Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Michael Chanan at Cultural Capital

DEFEND the ARTS and HUMANITIES is very happy to relay the news that the New Statesman has announced a collaboration with the documentary film maker and film scholar Michael Chanan, who has been filming some of the events fuelling the protest movement in the UK. Focusing on the arts, both within and outside academia, he is building up a picture of the movement as it develops.

Michael, whose previous films include Detroit Ruin of a City and The American who Electrified Russia, will be posting videos on the NS Cultural Capital blog every week or two, leading to a feature-length campaign documentary.

Michael Chanan also blogs at Putney Debater

Friday, 14 January 2011

"Can't Cut This!" Arts Against Cuts

''Arts Against Cuts collective invite everyone to another weekend of learning, sharing, planning and organising on Saturday, January 15th, and Sunday, the 16th, in Camberwell College of Art, London 10:00 - 18:00

Following on from the fantastic Long Weekend at Goldsmiths in December, the Turner Prize Tate and National Gallery teach-ins, the Book Blocks and the many occupations and actions that emerged from this meeting, Arts Against Cuts are organising another weekend of action, planning, imagining, working and thinking together....

We will make sure that all the knowledge, ideas, tools and projects which emerge from the event will be disseminated and put into action in streets and public spaces across the country and be shared by all those in the anti-cuts movements. The Direct Weekend will be a feast of non stop workshops and presentations, how-to sessions and skill shares, and a lot of free space for spontaneous creation of events and actions. Its not important what art is but what it does, and right now it has the potential to turn the crisis of cuts into an opportunity for change.

Working towards the National Demo on the 29th of January and beyond, we are inviting all those who are interested in creative forms of resistance to join us this weekend.

(link to map location)


For more information about who Arts Against Cuts are and the schedule of the event please visit:

Thursday, 13 January 2011

"Embrace the Arts": Irish Higher Educational Strategy

Book of Kells, Folio 33r eight-circle cross carpet page - in the public domain

DEFEND the ARTS and HUMANITIES heard, via the email list of the Campaign for the Public University, of the very positive stance towards Arts and Humanities education in the Irish Government’s newly published National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030, also known as the Hunt Report. Some excerpts are given below.

However, the Republic of Ireland is not likely to continue to be an "abundant land" for public university education more generally. Sadly, the Hunt Report also recommends the introduction (or increase) of upfront student fees and a reduction in the number of higher education institutions.

National Strategy for Higher Education to 2030 - Report of the Strategy Group

[PDF of main report from which the below excerpts have been drawn]

One of the most fundamental questions in planning for the future is: what are the right skills for the graduates of 2015 and of 2030 and what mix of skills should we pursue as learning outcomes of higher education? To address the societal needs over the coming years, increased attention must be paid to core skills such as quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, communication skills, team-working skills and the effective use of information technology. The emphasis has switched from over-specialisation towards deeper and broader disciplinary foundations, with learning objectives that explicitly seek to nurture in students the creativity, enthusiasm and skills required for continual engagement with learning. In this context, the arts, humanities and social sciences have a key role to play. The Innovation Taskforce emphasised the importance of independent thinking and ‘the development of creative, high-skilled graduates as well as lifelong learning, mentoring and continuous professional development’. [p. 35]
While most discussion of research focuses on the hard sciences, it is the arts, humanities and social sciences that have consistently attracted the largest numbers of students, and these are the domains in which Ireland has made a real global impact.This can be seen in the achievements of Irish people in literature, music, and the arts, and in the extent to which Ireland benefits from its reputation in these areas.There are also very compelling social and economic reasons to develop our capabilities in these areas, including advancement of our understanding of the very rapid changes taking place in the Irish economy and society, better-informed public policy-making, and development of the creative and analytical skills that will be valuable in a global economy that is increasingly dominated by knowledge-based services. [p. 38]
In the advancement of human knowledge and understanding, Ireland has its own distinctive contribution to make. As an island of scholarship, scientific discovery, creative arts and innovation, Ireland attracts independent thinkers and entrepreneurs from around the globe.The Irish language, culture and the creative arts are primary sources of our distinctiveness and we should deepen our understanding of these and capitalise on their inherent cultural value and on the cultural and literary qualities that make us distinctive and interesting internationally.  [p. 51]
Embrace the arts, humanities and social sciences as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Research in the arts, humanities and social sciences  (AHSS) addresses areas of fundamental importance to society – areas that impact on enterprise, job creation and  public policy. In the Irish context, these disciplines study values and practices that are central to our national identity, our sense of self, and to how we progress as a society. They are important drivers  of economic and social innovation, promote ways in which the economy is managed and developed, and suggest how  individuals can engage and participate in civil society. Concrete examples of the social and economic impact of research in AHSS include the performing arts,  creative industries, financial services, and  tourism. [p. 67]

Saturday, 8 January 2011

"Affect and the Politics of Austerity: An interview exchange with Lauren Berlant"

Sir Andrew (Ian McKellen, L) bids adieu to Susan Traherne (Meryl Streep) on the steps of the Foreign Ministry in the film version of David Hare's play Plenty (Fred Schepisi, 1985), in part an acute study of some of the early affective conditions, after the Second World War, for the rise of neo-liberalism in the UK.
One of the most useful activities in defence of their disciplines in which Arts and Humanities academics can engage, at present, is, wherever possible, the turning of their scholarly attention to analyses and public discussions of the production of present conditions. Such acts of deconstruction and uncovering may turn out to be the most effective forms of resistance.

One Humanities academic who has been doing this most compellingly, and for many years, is Lauren Berlant, the George M. Pullman Professor of English at the University of Chicago.

Berlant has written about the production of legal and affective public spheres in the United States from the 19th century to the present: in particular, formal and informal modes of social belonging or citizenship. These might be organized according to political, racial, sexual, or economic status; they might be forged in everyday life. She also works on the public circulation of emotions like trauma, love, optimism, and political depression. She is the author of Our Monica, Ourselves: Clinton and the Affairs of State (2001), The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship (1997) and The Anatomy of National Fantasy: Hawthorne, Utopia and Everyday Life (1991), as well as The Female Complaint: The Unfinished Business of Sentimentality in American Culture (2008). She is currently writing about the "negative emotions that bind subjects to normativity despite the stresses of contemporary everyday life: Cruel Optimism is largely a book about affective experiences of neoliberalism, and their aesthetic mediations."

Below is an excerpt from a very recent exchange with Berlant on the current 'politics of austerity' in the UK and elsewhere by Gesa Helms and Marina Vishmidt for Variant, issue 39/40. You can read the whole interview here.
    Lauren Berlant: Polly Toynbee wrote a great sentence about the savage cuts of the new austerity: “The price of everything was laid out, but not the value of anything about to be destroyed.” What does it mean for a symbolic relation to be too expensive, an unbearable burden? The image of the good life is too dear; something has to be sacrificed. The attempt to associate democracy with austerity – a state of liquidity being dried out, the way wine dries out a tongue – is fundamentally anti-democratic. The demand for the people’s austerity hides processes of the uneven distribution of risk and vulnerability. Democracy is supposed to hold out for the equal distribution of sovereignty and risk. Still, austerity sounds good, clean, ascetic: the lines of austerity are drawn round a polis to incite it toward askesis, toward managing its appetites and taking satisfaction in a self-management in whose mirror of performance it can feel proud and superior. In capitalist logics of askesis, the workers’ obligation is to be more rational than the system, and their recompense is to be held in a sense of pride at surviving the scene of their own attrition.
    See also Berlant's research blog Supervalent Thought for more of her work on these questions, and especially the recent post Crossover/Combover: A performance piece (Approach 3: from ASA 2010)

    Thanks to JDR and JC for the links.

    Thursday, 6 January 2011

    Blue Sky Thinking

    Banner from a student occupation at Goldsmith's in 2009

    DEFEND the ARTS and HUMANITIES wishes its readers a Happy New Year. If 'happiness' is difficult right now, let's work towards a well-informed, thoughtful and activist 2011 in defence of our subjects.

    To this important end, our opening post of the year passes on some recommendations for essential reading and listening that were first made by members of our Facebook group.
    Observer offers blue-sky thinking in appraisal of global higher education. Sarah Cunnane reports 
    Business should pay for degrees in subjects such as science and technology, with public funding directed towards the arts and humanities, according to the head of the Institute of International Education.
        In an interview with Times Higher Education, Allan Goodman said it was the duty of universities to produce "as many poets as physicists" and argued that more businesses should show willing to fund the more "commercial" subjects.
        "It's expected that private investors will want their money to go towards the subjects that are more vocational," he said.
    "Governments should hear that, and maybe shift more resources to support culture and the arts, subjects that won't get that private funding." [read the rest of this article].
    We brought together Martha Nussbaum and Alain de Botton to discuss the value of the humanities, the respective flaws and virtues of British and American universities, and whether academics themselves should shoulder some of the blame for the current crisis in the humanities. Click here to download the podcast. [go to this page in PROSPECT Magazine]