Identity Anecdotes: Translation and Media Culture


Meaghan Morris

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    In memory of




    My first debt is to Chris Rojek, who talked me into planning this book and then waited very patiently for me to finish it. This is what people lightly call ‘a book of essays’, as though you put together some texts already published, and bingo – instant book. That is unfortunately not my way, and the work of revising the essays into chapters and then discovering what makes them cohere took much longer than I intended. During the worst phase of this task, Mila Steele, my editor at Sage, has been a pleasure to work with and a constant source of support.

    This is perhaps the most sociable book I have written, in the sense that its materials mostly began as talks, lectures, articles or prefaces invited or, in a few cases, extracted from me by someone else. For their inspiration and the frameworks for thought they provided, I thank Phillip Adams, Ien Ang, Janet Bergstrom, Kuan-Hsing Chen, Denise Corrigan, the late Helen Daniel, Mike Featherstone, Paul Foss, John Hartley, Laleen Jayamanne, Jane Jacobs, Jenna Mead, Patricia Mellencamp, Tom O'Regan, Geraldine Pratt, Naoki Sakai, David Watson, Paul Willemen (who once told me to write a book about ‘„television culture” in the broadest sense of the term’) and Kathleen Woodward. For help, advice and generous discussion at crucial times, I thank Tony Bennett, Margriet Bonnin, Fred Chiu, Helen Grace, Lawrence Grossberg, Trevor Johnston, Adrian Martin, Tracey Moffatt and Patrice Petro.

    I owe a special intellectual debt to Kuan-Hsing Chen. Without his brilliance, drive and determination to see a new kind of cultural politics emerge across national borders in Asia, I would never have written this book. Kuan-Hsing also introduced me to Naoki Sakai, whose work on translation shapes my argument. There is no space to name all the other friends from the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies and Traces collectives whom I have met through these two people, in the process changing my life as well as my work. For conversations and shared experiences of labour decisive for a book about translation, however, I must thank Brett de Bary, Melani Budianta (who gave me the confidence to publish Chapter 11), Shun-hing Chan, Hae-joang Cho, Beng-huat Chua, Chris Connery, Naifei Ding, Jianping Gao, Yukiko Hanawa, Po-keung Hui, Myung-koo Kang, Nae-hui Kang, Soyoung Kim, Kiyoshi Kojima, Victor Koschmann, Tom Lamarre, Kin-chi Lau, Jeannie Martin, Tejaswini Niranjana, Tessa Morris-Suzuki, Ashish Rajadhyaksha, S.V. Srinivas, Shunya Yoshimi and Rob Wilson.

    Over the years of the book's composition I had the privilege of fellowships providing precious writing time from the Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University, Canberra (1986 and 1998); the Literature Board of the Australia Council (1991–93); the Society for the Humanities, Cornell University (1993) and the Australian Research Council (1994–99). More recently, during the months of editing and writing the framework of the book, I have benefited immeasurably from the supportiveness of my colleagues in the Department of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University, who tolerated my lapses with kindness and grace – while teaching me a lot about translation and much else besides. I am deeply grateful, too, for the technical assistance of Joseph Man-kit Cho, Selina Tak-man Lo and Josephine Wai-shuen Tsui.

    My earliest introduction to the critique of ‘identity’ and to political ways of thinking about the social force of aesthetics came from friends involved in the Gay Liberation Movement in Sydney in the 1970s, some of whom are thanked above. However, many other creative activists have died in the HIV-AIDS epidemic and I want to acknowledge their intellectual legacy; it should not be forgotten that their ideas and their flair for translating them changed the world. In one way or another, I am indebted here to Terence Bell, Barry Prothero, Dave Sargent and Paul Taylor.

    As I was finalizing the manuscript, I learned of the death of my mentor, guide and friend of almost twenty-five years’ standing: Donald Horne. A brilliant thinker, an accomplished author and a scholar-journalist who became an academic relatively late in a long, productive life, Donald had no problem combining sociology, political science and aesthetics in his version of ‘cultural studies’; he believed you could translate any idea to anybody, if you really wanted to do it. Donald did not enjoy the theoretical essays in the middle section of this book, but he understood very well what they meant. This book is dedicated in gratitude to his memory.

    * * * * *

    An earlier version of Chapter 1 appeared as ‘Afterthoughts on Australianism’ in Cultural Studies 6:3 (1992): 468–475; reproduced with permission of Taylor and Francis (

    Chapter 2, ‘Panorama: the Live, the Dead and the Living’ appeared in Paul Foss, ed., Island in the Stream: Myths of Place in Australian Culture (Sydney: Pluto, 1988), pp. 160–187, and is reprinted in Graeme Turner, ed., Nation, Culture, Text: Australian Cultural and Media Studies (London and New York: Routledge, 1993), pp. 19–58.

    Part of Chapter 3 featured in my 1991 Mari Kuttna Lecture on Film, Power Institute of Fine Arts, Sydney University. This version of the text first appeared as ‘White Panic, or Mad Max and the Sublime’, in Kuan-Hsing Chen, ed., Trajectories: Inter-Asia Cultural Studies (London and New York: Routledge, 1998), pp. 239–262; reproduced with permission of Taylor and Francis (

    Chapter 4, ‘Beyond Assimilation: Aboriginality, Media History and Public Memory’ was delivered as a BHP Petroleum Americas Distinguished Lecture for the Australian & New Zealand Studies Project of the School of Hawai'ian, Asian & Pacific Studies, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, October 1993. An earlier version of the text appeared in Aedon 4:1 (1996): 12–26.

    An earlier version of Chapter 5, ‘The Man in the Mirror: David Harvey's “Condition” of Postmodernity’, appeared in Theory, Culture & Society 9:1 (February 1992): 253–279. Reprinted by permission of Sage Publications Ltd (© Theory, Culture and Society Ltd, 1992)

    Chapter 6 appeared as the Introduction to Paul Willemen, Looks and Frictions (London and Bloomington: British Film Institute and Indiana University Press, 1994), pp. 1–23. Reproduced by kind courtesy of Paul Willemen and BFI Publishing.

    Chapter 7 appeared as the Foreword to Naoki Sakai, Translation and Subjectivity (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, September 1997), pp. ix-xxii.

    An earlier version of Chapter 8 was published as ‘Crazy Talk is not Enough’ in Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 14:4 (1996): 384–394. Reproduced with permission of Pion Limited, London.

    Chapter 9 first appeared in Phillip Adams, ed., The Retreat from Tolerance: A Snapshot of Australian Society (Sydney: ABC Books, 1997), pp. 145–161.

    Earlier versions of Chapter 10 appeared as ‘„The truth is out there … ”’ in Australian Book Review 181 (June 1996), 17–20; and Cultural Studies 11:3 (1997), 367–375.

    An earlier version of Chapter 11 was published as ‘„Please Explain?”: Ignorance, Poverty and the Past’ in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 1:2 (2000): 219–232; reproduced with permission of Taylor and Francis (

    Chapter 12 first appeared in the TV Times exhibition catalogue published by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (1992) and is reprinted in Heather Kerr and Amanda Nettelbeck, eds, The Space Between: Australian Women Writing Fictocriticism (Perth: University of Western Australia Press, 1998), pp. 115–119.

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