The University of Sydney’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences continues to be the standard bearer for everything that is desperately wrong with modern academia. In October, the university’s Environment Institute hosted a two-day symposium entitled ‘Unsettling Ecological Poetics.’ For the uninitiated, ecological poetics, also known as ecopoetics, is a relatively new genre of profoundly pessimistic poetry which laments the supposedly irreversible damage that human beings have wreaked upon our planet. Much of the poetry also has a generous dose of feminism, racism, colonialism and LGBTQ+ issues thrown in for good measure. Uplifting it is not.
The subject matter discussed during this convention would have left anyone in the room who was not currently employed in the humanities wondering if they were witnessing the collapse of Western Civilisation. Day one began with a presentation called Ecopotency: Writing blak to power and influence in Australian ecopoetics, which was concluded by ‘an embodied performance of new poems and an exploration of ecopoetic spaces from the perspective of a young Munanjali queer.’ Following lunch, the audience enjoyed an afternoon of group self-flagellation while they listened to poems designed to ‘disrupt the national amnesia of the settler mythscape through dismantling the modern mythology of Australia as a settled space.’ They were also asked to ponder ‘much if not most of the built-up and over-built landscape that is the crime scene of post-Invasion Australia.’ In another presentation Naming without Claiming? Compositing Feminisms in the Environmental Humanities, the audience was told that ‘from the nature/culture binary to the notion of situation knowledges, feminist conceptual labours are arguably foundational to contemporary environmental humanities scholarship.’
Things got a bit more interesting on day two. In Vagrant Desires and the Homely Queer; Intimacy, ecopoetics, and the local, the presenter quoted from Timothy Morton’s Queer Ecology. This may well be a work unfamiliar to readers of this periodical, but the main thesis is that nature insists on being too heterosexual. With a knowledge of tree hugging that can only be attributed to empiricism, Morton asserts that ‘Tree hugging is a form of eroticism, not a chaste Natural unperformance. To contemplate ecology’s unfathomable intimacies is to imagine pleasures that are not heteronormative, not genital, not geared to ideologies about where the body starts. Perhaps this is why mysticism contain reserves of unthought zones of materiality.’ Perhaps.
This excerpt, and indeed the entire contents of the symposium, are as unfathomable as the ‘intimacies’ that preoccupy Timothy Morton. The ‘Unsettling Ecological Poetics’ symposium is not merely unsettling; it is baffling, confounding and discombobulating. It is Sir Roger Scruton’s Parisian nonsense machine cranked up to eleven, churning out volumes of indecipherable post-modernist gibberish masquerading as scholarship. None of it means anything at all. How anyone can devote their life to this madness and remain sane in the process is a mystery.
That the University of Sydney’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences hosted this symposium is not surprising. The current dean lists her research interests as ‘feminist studies, lesbian/gay studies and queer theory’, while her most recent monograph entitled Orgasmology, ‘takes orgasm as its scholarly object in order to think queerly about questions of politics and pleasure; practice and subjectivity; agency and ethics.’ Furthermore, the faculty is home to ‘FutureFix’, a program devised by academics in a futile attempt to show tax-paying Australians that their money is being put to good use and which includes such projects as ‘Resurgent Racism’ and ‘Multispecies Justice.’
Sydney’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences merely exemplifies the depths to which the humanities departments across the nation have sunk. Whether it be History, English, Anthropology or Social Sciences, everything is now geared towards the intellectual equivalent of a totalitarian state governed by one orthodoxy; identity politics. This has been exposed in the Institute of Public Affairs’ latest report The Humanities in Crisis. An Audit of Taxpayer-funded ARC Grants which looks at the sorts of humanities projects which have been funded since 2002.
According to the Australian Research Council, its purpose is ‘to grow knowledge and innovation for the benefit of the Australian community’ and that ‘the outcomes of ARC-funded research deliver cultural, economic, social and environmental benefits to all Australians.’ One would hope therefore, that the research undertaken in the last seventeen years would benefit society at large and would make a positive and indelible impact on Australia, improve citizens lives and ensure its continued success as a prosperous, peaceful and stable nation. There is an enormous disconnect between the stated aims of the ARC and the quality of the proposals which have been funded by taxpayers for nearly two decades.
Since 2002, the ARC has distributed a total of $1.34 billion in funding to humanities projects which are narrow in scope, often incomprehensible and which reflect the current obsession with identity politics, cultural studies, critical theory and radical feminism. Examples are as numerous as they are terrible. Academics at the University of Sydney pocketed $735K for a cultural studies research project called ‘Reconceiving the queer public sphere; an interdisciplinary analysis of same-sex couple domesticity,’ by ‘critically analysing queer home life to transform current understandings of the relation between homosexuality, private life and the public sphere.’ At Melbourne University the ARC awarded $100K to a cultural studies project examining ‘Female stardom and gay subcultural reception’ while James Cook University was given $2.7 million to look at ‘How gender shapes the world; a linguistic perspective’, which would ‘enhance our nation’s capacity to interpret and manage gender roles in multicultural contexts.’
There is no doubt the humanities are in a state of crisis because academics have rejected the cornerstones of Western Civilisation. In doing so, they have cut both themselves and their students off from truth, reason and knowledge. They have taken control of, and are despoiling the very culture they are occupying.