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Monday, 21st April 2014

Network Review of Books

  • Quarterly Essay: Whitefella Jump Up

    imageGermaine Greer, Melbourne: Black Inc, 2003, 120 Pages, Paperback, $12.95: Reviewed by Mitchell Rolls in the November 2003 issue.

    Greer writes her essay, so she tell us, not as a scholar, academic, or someone with specialist knowledge seeking career advancement, but as 'an elderly Australian laywoman' (pp 1-2) seeking to joggle discourse she finds wearisome on to new paths. This disingenuous aw-shucks modesty is significant for two reasons. Firstly, the essay reads as if it is indeed written by a layperson. Secondly, if Greer was not all those things she disavows for this essay it is difficult to imagine who if anyone would have published it. For the most part, the essay is nonsense. Where it does raise challenging and contentious current issues Greer does not appear to realise how provocative she is being. The ... read more.
  • Designs on a Landscape: A History of Planning in North Sydney

    imageMargaret Park, North Sydney: Halstead Press, 2003, 240 Pages, Hardcover, : Reviewed by Melissa Bellanta in the February 2005 issue.

    'Successful local history', it has been said, 'demands breadth of vision combined with a well honed appreciation of the significance of small things'. The struggle to bring a locality into intricate and intensely detailed life, and at the same time to maintain a sense of its broader context, is indeed the key challenge for local historians. Successful planning history is arguably even more demanding. How to forge a coherent narrative out of the mass of competing and overlapping governmental bodies and instruments; the array of LEPs, SEPs, RAGs and other bewildering acronyms; the interweaving of political, socio-economic and environmental factors involved in the planning process? More ... read more.
  • Lords of the Saltbush Plains: Fontier Squatters and the Pastoral Independence Movement 1865-1866

    imageLeighton Frappell, Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publications, 2003, 226 Pages, Paperback, $39.95: Reviewed by Robert Hogg in the August 2004 issue.

    In Lords of the Saltbush Plains, Leighton Frappell tells the story of a mid-nineteenth century rural independence movement, the purpose of which was to establish a colony in the western half of New South Wales, from the Murray River in the south to the Queensland border in the north. The colony was to be known as 'Riverina'. Observing the success of separation movements which were successful in establishing the colonies of Victoria (1850) and Queensland (1859), an unsteady coalition of squatters, townspeople and newspaper proprietors sought to establish a colony in which the squatter would reign supreme, thereby averting the perceived dangers of 'democracy' -- in particular land laws ... read more.
  • Islam in Australia

    imageAbdullah Saeed, Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin, 2003, 230 Pages, Paperback, $19.95: Reviewed by Victoria Mason in the November 2003 issue.

    Abdullah Saeed's Islam in Australia is a concise and excellently written book for general readership that - particularly in the wake of September 11, the asylum seeker debate and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - is timely and very necessary. Saeed should be commended for the way in which he has prepared this book. It is frankly written and seeks to inform, rather than attempting to lionise the subjects of his book, and as a result he succeeds in bridging many of the gaps of understanding concerning Islam within the Australian context. As Saeed himself acknowledges in his introduction, writing a book that contextualises Islam in Australia is particularly problematic, given the ... read more.
  • Venus in Transit: Australia's Women Travellers 1788-1930

    imageDouglas R G Sellick ed, Fremantle: FACP, 2003, 364 Pages, Paperback, $24.95: Reviewed by Kathryn Ferguson in the June 2003 issue.

    On 25/26 August 1768 Captain James Cook set off from Plymouth in His Majesty's Barque Endeavour to observe and record Venus in transit on 3 June 1769. A combined project of the British Admiralty and the 'Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge', Cook's expedition spent three months around King George's Island (Tahiti) awaiting and documenting the movement of Venus across the face of the sun. That task completed, they then sailed south in search of the fabled Terra Australis Incognita. On this second half of the mission, Cook would chart New Zealand and the east coast of Australia, and claim both for England and King George III. Douglas Sellick's Venus in Transit adds an ... read more.
  • Whitewash: On Keith Windschuttle's Fabrication of Aboriginal History

    imageRobert Manne ed, Melbourne: Black Inc, 2003, 386 Pages, Paperback, $29.95: Reviewed by Tony Smith in the June 2004 issue.

    David Hansen, Senior Curator of Art at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, notes that in an 'evidentiary environment' of relativism and a 'scruffy dystopia' of sources, Keith Windschuttle's 'call for close attention to primary sources is welcome and timely'. This is, however, one of the few positive comments in these pages about Windschuttle's work. Hansen concludes that Windschuttle's challenge 'is seriously compromised by his blatant ideological bias, by his journalistic selective emphasis and by his own failure to deal with empirical data'. The Fabrication of Aboriginal History: Volume One Van Diemen's Land 1803-1847 was originally self-published in late 2002. Its stated aims were to ... read more.
  • Undemocratic Schooling: Equity and Quality in Mass Secondary Education in Australia

    imageRichard Teese and John Polesel, Carlton: Melbourne University Press, 2003, 260 Pages, Paperback, $39.95: Reviewed by Julie Ustinoff in the October 2003 issue.

    It goes without saying that the schooling received by an individual is one of the most important and influential determinants of that person's long-term personal, professional, social, and economic success. In this regard, the duration and type of secondary schooling that Australian students receive is of extreme importance. However, as Teese and Polesel point out in their book, Undemocratic Schooling, the influence of secondary education spreads much further a field than the boundaries of the individual; it reaches deep into the economic and social fabric of the nation. As they argue, the curriculum that lies at the core of mass secondary education operates as an economic system, which ... read more.
  • Landscapes of the Soul: The Loss of Moral Meaning in American Life

    imageDouglas V Porpora, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, 368 Pages, Paperback, US$24.95: Reviewed by Susan Tridgell in the issue.

    America's influence on the world seems often to be both ubiquitous and negative: whether it be environmental degradation, economic exploitation or the undermining of the Geneva Convention, America plays a prominent role. Often (especially post September 11) America's failings are sheeted home to the influence of religious fundamentalists. It's interesting, then, to come across a book which sees the lack of religious feeling in ordinary Americans (rather than the excess) as underlying its culture of individualism and disregard for social and environmental concerns. Douglas Porpora's book, which is engagingly written and accessible to the general reader, explores in depth the question of ... read more.
  • Neem Dreams

    imageInez Baranay, New Delhi: Rupa & Co, 2003, 278 Pages, Paperback, $22.95: Reviewed by Ch A Rajendra Prasad in the June 2005 issue.

    Inez Baranay's Neem Dreams narrates the story of four individuals -- Pandora, Andy, Jade, and Meenakshi -- whose personal traits and experiences reflect global ailments and strengths -- such as greed and hatred, activism and frustration, compassion and sacrifice. Baranay's characters, portrayed with uncompromising frankness, strive to find meaning and purpose for their lives in the shade of the neem tree which, in the novel, symbolises the innate strength of the 'Orient' -- India. Pandora is an Australian 'feminist scientist' who comes to India inspired by her discovery of an upcoming grassroots neem project in India and its motto of 'honoring tradition'. Jade is a New York business woman ... read more.
  • Who Owns Native Culture?

    imageMichael F Brown, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003, 316 Pages, Hardcover, US$29.95: Reviewed by Michele Grossman in the December 2004 issue.

    In this lucid, well-researched, unsettling excursion into the realm of Indigenous cultures, intellectual property, and the nexus of Indigenous and non-Indigenous proprietary interests and rights, anthropologist Michael Brown pursues a self-avowed 'centrist' line of inquiry as he attempts to balance the historical and cultural interests of specific Indigenous communities and cultural groups with 'the requirements of liberal democracy', particularly those of settler societies. (p 9) The book's major strength lies in its effort not to answer the question posed by Brown's title, but to re-orient the way in which we think about the implications and consequences of Indigenous cultures, proprietary ... read more.
  • Media Matrix: Sexing the New Reality

    imageBarbara Creed, Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin, 2003, 216 Pages, Paperback, $35.00: Reviewed by Dean Durber in the February 2004 issue.

    If there is any reality in reality TV, it is to be found in the way in which these staged representations of life continue to normalise sex and sexuality as innate to our beings. In these constructed worlds of the real, bodies are deployed as heterosexual and/or homosexual, and so reproduce the naturalised binary. In what Creed describes as a narcissistic form of scopophilia (38), where Big Brother offers us a public peep show at an idealised self, the sex, the sleaze, and the uncensored are scripted and edited in accordance with culturally established understandings of what it means to be sexual. While certainly there continue to be changes in our culture that are effected through and ... read more.
  • Piercing the Ground

    imageChristine Watson, Fremantle: FACP, 2003, 400 Pages, Paperback, $39.95: Reviewed by Elizabeth Coleman in the February 2004 issue.

    In Piercing the Ground, Christine Watson suggests that Kutjungka contemporary paintings demand a different form of appreciation from a Western audience: they ask us to 'put aside our distanced, primarily aesthetic and conceptual approach to artworks, and to respond more immediately and viscerally to the communication they are making not only visually, but sonically and through the sense of touch' (p 69). I wouldn't recommend this book for its theory of cross-cultural aesthetics. However, I would recommend it highly for the ethnographic and historical data Watson presents, and its portrayal of the links between humans, country and art in the Kutjungka conceptual framework. The Kutjungka ... read more.