4 October 2012

Australian Cultural Studies were celebrated recently when UQ’s Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies (CCCS) hosted "Building Australian Cultural Studies: the work of Graeme Turner".

The event marked the retirement of former Centre Director, Professor Graeme Turner.

At the symposium, Professors Meaghan Morris, Gay Hawkins, Peter Cryle, John Byron, Stuart Cunningham, Tony Bennett, and others reflected on their engagement with Professor Turner's work, its influence and its impact.

Professor Turner's successor as Centre Director, Professor Gay Hawkins, said that Professor Turner's innovative scholarship had a significant impact on developing this interdisciplinary field in Australia and internationally.

Throughout his long and distinguished career, his research interests have included cultural and media studies, communications, history, literary studies, and film and television studies, film and media, nationalism, popular culture, celebrity, and talkback radio.

His research has produced 22 books, with much of his work translated into nine languages.

It was through this research effort that Professor Turner has contributed to the transformation of the humanities and the emergence of new intellectual practices and objects.

His role in building improved research support and recognition for the humanities, as well as the legacy of his Cultural Research Network, would be lasting and significant, Professor Hawkins said.

Professor Turner has held the titles of Professor of Cultural Studies, ARC Federation Fellow, Past President of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and Director of the CCCS, and Convenor of the ARC Cultural Research Network.

He is also the only humanities scholar on PMSEIC (the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council) and the Australian Research Committee.

He also served on many committees and advisory bodies for state and federal governments and actively participated in public debate, commenting on many issues, including the role of humanities, national curriculum, ethics of journalism and media regulation.

In recent years, Professor Turner was the chair of the trial Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) for Humanities and Creative Arts (2009), the chair of the National Collaborative Research Information Strategy Working Group for Humanities and Creative Arts (2008), a member of the ARC ERA Indicators Committee for Humanities and Creative Arts (2008), and the ARC College of Experts for the Humanities and Creative Arts (2002-2004).

In 2000 he was named the founding Director of the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies at UQ.

Over the past 12 years, the CCCS has played a leading role in supporting emerging research fields in the new humanities and is on the cutting-edge of contemporary humanities research internationally.

The Centre is known for hosting the first international academic conference in Australia on television and fashion.

For many years it was the institutional home of the premier media studies journal in Australia, Media International Australia.

It has also become an extremely important incubator for early career researchers in media and cultural studies.

Three postdoctoral researchers who joined the Centre in early 2000 are now full professors and most of the former research fellows have been awarded ARC fellowships in their own right.

The new Centre Director, Professor Hawkins, has published widely on cultural engagements with the environment, practices of everyday life, media policy and institutions, and theories of materiality and political processes.

“The Centre is a landmark in cultural studies research with a very impressive history, so my challenge is to both continue and extend this remarkable record of achievement,” Professor Hawkins said.

“It is an honour to be given the opportunity to lead the Centre.

“The key area of research for the Centre will be environmental humanities.

“The value of cultural studies for understanding complex environmental issues is that it offers great insights into how everyday ways of living or practices are implicated in big problems such as climate change or water scarcity.

“Take a practice like ‘air conditioning’ - cultural studies has done some great research on how the inclusion of air conditioning has become a normal expectation in house design, how distinct cultures of use have developed around it, and how these cultures have changed the way people define comfort or discomfort.

“This kind of detailed cultural analysis is essential to good policy development because it offers rich insights into how big infrastructures such as the energy grid are actually understood and negotiated by ordinary people.

“Understanding how everyday cultures interact with environments is crucial to developing effective policy and social change.

“This is the type of interdisciplinary research the CCCS will continue with and will keep our researchers at the leading edge of understanding changing human practices and interactions with environments."