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New Member: Centre for Creative and Cultural Research

We are proud to announce that the ACHRC has been joined by a new member, the Centre for Creative and Cultural Research (CCCR) at the University of Canberra.

The CCCR is a multidisciplinary research hub interested in applied research into creative practice and culture. Launched in 2013, it brings together scholars of literature, heritage and cultural studies, film, digital media, architecture, anthropology, creative writing, and design. Their major research themes include Arts and Health, Future Heritage, International Poetry Studies, and Story, People, Place.

The CCCR has also partnered with a variety of government and community groups, including to develop a new coat of arms for The Australian Capital Territory. Professor Ireland, the centre’s director, is also the recipient of a 2021 ARC Linkage Grant for her project ‘Everyday heritage’, read more about it here: https://www.canberra.edu.au/about-uc/media/newsroom/2021/august/everyday-heritage-wins-arc-linkage-grant

For more information about the CCCR, please visit their website: https://www.canberra.edu.au/research/faculty-research-centres/cccr

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New Member: Centre for Human Rights Education

The ACHRC is proud to welcome another new member centre, The Centre for Human Rights Education (CHRE) at Curtin University.

The CHRE was founded in 2003 with an interest in all aspects of human rights education “including community education, raising awareness, promoting understanding and debate around human rights issues, and implementing human rights principles in a range of occupations, as well as education in formal settings of schools and universities.”

It is currently co-directed by Associate Professor Caroline Fleay and Dr. Lisa Hartley and with a diverse group of scholars from philosophy, sociology, political science, social work, law, international relations, psychology, anthropology, business, law, media and cultural studies.

The centre actively researches and advocates in the areas of refugee and asylum seeker rights, the rights of people with a disability, and gender and sexuality rights. It also offers a Graduate Certificate and a Masters of Human Rights.

For more information, visit their website: http://humanrights.curtin.edu.au

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New member: CREATE

The ACHRC is proud to welcome the Creativity Research, Engaging the Arts and Transforming Education (CREATE) Centre and its affiliated researchers at the University of Sydney to the consortium.

With scholars from a variety of fields including Education, Performance Studies, Health and Medicine, Literature, and Visual Arts, CREATE is committed to “exploring the relationship between learning, creativity and the transformative role of the arts in education, health and wellbeing.” It is co-directed by Professor Robyn Ewing and Professor Michael Anderson.

Their research themes include: (1) creativity research; (2) the role of the arts in creative education, health and wellbeing; and (3) how the arts transform all levels of education from early childhood through to higher education.

For more information or to get involved in CREATE’s various activities, visit: https://www.sydney.edu.au/arts/our-research/centres-institutes-and-groups/create-centre.html. To watch the presentations on their active YouTube channel, visit: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkrBWYmL3DArT3PMQTnqszg





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New member: Centre for Early Modern Studies (CEMS)

The ACHRC would like to welcome the recently established Centre for Early Modern Studies and its affiliated researchers to the consortium. Based at The Australian National University (ANU), the centre was founded in 2021 by Prof. Rosalind Smith and “brings together a vibrant multidisciplinary group of humanities scholars and graduate researchers who study the long early modern period (1450-1800).”

Under the research themes of ‘Gender’, ‘Material Cultures’, ‘Mobilities’, and ‘Digital Humanities’, the centre brings together scholars of history, art and design, literature, and bibliographic studies at the ANU. CEMS is currently running a seminar series with high profile international scholars in Early Modern Studies.

For more information about the centre visit: https://cems.anu.edu.au, or browse the list of affiliated researchers here: https://cems.anu.edu.au/staff/

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Humanities From the Regions: An ACHRC Forum

In his 2020 Colin Roderick Memorial Lecture at James Cook University, “Seeing Australian History From the North Down,” Henry Reynolds explained that his appointment as an historian at a university in the regional far north of Australia was a critical factor in the role he eventually played alongside Eddie Kokoi Mabo to contest the legal fiction of terra nullius. On Friday the 16th of July the ACHRC hosted a virtual forum to discuss the unique regional perspective on the Humanities and respond to Reynolds’ intervention.

It included keynote presentations by Professor Jennifer Deger from Charles Darwin University and Dr. Robert Clarke from University of Tasmania. It also included a panel of researchers, early career researchers, HDR and undergraduate students discussing the current challenges involved in researching and teaching the Humanities in a regional university. We were joined by Dr. Claire Brennan (Environmental Historian, JCU), A/Prof. Victoria Kuttainen (English and Creative Writing, JCU), Dr. Adelle Sefton-Rowston (Literary Studies, CDU), A/Prof. Adele Wessell (Discipline Chair, Humanities and Social Sciences, SCU) as well as discussants Dr. Claire Hansen, Danny England, and Jade Croft.

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University fee reforms “stifle diverse voices” when Australia needs them most

The Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres has today addressed a letter to Hon. Dan Tehan, the Australian Minister for Education, calling on the Minister to recognise that the Government’s proposed changes to university fee structures will stifle equitable access to higher education in Australia by pricing students out of the market, and consequently “impoverish humanities research”.

The letter reads:

The Hon. Mr Dan Tehan,
Federal Minister for Education,
Parliament House,
CANBERRA.

24 June 2020

Dear Mr Tehan,

I write on behalf of the Advisory Board of the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres to protest against the Australian Government’s declaration of the irrelevance of the humanities by projecting prohibitive fee increases for humanities courses at the nation’s universities. Indeed, as Minister for Education, you are actually legislating to ensure their irrelevance, openly asking potential humanities students either to think again if they want a proper job, or (if they stubbornly persist) to shoulder the burden of the nation’s recovery from COVID-19. The government’s new university fee scheme may be designed to “incentivise students to make more job-relevant choices, that lead to more job-ready graduates, by reducing the student contribution in areas of expected employment growth and demand”. But it is also designed to disincentivise students from making what the government considers ‘job-irrelevant’ choices, by drastically increasing the student contribution in other areas, like the humanities, where the knowledge and skills acquired are assumed to be irrelevant to the new work force. “Universities must teach the skills needed to succeed in the jobs of the future”, you declare self-evidently, though how far the mission of the university should be limited to vocational training is a moot point. Even if it were the case, however, the humanities do teach the skills required to succeed in the jobs of the future and should not be used to cross-subsidise science, health, architecture, IT, and engineering.

More egregiously, the changes you have announced will disproportionately impact the under-privileged – working people, mature-age students, and people in minority groups, like Indigenous students and students from migrant backgrounds; first-in-family students – making the study of history, society, and culture an elitist pursuit, out of reach of all but the wealthy. It is unlikely that humanities subjects at the Group of Eight universities will experience a dramatic falling off in demand, but in other universities, especially in the regions, such a policy will no doubt radically reconfigure the choices available to potential students. It is not enough to suggest, as you do, that under the new regime “Students will have the freedom to choose what they want to study”, when you have priced what they want to study out of the market.

Clearly, recognising the importance of the humanities to all areas of society, including or especially to the corporate world, has never been more urgent. In making your decision, you invoke the authority of “key leaders from the [Education] sector and industry”. But this advice is directly contradicted by the findings of reports like the University of Oxford’s Humanities Graduates and the British Economy: The Hidden Impact (Kreager, 2013), the Australian Academy of the Humanity’s Mapping the Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences in Australia (Turner and Brass, 2014), and Deloitte Access Economics’ The Value of the Humanities for Macquarie University (2017). Since these reports were published, the skills provided by the humanities and the social sciences have only become more important, and are likely to become increasingly so to a future economy and society in which many of the jobs projected in the Minister’s policy speech have been taken over by intelligent machines.

Studying the humanities equips students with valuable skills in advanced analysis and interpretation, creative problem solving, effective communication, and the ability to construct reasoned arguments and to question assumptions. The biggest challenges facing us today will only be solved by building trust, finding a shared language, navigating ambiguity, understanding how human ecosystems work, and creating compelling visions of the future. It is flexible and creative thinking around complex problems in a context of dialogue and collaborative investigation that best feeds enterprise and innovation. We need to understand this, and to conceive and structure our educational offerings accordingly, allowing a generous mixture of the humanities to give the STEM disciplines that you privilege (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) a much richer soil – socially, ethically, intellectually, imaginatively – in which to flourish. The most successful companies, even or especially the new tech companies, thrive by bringing together the humanities with science and technology.

The Board of the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres calls on you as Minister for Education to provide equitable access to higher education for all people, regardless of what they choose to study, and opposes these fee increases on the grounds that they will impose a greater burden on aspiring humanities students of the next generation. Reducing the demand for humanities subjects will also threaten the livelihoods of early career humanities scholars who have already suffered most from the cutbacks forced on the universities by COVID-19 and the government’s unwillingness to offer emergency resources. This in turn will impoverish humanities research and the strength, innovation, and contribution to Australian society made by humanities researchers. By prohibiting access to the humanities, these initiatives are destined to lead to a significant dearth of knowledge and expertise and a stifling of diverse voices at a time in the near future when Australia is most in need of them.

Sincerely,

Professor Will Christie, BA (Syd), DPhil (Oxf), FAHA

Director, Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres (on behalf of the ACHRC Advisory Board)

Media Enquiries

Katie Cox, ACHRC Research Manager

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Director’s Report – 2019 CHCI Annual Meeting

chcilogo

The Annual Meeting of the international Consortium of Humanities Research Centers (CHCI) this year met in Dublin on 19-22 June to reflect on Cultural Interventions. Why does culture matter? What impact does it have and how has this changed over time and region? How have cultural interventions helped to make the world a place we want to live in? It also reflected on business-as-usual for research centres like ours, indeed the highlight for me was on the Wednesday before the main conference kicked off devoted exclusively to the CHCI network on Public Humanities. Over the course of the day we heard from numerous practitioners from all over the world making daily cultural interventions of their own in the interests of (usually) their local communities. The possibilities for Public Humanities programs in streets, prisons, galleries, and community halls turned out to be rich and strange – and endless. There was also an excellent panel on Advocacy for the Humanities during the conference proper, which looks different in the very different British, American, and Irish contexts, but there were enough common aspirations and anxieties to make the event engaging and instructive. 

The ‘themed’ panels on cultural interventions moved us in a variety of geographical and cultural directions. Post-colonialisation, nationalism, globalisation, terrorism, migration, refugees, poverty, and corruption – the meeting asked how the arts and humanities might contribute to society in times of trauma and repression. The main, Srinivas Aravamudan Memorial Lecture was a cancellation replaced by a panel including Homi Bhabar, James Chandler, Debjani GangulyPremesh Lalu, and Wang Hui, arguing the case for and against the Radical Middle. 

Not surprisingly, like a chameleon, the meeting eventually took on the colour of its environment and there were rich offerings around ‘The Troubles’ of Northern Ireland that culminated on the last day with an exploration of the Field Day Theatre Company, the cultural intervention staged by actor Stephen Rea and playwright Brian Friel which included Seamus Deane, Tom Paulin, Brian Hammond, and Seamus Heaney. A panel with Stephen Rea discussed the significance of Field Day and the actor was interviewed at length about the phenomenon by Clare Dwyer Hogg, before a screening of the documentary Brexit: a cry from the Irish border, written by Hogg and performed by Rea, who wound up proceedings by offering a brilliant reading of Seamus Heaney’s translation of the sixth book of Aeneid. 

William Christie
Director, Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres

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ACHRC Advisory Board statement on government interference in ARC funding

30 October 2018

The Advisory Board of the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres (ACHRC) has today written to the Minister for Education to express its shock and disappointment over the culling by the then Minister for Education and Training, Mr Simon Birmingham, of eleven successful Australian Research Council (ARC) humanities grants in the award round of the last year. For a Minister who could claim no expertise in the relevant topics and disciplines to override a process of rigorous peer review and deny the opportunity to scholars whose projects had been deemed meritorious by their colleagues shows a lack of respect for due process and for the academic community at large. This is the exercise of arbitrary power and offensive to the principles of liberal democracy on which the parliamentary, as well as university, system is based. Besides occasioning pain and career retardation for the scholars whose work has been singled out, the Minister’s interference, as the President of the Academy of the Humanities writes, “damages Australia’s reputation on the world stage”. As an Australasian organisation, the ACHRC is already conscious of the negative impression the episode has left on Australia’s collaborators across the Tasman.

The research that has been conducted as a result of ARC funding by humanities scholars has made a vital contribution to the nation and beyond. Australian innovation and international competitiveness, however, depend upon transparent funding mechanisms that recognise and reward excellence in the work of all researchers, from early career to senior scholars. To meddle in this way risks more than just damaging our reputation, it risks downgrading and impoverishing the actual work we do.

We ask the Government, therefore, to reconsider the dangerous precedent this sets in respect of good governance and restore funding for those projects which the former Minister rejected.

 

— The Advisory Board of the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres

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Vale Srinivas Aravamudan 1962-2016

Sad news about the passing of Srinivas Aravamudan. Srinivas addressed our inaugural meeting, in Adelaide in 2011, and was a friend of our consortium as well as of the humanities internationally.

Letter from Sara Guyer – Srinivas Aravamudan 1962-2016

Dear CHCI Colleagues and Friends,

As many of you will now have heard Srinivas Aravamudan, current and former President of CHCI, passed away on April 13. This is a tremendous loss.

Srinivas was a fierce advocate for the humanities. It is largely due to his vision, his dedication, his intellectual vibrancy, and generosity of mind and spirit that CHCI has become the organization that it is today. Many of you are involved with CHCI because Srinivas led it to become a truly international consortium, one that not only represents but also generates and actively supports new areas of research in the humanities. More than this, with tremendous care and intelligence, and equal measures of style and wit, Srinivas ensured that each CHCI project was a convergence of intellectual and strategic work. We will miss him terribly.

Srinivas was an award-winning scholar of eighteenth-century literature and philosophy as well as critical theory and post-colonial studies. He trained in Madras, Purdue, and Cornell, and taught at the Universities of Utah and Washington before arriving at Duke University in 2000. At Duke, Srinivas taught in English, Literature, and Romance Studies and directed the Franklin Humanities Institute before becoming the Dean of Humanities.

In 2014, soon after many of us gathered in Hong Kong for the CHCI annual meeting, and soon after his last book Enlightenment Orientalism: Resisting the Rise of the Novel, won the Perkins Prize for “the most significant book in the study of narrative,” Srinivas learned that he had Glioblastoma Multiforme, a vicious brain tumor. For nearly two years, Srinivas underwent treatment, experimental and traditional, hoping against the odds. Throughout this ordeal, he was bolstered by the relentless and compassionate support of his wife Ranjana Khanna. And throughout it all, he continued to envision new projects for the humanities; expand his own scholarship to deal with literary criticism in the time of the anthropocene; oversee the Humanities Writ Large initiative at Duke; lay the groundwork for CHCI’s African Humanities and Arts Consortium; and serve as the president of both the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies (ASECS) and CHCI.

We will dedicate the 2016 CHCI annual meeting to Srinivas’s memory. The London meeting will focus on “Area Studies in a Globalizing World.” I expect that we will feel Srinivas’ presence, as well as his profound absence throughout our time together. I am grateful to our hosts in London, Roger Kain, above all, for allowing us to devote the evening of Wednesday, June 29 to a memorial and celebration of Srinivas’s contribution to the CHCI and the humanities more generally. All CHCI members and meeting attendees are invited to attend. In time, we also will find more permanent ways to remember him.

Over the past two years, and even before Srinivas learned of his illness, the CHCI Board has planned for presidential succession and institutional transition. We have worked closely with CHCI staff on matters large and small, and the process is underway for the organization to move from Duke to Madison before the end of the year. I am grateful to the past-presidents of CHCI, members of the Board, and staff at Duke, in particular, Sylvia Miller and Conal Ho, for their resilience and care during this difficult, often very sad period.

I can assure you that in the coming years, I will look forward to sustaining Srinivas’s legacy at CHCI as well as initiating new projects and initiatives that will energize the Consortium and the global humanities more generally. In the meantime, we will grieve. I know that you will join me in sharing our profound sympathy with Ranji and their young son Nachiketa Kumara, as well as Srinivas’s family, friends, and colleagues around the world.

In sadness,

Sara

Sara Guyer
President, Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes
Director, Center for the Humanities
Professor of English
University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Fund Trove

24 March 2016

Dear Mr Turnbull,

I write on behalf of the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres (ACHRC) to protest against the severe and destructive cuts recently visited upon the national galleries, museums, archives, and libraries (GLAM). Their work remains vital, not only to academic research, but also to the community at large and more broadly to the nation’s understanding of its own identity and its own achievements, past and present. These recent cuts, on top of the ‘efficiency dividend’ regularly imposed upon the national GLAM sector’s activities, have made it impossible for them to maintain the number and quality of the services they offer Australia’s researchers as well as the nation at large.

Like most of the individuals and institutions who have protested to the government in recent weeks, we would point to the arrested development of the Trove resource at the NLA as exemplary. Trove is a vital portal to research data for all the nation’s scholarly, teaching, and cultural institutions. It is a model of its kind around the world, a point vigorously expressed by the New Zealand academics on our board, who find the cut mystifying. An efficiency dividend that kills off its maintenance and development will distribute huge inefficiencies around the nation and the globe. Literally millions of research tasks will become harder and more time-consuming. Trove underwrites much of the research humanities scholars do, and ensures its impact by providing access to the public. It underwrites education by allowing individuals to combine teaching with research more efficiently, because we no longer have to travel across the country and spend days physically located in a library finding the sources we need. The NLA is justly proud of its achievement with trove and it is clear that only acute pressure from cascading cuts would force it to consider so drastic a measure.

In addition, Trove is a vital part of the many fundamental research facilities offered by the GLAM sector for humanities researchers. Along with the Academy of the Humanities, we would extend our protest against recent cuts by asking the government to consider funding the GLAM sector through its national research infrastructure. Australian culture is not, in fact, shrinking by a couple of percent per annum, and the GLAM infrastructure for supporting it has become as lean as it can be after more than two decades of attrition. Open and searchable collections provide the essential infrastructure for the tens of thousands of academics and citizens engaged in humanities research, on the spectrum from family history to world-leading cultural analysis. When the institutions that support them are under constant stress, education, culture and research outputs suffer.

Robert Phiddian
Director,
Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres