2018 Australian Fulbright Alumni Association (AFAA) Salon
Finding a voice in a post-truth world: valuing a critical perspective
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We live at a time when declining trust in institutions of governance coincides with an increasingly rapid and constant communication. This dynamic has facilitated the spread of false claims and prejudice. Expertise is discredited in public debate as popular wisdom usurps reasoned evidence-based argument.
With their focus on the human condition and the fostering of creativity, humanities and social science disciplines are arguably more important than ever. Yet they struggle to retain their place of significance in the face of ever-increasing assaults on their integrity. Genuinely critical scholarship is snubbed while prominent public figures proclaim that ‘truth isn’t truth’ or they promote intervention via philanthropy in the curriculum of public universities.
This panel explored the meaning of these truth-challenged times and the value of the humanities in understanding the adaptation to change, in preserving the cultures and communities we cherish, and where necessary, in revealing and resisting the more damaging and divisive effects of new cultural forces on democracy.
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About the speakers:
Diane Kirkby is Professor of Law and Humanities, University of Technology Sydney and Research Professor (Emeritus) at La Trobe University, Melbourne where she taught US and Australian history for many years. She has published extensively and is an elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, and in 2015 became only the second Australian to be elected a Fellow of the American Society for Legal History. She is a Fulbright Alumnus and has served several terms on the Victorian Fulbright Selection Committee. Research on the Fulbright program in Australia was funded by an Australian Research Council grant and resulted in a book, Academic Ambassadors, Pacific Allies: Australia America and the Fulbright Program, being published by Manchester University Press later this year.
Dennis Altman is one of Australia’s leading public intellectuals, formerly Professor of Politics and now a Professorial Fellow at La Trobe University, Doctor of Letters [honoris causa] Macquarie Unviersity, Ambassador Human Rights Law Centre, and Patron, Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives [ALGA] and Gay and Lesbian Foundation of Australia [GALFA] He has written fourteen books, including Gore Vidal’s America, and most recently The End of the Homosexual? and, with Jon Symons: Queer Wars. In 2006 he was listed by The Bulletin as one of the 100 most influential Australians ever, and was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 2008. In 2013 he was awarded the Simon and Gagnon Award for career contributions to the field of sociology of sexualities by the American Sociological Association’s Section on Sexualities.
Phillipa McGuinness is an acclaimed non-fiction publisher at the leading NewSouth Publishing/UNSW Press, where she has published books of history, politics, current affairs, biography and memoir, many of them prize-winners. She herself is the author of The Year E
verything Changed - 2001, published by Penguin Random House in 2018, and shortlisted in the non-fiction category of the 2018 Queensland Literary Awards. She was also editor of the book Copyfight (2015), which grappled with the pressures on creative content of all kinds in the digital world. One of her personal publishing highlights is the series of books she commissioned on Australian cities, where novelists including Delia Falconer, Sophie Cunningham, Kerryn Goldsworthy and Matthew Condon wrote about their hometowns. She was previously Senior Commissioning Editor at Cambridge University Press and has served on the Humanities and Creative Arts Panel of the Australian Research Council and on the board of arts journal RealTime. Phillipa has been published in The Guardian, Meanjin, The Sydney Morning Herald and elsewhere. She lives in Sydney.
Michael Kleine is a Senior Foreign Service Officer with nearly twenty years of experience in the U.S. Department of State. Prior to his August 2018 arrival in Melbourne, Michael served three years as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane, Laos. He worked previously in South Korea, where he led Embassy efforts to ratify the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement; Kosovo, where he supported the establishment of democratic institutions in post-war Kosovo; and Vietnam, where he was among the first to work in the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City. From 2013 to 2014, he served as the U.S. Trade Representative’s Senior Advisor for Japan and Korea Trade Policy. Before joining the diplomatic corps, Michael practiced law in Washington, D.C. He earned both his undergraduate and law degrees at Duke University. He also has a master’s degree in national security strategy from the National War College in Washington. Michael is accompanied in Melbourne by his wife, Hiroko, and two children.