The Occasional Papers (tOPICS)

The latest tOPICS paper is on ‘Resilience’ (opens in a new window)(PDF, 923KB) and is authored by Philippa Collin, Louise Crabtree, Stephen Healy and Paul James (Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University) and Simone Fullagar (University of Bath).

New Books

The Difference Identity Makes: Indigenous Cultural Capital in Australian Cultural Fields

Edited by Lawrence Bamblett, Fred Myers, Tim Rowse

The cover of the book The Difference Identity Makes: Indigenous Cultural Capital in Australian Cultural FieldsThrough the struggles of Indigenous Australians for recognition and self-determination it has become common sense to understand Australia as made up of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and things. But in what ways is the Indigenous/non-Indigenous distinction being used and understood? In The Difference Identity Makes (opens in a new window), thirteen Indigenous and non-Indigenous academics examine how this distinction structures the work of cultural production and how Indigenous producers and their works are recognised and valued.

The editors introduce this innovative collection of essays with a path-finding argument that ‘Indigenous cultural capital’ now challenges all Australians to re-position themselves within a revised scale of values. Each chapter looks at one of five fields of Australian cultural production: sport, television, heritage, visual arts and music, revealing that in each the Indigenous/non-Indigenous distinction has effects that are specific.

This brings new depth and richness to our understanding of what ‘Indigeneity’ can mean in contemporary Australia. In demonstrating the variety of ways that ’the Indigenous’ is made visible and valued the essays provide a powerful alternative to the ‘deficit’ theme that has continued to haunt the representation of Indigeneity.

This book is the second book to come out of the Australian Cultural Fields (opens in a new window)project.

The Politics of Operations: Excavating Contemporary Capitalism

By Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson

The cover of the book the Politics of Operations: Excavating Contemporary CapitalismIn The Politics of Operations (opens in a new window)Sandro Mezzadra and Brett Neilson investigate how capital reshapes its relation with politics through operations that enable the extraction and exploitation of mineral resources, labor, data, and cultures. They show how capital—which they theorize as a direct political actor—operates through the logistical organization of relations between people, property, and objects as well as through the penetration of financialization into all realms of economic life. Mezzadra and Neilson present a capacious analysis of a wide range of issues, from racial capitalism, the convergence of neoliberalism and nationalism, and Marx's concept of aggregate capital to the financial crisis of 2008 and how colonialism, empire, and globalization have shaped the modern state since World War II. In so doing, they illustrate the distinctive rationality and logics of contemporary capitalism while calling for a politics based on collective institutions that exist outside the state.

Religion in a Secular Age? The Struggle for Meaning in an Abstracted World

By Stephen Ames, Ian Barns, John Hinkson, Paul James, Gordon Preece and Geoff Sharp

Cover of Religion in a secular age bookThe world is in a mess. Democratic institutions and practices are being hollowed out from within, including from within supposedly mature liberal democracies. A series of cross-cutting crises challenge the bases of existential meaning. In all of this, religion has an ambiguous place.

Entrenched civil conflicts, fuelled by modern cleavages, are, for example, being fought in the name of deep ethnic and religious animosities. Religion, or to be more precise, one religious creed — Islam — is being used to name the reason for the militarization of public security and border control. And in a world of fractured communities, inter-personal conflicts, culture wars, and crises of meaning, religion is treated as everything from part of the problem to the source of our salvation.

Different people across the world — religious, spiritual, agnostic, secular, atheist, and otherwise — find themselves vacillating between hope and despair.

In this context, Religion in a Secular Age? (opens in a new window)seeks to answer a series of pressing questions. What does it mean for the place of religion? Can the revival of religion be a positive and constructive force in relation to overcoming the morbid symptoms of late modernity?

To these questions, the different writers of this volume have very different answers, even as they struggle in common with a world in crisis.

Asian Migration and Education Cultures in the Anglosphere

Edited by Megan Watkins, Christina Ho, Rose Butler

Asian migration and mobilities are transforming education cultures in the Anglosphere, prompting mounting debates about ‘tiger mothers’ and ‘dragon children’, and competition and segregation in Anglosphere schools. This book (opens in a new window)challenges the cultural essentialism which prevails in much academic and popular discussion of ‘Asian success’ and in relation to Asian education mobilities.

As anxiety and aspiration within these spaces are increasingly ethnicised, the children of Asian migrants are both admired and resented for their educational success. This book explores popular perceptions of Asian migrant families through in-depth empirically informed accounts on the broader economic, social, historical and geo-political contexts within which education cultures are produced. This includes contributions from academics on global markets and national policies around migration and education, classed trajectories and articulations, local formations of ‘ethnic capital’, and transnational assemblages that produce education and mobility as means for social advancement.

At a time when our schooling systems and communities are undergoing rapid transformations as a result of increasing global mobility, this book is a unique and important contribution to an issue of pressing significance.

This book was originally published as a special issue of the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

Chinatown Unbound: Trans-Asian Urbanism in the Age of China

By Kay Anderson, Ien Ang, Andrea Del Bono, Donald McNeill and Alexandra Wong

‘Chinatowns’ are familiar places in almost all major cities in the world. In popular Western wisdom, the restaurants, pagodas, and red lanterns are intrinsically equated with a self-contained, immigrant Chinese district, an alien enclave of ‘the East’ in ‘the West’. By the 1980s, when these Western societies had largely given up their racially discriminatory immigration policies and opened up to Asian immigration, the dominant conception of Chinatown was no longer that of an abject ethnic ghetto: rather, Chinatown was now seen as a positive expression of multicultural heritage and difference.

By the early 21st century, however, these spatial and cultural constructions of Chinatown as an ‘other’ space – whether negative or positive – have been thoroughly destabilised by the impacts of accelerating globalisation and transnational migration. This book (opens in a new window)provides a timely and much-needed paradigm shift in this regard, through an in-depth case study of Sydney’s Chinatown. It speaks to the growing multilateral connections that link Australia and Asia (and especially China) together; not just economically, but also socially and culturally, as a consequence of increasing transnational flows of people, money, ideas and things. Further, the book elicits a particular sense of a place in Sydney’s Chinatown: that of an inter-connected world in which Western and Asian realms inhabit each other, and in which the orientalist legacy is being reconfigured in new deployments and more complex delimitations. As such, Chinatown Unbound engages with, and contributes to making sense of, the epochal shift in the global balance of power towards Asia, especially China.

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Book Giveaway

To mark 20 years since Princess Diana's death, ICS is giving away limited copies of Planet Diana: Cultural Studies and Global Mourning, edited by ICS researcher Prof. Ien Ang with contributions from ICS Adjunct Zoe Sofoulis. Email our office(opens in a new window) for a free copy of the book.


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Read the latest papers in tOPICS.