Altitude has been quiet for awhile. Dr Clifton Evers and Dr Glen Fuller have now taken on Editor in Chief roles to revamp the publication, and will now be Co Editors in Chief with Dr Emily Potter (founder). Altitude is now under reconstruction. D
March 16, 2010
December 3, 2007
Editorial by Sarah Baker, Altitude, Volume 8, 2007.
The papers collected here in this special edition of Altitude offer a brief snapshot of popular music research broadly connected with Australia. The essays demonstrate the variety of theoretical and methodological approaches used by researchers in the fields of popular music studies and cultural studies to explore themes of popular music practice, formation and change in an Australian context. The opening essay by Johnson reconceptualises music as ‘noise’ and introduces the reader to the violence of music in modernity. Huber’s essay then takes issue with the notion of the ‘mainstream’ and considers the term’s usefulness in cultural analysis. In a look at Australian fiction, Doyle provides an overview of music’s literary presence in regards to incidental, ethnographic and synaesthesic dispositions or registers. Cohen and Baker’s essay looks at young people’s music-making; specifically the inroads made by two Australian and two British youths as they work towards becoming DJs. Mitchell’s discussion centres on the pedagogical and experiential dimensions of Australian hip hop with a case study of Melbourne-based hip hop artist Reason. Finally, the essay by Duffy, Waitt and Gibson investigates music’s role in rural place-making through a comparison of street parades in a rural town.
Bruce Johnson, From John Farnham to Lordi: The Noise of Music: PDF
Alison Huber, University of Melbourne, What’s in a Mainstream?: Critical Possibilities: PDF
Peter Doyle, Macquarie University, Writing Sound: Popular Music in Australian Fiction: PDF
Bruce MZ Cohen, Humboldt University, Germany and Sarah Baker, The Open University, UK, DJ Pathways: Becoming a DJ in Adelaide and London: PDF
Tony Mitchell, University of Technology, Sydney, The Reography of Reason: Australian Hip Hop as Experimental History and Pedagogy: PDF
Michelle Duffy, University of Melbourne, Gordon Waitt, University of Wollongong and Chris Gibson, University of Wollongong, Get into the Groove: the Role of Sound in Generating a Sense of Belonging at Street Parades: PDF
December 3, 2006
Editorial by Emily Potter and Paul Starr, Altitude, Volume 7, 2006.
In a recent edition of The Monthly, one of the country’s savvier magazines of Australian politics, society and culture, Robert Manne chose the topic of climate change for the regular ‘Comment’ column. His focus was Australia’s dismal record amongst the international community in addressing this environmental disaster. He pointed out the political alliances that drive our nation’s position, and, coming out of the warmest year ever to be recorded in Australia, scathingly labelled the Bush-Howard stance on climate change as ‘an anti-Kyoto Axis, a kind of Coalition of the Unwilling, which is placing the very future of the Earth at risk’ (15). While Manne’s point of view is always worth a read, what is particularly noteworthy about his column is that, in the context of this publication, and from the pen of a public intellectual associated so strongly with humanistic journalism, politics and the contemporary culture, climate change is the focus.
Altitude 7 explores the relationship between culture and climate change at a time when the humanities, and those who study them, are commonly criticised for work that is abstracted from the ‘real world’. Environmental debate, as one significant ‘real world’ field of concern, is more often than not considered the purview of scientists and social scientists. Yet, as Manne’s small intervention indicates, there are voices beyond these disciplinary fields that are vital to the debate and that are active within it. Culture is not just a source of environmental ills that science can remedy: it provides a framework for their understanding, and carries the seeds of effective responses. As ecocritical theorist Greg Garrard states, environmental problems are an inevitable melange of ‘ecological knowledge and its cultural inflection’, and thus require analysis in cultural, as well as scientific, terms. As a cultural issue, climate change informs cultural practices, products, networks and values, while culture itself operates as mechanism for climate change to be represented, debated and contested.
The last few years have seen an increased world-wide engagement of cultural producers and critics with climate change issues. The novelists Ian McEwan and Michael Crichton have both participated in public debates on these issues, from very different perspectives. Nonfiction writers such as Bill McKibben are writing on the topic for popular media, and online magazines such as Grist frequently dedicate space to discussion and news of climate issues. A UN-supported global photojournalism project on the impact of climate change is currently touring the world, while in our own country, the most recent edition of the journal of political and cultural writing, the Griffith Review, joins Altitude in turning its attention to our climate future, and its currency in the present. In a different register, Time magazine has come out in support of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s statements that the science debate is over, and, at a different end of the political spectrum, environmental campaigners have also cottoned on to the value of celebrity-based activism. It is clear that climate change has broken into mainstream cultural texts and media: what can be said about these, and other, recent interventions?
This collection offers a taste of the contributions that cultural analysis can make to our understanding of climate change causes, vulnerabilities, adaptions and solutions. What might climate change do to the cultures we live in, study and care for? How can the media and communications strategies promote cultural answers to climate change? And, in the mix of culture and climate change, now and in the past, where can we find cultural studies? The following pieces, in a range of critical modes, highlight the significance of cultural research for environmental questions, as well as, in the case of our interview with Clive Hamilton and Richard Eckersley, interrogating its limits. Tim Sherratt reveals the environmental damage embedded in Australian cultural history, and Jay Arthur’s reflection on her experiences of environmental communication, as exhibition curator, raises some central issues concerning the cultural contingency of our responses to the environment. Her insights extend beyond the limits of her exhibition to demonstrate the importance of keeping environmental problems, and our attentions to them, interconnected rather than compartmentalised. In our book reviews, Kate Rigby discusses Greg Garrard’s Ecocriticism, Paul Starr reviews Tim Flannery’s The Weather Makers, while Moya Costello takes a look at Sherratt, Griffith and Robin’s A Change in the Weather. A select annotated bibliography by Candice Oster and Paul Starr provides a useful insight into the offerings and, once again, the limitations, of writing [ scholarly and otherwise ] that address the overlaps and interplays between culture and climate change.
1 Manne, Robert. ‘The Nation Reviewed: Comment.’ The Monthly. Feb (2006): 12-15.
2 Garrard, Greg. Ecocriticism. London and New York: Routledge, 2004: 14
Tim Sherratt, Civilisation versus the Giant, Winged Lizards: Changing Climates, Changing Minds: PDF
Paul Starr and Emily Potter, Clive Hamilton and Richard Eckersley interview: PDF
Jay Arthur, Tracking Water Through the National Archives of Australia:PDF
Kate Rigby, Greg Garrard. Ecocriticism. London and New York: Routledge, 2004: PDF
Paul Starr, Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers: The History and Future Impact of Climate Change. Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2005: PDF
Moya Costello, Tim Sherratt, Tom Griffiths and Libby Robin, eds. A Change in the Weather: Climate and Culture in Australia Canberra: National Museum of Australia Press: 2005: PDF
Candice Oster and Paul Starr, Annotated Bibliography – Culture and Climate Change: PDF
December 3, 2005
Editorial by Anne Brewster, Altitude, Volume 6, 2005.
This issue completes the collection of essays on Indigenous cultural production introduced in the previous issue. It features a number of discussions of storytelling focussing, in the case of Somerville and Perkins, on the collaborative practice of storytelling exchange in a massacre story. Van den Berg looks at the functions of story-telling in indigenous communities and Ravell looks at the Moore River experience in life stories by van den Berg and Pilkington. Fielder examines Kim Scott’s fiction and collaborative life story work and Miller reads Unaipon’s life and literary work in the context of mimicry and whiteness. Webb and Mackinlay read the performance of song in urban and rural environments.
John Fielder, Country and Connections: An Overview of the Writing of Kim Scott: PDF
Rosemary van den Berg, Aboriginal Storytelling and Writing: PDF
Ben Miller, Confusing Epistemologies: Whiteness, Mimicry and Assimilation in David Unaipon’s ‘Confusion of Tongue’: PDF
Elizabeth Mackinlay, ‘For our mother’s song we sing’: Yanyuwa Aboriginal women’s narratives of experience, memory and emotion: PDF
Julia Ravell, A Place in the Past: Pilkington and van den Berg on the Moore River Settlement: PDF
Hugh Webb, Say Goodbye to the Colonial Bogeyman: Aboriginal Strategies of Resistance: PDF
Margaret Somerville, (Re)membering in the Contact Zone: Telling, and Listening to, a Massacre Story: PDF
Editorial by Anne Brewster, Altitude, Volume 5, Editorial, 2005.
Indigenous people continue to make a very visible contribution to the production of the arts in Australia. Indigenous texts, which convene a non-indigenous audience (in addition to indigenous audiences), perform crucial work in brokering new configurations of intersubjectivity. These essays, which span two editions of Altitude, mount close readings of indigenous literature and song, ranging over the genres of life story, poetry, the novel, drama, country and western and traditional song. They extend our understanding of the significance and transformation of these genres and their impact on a range of difference audiences.
Jacqueline Lo, Tropes of Ambivalence in Bran Nue Dae
Jennifer Jones, As Long as She Got Her Voice: How Cross-Cultural Collaboration Shapes Aboriginal Textuality: Article
Angeline O’Neill, Navigating through time in Bulmurn, a Swan River Nyoongar: Article
Penny van Toorn, Re-historicising ‘Racism’: Language, History and Healing in Wayne King’s ‘Black Hours’: Article
Anne Brewster, Fractured conversations: indigenous literature and white readers. A reading of the poetry of Lisa Bellear: Article
September 3, 2005
by Angeline O’Neill, Altitude, Volume 5, Article 3, 2005.
It’s the Dreamtime that’s calling in the wind,
in the trees; it’s calling our people to listen.
For our ancestors’ sake we must do what it takes,
to keep all our children together and free.
Walter G. Eatts, ‘Ancestors in the Wind’
Richard Wilkes’ multifaceted novel, Bulmurn, a Swan River Nyoongar, is an intriguing treatment of Nyoongar myths and Law, spanning thousands of years as it traces the creation of cultures (even worlds) in continuing conflict. Set in the early 1800s, it depicts a significant period in the life of Bulmurn, a traditional spiritual healer of the Darbalyung Nyoongar people, following his movements across an area stretching from Murin Morda to Walyalup and Wadjemup (Watson 214-224). The novel works to transpose Nyoongar oral traditions into the written word in English, making them more accessible to contemporary Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal readers, and giving hope for race relations in a future born, at least partly, of the darkness and desperation of the past. One of Wilkes’ major aims is to reinforce the contemporary value of Nyoongar traditions and the Law, while yet acknowledging that change is inevitable and the sort of cultural purity fiercely defended by Bulmurn is no longer possible. Against a background of miscegenation and racial objectification, Wilkes invokes a wealth of traditional songs, stories and corroborees. In so doing he directly addresses the sort of colonial misrepresentation of Aboriginal myths and oral tradition perpetuated, for example, in the work of early twentieth-century novelist and so-called anthropologist EL Grant Watson, whose short story ‘Out There’ will be discussed later in this paper. Wilkes does this by establishing an opposition between the history and law of the invaders, or the wadjbullas, and the myths and Law of his own people. This opposition brings into sharp relief the enduring power of the Dreamtime  and ancestral spirits in maintaining a sense of self and place among the Darbalyung Nyoongars, transcending the restrictions of space and time as elucidated by Paul Carter – and the restrictions of the written word so earnestly propagated by the wadjbulla community. Ronald Wright suggests that myths are ‘an arrangement of the past, whether real or imagined, in patterns that resonate with a culture’s deepest values and aspirations. Myths are so fraught with meaning that we live and die by them. They are the maps by which cultures navigate through time’ (Wright qtd in Wilson 4). If this is so, then myth is at the centre of this text.
by Anne Brewster, Altitude, Volume 5, Article 5, 2005.
Like Douwe Edberts
Freeze dry coffee
I stand motionless
But full of feelings
Gin, native, abo, coon
An inquisitive academic
Then asks ‘are you Aboriginal?’
Do I punch
Do I scream
Do I raise my arms
To ward off
The venomous hatred
Racism leaves unchallenged
As they collect their evidence
To reinforce their ‘superiority’,
And our ‘inferiority’
Am I Aboriginal
Am I Torres Strait Islander
Am I South Sea Islander
I laugh inside, at her ignorance
I shake my head,
But how can I pity
A person who is identified
As the expert exponent on
Eh Professor, big shot,
Big cheese, or whoever
You claim to be
You’ve really no idea
Love to chat sister,
But there’s faxes to send
And protest letters to write
I turn and walk away
Preserving my dignity
Without humiliating hers.
‘Feelings’, Lisa Bellear
In this article  I take the poem ‘Feelings’ by Lisa Bellear and a discussion of students’ reactions to this poem in the classroom as a starting point for an exercise in what Michelle Fine calls ‘witnessing whiteness’ (57-65) – that is, making whiteness visible to white people. The poem does this through a process of denaturalising or defamilarising whiteness; making it strange. Alterity, as Michael Taussig reminds us, is a relationship, not a thing (130), and a recognition of the relational imbrication of whiteness in its others makes apparent the hierarchical structure which endows white people with ‘unearned privilege and conferred dominance (McIntosh qtd in Dyer 9). In foregrounding whiteness and making it visible for the white reader, the poem points to the ongoing colonial relation between white and indigenous constituencies. It reminds us yet again of how the postcolonial nation has been contracted through the figure of race and of the objectification of the indigene. The poem, I argue, makes the white reader stand apart from and ‘witness’ the embeddedness of whiteness within the zone of racialised intersubjectivity. A recognition by white people of the racial location of whiteness within the intimate social relations of the everyday in turn allows for the possibility of the democratisation of racial identity and a ‘rearticulation of cultural, social and political citizenship’ (Giroux 130).We can read the academic figured in the poem as indexical of whiteness. Although she is not identified literally as such, her unmarked racial identification and her institutional status place her, at the very least, in a position homologous to that of a white person. That her racial identity is not named can, in fact, be seen as symptomatic of the invisibility (to white people) of whiteness – its significance as the category against which (racial) difference is measured. As Richard Dyer observes, ‘white power secures its dominance by seeming not to be anything in particular’ (qtd in Lipsitz 369). Or, as other commentators have put it, ‘people [are] not favoured socially because they are white; rather they [are] defined as ‘white’ because they are favoured’ (Ignatiev and Garvey). Whiteness derives its meaning from its relationality; it is precisely the racialisation of minoritarian groups that enables the consolidation of an imagined community of whiteness, that is, the bringing together, in a collective, of ‘white’ Australians of diverse and otherwise often antagonistic class, regional, generational, ethnic and religious backgrounds (Lipsitz 370).
July 3, 2005
by Penny van Toorn, Altitude, Volume 5, Article 4, 2005.
During times of political crisis, certain verbal signs become a focus of intense social struggle. Rival groups try to capture each other’s biggest word-guns and turn them against their former owners. Debates erupt over what these powerful words ‘really’ mean, how they might legitimately be used, by whom, and for what purposes. As different groups fight for control of these strategically crucial signs, the latter become manifestly multivoiced and semantically volatile.
Recently in Australia, the words ‘racist’ and ‘racism’ have become a subject of contention. These terms were once monopolised by supporters of Aboriginal and migrants’ rights, who used them – sometimes glibly in a shorthand manner that emptied the words of their meaning – to castigate those who practised discrimination, prejudice, or intolerance towards non-Anglo-Celtic peoples. Today, in the late 1990s, this monopoly has come to an end. A new, right-wing, nationalist rhetoric has emerged which identifies the ‘real racists’ as those who want special rights and benefits for Aboriginal people. In her 1996 election statement, Pauline Hanson claimed that the Government was ‘looking after the Aborigines too much… I simply think everyone should be treated equally. If Aborigines get paid to send their kids to school or get this or that benefit, I should be able to get the same’ (qtd in Kingston 29). John Howard has implicitly endorsed Hanson’s re-definition of ‘racism’ by stating that the Liberal Party has ‘clung tenaciously to the principle that no one group in the Australian community should have rights that are not enjoyed by another group’ (29). Similarly, the anti-Native Title lobby (in a semantic switch that denies a two-hundred-year history of racial oppression) vilifies its opponents as ‘racists’ in an effort to win the high moral ground and hence the land itself. In each case, Aborigines and ‘ordinary Australians’ are envisaged as two mutually exclusive groups, yet the charge of being racist is deflected by redefining ‘racism’ as discrimination against non-Aborigines. In 1990s Australia, racism thus disavows itself; it wears an egalitarian, anti-racist mask (Lattas).
June 3, 2005
by Jennifer Jones, Altitude, Volume 5, Article 2, 2005.
Aunty Marge spoke on platforms, going back years ago, in Melbourne in the city here, when we wouldn’t have had a voice at all. I can go as far as saying ‘black was a dirty word’, you know, and you had to be really very careful. But Aunty Marge spoke on platforms, she joined the Communists, because they were the only ones that listened to Aboriginal people in those days, you know. So Aunty Marge jumped on the wagon there too, as long as she got her voice.
Walda Blow, Interview with Author
By the time Aunty Marge (Margaret) Tucker started to write her life story, If Everyone Cared in the early 1970s she was a seasoned campaigner for Aboriginal rights. Margaret Tucker knew how to use cross-cultural affiliations to the advantage of her cause. In order to gain her literary voice she undertook the familiar process of negotiation and compromise entailed in any cross-cultural political alliance. By this time she had moved away from the Communist Party (Jones, ‘The Black Communist’) and drew instead upon friends and fellow travellers from the religious movement Moral Re-Armament (MRA).1 In this era, an absence of supportive discourses in literature and politics (Whitlock) (social contexts that valued Indigenous perspectives and their public expression) limited audience access and made it difficult for Aboriginal women writers to attract the interest of mainstream publishing houses. In order to achieve publication Aboriginal women like Margaret Tucker harnessed available pockets of interest within white society, particularly drawing upon the resources of communities of ideological commitment. ‘Jump[ing] on the wagon’ of an interested and well-resourced community of commitment enabled Aboriginal women to gain a literary voice, but such alliances also influenced the style that Aboriginal writers could adopt. This paper examines how cross-cultural collaboration both enabled and curtailed Margaret Tucker’s textual expression.
December 2, 2004
Editorial by Robyn Tucker and Emily Potter, Altitude, Volume 4, Editorial, 2004.
This edition of Altitude seeks, in a small way, to explore new and circulating ideas of justice and the global. The terms ‘justice’ and the ‘global’ are themselves variable in meaning, and so we consider the work presented here as opening up complex questions: the machinations of neo-liberal politics and the collectivisation of ‘global’ experience as a fall-out of September 11; the unpredictable and potentially political nature of the global commodity, that slips between corporate and more humanitarian discourses; and the implications of ‘global’ discourses of genocide, particularly in relation to the question of ethics. From the relation between justice and globalisation, to the purchase of human rights in light of the ‘war on terror’ and dominant discourses of reconciliation and cultural genocide in Australia today, this brief is expansive and, as the articles in this edition suggest, inconclusive – a reason to keep on thinking and questioning.
Christine Nicholls, Postmodernity and September 11 2001 – Life Imitating Art? Art pre-empting Life? An Australian Perspective: Article
Susie Khamis, Mambo Justice: An Unnatural Alliance?: Article
Patrick Allington, Playing devil’s advocate: reflecting on Samantha Power’s ‘A Problem From Hell’: America and the Age of Genocide: Article
Jim Ife, Review of Mahmood Monshipouri, Neil Engelhart, Andrew Nathan and Kavita Philip, Constructing Human Rights in the Age of Globalisation, M.E Sharpe, NY, 2003: Review
Barry Judd, Review of Bartholomew Dean and Jerome Levi (eds), At the Risk of Being Heard: Identity, Indigenous Rights and Postcolonial States, University of Michigan Press May, 2003: Review