Conference Themes

Conference Themes

The CSAA 2014 conference theme of ‘provocations’ calls for papers that pursue various forms of action, change, or questioning. Such critical responses might be in reaction to global social transformations or the local minutiae of everyday life, and might be incited by creative practice, cultural analysis or imaginings of a more ethical present. Provocations might be understood to operate at the macro level in terms of politics, governance and law or at the scale of individual bodies, artistic endeavours and engagements with new technologies and social networks.  

In anticipation of exploring these ideas, the conference is organised around six thematic streams: 


Stream conveners: Professor Vera Mackie and Dr Su Ballard 

As we find ourselves coping with ever more complex natural disasters and their attendant human-made catastrophes, those living in the Asia-Pacific region are developing new cultural, social, and technological strategies of response. This stream will address the heightened awareness of so called natural disasters and of their impact on both local and global communities. We welcome analysis of different cultural, social, regional and geopolitical attitudes to disaster and catastrophe. Papers might range from discussion of specific events, such as 3/11 in Japan and the Canterbury earthquakes of 2010-2011 to explorations of grass roots local activism, critical media and artistic interventions.


Stream conveners: Dr Melissa Boyde & Dr Nicola Evans 

‘I know. You know I know. I know you know I know. We know Henry knows and Henry knows we know it.  We’re a knowledgeable family.’*

 The making and keeping of secrets is an inherently complex matter.  A secret is never simply something not known; there are many ways in which a culture or an individual may choose to not see, not know or not hear disturbing information. In his book The Novel and the Police (1988), D.A. Miller drew attention to the power of  the ‘open secret’ – ‘the secret that everyone hides because everyone holds’ (p.205). The structure of the open secret sustains many social injustices, from the forms taken by homophobia to the wilful ignorance of animal suffering.  But if secrets maintain social and cultural hierarchies – can they also collapse them? The stream Secrets  invites papers that consider any aspect of secrecy and its relation to cultural power, from how and why and by whom secrets are kept, to the risks and consequences of disclosure.

*Prince Geoffrey, son of Henry II, to his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, The Lion in Winter, 1967


Stream convener: Dr Ika Willis 

The term ‘flesh’ names the interface of the body with the world, evokes both the surface of the body and its innerness, and invites a rethinking of corporeality, materiality, and embodiment. In this strand, we imagine fleshy futures and investigate the techniques and practices of fleshy transformation. We invite papers from a broad range of disciplines which ask how flesh is transformed through the resistant and normalizing practices of everyday life, science, religion, and culture.


Stream conveners: Professor Mark McLelland and Dr Andrew Whelan 

From increased scrutiny of parenting techniques, university ethics committees, and through to international protocols on climate change, strategising to avoid risk has become a disciplinary technique at the individual, corporate and national level. However, much less has been said about what risk management strategies seek to avoid: ‘harm’. Risk avoidance strategies are framed in the conditional tense – they imagine future scenarios that ‘could’ / ‘may’ / or ‘might’ arise, unless pre-emptive action is taken to prevent these outcomes in the present. We invite papers on the theme of ‘harm’ that seek to unpack the narrative, moral and juridical mechanisms through which a future harm is imagined; usually by one group of people and as might befall another group of people (whose views on the risky outcome are seldom considered). We inquire, who has the power to imagine future harm? Who has the power to legislate for its avoidance? Is the imagining of a future harm itself harmful?


Stream conveners: Dr Marcus O’Donnell and Dr Ruth Walker 

This stream invites papers that provocatively address different perspectives on the public dynamics of 'exposure'. Exposure drives the uncovering of social and cultural injustice; it facilitates recognition and reward; it is part of the play that can cement friendship and social networks. But exposure also reveals flaws; uncovers deficiencies; leaves people vulnerable to harsh critique or legal ramifications. It can lead to public acknowledgment and celebration but can also be deliberately manipulated for political purposes. Cultural and creative scholars are under increasing pressure to seek exposure for their research, in both scholarly publications and in public forums, this can either open up their ideas to wider conversations or unnecessarily narrow their focus to fit institutionally proscribed imperatives. As we negotiate our personal and professional lives in increasingly public spaces the dynamics of exposure are hard to predict.

Topics for presentations might include but are not limited to:

  • Cover-ups, covert action and conspiracy cracking
  • Research ethics and integrity, fraud, manipulation of data
  • Public media scandals and politically manipulated outrage
  • Leaks and whistle-blowing and uncovering injustice
  • Self-revelation as creative practice and auto-ethnography
  • Professionalization of exposure and investigative journalism
  • Social media outing of the personal or political
  • Spin, public framing, branding and marketing


Stream conveners: Dr Tanja Dreher, Dr Lucas Ihlein, Dr Sukhmani Khorana 

The notion of 'activism' is both more contested, and more pertinent than ever in the contemporary cultural epoch. This is because the sheer ubiquity of media images and stories, and the increasing speed with which they now reach us means that we are more exposed to images of 'other' places and peoples. However, whether this exposure translates to better recognition and social and political action is not clear. Moreover, there are competing discourses regarding what such 'activist' action constitutes in a world of multiple means, and kinds of engagement. From the utopian rhetoric heralding the 'Facebook revolutions' to skeptical critiques of 'clicktivism', from claims of a global resurgence in feminist activism to critiques of Occupy Wall Street, the intersections of culture and activism are at the heart of contemporary struggles for social transformation and political change. We welcome analyses of innovative forms of cultural activism, and critical evaluations of the current challenges and opportunities for activism. 

  • What forms of activism are enabled by new cultural and media forms such as web 2.0 and digital remixing (amongst others)?
  • What are the challenges for cultural activism between autonomy and co-optation?
  • What are the achievements and the limitations of activism focused on discourse, representation and cultural change?
  • How is activism mediated, or re-mediated, and how does this impact the constitution of an activist civil society?
  • How does activist practice differ from, or intersect with more overtly "cultural" practices such as art, music, theatre etc? 
Last reviewed: 5 March, 2014