Identity and Politics

 Sept. 21, 2017

Identity politics: either you love it or you hate it (or at least, that’s what the media would have us believe).

In reality, things are more complicated. Identities are at the heart of politics; so much of how we make sense of the world around us, and the social movements we operate within, is shaped by the ways we understand identities, communities, and the structures in which they operate.

In this course we’ll take a look at identity and politics from many angles. Through a series of conversations, we’ll cover: the intellectual history of identity politics; public debates about political correctness; questions of how institutions like government and universities respond to identity categories through policy; how intersectionality and feminism dialogue with identities; marginalised cultures and memes on social media; and how we might better speak about identity and politics.

Beyond 'revenge porn': Responding to image-based abuse in a digital era

 Sept. 7, 2017

Revenge porn is a media-generated term that is used to refer to the non-consensual sharing of intimate images by jilted ex-lovers on social media or via mobile phones.

While this term has been instrumental in raising attention to new forms of technology-facilitated abuse, many reject the term as being overly narrow and misleading. Increasingly the preferred alternative term is image-based abuse or image-based sexual abuse. Image-based abuse includes the non-consensual taking, sharing, or threats to share, of intimate images. It includes a range of different scenarios, including the recording of sexual assaults or rapes; threats made to distribute images in family violence contexts; computer hackers gaining access to webcams and personal computer files; sextortion where scammers threaten to share intimate images for monetary gain; secret recordings of consensual sexual activity; ‘upskirting’ and ‘downblousing’, as well the more paradigmatic examples of embittered partners out to get retribution after a relationship breakdown. In this talk, Nicola will explore the terminological challenges, as well as the scope, nature, prevalence, causes and impacts of image-based abuse. She will also discuss responses to this issue, including civil and criminal justice responses, primary prevention campaigns, and other mechanisms that aim to provide some relief to victims

What is going on in Venezuela?

 Aug. 24, 2017

Venezuela has been in the spotlight recently, as a result of the ongoing economic crisis, mounting civil strife, and the protracted political standoff between the government and the opposition.

Between April and July 2017, clashes between military/security forces and protestors led to dozens of deaths, hundreds of people detained (with some subject to military trials), and thousands wounded in Caracas and most major cities across the country. On July 30, the Government celebrated elections to establish a Constituent Assembly to replace the 1999 Bolivarian socio-democratic regime with a ‘communal state’ and restore law and order. The new Constitution would ostensibly do away with the opposition-dominated National Assembly, restrict freedoms of expression and association and, in a nutshell, strengthen the government’s grip and secure its rule. This move has been widely denounced as a move to consolidate an autocratic order. Where is Venezuela standing, and where is it heading? 

Download the session audio

Audiences, Activism and Political Film Festivals

 May 25, 2017

Since the 1970s, there has been significant growth in activist and human rights-focused film festivals around the world. In part, this reflects the fact that human rights has, particularly in the West, become a dominant political and legal language through which all kinds of issues can be expressed. However, it also reflects the influence that the film culture in Latin America during the late 1960s, early 1970s has had on the international film festival circuit. In particular, the militant manifestos produced by Argentinian filmmakers such as Fernando Solanas (Towards a Third Cinema (1969)) about the potential role cinema can play in transforming the social world have had an enduring legacy. 

 

This talk will discuss key ideas and debates in the field of visual activism and film spectatorship. It will also examine approaches that those working in the film festival industry adopt to try to produce politically engaged viewers. 

 

Tyson Wils is a university lecturer, researcher and writer. He is co-editor of the book Activist Film Festivals: Towards a Political Subject(2017).

 

Syrian Refugees in Jordan

 May 11, 2017

After seven years of war, Syria’s closest neighbours continue to bear the brunt of the refugee crisis the conflict has spawned. Jordan, to the south, now hosts over 600,000 refugees that have fled Syria. Zaatari, one of the world’s largest refugee camps, houses 80,000 of them. The recent influx of Syrians adds to the already large number of displaced Palestinians that settled in Jordan after wars with Israel in 1948 and 1967. But, of course, these people are more than just numbers. They each have their own unique histories and personalities.  At this special MFU seminar, following a recent trip
to Jordan, researcher Marika Sosnowski and photographer Darrian Traynor hope to share some of their stories.


>> Marika Sosnowski is currently completing a PhD at the University of Melbourne that focuses on ceasefires and governance in rebel-controlled areas of Syria. She has taught Middle East politics at university and written about the region for numerous publications.
>> Darrian Traynor
is a Melbourne based photojournalist working mainly in the areas of sport, documentary and editorial photography. His editorial work is published in newspapers and magazines as well as web sites all over the world. He has a special interest in the Middle East and refugees. His photoessay on Gaza’s forgotten voices won the 2016 UN Peace Award.

 

Dam busting and other true stories about publishing

 May 9, 2017

With access to the internet, it’s easy to imagine that a world of stories is at our fingertips. In fact, our access to authentic and diverse cultural narratives is blocked by colonial monopolies that have fettered the free movement of world narratives for hundreds of years. Readers trying to wade their way through new story platforms like Wattpad, or purchase books through the US/UK dominated Amazon and Book Depository may not be aware of the economic forces that dam the flow of stories between cultures. Writers who sign a book contract granting world rights to their publishers are often bewildered and demoralised to find their book unavailable except in their local bookstore.  There’s a world of stories that you don’t know exists. This will be an in-depth discussion about territorial rights, the New York/London axis of power, the colonisation of world imagination, and the truth about publishing and post-colonialism. 


>> Kirsty Murray is a prolific author of books for children and young adults. Her work is published internationally and she was a 2017 nominee for the prestigious Swedish prize, the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award for her contribution to young people’s literature. Kirsty has been a guest presenter at literary festivals across Asia and Australia, an Asialink Literature Resident at the University of Madras and a writer-in-residence at the University of Himachal Pradesh. Her novels include: The Year it All Ended, The Four Seasons of Lucy McKenzie, India Dark, Vulture's Gate, Market Blues, and the epic quartet of historical fiction, 'Children of the Wind’. She also co-edited the ground-breaking cross-cultural Indian-Australian anthology 'Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean'.

 

 

Guns and Sports

 April 27, 2017

Why and how does the American Revolution make it so difficult to introduce gun control measures in the US today? And what do modern sports have to do with war? This talk explores these questions, and their intersection with nationalism, (mis)conceptions about modern nations, their origins and what makes them unique. It will look at how gun control in the US is made harder by misconceptions about the founding of the nation — which are often perpetuated by Hollywood — and how sports events like the Tour de France and Rugby Union World Cup have, to an extent, taken the place of war in the competition between nations.

 

Controversies on Film

 April 22, 2017

This course will address a range of issues to do with the theme of controversy in cinema: controversial films, filmmakers and film topics; controversial film theories; and controversies regarding film financing and production. As always, there'll be 45 minutes for the presentation, followed by 45 minutes of open discussion.

 

History Matters

 March 2, 2017

History is now. It defines our national identity and relations in our everyday lives. Six historians from La Trobe University present their research on Australia’s iconic moments from the Gold Rush to ANZAC. In rewriting history they bring change into the present.

 

Peace in our time?

 Feb. 8, 2017
Donald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the US on 20 January 2017. Last year, we saw the rise of right wing populism globally: Duterte’s regime in the Philippines is killing thousands of people extra-judicially as part of his tough stance on drugs, Germany and France face emergent right-wing movements as they approach national elections this year, Australians elected three One Nation representatives to the Senate, and racist groups have made repeat appearances on the streets of Melbourne. Are we doomed to repeat the mistakes of our grandparents? 
 
Join us for a discussion with: 

>Dennis Altman, a Professorial Fellow at La Trobe University. His 1972 book Homosexual: Oppression & Liberation was a cornerstone of the gay liberation movement; his most recent book is Queer Wars.

>Alex Bhathal, a social worker, human rights advocate and environmentalist. She has been the Australian Green’s candidate for Batman in recent federal elections.

>Jeff Sparrow, a writer and broadcaster. His latest book is No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson.

 

Diasporas in Action

 Feb. 2, 2017

We belong to a world of people on the move - in 2015, 244 million people lived outside their country of origin, including 20 million refugees. These migrants often create vibrant diaspora communities that can become agents of social, political, cultural and economic change in both  the homelands they have left behind and in the societies they have adopted. But they can also be conflicted and conservative, bringing with them the conflicts of their homeland. Their energies, insights and people-to-people connections have often been overlooked by their new communities, but policymakers are becoming aware of the potentials they harbor: in supporting international development, peacebuilding, human rights advocacy, diplomacy and even trade. Is there more to diversity than interesting new places to eat? How do diaspora communities become active in processes of local and global politics and what can they achieve? And what role do the conflicts they flee and those they bring with them play in their new lives?

We have four speakers on the panel:
>>Jeremy Liyanage is the director of Bridging Lanka (Australia). Jeremy has also worked in senior policy and program positions in local government, and his primary focus has been in influencing institutional mindsets for increased social and economic inclusion especially for those marginalised by current structural arrangements.
>>Denise Cauchi is the Executive Director and founder of Diaspora Action Australia. She is a human rights and development advocate and practitioner, with a particular focus on armed conflict. She has worked in the protection of human rights defenders in Colombia, with Peace Brigades International, and as a human rights researcher with a Colombian women’s NGO.
>>David Nyuol Vincent is one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. He was trained as a child soldier in Ethiopia and lived as a refugee in Kenya until he was twenty-six. Since rebuilding his life in Australia, David has become an advocate for refugees and the Sudanese community. He is a Victorian Human Rights Youth Ambassador and a People of Australia Ambassador. He also helped to set up an all-Sudanese refugee football team, the Western Tigers. 
>>Louise Olliff is a doctoral student at University of Melbourne. Her research focuses on refugee diaspora, refugee protection and humanitarianism. Louise is also a Senior Policy Officer at Refugee Council of Australia and has worked for the Centre for Multicultural Youth and World Vision.