Issue 43, December 2007

Editor: Elizabeth McMahon

The themed section of this final issue for 2007 includes four exceptional essays that focus on writing, embodiment and the subject. The issue also includes an essay on Albert Namatjira’s painting from the award-winning book by Christine Williams, and John Milfull marks the distance between the early optimism of the EU and the present time. The Eco–humanities Corner continues to set the pace in innovative, interdisciplinary inquiry with a new section in its format.

This issue is also my last as editor. Given the results of the recent election, I can now neatly frame my time as editor as the Howard years. I took up the role in 1997 from founding editor Cassandra Pybus. At that time I could barely use email, which equipped me, ironically, with the capacity to understand many of my colleagues in the humanities and their relationship to this (then) new technology. It also meant I relied heavily on the web managers: Diane Caney and Emma Sampson. Thank you.

Thanks to the reviews editors Nicole Moore (2002-2005) and Monique Rooney (2007) and the editorial board for assistance and guidance. The development of the Eco-humanities corner is one of AHR‘s particular triumphs: timely, pressing and innovative in approach and in focus. It is the brainchild of Libby Robin and Deborah Bird-Rose who routinely open up new ground for all of us to think and act.

I am proud of the role AHR played in promoting debate and criticism and in circulating the work of Australian writers and intellectuals in the Howard years. The Howard era was a time when the humanities in Australian universities struggled to survive active hostility. The extraordinary work published in AHR is testimony to the ongoing productivity and creativity of the Australian humanities in the face of this.

Now is a fitting time for this editor to hand over the journal to the new, fresh and exciting editorship of Monique Rooney and Russell Smith at the Australian National University. I do this with great confidence and with a sense of real curiosity to see where AHR will go next.


Writing, Embodiment, the subject

In her essay ‘Truth, writing and national belonging in Romulus, My Father‘ Brigitta Olubas considers the ‘special propensity’ of memoir to open up questions of self and time ‘within the sweep of experience of the nation’.

In ‘Milkbrain: Writing the Cognitive Body‘ Fiona Giles presents a thesis for original writing that listens to what our bodies have to say.

Ian Buchanan’s provocative essay ‘Deleuze and the Internet‘ debates Deleuze’s claim that, ‘in effect, our body has been replaced as the principal site of power by our profile’.

John Milfull examines writing from below in ‘Short Stories? Brecht, Adorno, Grass, and the Child’s Eye View

Christine William’s essay ‘Albert Namatjira: the rich heritage of our desert earth painter‘, is the basis of a chapter from her award-winning book Green Power:Environmentalists who have changed the face of Australia

 In his essay ‘In memoriam Federico Mancini: The Italians at UNSW‘ John Milfull looks back to an earlier moment of European optimism as it played out in Sydney.


The Eco Humanities Corner

In this issue, Freya Mathews explores ‘ontopoetics’: the poetics of the living world. Working with western, Daoist, and Australian Aboriginal philosophical traditions, she tracks possibilities for engaging with the living world as a dialogical participant in an on-going story of connectivity between living beings and poetic orders. Why, she asks, is story efficacious?

In a new section, the ‘Classic Essay’, Tom Griffiths looks at the contributions the humanities can make to debates about an Environmentally Sustainable Australia. Discussions about the importance of the ecological humanities have recently moved away from traditional humanities journals, into interdisciplinary and scientific journals. For example, the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution has just published a paper ‘Mind the Sustainability Gap’, in which the authors argue that the humanities should play a key role in transdisciplinary research programs working towards sustainability. Despite increased efforts, the gap between sustainability and environmental disaster is growing fast. Biophysical indicators are failing to show improvements, so they advocate moving beyond biophysical methods. Fischer et al. recommend considering the role normative questions facing consumer societies play in assisting or impeding progress to sustainability – and that this demands methods from the humanities as well as the natural and social sciences. In the Ecological Humanities Corner, we felt that it was important to document some of these methods and how they have been invoked with respect to sustainability in Australia.Tom Griffiths was commissioned by the Australian Academy of Humanities to prepare an essay on this subject and it is the first of our ‘Classic Essays’.

Fischer, J., A.D. Manning, W. Steffen, D.B. Rose, K. Daniell, A. Felton, S. Garnett, B. Gilna, R. Heinsohn, D. Lindenmayer, B. MacDonald, F. Mills, B. Newell, J. Reid, L. Robin, K. Sherren and A. Wade, ‘Mind the Sustainability Gap’, Trends in Ecology & Evolution (2007)

If you would like to contribute to this discussion, please email [email protected]