry) Jeffares FAHA on to Justine
Molony’s article (Symposium 21) on the
foundation of the Australian Humanities
Reseach Council.

The Editor having very kindly asked me to
react to Dr Justine Molony’s “From little
things big things grow”, Symposium,
No.21, June 2002, I thought I should make
this a personal response since, as she put
it, I was “the initiator of its (the AHRC’s)
formation (and the only fellow remaining
from that time)”.
     When I came to Adelaide in 1951 as
Jury Professor I thought I ought to
familiarise myself with Australian                       Where it all began: Adelaide University’s gates
literature beyond my knowledge of Henry                  (as they were then)
                                               was later supplemented by the views of his    man under the title Auchmuty 2000), and
Handel Richardson, Banjo Patterson,
                                               colleague Professor Claude Bissell, late      Professor Alex Mitchell (later to become
Adam Lindsay Gordon, Marcus Clarke,
                                               President of the University of Toronto and    Vice-Chancellor of Macquarie University)
Leonard Mann and Kenneth Slessor. So I
                                               Honorary Foundation Fellow of the AAH,        of the University of Sydney and his
set myself to a chronological course of
                                               who came to Adelaide the following year       colleague Professor Ralph Farrell. From
reading: in this I was greatly helped by my
                                               and also visited other Australian             the University of Tasmania came support
colleague Dr Brian Elliot. I thought that
                                               universities.                                 from Professor Triebel; from St Mark’s
there might be interesting parallels
                                                    Armed with knowledge of how the          College in Adelaide Sir Archibald Grenfell
between Australian and Canadian writing,
                                               Canadians had set up their Research           Price lent his approval. And, of course,
and persuaded Steve Stackpole of the
                                               Council, we managed to get together an        there was Sir Dale Trendall, then Master of
Carnegie Corporation to finance a tour of
                                               interested group to discuss our needs and     University House, Canberra, who became
Canadian Universities for Brian in which
                                               plans. It took considerable ingenuity to      a tower of strength and was aided by Sir
he would also meet Canadian writers. This
                                               assemble half a dozen Arts academics from     Harold White, the National Librarian.
would be the first visit in an exchange
                                                                                             There was much correspondence, much to-
program; it would be followed by the visit            I envied the scientists their          ing and fro-ing.
of a Canadian academic to Australian                  Academy of Science, the                    In his ‘Introduction’ to The Humanities
universities the following year.                      social scientists their Social         in Australia (1959) Trendall gives an
     Brian knew that I thought that                   Science Research Council;              account of the aims of the Humanities
Australian academics working in the                   there was no centralised body          Research Council and tells of the
Humanities needed more financial support              to cater for the various               foundation of an interim council of 20
so that they could meet others in different           disciplines in the Humanities          members in Melbourne in 1954. One of the
Australian universities and discuss topics
                                                                                             first problems raised by careful (which was
of common interest. I envied the scientists     other universities in Adelaide in 1953
                                                                                             often to say doubting!) academics was how
their Academy of Science, the social            (lectures, paid for by various funds, even
                                                                                             a Council could be set up which would have
scientists their Social Science Research        external examining - unheard of before in
                                                                                             support from the universities and yet be
Council; there was no centralised body to       Adelaide and disapproved of by many! -
                                                                                             rigorously selective in the quality of the
cater for the various disciplines in the        and a chance personal visit). Following this
                                                                                             scholarship of its potential members. Like
Humanities.                                     meeting, there was enough support for me
                                                                                             Agog, however, we had to tread carefully. I
     After making most useful contacts          to write to academics in other universities
                                                                                             remember arguing most energetically in
there and laying the foundation of his          to enlist their interest.
                                                                                             one Melbourne meeting that we should set
extensive knowledge of Canadian literature          Of those who supported my
                                                                                             up a selection committee and ruthlessly
(which led to excellent and often usefully      suggestions for a Research Council
                                                                                             assess the published work of members of
comparative seminars on the subject in          enthusiastically the foremost was
                                                                                             Arts Faculties in the various universities of
Adelaide from which many of us benefited)       Professor Sir Joseph Burke, who arranged
                                                                                             Australia to determine the initial
Brian returned with news of how                 a meeting in Melbourne. Others were
                                                                                             membership. This was regarded as very
successfully the Canadian Humanities            Professor James Auchmuty, who later
                                                                                             bold (‘what, decide it ourselves?!’), for it
Research Council worked. As a result I got      became the superb first Vice-Chancellor of
                                                                                             might suggest that some academics were
in touch with its Chairman, Professor A.S.P     the University of Newcastle (his life has
                                                                                             more equal than others. It was finally
Woodhouse, of the University of Toronto,        recently been chronicled by Kenneth R.
                                                                                             agreed, after I produced what I still think
and got very useful advice from him; this       Dutton in a most skilful evocation of the                                Continued p. 10
No 22. October 2002                                                                                                          page 8

Eclectic gatherings at two NSCF round tables
Researchers, lawyers, artists, curators,
librarians and IT experts gathered at the
National Library of Australia on October
3-4     for    the    National      Scholarly
Communication Forum’s 15th Round
    The topic was a broad-ranging one –
the intellectual, legal and functional
challenges and opportunities of non-
written forms of text (film, music, icons...
you name it) – and it made for much lively,
thought-provoking debate (see p.9 for
opinion piece by Professor Malcolm
    NSCF Round Table 14, on issues
relating to privacy and scholarship, was
held in August at the National Archives.
Attendees of the final session reached the
following four major conclusions (see the
NSCF section of the AAH web site for
details and one disclaimer):
 1) There is an obligation on researchers,
records creators and custodians of
personal information to institute and
observe codes of ethical practice and
regimes of information access that respect
and guarantee the right to privacy and the
cultural     concerns      of    indigenous
 2) While deceased individuals do not have
a right to privacy, the privacy of living
people may sometimes be infringed by the
provision of access to information on
deceased persons who had relationships
with people still living.
 3) Records should never be destroyed
solely for the reason of protecting personal
privacy. Rather, the need to protect
personal privacy should be addressed
through suitable access regimes and
researcher codes of ethical practice, both
of which require sanctions for unethical
and/or unauthorised privacy infringe-
 4) Australia should pursue a harmonised,
comprehensive and consistent cross-
jurisdictional legislative regime of access
to personal information encompassing
privacy, archives/public records, and
freedom of information legislation.
    The NSCF is sponsored by the four
Australian learned Academies, with a
membership from a wide range of bodies
representing      academics,      librarians,
copyright specialists, and others. It aims to    Images from “Sights and Sounds”. Clockwise from top: Michelle Potter, Regis Lansac,
disseminate information about changes in        Meryl Tankard and Malcolm Gillies; SBS Lawyer and copyright expert Sally McCausland;
scholarly communication in Australia and        Sights & Sounds organisers Justine Molony, Robyn Holmes, Marie-Louise Ayres and
to make policy recommendations.                 Jasmine Cameron; Lawrence Warner and Linda Barwick.
No 22. October 2002                                                                                                                 page 9

Unique knowledge: song, dance, film etc.
The Chair of the NSCF and immediate past
president of the Academy, Professor
Malcolm Gillies, argues below that sights
and sounds, images and song, make up a
large part of Australia’s collective
‘knowledge’. Like written texts, these vital
cultural objects need to be publically
Do you remember Barry’s cadastre? Well,
to refresh your memory, it was the national
knowledge stocktake that the Labor Party
hoped would lay the basis of a national
inventory or knowledge bank. That bold
mapping exercise of Australia’s human and
physical resources was intended as the first
stage of a “networked Australia”. Its
emphases were to be on the environment,
health, employment, research and
education. A year on, we remain cadastre-
                                                paraphrased or reordered than verbal text.
                                                And they often involve complex issues of
    Even without the stocktake, that
networked Australia is emerging, albeit
                                                    Australia’s sound heritage is, however,    Library, is a similar scheme connecting the
fitfully, through collaborations in scholarly
                                                a vital part of our knowledge culture. There   still images of many different archival
communications. Our cultural institutions
                                                are the sounds of our natural environment,     agencies, “to increase public access to
are taking a lead here. The National
                                                from the waves to birdsong. There are oral     Australia’s heritage in pictures”. This
Library of Australia, for instance, explains
                                                history testimonies, and the sound records     access is essential to a culture as visual as
in its Strategic Directions document that
                                                of famous events. Think, for instance, of      contemporary Australia, and for an
“all Australians, at their place of choice,
                                                such national treasures as Bob Menzies’        emerging generation in which frequently
[should] have direct, seamless access to
                                                radio broadcast of September 1939              more students are studying art and design
print and electronic sources of infor-
                                                bringing Australia into the Second World       than physics and chemistry.
mation”. The British Library goes a bit
                                                War, authentic recordings of Dorothea              The NSCF presented its fifteenth round
further, in its 2001 vision statement
                                                Mackellar reading My Country, or Percy         table on 3 October at the National Library
expressing the hope of “making accessible
                                                Grainger playing his Country Gardens.          in Canberra on the theme of “Sights and
the world’s intellectual, scientific and
                                                The advent of MP3 has shown just how           Sounds in Scholarly Communication”.
cultural heritage. The collections of the
                                                ideal — for many a recording company           Speakers addressed the increasing
British Library and other great collections
                                                altogether too ideal — the web now is for      demands of “sensory scholarship”: how to
will be accessible on everyone’s virtual
                                                the transmission of memory-intensive           access it in hard or soft copy; how to deal
bookshelf — at work, at school, at college,
                                                audio files.                                   with its sometimes fearsome problems of
at home”. These are bold aims, but
                                                    Music has always been an Achilles heel     rights; how to further the advances of
essential in a world of crumbling
                                                of the information sector. Part of the         recent years so that the music, film, visual
institutional walls, and in which research
                                                reason is that its notation is easily          arts and dance of today are preserved for
and education are measured more by their
                                                separable from its sound source. Matching      the benefit of future generations.
impact than by some concept of scholarly
                                                the scores, often known as the music, with         For more information about this NSCF
                                                the sound source, which actually is the        Round Table and a Workshop on use of
    When we talk of “knowledge” most
                                                music, has been the bane of many a music       digital    sights     and    sounds     visit
people think of print sources: books,
                                                librarian’s or researcher’s life.       The
articles, magazines, encyclopedias. Yet, a
                                                MusicAustralia project, involving the          overview.htm.
growing percentage of the knowledge our
                                                National Library, Australian Music Centre,
populations access digitally is in the form
                                                ScreenSound and Australia Council, is one      Malcolm Gillies is Chair of the National
of sights and sounds. It took longer for
                                                recent scheme intended to bring together       Scholarly Communications Forum and
these media to be taken to the digital world
                                                the visual and aural traces of music and       Australian National University Deputy
because they were less efficient in memory
                                                make them available to the wider public.       Vice-Chancellor (Education). A version of
terms than verbal or numerical forms.
                                                    The PictureAustralia project, drawing      this article was published in Campus
They are, of course, less susceptible to
                                                togther various State libraries, the           Review (25 September edition) and
being        meaningfully      summarised,
                                                Australian War Memorial and the National       presented at NSCF Round Table 15.
No 22. October 2002                                                                                                               page 10

Reconfiguring through (re)connection: collaborative research
Professor Ian Donaldson FAHA and
                                                   But the key rationale of the CRC
President Iain McCalman teamed up for
                                               scheme is commercialisation of science
an ANU National Institute of the
                                               and technology, and while we think this is
Humanities event, “Reconfiguring the
                                               important, we are also concerned with the
Humanities”, held on 12 September.
                                               issue of social good. We want to try to
Below is an edited exerpt of the address
                                               ensure a broader dissemination of
given by Professor McCalman, which
                                               specialist research, as well as to revitalise
outlined the idea of bringing Humanities
                                               a sector that has been suffering from
scholarship to non-university users.
                                               decline in research funding allocations
Collaborative research and teaching is not     and, in some of our disciplines, a sharp
the only way forward for the Humanities,       decline in enrolment numbers among
but both Ian Donaldson and I are offering      undergraduates as well.
it up as one important way of energising
and refiguring dimensions of our                       Humanist scholars in
disciplines that are experiencing a bad time           collaborative enterprises
in the current tough climate.             To           can engage with social and
underscore this idea, let me briefly outline           political issues of large
one of the proposals that in my capacity as            significance both in and
President of the Academy of the                        outside the university
Humanities I’ve just submitted to the
                                                   So what to call our centres? The first      harmless acronym that encompasses the
Nelson Review of Higher Education.
                                               name I came up with was Collaborative           currently fashionable term innovation.
    I should admit from the outset that we
                                               Research User Networks, a bit of a                  The core concept of the RICs program
had a problem with finding a name for our
                                               mouthful, a bit resonant of academic            is that groups of researchers will join with
proposal. Our broad model was the
                                               ponderousness, then I thought of Research       users of that research, from both the public
Government’s Cooperative Research
                                               User Centres, given that this seemed to go      and the private sectors, to undertake a
Centre program that has brought a
                                               to the heart of our aims. However, this gave    strategic research and teaching program
substantial funding injection for the
                                               us the acronym RUCs, which, my women            that would have as its focus long-term
science, engineering and technology
                                               colleagues pointed out, revealed my blokey      outcomes of national significance. The
sectors. There are now more than 60 of
                                               South African origins. So I ended up going      recent development of the concept of a
these academic and industry partnership
                                               with Research Innovation Centres, a             knowledge-based economy has focused
centres around the country.
                                                                                                                           Continued p. 11

Tall poppies get their reward                      Mr Menzies agreed to receive a              chapters and a list of those who had agreed
Continued from p.7                             deputation from the interim Council in          to write them – of The Humanities in
                                               Canberra: this consisted of Trendall as         Australia to Grenfell Price, who then
was a subtle modus operandi, that the
                                               Chairman, Mitchell as Treasurer and             became the official Editor, setting up
universities should each be asked to
                                               myself as Secretary. We met the Prime           various sub-editors and a committee and
nominate a Council member. I expected
                                               Minister in July 1955 and were                  producing a useful book. A few years ago I
that several non-publishing academics
                                               subsequently given the grant (initially of      lent my copy of it (it had been long out of
would be appointed in this way (as they
                                               £4000 p.a.); this meant that we were also       print) to the Royal Society of Edinburgh,
were) but I argued that we should word our
                                               to be generously supported by the two           which lost it. I wanted a copy from which I
letter of invitation carefully so that the
                                               foundations.                                    could obtain a photocopy of two chapters
universities would only nominate Council
                                                   At this meeting the Prime Minister told     from which I needed to quote, and wrote
members once, so that they would be, in
                                               us in confidence of his plan to set up the      to the Academy to request these. I was
effect, one-off sops to the cut-the-heads-
                                               Murray Commission under Sir Keith               surprised to find the Academy either had
off-the-tall-poppies Brigade.
                                               Murray, then running the University             no copy, or, like the Royal Society of
    It was essential to get support from the
                                               Grants Committee in the United Kingdom.         Edinburgh, had lost it. I did manage to get
Federal government, a view in which
                                               It was to revolutionise the funding of          a copy for myself through the internet and
Trendall concurred enthusiastically. I
                                               Australian universities, hitherto tied to the   I hope the Academy has also obtained one
thought that this support might be more
                                               amounts granted by State governments,           now, for, as Dr Molony has pointed out,
readily forthcoming if we could show that
                                               and allow more federal funding to support       the AHRC led to the foundation of the
the idea was likely to be backed by the
                                               them. (Our meeting with Mr Menzies was          Academy.
Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller
Foundation, with whom I had been, highly       also not without humour, so it will go into
                                               my Anecdotes too.) The Council met for the      Copies of this publication have been
unofficially, in touch. I was then entrusted
                                               first time in Canberra in November 1956.        unearthed and are now preserved in the
with formally negotiating with their
                                                   I left Adelaide to take up a chair in       Academy Library – thanks to the efforts
representatives. This is a complex story,
                                               Leeds in February 1957 and handed over          of Library and Archive Officer Dr Janet
not without humour, which I propose to
                                               the blueprint – that is, the subjects of the    Hadley Williams – ED.
include in the Anecdotes I am writing.
No 22. October 2002                                                                                                                  page 11

Reconfiguring through
(re)connection                                   2002 Symposium program
Continued from p. 10.
                                                 Below is an program for the Academy’s 2002 Symposium, which can also be found at
almost exclusively on science and
technology in order to produce new
commerical, social, or economic outcomes.
The community at large has been                                               PROOF AND TRUTH:
bombarded with announcements, news                                            THE HUMANIST AS EXPERT
and opinion related to the need to expand                                         November 14-15, 2002
our      scientific      and   technological                                  Academy of Science Shine Dome
capabilities. But the requirement to                                                    Canberra
address the broader ethical, social, cultural
and intellectual issues has been pushed
into the background.                                                                              Friday 15 November
                                                 Thursday 14 November
    It is vital that the knowledge base of the                                                    9.00 – 10.30am: Session Three
                                                 1.30pm: WELCOME
nation not be impoverished, nor the                                                               INDIGENOUS KNOWLEDGE AND
                                                 Ann McGrath
intellectual integrity of the education                                                           CULTURAL TRUTH
                                                 Iain McCalman FAHA
system undermined, by an excessive focus                                                          Arthur Ray
on science and technology, important                                                              Larissa Behrendt
                                                 1.40 – 3.30pm: Session One
though these areas are. We must recognise
                                                 PROVING TRUTH, THE EXPERT &
the value to any innovative knowledge                                                             10.30-11.00: Morning Tea
                                                 SOCIAL AUTHORITY
economy and tolerant democracy of
                                                 Hal Wootten
language scholars, historians, authors,                                                           11.00 – 12.30: Annual Lecture
                                                 Graeme Davison FAHA
anthropologists, poets, playwrights,                                                              Mark Finnane FAHA
                                                 John Sutton
designers, dancers, composers, musicians,
visual artists, and others. Our Academy                                                           12.30 – 1.30: Lunch
                                                 3.30 – 4.00pm: Afternoon Tea
proposes that Australia adopt a positive
structure by which the public can benefit                                                         1.30 – 3.00: Session Four
                                                 4.00 – 5.30pm: Session Two
                                                 LAW AND LIES                                     FACTS AND STORIES
       Our Academy proposes that                                                                  Ann Curthoys FAHA & Ann Genovese
                                                 Ken Crispin
       Australia adopt a positive                                                                 Panel Discussion:
                                                 Mark Dreyfus
       structure by which the public                                                              Arthur Glass
       can benefit from the                                                                       Tony Connolly
                                                 5.30PM: DIALOGICA AWARDS
       innovative research taking
       place in the humanistic and                                                                3.00 – 3.30: Afternoon Tea
       creative field
                                                 For more information about the
                                                                                                  3.30 – 5.00: Session Five / PUBLIC
                                                 conference program and to register:
from the innovative research taking place                                                         DEBATE
in the humanistic and creative fields.                                                            LAW, SCIENCE AND THE
    The core principle embodied in a                                                              HUMANITIES: ARE WE ALL LIARS?
                                                 or call/e-mail 02 6125 9860 /
Research Innovation Centre is that                                                                Panel:
participants can achieve their strategic                                                          Hal Wootten
                                                 Hard copy programs will be
objectives more successfully by working in                                                        John Sutton
                                                 provided at registration.
collaborative       and   interdisciplinary                                                       Ann McGrath
environments, or in one-on-one relation-
ships with other research users, than by
working alone.
    I trust and hope that our Collaborative
                                                 Judge of the experts                             it is very often a question of how [the
                                                  continued from p.1                              material] is interpreted, so there is no
Research Innovating Centres, if and when
                                                     Another problem is the way expert
we get them, will take a huge variety of                                                          reason to take anything at face value.”
                                                 opinion is interpreted, he said. “ It is often
forms. I know that they will all                                                                      Justice Crispin – who has a PhD in
                                                 a case of evidence proving that
demonstrate that Humanist scholars in                                                             ethics – says if he had his way, philosophy
                                                 somethingmay have occurred, but it is
collaborative enterprises can engage with                                                         would be mandatory for all law students,
                                                 then taken as evidence that something did
social and political issues of large                                                              it being the discipline of relentless
                                                 occur.” Experts needed to be aware of the
significance both in and outside the                                                              questioning and perpetual scepticism. Part
                                                 underlying presuppositions and paradigms
university. Our experience and skills are                                                         of the role of the judge, and perhaps the
                                                 of their own forms of knowledge, Justice
relevant to whether or not this will be a                                                         contemporary scholar, was to “try and
                                                 Crispin said.
decent, fair, humane and civilised country                                                        inculcate a climate of perpetual
                                                     “Science, as much as the Humanities,
for all its citizens.                                                                             scepticism”, Justice Crispin sad.
                                                 has elements of intepretation.... With DNA,
No 22. October 2002                                                                                                                    page 12

PROFILE                                                                             Professor Tim Rowse
Tim Rowse FAHA is a senior fellow in
the History Program, Research
School of Social Sciences, ANU, and
will soon be heading to the USA for a
stint as the Professor of Australian
Studies at Harvard University. Below
he tells Academy editor Bruce
Bennett about his research interests
and is latest book, Nugget Coombs: A
Reforming Life.

Your research and publications have often
emphasised a nexus between Humanities
interests and public policy. Why is this?
      One of the main concerns of the
contemporary Humanities (and in
particular, of Cultural Studies) is
“representation”. Public policy is a
phenomenon of the public sphere, and the           certainly not competent in technical           narrative, I’ve been able to show the
public sphere is made up of representations        aspects of the discipline. I am fascinated     contingent bases of his embrace of this or
and of the means for producing                     by the authority that “the economic” has       that theoretical agenda in Economics –
representations. To describe what                  acquired. Donald Horne was one of the          first his Keynesianism (the war economy),
governments do is to produce a                     first to point this out in Australia, in his   later his search for an ecological economy
representation. To offer a version of “the         book Money Made Us. Horne tended to            (his retirement from the Reserve Bank and
public interest” or to advance a particular        conflate two themes: the ‘materialistic’       his response to ecological projections of the
interest is to produce representations. So         motivation that he discerned in                human future). I wrote Indigenous Futures
public policy is made up of representations,       Australians, and the ascendancy of the         at the invitation (accompanied by a year’s
and the public sphere is an exchange of            discourse of the economy in public life. I     salary) of an economist, Jon Altman, the
representations. So if the Humanities is           am not concerned with the first theme, as      Director of the Centre for Aboriginal
good at studying the work of representation        I find speculation about mass motivation       Economic Policy Research (CAEPR). One
then the Humanities has much to offer the          difficult to get a handle on. But I am very    of my arguments is that when CAEPR
study of the political process and that            interested in the reification of social        reads the Indigenous predicament through
includes public policy.                            process through the invocation of that         the policy-relevant lens of labour market
    Of course, the “habitus” of the                knowledge-object “the economy”. This           economics, it tends not to see another
Humanities scholar is often defined by a           morning’s Sydney Morning Herald                policy-relevant development: the rise of
cheerful disdain for the mundane, and              headline has a beautiful example:              the Indigenous Sector as a political
politics is mundane. And that “habitus” is         “Drought rips $4bn hole in economy”. My        phenomenon.
complemented by another – the policy               interest in the economic as an idiom of
intellectual who is too “practical” to be          public value was awakened by the               Was Nugget Coombs the last of the “true”
reflective about the languages which               Industries Assistance Commission’s report      public servants in Australia?
constitute the public policy process.              on the Performing Arts in Australia, and       Your question is interesting because of the
Combine those two styles of intellectual           by the subsequent efforts of arts policy       difficulty of the word “true”. One could
subjectivity and you have a pernicious             intellectuals to reframe the value of the      argue that public servants’ primary duty is
division of intellectual labour. Politics is too   subsidised arts in ‘economic’ terms. I         not to declare any truth as a singularity but
important to leave to intellectuals who are        wrote about that in Arguing the Arts           to offer Ministers options: various
not curious about representation.                  (1985). It was helpful to my thinking that     scenarios for relating the means and the
                                                   Glenn Withers and David Throsby – two          ends of the government of the day. A public
Much of your recent work (Obliged to be            world leaders in the “economisation” of        servant who does that well may not be
difficult, Nugget Coombs: a reforming life         arts advocacy – did their work in and on       speaking “true to their own heart”. In
and Indigenous futures ) has been about            Australia.                                     Obliged to be difficult, I described
social science and in particular                       Much of my recent work, as you             “sincerity” in a public servant as “tactically
intellectuals trained in Economics. What           mentioned, has been about Coombs. He           superfluous”. I would say the same of
interests you about economists and                 makes an exemplary study because he            sincerity in a democratic politician. This is
Economics?                                         thought aloud about the political utility of   not intended to be cynical. My view is that
    I should first point out that I have no        Economics as a disciplined approach to         in a democracy both politicians and public
formal training in Economics, and I am             government. Through a biographical                                        Continued on p.4

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