'It had to be ‘Meaghan’. The title of this edition of Cultural Studies Review is our salute to the work of Meaghan Morris and her lasting influence. That legacy is directly addressed in the collection of written works that emerged from the Meaghan Morris Festival held in 2016 (co-edited by Prudence Black, Stephen Muecke and Catherine Driscoll) but it is also echoed in the essays and reviews that are gathered within, that in their very mix speak to the particular tradition of cultural studies, Australian and otherwise, that Meaghan Morris helped so much to create.' (Introduction)
Contents indexed selectively.
'It had to be ‘Meaghan’. The title of this edition of Cultural Studies Review is our salute to the work of Meaghan Morris and her lasting influence. That legacy is directly addressed in the collection of written works that emerged from the Meaghan Morris Festival held in 2016 but it is also echoed in the essays and reviews that are gathered within, that in their very mix speak to the particular tradition of cultural studies, Australian and otherwise, that Meaghan Morris helped so much to create.' (Introduction)
'My aural introduction was Peter Allen’s song, ‘Tenterfield Saddler’. And most of you will know that ‘At Henry Parkes Motel’, Meaghan’s famous essay on mobility, comfort, desire and banality, is situated in Tenterfield where Meaghan’s early childhood took place.' (Introduction)
'It was a great pleasure and an honour to be asked to contribute to the Meaghan Morris Festival at the University of Sydney in 2016, to acknowledge and celebrate Meaghan Morris’s foundational contribution to cultural studies in Australia, and internationally. What follows is, more or less, what I said at the time.' (Introduction)
'I am delighted to be here celebrating the unique career of Meaghan Morris, who is, after all, not just a precious intellectual partner (and sometimes mentor) but also a deeply valued friend. As it turned out, the invitation to speak at an event honouring Meaghan on the occasion of her retirement provided the pressure I needed to write something I have been trying to write—and postponing—for decades. Why try for so long? Because she is, in my opinion, one of the most original and dedicated practitioners of cultural studies. Why try for so long? Because I could never find a comfortable way of doing it. I would try identifying some representative sample, some set of exemplary texts, that would enable me to make visible the commonalities and diversities that define the singularity of her analytic practice, the contextuality of her political thematic and the trajectory of her career. Every time I thought I had settled on the texts, I would remember another of my favourites, or Meaghan would send me a new one, inevitably shattering my selection and the comfortable assumptions I had made about how to ‘read’ them.' (Introduction)
'Meaghan once remarked (I think to the poet and art critic Ken Bolton) that she didn’t like poetry because of all the empty space on the page. A quarter of a century ago in 1992, in Ecstasy and Economics: American Essays for John Forbes, she said she was ‘a desultory reader of poetry’ and that reading poetry might induce a ‘scary cultural estrangement’. In the foreword, she extrapolates the ‘awkward’ place of poetry in cultural studies then as being more an American problem than an Australian one but nearly a quarter of a century later I wonder if poetry has made an individuated local spot for itself, or even if it cares to. I mean, ‘should poetry worry?’' (Introduction)
'The essay I want to discuss here was published in the ‘pre-global’ era. I find it telling that Meaghan’s ‘Politics Now: Anxieties of a Petit-Bourgeois Intellectual’, dated 14 July 1985 in its appearance in The Pirate’s Fiancée in 1988, was first published in Intervention in Sydney and shortly afterwards as lead essay in Framework in London: that way people in London would actually be able to read it as well. In his introduction, the Framework editor Paul Willemen linked the essay to one of Judith Williamson’s in New Socialist in September 1986, where she had occasion to protest ‘against the prevailing tendency on the British cultural “left” to proclaim the virtues of ideological regimes exemplified by Dallas and Dynasty’. These were connections that had to be forged by hand, as it were, rather than simply by clicking a ‘follow’ button on Academia.edu.' (Introduction)
'‘Ironically,’ Meaghan Morris writes, ‘no text is more bleached of cultural particularity than the one which relentlessly theorizes “difference” without ever once stumbling over some stray material fact—a poem, a press photo, a snatch of TV news—that could, in its everyday density, take “theory” by surprise.’ Ecstasy and Economics itself pops up as a ‘stray material fact’ that took me by surprise as a student more than two decades ago, and it still does. First, consider its surprising contents page: it dedicates what it terms ‘American essays’ to the late Australian poet John Forbes, a pairing at face value as surprising as the pairing of ecstasy and economics. That surprise extends to the pun of its cover photograph, a parody of Max Dupain’s 1937 photo The Sunbaker by Anne Zahalka, an image which recalibrates the photograph’s late Modern complexion by substituting a bleached and blurry beach surround for the deep shadows of the original. This image feels as historical now as the Dupain’s earlier subtlety of tone; Ecstasy and Economics analyses that ‘bleaching’ itself, the ‘stumbling’ into theory (as John Mowitt would say) where the unexpected ‘stray material fact’ renews analysis against sheer stultification. In the case of its cover photo the stray fact is hue, shade, distinction: a head of red hair whose capacity to surprise installs difference as surprise.' (Introduction)
'Meaghan has been part of the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies project from the very beginning— she was at the founding conferences, organised by Chen Kuan-Hsing, in National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan, between 1992 and 1995. The two conferences bore the title of ‘Trajectories: Towards a New Internationalist Cultural Studies’ and ‘Trajectories II: A New Internationalist Cultural Studies’, respectively. According to Kuan-Hsing, he was motivated by historical changes in Asia, from postwar decolonisation to post-Cold War in late 1980s, marked locally in Taiwan with the lifting of martial law in 1987. This was also the period of the rise of Asia within global capitalism, beginning with Japan, followed by the so-called ‘Tiger’ or ‘Dragon’ economies of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore via the export-oriented industrialisation. The industrialisation model was subsequently picked up by China and the other Southeast Asian countries. The conferences certainly lived up to their promise of being international, with presenters from first and third world locations, and the core concerns were very much grounded in the historical conjuncture of Asia at the end of the twentieth century. One evening during the second conference, while the edited volume for selected papers were being prepared for publication, Rebecca Barton, the editor for the book project at Routledge, brought up the idea of an Asian cultural studies journal. In a hotel room in Taiwan, with Meaghan, the late Jeannie Martin, Kuan-Hsing and myself from the conference and Rebecca, the plan for Inter-Asia Cultural Studies was hatched. It was decided that Kuan-hsing and I would be the co-executive editors, supported by a relatively large editorial collective drawn across Asia and Australia.' (Introduction)
'In beginning to prepare this tribute to Meaghan Morris’s work I went to the bulging folder that contains the letters and postcards and draft papers she sent me over a period of about twenty years, from the early 1980s to the early 2000s (more recently we’ve communicated almost entirely by email). One of the things that strikes me, looking through these pages with their typewritten text full of crossings-out and handwritten marginalia, is the enormous care Meaghan gives to her intellectual relationships, in my case with someone she didn’t know all that well, who lived on the other side of the country, and with whom there were significant points of intellectual difference. One of the letters I’m going to quote from is ten closely typed pages long, and to write it she would first have to have read, closely and carefully, a dense and abstruse paper of mine, set in what looks like 8-point font and to me today almost unreadable. Now consider that I was just one of Meaghan’s correspondents. I don’t know how many people received letters like this from her, but I’m pretty sure she had ongoing written conversations with a number of other people in Australia and elsewhere. Meaghan was and is a teacher: she takes intellectual debate as seriously as anyone I’ve ever known, and she conducts it with care, with tact, and with passion.' (Introduction)
'Meaghan Morris was celebrated at the Meaghan Morris Festival as a mentor, a cultural theorist, a much-loved colleague, a lecturer, a polemicist and a stirrer, a teacher, an internationalist, a translator and much else besides. Here, I want to add to that chorus by making a very specific case: that Meaghan Morris is the most significant and innovative living Australian cultural historian. This characterisation is, in part, rooted in my own investments in work at the intersections of cultural studies and cultural history but it is of much greater significance. An influential contemporary characterisation of cultural studies is that it was a boomer reaction to existing disciplinary constraints, a manifestation of anti-canonical impulses that choose instead to celebrate marginality while at the same time making an innovative case for the ways in which culture matters. It follows that if, today, academic disciplines in the social sciences and humanities have become highly flexible (rather than canonical) and maintained their institutional hegemony while simultaneously becoming irrelevant to much knowledge-work and that, today, margins and mainstreams seem like next-to-useless terms to describe cultural topographies or flows and that, today, culture matters nowhere so much as the rapacious industries of media cultures, then perhaps the moment of cultural studies seems of historical interest only.' (Introduction)
'I am writing from another country, far away; I no longer live in Australia. Meaghan Morris is partly responsible for this. Let me explain.
'At the end of 2011, I found myself reading the transcript of a long interview with Meaghan conducted by a Melbourne-based researcher, Lauren Bliss. In this discussion, Meaghan comments on the move, in the course of her professional life, to Hong Kong:
'What I really wanted to do was what lots of students from Asia had been doing for decades, which is go and just live an everyday life in another country, have a job, and not go and study the society there as an academic specialty. Just go and know what it’s like to live as a foreigner working in a Chinese society.'
'My keyword today is action. No, it’s not about Meaghan Morris the action hero! But it is about Meaghan Morris as a woman of action. It is also about Meaghan’s work on action cinema and cultural research as engaged scholarship in action.
'I want to begin in the official genre of a keyword.
'Keyword: Action. Action refers to a genre of cinema, a culture industry and a cultural practice of ‘doing’. As a body genre derived from contact sports such as martial arts, its narrative is characterised by the rivalry and combat between two or more opposing individuals or groups (what she calls ‘a transnational mode of historical fiction’). Morris discusses the contact narrative of action cinema as a new transnational genre with an industrial history that precedes Hollywood-based beginnings in the 1970s (with films such as The Towering Inferno and Jaws). She highlights the formative role Hong Kong has played in this history since the 1950s, with the introduction of swordplay films by the Shaw Brothers studio, its co-productions with Japan, Thailand, Korea and Hollywood in the 1970s and 1980s, and the expansion of its ‘direct to video’ industry in the 1980s and 1990s. This industry is characterised as a minor economy consisting of low budget, fly-by-night production using local cast and crew; shot in cheap locations such as slums, factories and disused buildings; erratic global distribution; and exhibited through informal spaces of consumption.' (Introduction)
'We have been asked to contribute to a special section of Cultural Studies Review in honour of Meaghan Morris and her significant influence to cultural studies. Before sharing my contribution to the Meaghan Morris Festival, it is important to note that my role in this intellectual celebration was minor, but Meaghan’s influence on me is rather large and meaningful.' (Introduction)
'This article attempts an experimental mode to ply the depths of a text’s relationship with its circumstances of production. Deploying an immersive praxis, the analysis aims to activate the autonomy of the short story ‘The Quest of Yar Khan’ through a rich engagement with its materiality, particularly its named geography. Revealing the text’s context in this way offers an opportunity to refresh the view of South Asia in peri-Federation Australia, a circumstance of which this short story is part.' (Publication abstract)