School of Culture and Communication - Theses
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Dot, Circle And Frame: how Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, Tim Leura, Clifford Possum and Johnny Warangula created Papunya Tula art
Forty years ago, Forty years ago, Kaapa Tjampitjinpa, Tim Leura, Clifford Possum and Johnny Warangula were central to the constitution of contemporary desert art at Papunya. Standing out among an exceptional cohort, these four selected artists deployed their inherited iconography while exploring the new poetic possibilities offered by paint on canvas. This thesis addresses the question: how, and to what extent, did the artists’ intercultural experience affect their agency and creative processes? The answers to that question will contribute to a deeper understanding of a critical juncture in the nation’s art history, when the advent of Papunya Tula art redirected attention from the ‘European’ artists of the south-eastern seaboard and instead inaugurated a heterogeneous conception of Australia’s culture with Indigenous voices at its centre. This thesis will draw on social history and visual anthropology, as well as formal and technical artwork analysis to identify the diverse influences that contributed to Papunya Tula painting in place, and over time. Rather than commencing analysis in 1971, when Kaapa’s revolutionary paintings first came to public attention, the social and ontological context from which Papunya Tula art emerged is foregrounded. Central Australia in the mid-20th Century is examined to reveal how disparate peoples were drawn into a dynamically evolving contact zone. The novel visual forms produced at the Finke River Mission are shown to reflect the ongoing dialogic struggle between Indigenous and non-Indigenous ontologies in Central Australia. Moreover, it is argued that exchange between diverse Aboriginal groups, with markedly different life experiences, was critical to the development of contemporary desert art. The link between the Western Arrernte artist Albert Namatjira and the selected artists is substantiated and his influence evaluated. The importance of Namatjira’s ‘framing’ of Country as a subject for cultural exchange is highlighted. Papunya is located at the intersection of major cultural and linguist blocs. This thesis reasserts the role played by the selected Central Australian artists in the formation of the painting movement at Papunya. It challenges the conflation of Papunya Tula art with ‘Western Desert art’, an assumption that was cemented by the title of Geoffrey Bardon’s 1979 monograph. Critical pictorial innovations developed by each of the selected artists are identified, and their operation in picture-making is described. Digging deeper, formal qualities of the four selected artists’ paintings are examined, to identify evidence of their creative processes and individual sensibilities. In establishing the progression of formal elements within series of paintings, the significance of ongoing creative dialogue between these four artists is verified. The outcomes of their collaborations are presented as a narrative of studio practice in a desert environment. were central to the constitution of contemporary desert art at Papunya. Standing out among an exceptional cohort, these four selected artists deployed their inherited iconography while exploring the new poetic possibilities offered by paint on canvas. This thesis addresses the question: how, and to what extent, did the artists’ intercultural experience affect their agency and creative processes? The answers to that question will contribute to a deeper understanding of a critical juncture in the nation’s art history, when the advent of Papunya Tula art redirected attention from the ‘European’ artists of the south-eastern seaboard and instead inaugurated a heterogeneous conception of Australia’s culture with Indigenous voices at its centre. This thesis will draw on social history and visual anthropology, as well as formal and technical artwork analysis to identify the diverse influences that contributed to Papunya Tula painting in place, and over time. Rather than commencing analysis in 1971, when Kaapa’s revolutionary paintings first came to public attention, the social and ontological context from which Papunya Tula art emerged is foregrounded. Central Australia in the mid-20th Century is examined to reveal how disparate peoples were drawn into a dynamically evolving contact zone. The novel visual forms produced at the Finke River Mission are shown to reflect the ongoing dialogic struggle between Indigenous and non-Indigenous ontologies in Central Australia. Moreover, it is argued that exchange between diverse Aboriginal groups, with markedly different life experiences, was critical to the development of contemporary desert art. The link between the Western Arrernte artist Albert Namatjira and the selected artists is substantiated and his influence evaluated. The importance of Namatjira’s ‘framing’ of Country as a subject for cultural exchange is highlighted. Papunya is located at the intersection of major cultural and linguist blocs. This thesis reasserts the role played by the selected Central Australian artists in the formation of the painting movement at Papunya. It challenges the conflation of Papunya Tula art with ‘Western Desert art’, an assumption that was cemented by the title of Geoffrey Bardon’s 1979 monograph. Critical pictorial innovations developed by each of the selected artists are identified, and their operation in picture-making is described. Digging deeper, formal qualities of the four selected artists’ paintings are examined, to identify evidence of their creative processes and individual sensibilities. In establishing the progression of formal elements within series of paintings, the significance of ongoing creative dialogue between these four artists is verified. The outcomes of their collaborations are presented as a narrative of studio practice in a desert environment.
Young Adults, Mobile Messaging, and the Negotiation of (Un)Availability
With a mobile phone, a person can reach and be reached anytime, anywhere. As many scholars have noted, this creates mutual expectations of availability, particularly among young adults whose friendships typically involve high rates of mobile messaging. What happens, however, in the moments when young adults do not want to be available, or cannot be available, to their friends? How do they resist this logic of constant availability in order to make space for themselves or to attend to other tasks or priorities? This thesis engages with these questions by investigating how young adults negotiate unavailability in a contemporary mobile environment. In doing so, this thesis draws on interviews with 39 young adults and a historical comparison of availability etiquettes. The semi-structured interviews focus on young adults’ perceptions and experiences of mobile communication, namely, mobile messaging. Messaging is of particular relevance to the negotiation of unavailability because it is less disruptive to a person’s physical surroundings than calling and is thus often subject to higher expectations of responsiveness. It is also heavily used in many young adults’ friendships. In this context, negotiating unavailability is both particularly necessary and particularly challenging. On the basis of participants’ accounts, this thesis argues that young adults use the affordances of mobile devices and messaging apps to enact a range of nuanced practices for negotiating, limiting, and avoiding interactions. These include technical practices, which involve manipulating the features and qualities of mobile devices and apps; temporal practices, which involve the timing of messages; and discursive practices, which involve their written or visual content. To contextualise these practices, this thesis draws on a historical comparison with 19th century etiquettes for house visits and calling cards and mid-20th century etiquettes for domestic landline telephone calls. Through this historicisation, this thesis argues that participants’ experiences are often a continuation of earlier communication etiquettes, particularly their use of indirect techniques for negotiating unavailability. That said, some etiquette for negotiating unavailability in the context of mobile messaging is yet to stabilise, which can lead to conflict within friendships. Ultimately, this thesis concludes that mobile technologies mediate the negotiation of unavailability not just as material devices that shape actions through their materiality, but also as meaning-filled objects that are bound up in narratives about friendship and technology use.
'Once we had bread here, you gave us stone'. Food as a technology of biopower in the stories of Jack Davis, Ruby Langford Ginibi, and Alexis Wright
This thesis presents the first comprehensive study of food in the works of Indigenous Australian storytellers. It uses Foucault’s analyses of biopower as a grid of intelligibility through which to describe food’s various functions and effects as they are recorded, reproduced, refracted, and resisted in Jack Davis’s, Ruby Langford Ginibi’s, and Alexis Wright’s storytelling. The thesis reads food as a technology of biopower: a means by which life ‘passe[s] into knowledge's field of control and power's sphere of intervention’ (Foucault 1978, 142). Following a Foucaultian methodology, it presents close and contextualised readings of the ways that food is instrumentalised as a technology of biopower and the functions, effects, and networks of biopower that result in and through the storytellers’ works. The specific topics the thesis engages include accounts of rationing and food-centric resistance in Davis’s plays, food insecurity and obesity discourse in Langford Ginibi’s life stories, and food’s relationship with alcohol and imperilment in Wright’s stories. It traces continuities between the storytellers’ treatment of food as well as identifying the way food generates and is implicated in evolving configurations and networks of biopower. It explores various resistance strategies and their efficacy in and through their stories, as well as the new subjects, hegemonic relations, institutions, forms of government, and fields of power-knowledge that result.
On the Uses of Renaissance Genre
Scholars have long recognized that English Renaissance texts are marked by generic experimentation and ambiguity, but the implications that this carries for the category of genre itself have not been sufficiently explored. The broad contention of this thesis is that the productiveness that marked genre in the early modern period is a consequence of the different uses to which it was put by a variety of stakeholders. For these stakeholders – the playwrights, critics, playing companies, and printers of the early modern period – genre became a site where contests over commercial, pragmatic, and symbolic investments could be played out. Genre in this period thereby functioned as a crucible whereby different interests, themselves products of a changing set of material and social conditions, could vie for power within an arena characterized by commercial and pragmatic investments. Accordingly, this thesis focuses on the matter of use and on the user-groups who repurposed classical categories of genre as a way to extend their own interests. This thesis presents these matters outside the text, and the agents responsible for them, as explanations for the generative nature of Renaissance genre.
Lights and shadows in Australian historical fiction: how does historical fiction deal with how Australia comes to know its past?
This thesis examines how recent Australian historical fiction, particularly that of Kim Scott and Kate Grenville, re-imagines and reframes Australia’s past and how it offers new ways of relating to that past. It does so with an emphasis on the perceived disconnect between what is available to archive-based academic historiography and the current understanding of the historical issues most relevant to modern Australians. It is presented in three sections. The first section focuses particularly on how fiction writers address the historical archives, with examples drawn mainly from works about the early frontier between Indigenous and settler Australians. It examines how different fiction styles and techniques address the construction of history, particularly the contrast between traditional realist narrative fiction and more postmodern techniques, with reference to parallel movements in the writing of non-fiction history. It asks how the concept of the “truth” about the past is dealt with differently in historical fiction, compared to historiography. This section concludes that historical fiction, particularly fiction that uses less traditional forms offers culturally useful ways of addressing modern questions about the past, and relationships with the past. The second section of the thesis is an extended examination of the process of creating a work of research fiction based on historical material. It begins with a short historical account of the subject of the author’s research, and goes on to offer a detailed examination of the research process. It considers in more depth the issue of archival research as it relates to the creation of stories in the past. The original research for this thesis was carried out both online and in physical archives, and the second section discusses how the archival research process influenced the fictional work in terms of both form and content. The second section also discusses how the works and techniques examined in the first section influenced the creation of the research fiction, with additional discussion of the genre of fictional historical biography. The final part of the thesis is a creative work in the form of an extended extract from a historical novel, based on the life of the 19th century historical figure Edward Oxford. The novel, titled Lights and Shadows of Melbourne Life, is a first-person narrative that incorporates both real and fictional archival material. It interrogates questions of memory, identity, colonial attitudes to migration to Australia, and through its inclusion of archives and “archives”, contrasted with the narrator’s commentary, deals with questions of archival reliability.
The Age of Icons: Digitising the Self in Profile Images
In the “Age of Icons”, a digital echo of the self emerges in an online ecology where representations of the self and others are signified in virtual, globally networked profiles. In digital spaces, real and online friends, followers and connections collide. Social media platforms have evolved into dynamic and malleable communicative spaces, that guide an individual’s construction of a ‘profile’ on their network. The ‘profile image’, provides options for a user to express a visualisation of themselves, alongside multimodal presentations of personal content. This technologically-mediated icon of self, can portray a user’s actual or desired physical appearance, an identity that translates from the “real world” into online expressions of cultural, social and emotional values. Through developing an online presence, in singular, or interconnecting, social accounts or platforms, this thesis asks the question: how do we construct representations of ourselves online, using our social media profile pictures? Building on recent literature surrounding online image production, dissemination, and identity formation on social media, I have collected and coded extensive, qualitative data – gathered through semi-structured interviews – with a small study group of 21-35-year-old social media users. This thesis presents a thematic analysis of the process of creating an online identity and explores the adaptation of this online marker of identity to technological features of social media accounts. Finally, it examines impacts of profile pictures in the daily lives of social media users, where online and offline realities can intersect. The chosen case study is ‘profile images’: the literal, or figurative, public face a user wears when interacting in online, social media platforms. The thesis considers the interplay between varied forms of self-expression, and conceptions of identity in a user, as they live offline and online through their use of social media profiles.
Beware! Children at Play: A Carnivalesque Analysis of the Monster Child from Early Slapstick to the Nazified Children of Modern Horror
Monster child narratives often use a formula in which normative power relations between adults and children are temporarily inverted as the child outsmarts the adult, leading to a rupture in the social order. Where children are ordinarily subordinate to adults, this relationship is reversed as the monster child exerts dominance over their elders. Applying Mikhail Bakhtin’s carnival theory, this thesis argues that the monster child figure commonly thought of as a horror movie villain began its life on screen in early silent screen comedy. Through qualitative analysis of a range of case study films from the silent era through to the emergence of horror-themed monster child films produced in the mid-1950s, close comparative analysis of these texts is used to support the claim that the monster children in early silent comedies and later modern horror films have a shared heritage. Such a claim warrants the question, why did the monster child migrate from comedy to horror? The contention put forward in this thesis is that during World War II dark representations of Hitler Youth in Hollywood wartime propaganda films played a significant role in the child monster trope moving from comedy to horror. Although only a brief period, the cluster of Hitler Youth-themed films produced by Hollywood presented the Nazified child as a particularly heinous malfeasant. This new screen villain proved dynamic and durable, resurfacing after the war as a devious Aryan fiend in the horror-themed monster child films that began to emerge in cinema in the mid-1950s. The monster child seen in contemporary horror is a combination of the narrative formula of early silent comedies featuring child monsters playing pranks on unwary adults, and the dark villainy of the Hitler Youth. In tracing the trajectory of the child monster from comedy to horror, the thesis proposes that its carnivalesque character altered during World War II as it came to be associated with the anti-carnivalesque Hitler Youth. The anti-carnivalesque superficially engages with elements of the carnival so that where carnival is dialogic, celebrating an explosion of heteroglossia that embraces culture at the margins, the anti-carnivalesque is monologic and seeks to centralise and contain culture within a singular unified worldview. Following the war, the monster child returned to a carnivalesque state by undermining the social order just as it had in early cinema, however the character had radically transformed during the war so that in the postwar period it sported the Nordic physical features of the Hitler Youth and exhibited a sadism that would increase as the monster child moved further into the horror genre. Yet even as the postwar monster child became noticeably Nazified with its blond hair and contempt for adult authority, the comic origins of the monster child in silent cinema were also legible in its return to carnivalesque narratives in which the monster child overturns the social order.
Embodying opposition: Early modern libel and the politics of personality
Embodying Opposition: Early Modern Libel and the Politics of Personality presents a study of libelling in England during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries that situates this practice within the literary and political cultures of the period. Literary and historical debates that have positioned libels on the margins of discussions about the relationship between literature and politics in this period are revaluated. Instead, it is argued that libels can be read as a central vehicle for articulating political discontent. As the thesis demonstrates, libels’ ad hominem mode of address challenged an early modern system of spiritual and secular governance in which authority was insistently embodied and personalised. Accordingly, this thesis focuses in particular on those libels that sought to inflict reputational damage on the most prominent individuals associated with the church and court. The explanatory context for reading these libels is provided by the contested literary, legal, cultural and material constructions of ‘libel’ as a textual form, and of ‘libelling’ as a seditious activity, which is traced from the middle of the 1580s to the end of the 1620s. This period encompasses the death of Queen Elizabeth I and the succession of King James I and provides the historical basis for an examination of the transformation of libelling in response to two distinct styles of monarchical government. This study is developed through an investigation of the linguistic and rhetorical strategies of libellous texts that focus on, in turn: Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester; Queen Elizabeth I; Richard Bancroft and John Whitgift, successive Archbishops of Canterbury; King James I; and, George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham. How these libellous critiques were received and perceived is further explored through close analyses of a range of other texts that comment on the phenomenon, including diaries, letters, royal proclamations, essays, and so-called counter-libels.
Youths, Digital Media, and the 'New' Knowledge Economy in Africa: Perspectives of Global City Policymakers in Tanzania
This study addresses the conceptualisation of civic public communication as an important component of the paradigm of the ‘knowledge economy’ and examines the way the government of Tanzania manages this emerging knowledge in digital policymaking. The study has a focus on policy experts’ understanding of globalisation and digital engagement among youths who are interacting with smartphone communication in the global digital city, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Specifically, the study addresses policy experts’ understanding of digital social practices of youths in their interaction through smartphone communication in Dar es Salaam, and the implications of this understanding in policy decision practices for managing the knowledge economy for the city’s economic development. The study employs semi-structured interviews with policy experts in Dar es Salaam who are policy decision-makers at different levels of government in Tanzania. Findings reveal that policy experts in the globalised digital city, Dar es Salaam, perceive policymaking from the traditional perspectives of financial and business activities. They also reveal that policy experts understand the globalised digital sphere as a hub for promoting political leaders and governance activities in Dar es Salaam, which therefore impacts policymaking perceptions. The study concludes that policy experts in the study area have limited knowledge of civic public communication as an emerging opportunity for societal development in the globalised digital city. The deterritorialised space and denationalised digital sphere, as drawn from Sassen’s theoretical perspectives on globalisation and digitisation, are emerging as the contemporary policymaking opportunities for societal development in the digital age. The study recommends that an inclusive policymaking approach between citizens and the government be developed among policy experts in Dar es Salaam for the city’s economic development in the emerging digital era. Such a decentralised approach to reaching policy decisions furthers the debate on digital-era policymaking practices in developing regions for societal development.
Seeking Arrangement: Essays on Work
This thesis is about work and collectivity under post-Fordism. It examines social and artistic forms that loosely organise reproductive labour outside of formal institutions. Polyamorous relationships are conducted on a spectrum from spontaneous to Google-calendared to commune to cult. A secret men’s club is comprised of working-class unionists who ban politics from discussion at their meetings. The nightclub is celebrated as a utopian melting pot, but exacerbates as much as alleviates workaday alienation. I explore these sites across five essays; in the sixth and final essay, I turn to the form of the essay itself, arguing that contemporary hybrid nonfiction derives from and expresses its precarised conditions of production in syntax and structure. If post-Fordism is most readily associated with the collapse of work into leisure, as well as the destruction of workplace- and class-solidarity, the polyamorous relationship, the nightclub, the men’s club, and the essay not only take this collapse for granted, but grow from it and reproduce it. They exist in an ambivalent zone of resistance and complicity that runs parallel to, and separate from, organised solidarity. In doing so, they usefully refract contemporary debates around leisure, automation, reproductive labour, and aesthetic production. The creative component of this thesis is comprised of the six essays outlined above. The critical section contains an introduction, a literature review, and exegetical statement contextualising my use of the essay form and my research on post-Fordism.
Solving Suspicion in Mystery Films
This thesis seeks to understand how viewers engage mystery films, and how they are engaged by them. Mystery films present a problem for the viewer to solve, from identifying a killer to uncovering a conspiracy, and engage viewers in solving this problem by arousing suspicion. This feeling of suspicion represents points of fixation for viewers within a film’s narrative. Mystery films arouse suspicion using repetition, isolation, duration, and predisposition, and by playing on viewer expectations surrounding the mystery genre and type. When viewer suspicion is aroused, they engage in a form of problem solving to try and resolve ambiguity in the text and reach a solution to the problem in the film. To address these research questions, this thesis employs a range of empirical methods, including quantitative analysis of editing data, neoformalist analysis of mystery films, and a human experiment to determine how specific film practices influence viewer’s perception of suspicion. By focusing only on what can be observed and comprehended, and not on interpretations of a text, Neoformalist analysis may be considered an empirical research method. This range of methods is directed by a set of guiding principles that underpin the thesis, aimed at contributing to our understanding of the experience-of-film. In total, the thesis examines 87 mystery films from 2004-2013 to provide a comprehensive study of contemporary mystery cinema. The thesis demonstrates that viewers primarily engage with mystery films through a form of problem solving, guided by their experience of suspicion. Mystery films are constructed to arouse suspicion and encourage viewers to attempt to solve the problem at the centre of a film. Mystery films use editing structure, problem types, filmic practices, and expectations of genre to curate the viewing experience, attempting to prevent viewers from reaching a solution prematurely. This is largely achieved by cultivating recognition in viewers, ensuring they identify important clues within the film, but fail to synthesise this information into a solution. Viewers can draw on meta-knowledge in an attempt to decode and decipher these practices, leading to new forms of engagement with mystery films. Finally, this thesis illustrates the potential for an empirically informed, interdisciplinary approach to researching screen texts, and the potential for future investigations into the viewing experience.
The Forest, the Desert and the Road: Chronotopes of American Spaces in Twentieth-century Long-form Poetry; and a Creative Work, 'Hotel America'
Part One (60%): The Forest, the Desert and the Road: Chronotopes of American Spaces in Twentieth-century Long-form Poetry In this thesis I address the following questions: what is an ‘American space’? How is this space represented in, produced and/or contested by literary texts? Using the Bakhtinian theory of chronotopes, I undertake an analysis of the ways in which three twentieth-century long-form poems—Susan Howe’s ‘Articulation of Sound Forms in Time’, Michael Ondaatje’s 'The Collected Works of Billy the Kid' and Muriel Rukeyser’s 'The Book of the Dead'—represent, produce and contest specific American spaces (‘America’ defined as the contiguous United States). The key chronotopes identified for this study are: the forest, the desert and the road. I argue that these chronotopes, each corresponding to a critical place and time in American history, are employed by Howe, Ondaatje and Rukeyser, to unsettle national mythologies and narratives of settlement, in particular the ‘frontier thesis’ advanced by influential historian Frederick Jackson Turner. My thesis, which reads the three primary texts alongside broader cultural and historical contexts, is situated at the intersection between literary studies, American studies, history and cultural geography. Part Two (40%): ‘Hotel America’ In 'The American Scene', Henry James writes: ‘one is verily tempted to ask if the hotel-spirit may not just be the American spirit most seeking and most finding itself’. In the creative component of this thesis, I present a collection of poetic narrative sequences, titled ‘Hotel America’, which centres on the chronotope of the hotel in American history and culture. Each sequence is set within a real American hotel, from geographically and historically diverse locations and times. In this creative work, I extend upon my analyses of the chronotopes in the critical component of this thesis to explore the ways in which the chronotope of the hotel has contributed, and continues to contribute, to the composition of American spaces.