School of Culture and Communication - Theses

Permanent URI for this collection

Search Results

Now showing 1 - 10 of 313
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    Destiny Disrupted: Contemporary Islamic Art and the Neo-Orientalist turn
    Shkembi, Nur ( 2023-11)
    Since the late 1700’s, Islamic material culture and visual art has been categorised within a traditional frame in Western art history as ‘Islamic art’. This frame has been replete with colonial boundaries and a matrix of Eurocentric categories which have all but relegated Islamic art to a collection of objects situated within a fixed geography and temporality. However, in more recent years the hyper-globalisation of the contemporary art world and the increased visibility of “Muslimness” post 9/11 has prompted the rupture of the past geographical and colonial confines, accompanied with a movement of art that is emerging from contemporary Muslim communities in the West. By establishing a contemporary historiography of Islamic art in Australia, along with a critical examination of a selection of artists who identify with their Islamic heritage, my thesis aims to elucidate this contemporary movement of art as both a revelation and disruption of Islamic art history. Furthermore, by examining the thread between contemporary Islamic art and the reclamation, renovation, and subversion of tradition by local Muslim artists, an alternative frame of reference is apparent in the practice of contemporary Muslim artists. This encompasses a deliberate shift in focus from the ‘Orientalist object’ to instead foreground the artist and their practice in a postcolonial frame. This thesis reveals a recent development in Islamic art, specifically in Australia, arguing that recognising this shift is vital for both the future history of Islamic art and the discourse of Australia art history.
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    Charlotte Posenenske's Off-Avant-Garde
    Winata, Amelia Claire ( 2023-11)
    The subject of this thesis is the work of German artist Charlotte Posenenske (1930-1985). Despite the current interest in Posenenske’s art, there have been very few in-depth studies of her practice. This thesis, which conducts an extensive analysis of Posenenske’s artistic output, is the first scholarly account of her work. Posenenske’s work was produced against the backdrop of Cold War West Germany, a country significantly shaped by its rapid post-WWII reconstruction and prosperity resulting from the so-called Economic Miracle (Wirtschaftswunder). Rather than offering a comprehensive study of Posenenske’s entire oeuvre, I focus on a selection of paintings, drawings and sculptures produced between 1956 and 1967. I have chosen to concentrate on works that demonstrate Posenenske’s exploration of themes that were pertinent in the post-WWII reconstruction—namely a new German subjectivity, mass production, seriality, and the relationship between the body and the object. The contention of this thesis is that Posenenske’s practice embodies what I describe as an off-avant-garde. Through this framework it will be shown that Posenenske imbued her works with the formal characteristics of historical-avant-gardism only to undo them. In so doing she neither accepted nor disavowed the historical-avant-gardes. Rather, Posenenske’s off-avant-garde was the result of her testing the utopian potential of avant-gardism in post-WWII West Germany. In characterising Posenenske’s work through this framework, and relying upon archival research, I argue against the common accounts of her work as collectivist and utopian. Although many commentators have described Posenenske’s work as displaying a wholehearted enthusiasm for the post-WWII reconstruction of West Germany, I argue that her practice followed an arc that started with enthusiasm and ended in 1967 with disappointment about the state of West Germany’s reconstruction. This finding offers a nuanced understanding of how Posenenske—and other West German artists—made sense of their environment. Rather than placing Posenenske’s short career on either side of a binary, I demonstrate that it operated in a flux that was proportionate to the rapid changes occurring around her.
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    Online Media Strategies of Egypt’s Al-Azhar to Counter Extremist Rhetoric
    Abdelmoatty, Dina Tawfic AbdelFattah ( 2023-08)
    The current study explored the ideological identity of a prominent Egyptian religious institution, Al-Azhar, and its capacity to counter extremism. I argued that Al-Azhar’s complex history and its paradoxical relationship with the state have impacted its ideology, leading the Islamic establishment to take a position on the political Islam spectrum. I provided evidence by combining a mixed approach of qualitative methods, using historiography, in-depth interviews and critical discourse analysis. This hybrid approach is used to (1) understand the ideology of Al-Azhar, (2) explore its online strategies/framework to counter extremism, and (3) discuss the reasons behind Al-Azhar’s incapability to renew its ideology and reform its traditional approach of teachings and interpretations of Islamic scriptures.
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    Transsystematic Scale: Media Philosophy Beyond Collapse and Difference
    Hondroudakis, Geoffrey Peter ( 2023-09)
    Scale and scaling techniques have become crucial to handling the constitutive limits of systematicity – that is, scale involves a revision of the systematic itself, within, through, and beyond its own limits. While recent media-theoretical work has made great strides in thinking the functions and nature of scale, its precise philosophical status and situation within larger ontological and epistemological debates still requires clarification. Taking scale as a core question for media philosophy, this thesis argues that scale must be read in the register of what I call the ‘transsystematic’: the multifarious attempts to think and work through the constitutive partiality, contingency, and plurality of systematicity itself. The transsystematic indexes various contexts, legible across mathematics, engineering, the sciences, politics, literature, and philosophy, where systematicity runs up against its own limits, but functions through and across those limits nevertheless. Scale becomes a key way such problems are situationally navigated: as such, it functions as a deep and nonarbitrary feature of any conceivable systematicity and their interrelation. To demonstrate how scale emerges as problem and solution in this way, I trace the antinomic functions of scale across contemporary theorisations of climate, capital, and – centrally – computation, observing how scale continually emerges as a crucial means for handling the impasses between collapse and difference, completeness and contingency, determination and the indeterminable that irrupt in these contexts. Scale functions here as both more and less than an ontological or epistemological concept, neither inhering in objects, nor being adequately understood as an arbitrary cognitive artifice. To account for its antinomic functions, I argue that scale is transcendental to systematicity, a necessary condition of any possible individuation and mediation. Understood via this transsystematic revision of the transcendental, scale is the fundamental conceptual term for the structures of localisation and generalisation that mediate between the poles of totalising collapse and irreducible difference. Ultimately, I suggest that thinking scale in this way lets us better address the transsystematic dimensions of contemporary media.
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    Rethinking the Governance of Local Cultural Policy from the Perspective of Sustainability
    Balta Portoles, Jordi ( 2023-08)
    This thesis considers how the climate crisis and broader sustainability challenges call for a revision of approaches to cultural policy and, more specifically, what this implies for the governance of local cultural policy. Cities and local spaces are relevant settings because the frictions generated by sustainability become particularly apparent there, and because it is at the local level where conditions may exist for sustainable, culturally-adapted pathways to emerge. Addressing the governance of local cultural policy is also particularly significant because governance provides a setting for the collective negotiation of such tensions, and for the subsequent evolution of cultural policy. In order to address this topic, I have drawn on cultural policy studies, sustainable development studies, and public policy analysis, as well as my own previous practice and observations, and have conducted a case study in Barcelona, examining a set of tensions that arise in the conceptualisation and practice of governance of local cultural policy from the perspective of sustainability: namely, the ’local ownership versus diversity tension’, the ‘territorial versus multi-level tension’, the ‘citizen participation versus public responsibility tension’, and the ‘broad versus narrow scope tension’. Given that I adopt a broad understanding of governance, the case study examines formal decision-making spaces and policy documents (e.g. the Council of Culture and the local government’s cultural strategies), as well as grassroots processes that illustrate negotiations between community initiatives and public authorities, analysing how they are mutually related. Through the examination of existing knowledge on culture and sustainable development, I present six propositions in order to align cultural policy with the implications of sustainability, adaptation and regeneration. They include engaging more overtly with societal conflicts and tensions, acknowledging how culture is interdependent with other spheres of life, contributing to the broadening of cultural capabilities while fostering an ethics of responsibility towards nature, enabling a dynamic negotiation between permanence and change, and providing spaces for multiple narratives to emerge, coexist and interact. Building on these propositions, and on an analysis of the conditions that may allow governance to evolve and to inform cultural policy change through a ‘policy feedback’ process, I provide a set of directions for a new governance framework in local cultural policy. The framework addresses the values and principles that should inform governance-related policy-making (e.g., focusing particularly on the human dimension of sustainability, fostering a cosmopolitan outlook in cultural policy, and combining the strengthening of governance with measures to address inequalities in cultural life), the mechanisms that determine participation (e.g., understanding governance as a connective, open space, that explores the boundaries of the cultural realm, and combining participatory opportunities at several territorial levels), and the methods of governance (e.g., adopting ‘community of practice’ methodologies that connect thinking, learning and doing, and strengthening the mobilisation, generation and interpretation of diverse forms of knowledge).
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    E-extremism: the Australian and British far right on the Internet
    Zhang, Xinyi ( 2023-06)
    In the past decade, the far right has grown sophisticated in exploiting online media and digital technologies to reinvent itself. In this thesis, I look at the online presence of far-right actors of various kinds in the UK and Australia, including the highly opportunistic far-right group Australian Liberty Alliance that is currently affiliated with Rebel News, alternative online media outlets XYZ and The Unshackled, the fringe political party The For Britain Movement, the Britain First leader Paul Golding, the neo-Nazi organisation British Movement. This thesis begins with the historical background of the far right in the two countries for a context-specific understanding the formation of racial ideology and the trajectory of far-right politics and movements. Building on a systematic review of terms and definitions in the existing literature on the far right, I develop a minimum definition that regards ‘reactionary conservative’ actors as at the center of the contemporary far right, who exhibit four core ideologies of far-right discourse, which are birth-cultural nationalism, anti-politics populism, post-fascist authoritarianism and social dominance orientation. Drawing upon Chadwick’s concept of ‘digital network repertoires’ and Cammaerts’ the ‘mediation opportunity structure’ theory, my thesis also develops the concept of ‘e-extremism’ to explore the ways in which online far-right actors facilitate a new form of online extremism through their use of online media and digital technologies. Given the in-between role of reactionary conservative actors in mainstreaming far-right ideas and radicalising the mainstream, they are central to understanding the shifting international far-right landscape in the post-2016 era, with the development of ‘e-extremism’ and the growing trends of transnationalism on the far right. Through an empirical study of far-right discourse, I investigate transnationalism on the far right from the point of view of philosophical underpinnings, ideologies, narrative themes, issue focuses and targets, and communication strategies. This thesis first analyses the coding results derived from a qualitative content analysis of online posts by the foregoing six actors on social media or websites between 7 December 2020 and 1 February 2021, followed by a multimodal critical discourse analysis of selected textual and visual examples and a supplementary strand of social media comment analysis. Taken together, this thesis develops new conceptual insights into current trends and dynamics in the far right and presents empirical analyses on the online discourse of the far right. Apart from transnational connections between Australian and British far-right actors, these actors are distinct from one another in terms of their use of overt racist and extremist language or symbols, and dominant themes in each dataset. By taking a close look at transnationalism and heterogeneity in the online far-right scene, this thesis seeks to make a contribution towards deeper understanding of contemporary characters of the far right and its challenges to liberal democracy.
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    Money in a Voice That Rustled: A Theory of the Novel in the Techno-Financial Age
    Yates, Elliot James ( 2023-08)
    Money in a Voice That Rustled: A Theory of the Novel in the Techno-Financial Age examines the troubled position of the novel in a world profoundly reshaped by the intertwined forces of financialised capitalism and autonomised technology. Part One of this thesis explores the vicissitudes of reification by way of a centenary reconsideration of key concepts from Lukacs's Theory of the Novel and History and Class Consciousness. I identify a constellation of "infrastructural" (and unconscious) forces that, since the early 1970s, have contributed to an eclipse of modern subjectivity’s synthetic negotiation of meaning—and which have thereby severely undermined and diminished the social coherence of the novel, the novelistic sensibility, and the possibility of broadly "novelistic" experience. On the basis of these forces, in dialogue with central categories of Western Marxist critical theory and psychoanalysis (capital and the valorisation process, need, authenticity, commodity fetishism, spectacle, desire, drive), I trace a set of intertwined historical trajectories and outline a set of concepts adequate to describe the conditions of the present. Together, these investigations constitute a theory of hyper-reification. Part Two presents extended close readings and formal analyses of William Gaddis's JR (1975), J. G. Ballard's The Atrocity Exhibition (1971) and Urban Disaster Trilogy (1973–5), and Christine Brooke-Rose's Amalgamemnon (1984). Each of these works represents a radical condensation and concentration of the essential features of techno-financial life. The techno-financial age, I argue through the thesis's theoretical and literary-critical halves, is fundamentally characterised by the tendential disqualification of substantial reality and the deepening abstraction, quantification and virtualisation of the concrete life-process. The novel, an artform and social institution broadly concerned with creating and structuring narrative meaning in modern life, finds itself progressively deformed, displaced and outstripped by hyper-reification and denarrativisation. The fragile formal freedom of the modern subject to invest reality with meaning—Lukacs's "productivity of the spirit"—is repelled and repressed by an increasingly compulsory regulation of meaning through the technosystem and the mediation of (nearly) all experience through the formal matrix of commodity exchange.
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    Spanish influence on Australian painting, 1880s – 1910s: Manifestations of wave behaviours
    Quijano Martinez, Jenny Beatriz ( 2023-07)
    This thesis examines the extent to which Spanish painting and culture influenced the development of Australian painting. It has been recognised that several imported art tendencies have been part of Australian painting, but Spanish art and culture have not been strongly considered before, despite the growing interest on this topic. This thesis inspects the case of Spain’s relationship to Australian painting between the 1880s and 1910s. It focuses on the way Australian artists evoked a Spanish imagery and themes in their works of art. The following research questions guide this study: How did experiences at the museums, in Spain, and encounters with other artists and artworks, inspire the creative process of Australian artists? And what impact did this have on Australian painting? It argues that Spanish art and culture influenced the creative process of Australian painting to a greater extent than has been previously acknowledged. Distinct from previous studies, this thesis does not position one culture prominently over another or prescribe what can be called ‘Australian’ art. Instead, the idea that Australian art at the fin de siglo was part of a dynamic and interconnected global art, and thus responded to global necessities and fashions, is reinforced. This thesis assesses previous understandings between influence and flows, using physics to rethink influence as waves, and focuses on the behaviours to comprehend them. In opposition to models of centre and periphery, this thesis suggests the idea of ‘influence’ in Australian art history can be seen as diverse manifestations of wave behaviours and dynamic interactions between artists and artworks.
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    Coming to Cathay: Art of the Semu People in Mongol Yuan China
    Liu, Shiqiu ( 2023-08)
    The Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) in Chinese history was ruled by the Mongols who conquered most of the Eurasian continent. Although much attention has been given to the hybrid art in diverse media produced in this period, this dissertation takes a less studied perspective, the semu (neither Chinese nor Mongol) people living in Yuan China as the centre. Based on their dominating cultural identities, the semu people under discussion include Christians, Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists who formed the intermediate level between the Mongol ruling class and the native Chinese in this multi-ethnic society. Setting Yuan China as part of the Mongol empire, this dissertation investigates the hybrid forms of art works related to the semu people through case studies on stone carvings, sculptures, reliefs on architectures, and luxurious textiles, to understand the formation of these hybrid images and the meaning of these visual representations for the semu people. The social and political privileges that the semu people enjoyed under the Mongol rule provide the dissertation with an extensive approach to compare art objects from multiple cultures that were integrated into the Mongol empire. The analysis is further supported by textual evidence on transmission factors that affected the formation of the hybrid forms in art. With a framework differentiating the functions of elements composing the hybrid images, the dissertation argues that by their choice of motifs from their original cultures, and mediated through their different levels of interaction with Chinese motifs, the semu people shaped distinctive cultural identities that stood out from the native Chinese. Meanwhile, in this formation process, earlier art development in northern China under the two non-Han dynasties, Liao (916-1125) and Jin (1115-1234), also played an important role in paving the accommodation of new foreign motifs into a Chinese cultural context through shared aesthetic tastes, and material and labour resources accumulated in this area. This dissertation proves that the semu people were prominent social sections underlining the diversity of Yuan China and its position as the nexus of the trans-continental Mongol empire.
  • Item
    Thumbnail Image
    "If you're gonna dine with the cannibals": becoming meat, becoming-animal
    Bellamy, Desmond Fraser ( 2023-10)
    This thesis examines human cannibalism and its mutable nexus with anthropocentrism, the conviction of human supremacism, an orthodoxy usually taken as axiomatic in most scholarly and popular discourses. The question this thesis asks is why the majority of humans find the killing and eating of some animals, principally herbivores, unremarkable and inculpable, while killing and particularly eating other animals, especially humans, is reflexively condemned as repulsive and taboo? Cannibalism has always been an important part of the theme of monstrosity, acting as a warning against the savagery of older cultures as well as the human unconscious. In recent decades, there has been a renaissance of interest in the topic, particularly in film, television and new media, which I have named, for the purposes of this discussion, “cannibal media cultures”. The thesis explores the early written history of cannibalism and the changing nature of the taboo as a background to a critical study of human cannibalism in the contemporary period through a close and critical study of cannibal media cultures, and what they reveal about changing attitudes to the cannibal taboo, the corrosive effects of anthropocentrism and the ethics of eating the other. If, as science has been demonstrating since Darwin, the line between humans and other animals is a fragile one, and human flesh is just as edible as any other, then the taboo must fill functions that have nothing to do with what the ethics of eating but rather uphold the power structure and nature of carnivorous, patriarchal, violent “civilisation” and what it means to be deemed properly “human”. This thesis proposes that the contemporary taboo on cannibalism is closely aligned with anthropocentrism, the philosophical view that the human (particularly the male) is superior to all other species, and what Derrida called “carnivorous virility”, a key facet of “meat culture”, which bolsters anthropocentrism by eating the “other”. This nexus is challenged by “cognate cannibals”, an expression I have devised to describe contemporary cannibals, who are no longer monstrous outsiders but live and dine indistinguishably within the polis, discarding anthropocentrism, and turning carnivorous virility back against fellow humans. The cognate cannibal, presented in actual and fictional narratives as a plausible or even sympathetic figure, may threaten what I call “the thin red line” between carnism and cannibalism, leading to a condition of indistinction, in which all flesh may be edible, or none.