Melbourne University Press

A new series called Interpretations, published by Melbourne University Press, aims to provide up-to-date introductions to recent theories and critical practices in the humanities and social sciences. Series Editor, Ken Ruthven, answers some questions about the role and reception of critical writing.

 


Does the brief introduction to the series, which says it ...

ART

Contemporary Aboriginal Art: A guide to the rebirth of an ancient culture

by Susan McCulloch

Allen & Unwin, 248 pp, $39.95 pb

1 86508 305 4

Contemporary Aboriginal Art (first published in 1999) contains a wealth of information for those interested in the history, practice, and culture of Aboriginal art. By its very nature, Aboriginal art is constantly changing and evolving, and, in this revised edition, Susan McCulloch details new developments in already well-established communities, and the emergence of some entirely new movements. McCulloch, visual arts writer for The Australian, has travelled extensively to the Kimberley, Central Australia, Arnhem Land and Far North Queensland, and her book provides first-hand accounts of Aboriginal artists and the works they are creating.

Beautifully illustrated, Contemporary Aboriginal Art also contains a comprehensive directory of art centres and galleries, a buyer’s guide, and a listing of recommended readings.

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The bias in settlement and exploitation of nineteenth-century Australia was essentially English. These Antipodes were classed as a wide white land, for the Anglo-Saxon. A Scot or a Welshman could have a place. They were Celts, and classed as ‘British’, close to the centre of England’s Empire, the greatest ever seen.

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What major figure in Australian history, apart from Ned Kelly, has had more biographies than Archbishop Daniel Mannix? Librarians can give a decisive answer to this far from rhetorical question. Certainly, Mannix looms large in serious Australian historiography. There are personal studies by Captain Bryan (1919), E.J. Brady (1934), Frank Murphy (1948 and 1972), Niall Brennan (1964), and Walter Ebsworth (1977), and B.A. Santamaria’s short, weighty lecture of 1977. As well, the Mannix shelf is crammed with books like Michael McKernan’s Australian Churches at War, Gerard Henderson’s Mr. Santamaria and the Bishops, Patrick O’Farrell’s The Catholic Church and Community in Australia, and B.A. Santamaria’s Against the Tide – in all of which Mannix is a dominating force. There is no lack of information about the archbishop.

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The most recent cause célèbre of Australian industrial relations was the 1998 waterfront dispute, when the Howard government failed to destroy the Maritime Union of Australia. The Australian waterfront has been a continuing site of struggle since the famous industrial disputes of the 1890s. Tom Sheridan’s Australia’s Own Cold War: The Waterfront Under Menzies helps to remind us of the intense and bitter nature of industrial relations in that industry. Readers will find themselves making comparisons with the 1998 dispute and with other major events which have occurred in Australia’s political history. ... (read more)

At last we have it – the much-anticipated first volume of the definitive biography of President Soeharto (1921–2008). It is the culminating work in the distinguished career of Australian journalist David Jenkins. This startling volume, covering the years 1921–45, will appeal to the general reader and the Indonesia specialist. It has been described as ‘truly extraordinary’ by the late Benedict Anderson, the prominent Indonesia scholar.

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Continent of Mystery, subtitled ‘A thematic history of Australian crime fiction’ is, in the most simplistic terms, a daunting and inspiring book. My Australian crime fiction, mystery and detective fiction magazine, Mean Streets, was launched by Knight towards the end of 1990, not long before his move to the United Kingdom. For better or worse upon Knight’s departure I assumed, or at least so I was told, the mantle of Australia’s expert on crime fiction. I always perceived that observation as a compliment but having read Continent of Mystery with a sense of awe I can only say that I’m not sure I’m even fit to sit at Knight’s feet when it comes to local fiction with criminality at its core.

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The collective dislocation that followed the advent of Covid-19 generated (and continues to generate) a slew of books intended to make sense of the turmoil. Encompassing Slavoj Žižek’s anti-capitalist treatise Pandemic! (2020) and books for children such as Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar’s While We Can’t Hug (2020), the responses have ranged from considered attempts to apprehend the pandemic’s scientific, political, and social parameters to those designed to do little more than catch the Covid wave before it passes. Regrettably, Peter Doherty’s An Insider’s Plague Year tends more towards the latter.

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For anyone who has spent substantial time recording Aboriginal cultural traditions in remote areas of Australia with its most senior living knowledge holders, bestselling writer Bruce Pascoe’s view that Aboriginal people were agriculturalists has never rung true. Farmers or Hunter-gatherers? The Dark Emu Debate – co-authored by veteran Australian anthropologist Peter Sutton and archaeologist Keryn Walshe – has already been welcomed by Aboriginal academics Hannah McGlade and Victoria Grieve-Williams, who reject Dark Emu’s hypothesis that their ancestors were farmers (like Pascoe himself).

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Peter Job, a former East Timor activist, has written a careful, dispassionate account of the stance of Gough Whitlam’s and Malcolm Fraser’s successive governments in relation to Portuguese East Timor. He has consulted a commendably wide range of oral and written sources, interviewing, for example, several retired senior Australian officials formerly engaged in the design and implementation of Timor policy. His story ends in 1983, with Bob Hawke’s election to office. Job should be encouraged to complete his account in the future to acquaint readers with developments up to at least the UN intervention in 1999 that gave Australian diplomacy a new role.

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