peteg's blog

Griffith Review #15: Divided Nation: Inequality in Action (Autumn 2007)

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Another excellent edition of this journal. I only read the ones on subjects I'm interested in, but this one makes me think I should read it more often than I do. Unlike Quarterly Essay, Griffith Review is a compilation of about 300 pages of mostly interesting work centred on a particular topic (rather than just a single viewpoint). This one is concerned with the gap between how good our gangbuster economy is said to be and how those lowest on the (cough) life security ladder have it.

In this edition, in particular:

  • David Burchell's Trying to find the sunny side of life is an excellent brief history of the fashions of public housing, focussing on the recent events at Macquarie Fields.
  • Peter Meredith's Down-at-heel among the well-heeled is a riveting sequence of interviews of people living in the Southern Highlands.
  • In Cracks in the veneer, Jago Dodson and Neil Sipe talk about the tension between oil price fluctuations and the structures of Australia's cities, reminding me of Pete R.'s PhD topic. Unfortunately their writing does not do their research justice.
  • Meera Atkinson's piece on the long term effects of domestic violence, The exiled child, is so much more insightful than the Government's ads, rightly satirised by The Chaser.
  • Charlie Stansfield says a lot about the state of boarding houses in The words to say it, providing a voice-by-proxy to those who lost a point of stability in their lives and are now probably on the streets.
  • Natasha Cica's On the ground recounts some urban renewal projects in the housing estates north of Hobart.
  • In Beyond pity, Robert Hillman recounts his experiences with an Iranian and an Afghan refugee.

Others, such as Randa Abdel-Fattah's Of Middle Eastern appearance, didn't add much clarity to the issue of identity politics:

[In Sweden, at the Göteborg Book Festival]: While we interacted with other international guests, one person asked Nabila: "Do you feel Swedish?"

"Yes, she replied. "Until you asked me."

[...] "What about your Kurdish and Lebanese background? How does it impact on your identity?"

[...] "To be honest, I'm tired of defining myself. Am I Swedish? Am I Kurdish? Am I Lebanese? I'm all of these things, and none. Sometimes I'm more Swedish than Kurdish, sometimes I'm more Lebanese than Swedish. In the end I'm just me."

Amartya Sen, in Identity and Violence, emphasises the fluidity of identity and the contextualisation of it, observing that imposed or misunderstood identity leads to such wonderful absurdities as the "end of history" and "clash of civilisations" rubrics. I guess Abdel-Fattah's piece shows some nascent awareness of these ideas, though their expression frustrated me.

The final three articles on Aboriginal dispossession by Anna Haebich, Anita Heiss and Kim Mahood make for sombre reading.

The photography throughout the journal is also praiseworthy, especially the portrayal of the Vietnam Vets.

I come to this as an interested non-specialist and hence am probably the target demographic for this journal. I wish UNSW or another of the technical universities (the University of Technology, Sydney perhaps, they tend to innovate) could do something similar for technological culture.

Peter Andren runs for a seat in the Senate.

/noise/politics | Link

Instead of, as expected, resolving which of the two re-distributed parts of his current seat of Calare he will stand for, Peter Andren has opted to stand for election as a Senator for NSW. The Smage spins this as a failure to do something useless, viz becoming the "most successful independent of all time". I think they mean "electorally successful", which is not the same thing.