Room for Manoeuvre: Writings on history, politics, ideas and play
Drummond, $16.95 pb
A joke told annually and publicly for fourteen years closes this collection of Ian Turner’s work. From 1965 to 1978, Turner delivered the Ron Barassi Memorial Lecture and so created the site of an imagined overlap between the more formal rituals of the intellectual culture and the rowdy world of spectatordom, the VFL, the most visible and familiar self-presentation of the popular. He fabricated this site for speaking ‘our’ culture by romping around it in careful pastiche.
Back and forth he slipped, between outer ground raconteur and academic analyst; odd figures from the past are evoked, a sociological thesis is sketched; ‘affable Alf Deakin’ makes an appearance, and psychoanalysis is subjected to ribald parody (sardonic Sigmund would have smiled). Above all there is celebration, not so much of the game, but of the affinities its enjoyment creates. Turner was presenting himself as a point of intersection which both parodied and proclaimed a gap between ‘intelligentsia’ and ‘people’. He was academic social scientist, folklorist, tribune and footy-lover – an impossible figure, a Renaissance fan.