Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Book review: Griffith Review: an attempt to upend the traditional order

By Natasha Cica - posted Thursday, 13 November 2003

If you want to understand more about fear and loathing - and better possibilities - Australian-style, read the maiden issue of the quarterly journal Griffith Review, a joint venture between Griffith University and the ABC. Each issue has a theme, and the first is Insecurity in the New World Order.

Twenty short essays, photographs, poems and pieces of fiction explore Australia's position on a planet awkwardly juggling the sticky balls of 21st-century globalisation, terrorism, spin and militarism. Norman Swan reminds us that being alert and deeply alarmed is a hard-wired psychological response to perceived danger - be it posed by the Black Death, HIV-AIDS or SARS. He argues that this emotional overreaction might have worked for hominids on the forest edge, but it ill equips our society to manage the new plagues. Swan suggests transparency and openness as guiding principles for those responsible for explaining and defusing potential threats.

Graeme Dobell explores a worrying trend in the opposite direction within a key Australian player on security questions, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He goes inside the department to expose its hardcore "don't question, don't tell" culture that critics ascribe to the Howard Government. As the children-not-overboard debacle should remind us, that culture permeates the wider Canberra bureaucracy. Who is morally responsible for what happens today in Australia's corridors of political power?


Other contributors explore some applied and evolving consequences of political decisions. Eva Sallis takes us on an Adelaide taxi ride, during which her driver says he'd never let "towel heads" in his cab. She describes feeling helpless and lame in explaining to him that that means her father, her husband, her friends - just people. Irris Makler revisits the looting of the Iraq Museum in Baghdad and talks to its research director about why American troops protected the Ministry of Oil but not the museum's cultural treasures.

In Tampa time, John Birmingham sits in a cafe near the million-dollar properties of Bondi, listening to a young woman with Celtic tattoos and dreadlocks sip espresso coffee and tell her friends we might have to "machine-gun a few of them so asylum seekers understand they're not wanted".

Tim Page goes to Baxter immigration detention centre for the Easter 2003 protests, pictured right, to photograph Aussie Boys in singlets, Blundstones and pink tutus squaring up with Robocops in riot gear. And a poem by mtc cronin brings us a line about refuge, terror and contagion that suggests how the insecurities of our public spaces contaminate more private ones: "We quarantine our hearts, ignoring the same woman under the bed who was there yesterday."

Analysis sits comfortably with anecdote and art in Griffith Review. Alan Gyngell's piece on Australian foreign policy in the post-Soviet era poses thoughtful challenges for those drafting blueprints for engagement with our fragile, complex region. William Tow demystifies the international relations theories that are vying for global ideological dominance. Adrian Vickers raises overlooked questions about Bali and its place in the Australian imagination, from the 1890s to the Kuta bombs of October 2002 - as both a foreign zone of living dangerously and a familiar one that tugs like big surf at our hearts.

Griffith Review wants to capture the spirit of the times and build a bridge between literary, academic and journalistic writing and the reading and thinking public. That's aiming high and, given the contents of this issue, no doubt some are already praying for failure. But they should have to stockpile their schadenfreude. This slender but weighty, cheeky, elegant, sceptical and readable publication has already punched an important hole in that grey polyester blanket of conformism flattening debate in our nation.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. All

This article was first published in The Sydney Morning Herald on 25 October 2003.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Dr Natasha Cica is the director of Periwinkle Projects, a Hobart-based management, strategy and communications consultancy.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Natasha Cica
Related Links
Griffith Review
Photo of Natasha Cica
Article Tools
Comment Comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy