What’s going on in West Africa: Conflict, crime & consequence across the Sahel

 March 8, 2018

The region of West Africa faces by a multitude of security challenges. Governments from relatively small nations such as Liberia to behemoths like Nigeria are struggling to contain myriad threats and deliver on the social contract between state and society. Often deemed geopolitically unimportant, the connection between insecurity in the Sahel (including the rise of violent extremism) and the recent ‘migration crisis’ on Europe’s shores has elevated the region in the anxieties of the Global North. Consequently, societies across West Africa have been subjected to a range of (often highly militarised) interventionary practices. In this talk, Charlie will discuss what is going on in West Africa and the dynamics and causes of the conflicts in a number of states, focusing on how insecurity is embedded in local disputes but also has transnational and networked dimensions. Based on recent fieldwork in Mali, Charlie will also discuss the challenges confronting stabilisation efforts through the United Nations.

Charles Hunt is a Senior Lecturer in Global Studies and ARC DECRA Fellow in the Social and Global Studies Centre at RMIT University. His most recent book is Exploring Peace Formation: Security and Justice in Post-Colonial States (Routledge, 2018)

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.

Speaker: Nicola Henry, RMIT

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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? 

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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.

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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'.

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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.


Millennial Citizens in the Age of Trump

 Dec. 7, 2016
The recent election of Donald Trump in the US shook the world and affirmed the ascendancy of populist right-wing movements globally. Yet, amid the triumphs of figures like Trump, Hanson, Farage, Uribe and Duterte in polls this year, another political phenomenon is taking shape. In electorates around the world, Millennials are emerging as a constituency with a shared and yet contested set of social and political challenges, who skew progressive on a wide range of issues and are often deeply engaged with the politics of identity. Join our panellists to discuss the roles Millennials have to play in shaping the world's political destiny: 

>>Miya Tokumitsu is a lecturer in art history at the University of Melbourne, contributing editor at Jacobin and author of Do What You Love: And Other Lies About Success and Happiness.

>>Omar Sakr is an Arab Australian writer and poet. His debut collection, These Wild Houses, is forthcoming from Cordite Books, and he is the poetry editor of The Lifted Brow.

>>Godfrey Moase is the Assistant General Branch Secretary at the National Union of Workers in Melbourne, Australia. 

Refugees in Malaysia: Economic, mixed and survival migration

 Oct. 5, 2016

In Malaysia refugees are not the political issue they have become in Australia. Most Malaysians are preoccupied with domestic economic woes and the curtailment of their civil liberties under an increasingly authoritarian and corrupt government. This highlights a key problem for Australia - its draconian border control policies rely on our neighbours being compliant partners and at the same time makes Australia beholden to (some of) their demands. Thus Australia has been largely silent on human rights abuses in countries that are crucial for the Pacific solution II. In Malaysia foreign labour contracts are big business and refugees (alongside other undocumented immigrants) are a necessary cheap labour force to keep the Malaysian economy moving. The government is not willing or able to regularise them because that would diminish their ability to earn money from legal immigrant labour. Following two refugees from the Rohingya and Chin community (both from Myanmar) I want to highlight - the difficulties and opportunities refugees have in Malaysia and - why some can't wait to get to Australia by any means and others want to stay in Malaysia. - Why some are choosing to return to Myanmar and - how migration in the region requires leadership based on the common good rather than narrow national self interest.


The past is present: history, culture and conflict

 Sept. 22, 2016

Historians play a crucial role in shaping the way you understand conflicts as diverse as frontier violence in Victoria, genocide in Bosnia and Hercegovina, and the feminist struggle in East Timor. Far from being passive observers of conflict, historians play an active role in cultural struggles, and in recent decades have become embroiled in the so-called ‘history wars’. Our speakers will discuss some of the different ways that contemporary historians are speaking about and interpreting the past – and how their endeavours are oriented toward shaping future understandings of history, culture and conflict.


Challenging weapons, war, and violence: from local to global

 Sept. 20, 2016

For 100 years, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom has been promoting a vision of feminist peace by challenging militarism and patriarchy. At this event, Ray Acheson, director of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) disarmament program, will talk about the organisation's nonviolent approach to this work, from banning nuclear weapons to taking on the international arms trade. Civilians are dying in Yemen from bombs sold to Saudi Arabia by the United States, United Kingdom, and others. Drone strikes are launched by the US in countries it is not at war with from Djibouti, where the military bases of six foreign governments have created a permanent market for sex trafficking and forced prostitution. Meanwhile, the most destructive bombs at all, nuclear weapons, threaten all our lives - yet Australia is part of a small group of countries trying to prevent their prohibition. These are some of the issues Ray will cover in her talk, looking at the global network of violence, war, and militarism and ways to challenge it.

This session will be held at Chamber, a new venue for us, a few blocks up the road from the Alderman. Tuesday 20th September, 6:30-8pm, 19 Church St East Brunswick.


Psychoanalysis is...

 Aug. 11, 2016

Psychoanalysis is one of the most influential and enduring intellectual traditions of the past century. Many diverse tendencies have emerged from the clinical and theoretical work of visionaries such as Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan. Adherents and critics of these movements have helped shape the development of psychology, art, philosophy, business, politics and many other fields. This course will introduce and explore (a few of) the many sides of psychoanalysis as it is thought, spoken and practiced today.


Collective Living: Alternative, Sustainable & Low Cost Housing

 Aug. 4, 2016

Living collectively by sharing land and/or dwelling spaces can be more affordable, more sustainable and more enjoyable socially than living in a Tiny House or a Green Apartment.

ANITRA NELSON has lived in an all-under-one roof living and working cooperative in rural Victoria, a peri-urban land-sharing residential conservation cooperative in Victoria, and has stayed in a communally sufficient intentional community of 90 residents in rural Virginia (US) as well as a commune of a similar number in New York City. All these communities were planned and created by people rather than the market or government and have become spaces where people can visit and stay to observe and experience collective living.

In this talk Anitra describes similarities and differences in their social and sustainability practices and economic structures in the context of the sustainability and affordability crises we face today. How ‘alternative’ does lively collectively need to be? Why is it easier to be environmentally sustainable in a group? Where are the savings?

>>ANITRA NELSON is a researcher in the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT University.


Cleaning up India: Modi's quest

 June 30, 2016

No country in the world faces the problems of garbage and waste that India does. With a population density 2.5 times greater than China’s and 30 per cent of people now living in rapidly growing cities, there’s urgency about India’s confrontation with the steady rise of middle-class, throwaway life. That’s why the new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, used Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday on 2 October 2014, to declare that one of his government’s key programs would be a CLEAN INDIA! campaign. The aims include elimination of open defecation (toilets are unavailable to about half of India’s population) and containment and reuse of all kinds of “waste.”

This talk explores the CLEAN INDIA! program and the magnitude and special qualities of India’s struggle with waste.

>>ROBIN JEFFREY is writing a book, with Assa Doron at ANU, called Cleaning Up India: Garbage, Growth and Government.


Living Small: Tiny & Affordable Houses

 June 23, 2016

You’ve all seen the Hobbit houses on flat-bed trucks and the three story family homes built on smaller footprints that most of our shoe racks, but the tiny housing movement stands for more than Pinterest clickbait. It addresses political, social and environmental concerns while still drawing the eye. This panel discussion will look at a few of the formal and informal design and construction options available to tiny builders, consider some of the political and social implications they raise, and offer you a chance to quiz some people who have built, and are living in and loving tiny houses.

>>Sally Wills is a registered builder and project home developer. She is an HIA award winner, and an active lobbyist for changes in the secondary dwelling regulations that block many affordable housing projects. 

>>Chloe Sinclair is a student who is building a Tiny House on Wheels, but who has also critiqued the THoW movement as part of her studies in intersectional theory.

>>Liam Culbertsonhas recently completed 18 months as part of a documented experiment in cooperative alternative housing.


War and Peace in Syria: Where to now?

 June 9, 2016

The recent breakdown of the cessation of hostilities in Syria has potentially ushered in a new and even darker phase of the Syrian civil war. The increase in aerial assaults on Aleppo and other rebel-held areas over the last few weeks has led many to speculate that the regime of Bashar al-Assad is manoeuvring for an end-game. But is this the case or could a renewed cessation of hostilities, local truces or a third-way lead Syria out of the malaise?

MARIKA SOSNOWSKI is completing a PhD at the University of Melbourne that focuses on governance development under ceasefires in Syria. She has taught Middle East politics at university, written about the region for numerous publications and is an international development consultant focussing on Israel/Palestine, Syria and Lebanon.

DARA CONDUIT is a researcher at Deakin University and a Ph.D candidate at Monash University working on the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood. She co-convenes the Australian Terrorism & Political Violence Research Network and has provided advice to the UN OHCHR’s Working Group on Mercenaries.



Bioethics of Species Conservation

 May 19, 2016

From pandas to parasites, how should we define species and which should we save?

Our planet is facing one of the biggest extinction events in its history, with conservative estimates suggesting that a species goes extinct every hour. If we are to conserve the earth’s shrinking biodiversity we must first determine how we define a species. And then, if we can’t save them all, how can we decide which ones to conserve? Mackenzie Kwak is a zoologist at La Trobe University with a research focus on the discovery and documentation of new species. Join him for an examination and discussion of how we make sense of species and which ones we should prioritise in the fight against extinction.


Latin American Update

 April 7, 2016

Beyond drug wars, guerillas and tequila cocktails we don’t hear much about Latin America. In this six week series, we’ll be taking a deeper look at what is going on in Latin America today. Each week, we’ll go beyond the headlines to look at the political, social and economic factors that shape life in a the region’s  diverse countries and communities.


The Wild Things

 March 10, 2016

How far would you go to live out a low-carbon life? How much money would you need to feel free? How would you travel if you wanted to reduce your footprint? Join Meg Ulman and Patrick Jones, authors of THE ART OF FREE TRAVEL, as they discuss their radical form of mobility, and how they’ve embodied permaculture principles in an experiment on bicycles that took them from their home in central Victoria to Cape York and back. Meg and Patrick, their two boys and canine companion have spent 17 months of the past two years on the road, guerrilla camping and documenting what they call ‘autonomous edibles’. Come hear their story: their near deaths, exasperations, triumphs, and their thoughts on economy, climate and our relationship to land.



 March 3, 2016

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles — or drones — are at the forefront of military technology today and are increasingly forming the invisible frontline of modern state warfare. Support for the deployment of drones is growing on the basis of their supposed accuracy and cost for militaries that have been downsizing since the end of the Cold War. Drones have also been used in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions. In the words of Leon Panetta, then director of the CIA, they are the ‘only game in town’.

At the same time, drones have become a source of terror and death for many across the globe in the US-driven ‘war on terror’ and of growing anxiety in Western societies as governments rely on drones and other automated technologies to surveil and collect information.

Join DR CHRISTINE AGIUS (Swinburne) and lawyer DEAN EDWARDS to explore the evolving landscape of drone technology and its implications for national sovereignty, civil and human rights, and the future of state power. We will also delve into how drones are becoming normalised through non-military application such as their commercial and recreational use, and how this shapes our debates about drones.



Can words really break cement?

 Feb. 24, 2016

Masha Gessen is a Russian-American journalist and author who has investigated Putin, Pussy Riot, and the Boston bombers, amongst other things. She is the author of several best selling books and her work has appeared in The New York Times, Slate, Vanity Fair, and many other publications. Join her as she reflects on dissident art, the relations between truth, lies and morality in contexts of authoritarianism, and the horizons of hope and resistance in the face of fear. Masha will be in conversation with Carol D’Cruz of the Gender, Sexuality & Diversity program at La Trobe University.



The Politics of Myth 2016

 Feb. 18, 2016

While most commentators on myth like to speak about ancient curiosities, such as Aztec or Sumerian myths, or the now disconnected traditions of the classical world, there is in fact a wide range of mythic figures from the European past which still mean a good deal. The nine figures discussed in Stephen Knight’s new book THE POLITICS OF MYTH have all been newly represented on film or television in the twenty-first century, they all offer both a set of values and a set of threats, and they provide ways in which we can reflect on the forces at work our modern world.

The figures are discussed in three thematic groups: POWER (King Arthur, Queen Guinevere, Queen Elizabeth I), RESISTANCE (Robin Hood, Joan of Arc, Ned Kelly) and KNOWLEDGE (Merlin, William Shakespeare, Sherlock Holmes)

In this presentation Stephen will discuss the remarkable ways in which these figures have changed over time as the concerns of specific period have caused the reworking of their stories. Robin Hood can be a tough anti-authoritarian, a genial aristocrat, a Saxon patriot. Queen Elizabeth I has been seen as a Protestant heroine, a love-lorn lady, even a grumpy manipulator. Guinevere has, after centuries of disapproval, suddenly started doing very well in post-feminist historical fiction. These and similar major variations will be discussed – with some visual illustrations – as will the ways in which these figures can still mean things to help us to understand our present world.

>> STEPHEN KNIGHT’s recently published book THE POLITICS OF MYTH (Melbourne Uni Press) started out as a set of exploratory talks to a Melbourne Free University course in 2012. He is currently an honorary research professor at Melbourne University.


Narratives of Girlhood in a Globalised World

 Dec. 3, 2015

From the romance of fairy-tales to the sexual appeal of popular culture, the characterisation of girlhood in the Western media landscape presents a passive and commodified image of femininity in a hegemonic fashion. The development of new media technologies and the rise of consumer culture have increased anxieties surrounding the social identity and the corporeality of girls. How do girls interpret and negotiate these mainstream narratives? Is there room for alternatives? What can we learn from how girlhood has been defined in other times and cultures?

Join Elodie Silberstein (Monash University) in conversation with Michelle Smith (Deakin University), Sofia Rios (Monash University) and Freya Bennett (founder of Tigress Magazine) as they problematise the idea of girlhood across borders and across time.


What is happening in the Middle East

 Dec. 1, 2015

The Arab Spring took the world by surprise five years ago this December — at this MFU talk we will hear from scholars and activists working on the Middle East about their take on what is going on now, how people in the region make sense of the wars in their countries, and how we can make sense of them in the context of what is going on in the rest of the world. From Iraq and Syria to Palestine and Israel, it seems like the region’s conflicts are becoming ever more complex and intractable, and the recent Paris attacks have again prompted discussions of greater international intervention, bombing campaigns, radicalisation, and the grand narratives of Islam versus the West. So how can we make sense of these wars, and what is going on?  

Our speakers for the evening will be Faisal Al-Asaad (Melb. Uni.), Firas Massouh (Melb. Uni.) and  Jasmine Westendorf (LaTrobe).


How the weather works

 Nov. 18, 2015

Have you ever wondered why Melbourne gets four seasons in one day, while holiday destinations like Fiji have constantly idyllic weather? Why tropical cyclones are a way of life in Port Headland, but not in Hawaii? Why one bushfire season can be absolutely catastrophic, but then the next relatively uneventful? While everyone has their theories, this session will explore the actual science behind how the weather works. You’ll learn how to make sense of the weather maps they show on the news and why contrary to popular belief, weather forecasting is one of the incredible success stories of the modern age.


Beowulf and the modern hero

 Nov. 12, 2015

Old English poetry could be something of a touchstone for modernists of the early twentieth century such as Ezra Pound and W.H. Auden. They found themselves drawn to its concrete vocabulary and quasi-imagist use of juxtaposition and irony as alternatives to their own late-Victorian inheritance. In 2015, when for over a century the rhetoric of heroism has been press-ganged into the service of powers and principalities whose ideologies and values the Beowulf-poet would have violently scorned, a brief recapitulation of his nuanced exploration of the Anglo-Saxon heroic ethos, its glories as well as it horrors, might serve as a welcome bit of balance (with apologies to Fox News—yeah, right).


Women in philosophy

 Sept. 3, 2015

Is what we think, say and write inherently gendered? Why does the activist need philosophy? Where are we at with the whole “body/mind” thing? This course will introduce and explore the work of some of the greatest modern thinkers - philosophers who have opened up new possibilities in politics, language, gender, identity and ethics. Many of these philosophers are still living.

All of them have produced groundbreaking work whose relevance lies at the centre of contemporary philosophical and political discourse. All of them are women. 


Understanding Your Home

 March 19, 2015

We all have a home. Even the "homeless" people who gather under a bridge have a place to which they return daily to a familiar setting with familiar faces. We spend at least half our lives in our homes: resting, relating, loving, eating, sleeping, playing.   Despite the centrality of home in our daily lives, we have very little conscious knowledge about why our homes are the way they are, how they work, or how to make them work for us.

This course helps to close that gap in our understanding, and to make participants active shapers of home and home life.   In each session, we will mix historical and analytic narratives about the home with an exploration of our own homes. The intention is to develop both a theoretical and a lived understanding of home, the forces that shape it, and the way it shapes us.

ABOUT THE PRESENTER >> DAVID WEEK is an architect with a broad intercultural experience of how people use their buildings. He has won numerous awards, worked as an adviser to AusAid, the World Bank, and the Fred Hollows Foundation. He has worked in Australia, East Asia, the Pacific and Africa.


MFU 4 Asylum Seekers: Australian History and Society

 Dec. 3, 2014

This course will use stories and case studies to give students an overview of key events and themes in Australian history. These stories will give students a greater understanding of current debates and contemporary society. Topics covered will include Aboriginal histories and culture, colonization, diversity and immigration, women, wars, stolen generations, Australia’s international relations, visual representations of Australia, music and pop culture, sport and national identity, and history and the culture wars.


Middle East Mediated

 Sept. 10, 2014

Each week of the four week series features two guests who will each choose a "mediated" item - a tweet, YouTube video, article or an image - to kick off a lively and informative interview that will hopefully demystify the tangled events occurring in the region, taking you behind the news to the stories of ordinary people and their history and experience of this complex, and often misunderstood, region.


Love and Sex in the 21st century: The theory and practice of personal relationships

 Aug. 4, 2014

How do we talk about love and sex in a world where ‘boy meets girl’ just doesn't cut it any more? As we sift through thousands of years of tradition, how do we know what to throw out – and what to keep? And will our kids all grow up to be bisexual nymphomaniac porn addicts?


Welcome to the Anthropocene!

 June 11, 2014

The Anthropocene has been put forward as a new geological epoch, one in which humans have come to rule the world's natural systems and processes. In an age of increased environmental awareness, the term has captured the public imagination. But what is the Anthropocene? When and where did it start? Is it a terrifying global phenomenon or just a buzzword invented by Western-centric scientists? This talk presents two different perspectives on this new epoch by taking a look at the history of human impacts on the environment, from geological to historical records. For those of you in the dark, paleoecologists are concerned with ancient environments and the things that lived there, while climatologists want to know what the weather was like. These guys dig up mud, rocks, and ice, and slice up trees and other plants, and use these to argue about what the earth was like and what it might be like in the future.


Philosophy and the Divine: God in Western Thought

 April 9, 2014

God plays an important and fundamental role in many people’s lives. But what sort of role has God played in philosophy? How have philosophers understood notions of God and how have they used notions of God to make sense of the world and of ourselves? And why do so many philosophers today have no role for God in their understanding of the world? In this course, we will take a brief look at different perspectives on God through the ages, starting with Ancient Greece, through to the Medieval scholastic period, Enlightenment rationalism and empiricism, post-Enlightenment existentialism and today’s naturalist worldview. This course offers a fascinating journey through Western philosophical thought as well as clarifying and provoking ideas about God, ourselves and our world.


MFU 4 Asylum Seekers: Global Politics

 March 26, 2014

We live in a pivotal moment in modern history, where political, economic and environmental forces are combining to drive great change across human societies. This course introduces students to important issues shaping this historic moment in international affairs. The student group will work together to learn basic skills of political analysis by investigating twelve weekly topics based on the themes of security, economy and social change.






Melbourne: Music, Memory, Place

 Feb. 27, 2014

This course examines Melbourne’s music culture with a particular focus on the way music works to generate memories. We welcome some of the city’s finest songwriters, musicians, radio presenters, venue owners, and academics to the MFU to discuss their involvement in Melbourne music and to explore the relationship between music, memory and place. This course attempts to address both the intellectual and visceral qualities that song can communicate, and we hope that you will join us in sharing your memories and stories that are connected with Melbourne and music.


Poetry & sex: medieval to post-modern

 Oct. 15, 2013

If you love reading, want to know more about poetry in English and beyond, study literature or just feel a bit sexy, join us for this series of talks and discussions on how language has been used as an extension of the body.


On Drugs

 Oct. 10, 2013

Australians are world leaders in recreational drug use, but we seem chronically incapable of an honest appraisal of the issues this raises. The 'war on drugs' paradigm dominates the mainstream while drug-taking subcultures flourish at the margins: something has to give. Through an examination of the history, politics, law, science and culture of drugs and drug use in Australia, this course will stimulate open discussion of this controversial subject.


Design and Cultural Invention

 Sept. 7, 2013

Design is often thought of as mere window dressing, used to sell lifestyles to an eager populace. By taking a broader view of the term, design can be seen as an active participant in cultural invention, shaping and altering the way in which we interact with the world. This course will look at some of the ways in which it affects our lives, and how we can use design to enrich ourselves.

Media Ethics: New And Old Dilemmas

 Aug. 22, 2013

The media: powerful but powerless, over-governed but ungovernable, the infinite flow of info so ubiquitous, yet so claustrophobic. Rapid digital advances have dramatically and irreparably transformed the media industry, blurring lines between producers and consumers. How should we navigate the paradoxes and dilemmas that this information age presents?


Gender Wars: The Military, Guns & Women

 Aug. 20, 2013

This course will look at gender relations, guns, violence, war and peace. The links between these issues are as relevant as ever in the context of increasing militarization in the Asia Pacific, the persistence of the nuclear threat, the proliferations of guns, the prevalence of rape as a key aspect of warfare, and the Australian government’s Presidency of the United Nations Security Council.


All creatures great and small: animals and us

 April 25, 2013

This series will explore animal-human relationships from a range of different philosophical, political and practical perspectives. It aims to look deeply at the social, ethical and individual implications of how we, as humans, understand and interact with non-human animals in today's world.


Classics of Crime Fiction

 April 23, 2013

Detective fiction is a form of story developed in the nineteenth century to respond to the new threats and anxieties of urban society. In London, the largest of the new great cities of Western mercantile society, where nobody knew anyone else reliably, and any hand might be against your property or your life, the police were established as a real-world protection in 1829. But humble policing was not potent enough in mythic terms, and writers invented knowledgeable specialists to identify the enemies of society through a mix of close observation and the aura of science.


Economics for Everyone

 Feb. 21, 2013

Tim Thornton has lectured in economics at Australian Universities for over ten years. He wrote his PhD on the evolution of economics teaching in Australian universities, and is an award-winning teacher.


Politics, Pruning and Paint: Case studies in Art History

 Feb. 19, 2013

The course will explore an eclectic range of subjects in art history. Meandering from Renaissance art and its contemporary re-appropriation, to the history and social dynamics of life drawing, to photography, iconography and beyond, this series will question what art tells us about society, while revelling in a whole lot of sumptuous art.


What if … ?

 Oct. 30, 2012

Speakers explore radical ideas about how our world might be.


The Naked Brunch: Food, Consumption & Culture

 Aug. 30, 2012

Eating is a mundane activity, sometimes pleasurable, sometimes routine. But how often do we think about what we eat as a social phenomenon rather than an exercise in personal taste? This course will be a six week long naked lunch, a collection of 'frozen moments' when we'll stop chewing and attempt see exactly how 'what is on the end of our forks' got to be there. It'll investigate issues surrounding the pursuit of ethical food consumption; why some eating practices are privileged and some are pathologised; who gets to eat what; the lifestyling of food; and the role of cooking and eating in popular culture. There'll be breastmilk and Masterchefs and cooking shows and fat and locavores and vegans and meat.


Progressive Politics: What’s Left?

 Aug. 28, 2012

What is progressivism and how does it map onto the issues and ideas that drive Australian politics? Join our speakers as they grapple with the competing priorities of people who call themselves progressive and the hard decisions they have to make at election time.


The Politics of Myth

 June 12, 2012

In stories, images and casual references, around the names of mythic figures (whether they really existed or not) there cluster through time a remarkably changing series of ideas, concepts, obsessions, all with some social and so political meaning. To look at these myths will both indicate just how much politics, past and present, there is about in our world, and how strange some of the past politics can be – and that might even make us wonder if our own politics of myth is always all that sensible ? The figures of mythic politics can be turned inside out and read as examples of how people, even today, find meaning, consolation, escape, in the myths they use so casually and so much.

The topics chosen for examination here are a set of myths that are still with us, have changed significantly over time, and may well still be changing in our own mythic minds. 


The Media: What does the future hold?

 Jan. 11, 2012

The media industry is undergoing change. Advancing technology (iPads, interactive TV screens, social media, mobile video phones) are rapidly transforming the way we source, consume and participate in our news and entertainment. What do these changes mean for the way the media industry works, and how will they effect us, the audience? Are we entering a new era of media pluralism or are we on a crash course into chaos? What are the ethics and power dynamics of this new media landscape? This course will explore some of the current issues facing the media industry and consider what the future may hold.


MFU@City Square

 Dec. 6, 2011

In the context of the global Occupy movement, questions of how our economy, society and politics could be organised differently have once again taken centre stage. This series of seminars will invite speakers to explore radical practical ideas on how our world might be, in relation to topics as diverse as inequality, Indigenous politics, democracy, law, gender, climate change, economics and more. This series will run throughout summer on Tuesday evenings from 7-8:30pm. Each session will follow the usual MFU format, and involve a 40 minute lecture followed by a 40 minute open discussion.


The Politics of Madness: Listening to lived experience

 Oct. 29, 2011

This series will discuss mental distress/madness from the perspective of people with lived experience. The voices of eother experts have been dominating community understanding of 'mental health' - this is a chance to engage differently. 


Refugee Realities: Risk, Rights and Resettlement

 Oct. 11, 2011

Speakers provide unique takes on issues facing refugees and the countries that host them, as well as posing important questions about current policy directions and frameworks. 


Indigenous perspectives: past and present

 Aug. 18, 2011

Speakers from various backgrounds will discuss the many forms of Australian indigeneity, and their relevance to our society.


The Law of the Land

 Aug. 16, 2011

Experience the law through the eyes of practitioners and see loopholes, strange stories of the law and why we can't live without it. 

Free Winter Film Course

 June 14, 2011

An introduction to the politics of representation and aesthetics in cinema.


Voices from the South

 April 7, 2011

Speakers from the global South will explore what is meant by 'the good life' for local, national and global communities by sharind their and their communities perspectives and stories. 


War and Peace

 April 5, 2011

Against the current context of violent conflicts in the world, speakers will ask and address questions about why conflicts turn into wars, how wars play out, and how they can be resolved or avoided. 


Racism in the 21st century

 Feb. 17, 2011

This course will provide a variety of approaches to better understand the concept of racism in the 21st century. Lectures will deal with history, theory and practice. 


I (heart) Philosophy - 2011

 Feb. 15, 2011

This course grapples with big issues and key thinkers in philosophy. Topics are broad and diverse and meant to engage people with the big topics, paradoxes and conundrums. 


I (heart) Philosophy - 2010

 Sept. 29, 2010



Sustainability and Permaculture

 Aug. 5, 2010

This course will look broadly at the debates around sustainability, locating it within the broader discourse of environmental politics, and then exploring a number of different types of sustainability. The sessions will be complemented by at least one practical permaculture workshop, which will be run by Permablitz Melbourne, and will explore the basics of permaculture while 'permablitzing' a residential garden.


Australian Identities?

 Aug. 3, 2010

The aim of this course is to provide a wide range of opinions on what the concept of 'national identity' represents in Australia in the twenty-first century. While focusing mostly on the present situation, this course will examine the development of trends which have led to what we think of as 'being Australian'.