Media and Cultural Studies in transition: an interview with Graeme Turner

29 April 2020

Emeritus Professor Graeme Turner’s new book, Essays in Media and Cultural Studies: In Transition was published in mid-December last year. The book brings together and retrospectively reviews a selection of essays and book chapters published over the past ten years.

We’ve had to postpone Graeme’s public lecture, where the book was to be launched, due to coronavirus restrictions. In the meantime, Associate Professor Adrian Athique has sat down with Graeme over Zoom in an interview that ranges over the purpose of the book, the state of the media, changes in the nature and role of universities and their relationship to the state, and the place of media studies and cultural studies within all of this.

You can listen to a podcast of the interview on our Soundcloud channel.

Book coverTitle: Essays in Media and Cultural Studies: In Transition
Author: Graeme Turner
Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (December 9, 2019)
Paperback: 180 pages
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0367338963
ISBN-13: 978-0367338961



AA: So today I’m talking to Professor Graeme Turner in regards to his new book of essays in media and cultural studies in transition, which is a fantastic collection of pieces that draws from Graeme’s work over the past decade. And I wondered if you could start, Graeme, by looking back at that period and looking at the book itself and the rationale and telling us why you did this project now and what you think we should be looking at going forward.

GT: Well, it is a period of great transition for media studies. It starts out when we’re still in the heyday of the digital optimist and people predicting what was going to happen out of social media in particular but, you know, predicting what would happen out of the digital era. And so I wrote a whole bunch of pieces out of that period that came out in chapters in books edited by other people or in journals and in many ways they were responding to the context at the time so there is a kind of narrative of developing arguments and developing critique. But it is what I would call a B-sides collection, it’s a collection of stuff that didn’t come out as an A-side aimed at the hit parade and so. It just seemed a good idea to pull them together because there was a sense of coherence there. And so I planned it with a piece at the beginning and a piece at the end. The piece at the beginning is trying to set up a narrative of the context from which these pieces came. And the piece at the end is saying “well what do we do now?” And I think, in particular, it tries to argue that there’s a particular challenge for a very critical model of media studies that I’m suggesting has tended to be downplayed in recent years mainly because we’ve spent so much time trying to play catch up with the changes and developments in the industry and trying to understand what’s happening. The time for criticism was limited and I think that’s one of the reasons we’re looking at the kind of social media landscape we’ve got and the broadcast media landscape that we’ve got at the moment.

AA: So you see the digital as being part of, or the catalyst, for some of the transitions that we are talking about?

GT: Yeah, I do. I mean, obviously, technologically, it’s been a major shift but also I think that it created a kind of problem for media studies in that it was such a major shift. The focus was on that and a less of a focus on history. You know there were lots of things that didn’t change, and lots of things that were the same and there were lots of lessons from media history that we might have remembered but I think people got a little excited and I think they forgot, you know, what the politics of the media industries needs to be and how we think about the way a media operates with power. I remember when I started talking about the demotic turn, there’s some pieces in there that come from that period, and arguing, and posing that against the democtratisation thesis, there were plenty of people who argued with me and said, “well, what’s the difference?” And I just thought that was politically illiterate to ask that question and surprising. To me, it indicated that something had disappeared out of media studies that had needed to come back.

AA: A number of the essays here express an urgent need to reengage with the concept of media, power, and the public interest. But how would you characterise that debate now, especially at the moment when public interest seems to have suddenly triumphed?

GT: Look, I must admit I’m a little sceptical about that triumph. I mean I think in moments of crisis people do, they go back to state-funded media because they can trust it and because it tends to be available in ways that commercial media is not. And it doesn’t get bored and move on as the ratings change and so it’s understandable and good that people are turning to, in our case in Australia, to the ABC for information not just about coronavirus but we saw it as well with the bushfires. One of the pieces in the book actually talks about the way in which that happened around the floods in Brisbane in 2011, where suddenly, I argue, television remembered what it’s for. And so I think there are moments when the public interest imperative is recognised and so on, but it doesn’t seem to have had much effect on policy. It would be hard, for instance, to see governments change—of either colour—changing their mind about whether they should fund the ABC better or whether there should be subventions for public interest journalism. There are plenty of examples of that around the world so I’m not lacking completely in any hope but I do think that the moments of crisis tell you what the potentials are, might be, but they don’t necessarily generate a commitment to the public interest from political parties.

AA: That was a thought also that I had because you turn your attention in one section of the book to the enduring role of the state, and the nation state in particular, in defining and guaranteeing public interest functions of media, or the public good. Is that an ideal notion of the state compared to what actual governments have been doing in regards to the media?

GT: It’s a fair question because you know because what actually happens is a long way from that ideal, I guess. But my argument about the nation, and importance of the nation, and this goes back 40 or 50 years now, has always been a pragmatic one as well as a nationalist one, I suppose, in that the framework within which those subventions have to be made are within the policy structures of the state. Now that’s where that’s going to change. And so the arguments that we’re now all globalised and that doesn’t matter, I never bought that and I still don’t buy that and that argument looks pretty threadbare at the moment too. So, the argument is really saying that the action that needs to be taken is, in the first instance, at the local or regional level, but probably most importantly at the level of the state. And that’s where the nation becomes crucial. And it is possible also, I suppose, to argue for cultural policy interventions on the basis of what we call “nationing” in another book that David Rowe, Emma Waterton, and I edited, where the process of using policy as an explicit mechanism for the construction of the culture. That’s something that has ebbed and flowed over the last 30, 40 years in Australia but it does seem to me that it does have positive potential and there are plenty of places you can look at around the world where that’s been applied to the media. You know France has been doing public subventions for quality journalism since the 70s and it’s produced a nation that actually does read newspapers for information. So, it’s always difficult, you know. Political support for the idea of the nation, within our fields of study, is not strong because the regressive potential of the nation and of nationalist policies is enormous. We’re looking at that happening in the US right now. The white nationalism there is skewing politics in a very dangerous direction in all kinds of ways. So, I’ve never been naïve about that potential but it does seem to me that the nation still remains a kind of crucial ground for action and criticism if you want to actually change the way things are.

AA: I think given the gathering momentum of post-globalisation politics, there is at least a danger that a resurgence of the nation state could drive us into an aggressive cultural politics.

GT: Yeah, I think that’s true. Again, the US is an example of that. I suppose to some extent we can kind of catastrophise Trump and see him as a symptom of something much longer lasting and it may turn out that that’s not the case. But it’s certainly clear that whatever world order had been in place, amongst Western nations anyway, is now seriously threatened by Trump.

AA: But I think that in Media Studies over many, many years we’ve seen a kind of ebb and flow between the criticism of power and the state criticism of media power and the market, the market supplanting the state for many years as the kind of monolithic locus of power. But media and communications academics, many of them of course have endorsed the power to the people principle over that time and I think, referring back to your work on the demotic, I think we’re also facing a period in which, if you like, the grass roots has become a kind of wellspring of this kind of politics as well. How do we then steer ourselves in media studies beyond a kind of utopian principle of the grass roots?

GT: I don’t know, to be honest. I think it’s actually quite difficult. Well there’s a whole range of difficulties. One is that the status of media studies as a mode of critique and so on varies tremendously around the world. In Australia, we’re relatively well placed and in the UK they’re not. In places like Mexico, for instance, anthropology does what media studies does and so the kind of contextual location of these disciplines varies significantly. But I think it’s been very hard for media studies to work at the grass roots in terms of political action around newspapers or public interest journalism and so on without being able to get access to government cultural policy ministries. And where that’s been possible, I think we have seen some change. And again, you know, in France, that is what happened there in the 70s. And you can see it happening, to some extent actually, in New Zealand but you can also see it almost in some of the Scandinavian countries. And so one of the problems, I think, is the sense that I’ve had to contest in a way that dealing with government or dealing with policy institutions is in some way a kind of cop out. That actually, that’s not where politics really is. In this case, I don’t think politics is confined to one location but if you really do want to make change you do have to get into some of those doors and argue for explicit shifts in the policy formations that are creating the conditions in which the media operate. We haven’t had a great deal of success in that in recent years. I think we did have previously but I don’t think we have had much success in that way. And really, conservative governments are never interested in policy. Progressive governments are. And so it’s very difficult to make a policy argument, I think, when you look at the kind of work that Peter Greste is doing and the Alliance for Journalistic Freedom. But they’re a terrifically interesting group of people and they’ve got support from right across the media but they’re really not getting much traction with government because all the government has to do is wait and eventually they’ll shut up.

AA: Another trope in the book draws on your work on celebrity, which in many ways was prescient of the media era that we’ve been living through, and many of those arguments are still very cogent, even prior to the expansion of influencer culture and micro celebrities of all kinds and it’s striking, actually, in the last month how much the celebrity seems to have disappeared from the airways and you realise just how much bandwidth they were occupying. What are the lessons, do you think, to be taken from that when you think about the future of television and the press?

GT: Well, again, you wonder what’s going to happen afterward, you know. You think that celebrities, well everybody’s starting to realise that they’re not that important, and maybe we need to be listening to the Chief Medical Officer instead of Kim Kardashian. But, I think, it’s never been about how really important they are it’s partly that they’re, it’s partly their incredible availability that makes them so attractive. And the fact that they are so widely disseminated and so easily accessible is part of their appeal, I think. At the moment, no one really cares less about what celebrities have to say on almost anything. There’s this wonderful interview with one of the football managers in the UK when he was being asked what he thought about the coronavirus. He said, “why would you ask me? I’m a football manager! Ask somebody who actually knows something about this issue. Ask an expert, don’t ask, just because I’m famous doesn’t mean I know any of this stuff.” So, you know, that’s a great lesson to keep presenting but I don’t think. Well, put it this way: as long as celebrity remains a really crucial part of the market, particularly for mass media but also for social media, they’ll be out there. I think we’re stuck with them for quite a while. But, it may well be that people will be a little more circumspect about attributing influencing and importance to them over the next little while.

I’m always really ambivalent. I got into working on celebrity because I was interested in the production of celebrity. I’m not at all interested in celebrities themselves. At all. What I was interested in was the way celebrity was kind of reconfiguring media markets and initially I was looking at what happened in magazines and then on television. So, I was interested in how they affected production. And so I’ve found myself in this position now where I do still write occasionally on celebrity. I don’t do much anymore. I have an interest in it. My interest in it is not like my interest in television, which is I’m as much a fan of television and a consumer of television as anybody but I’m not a consumer of celebrity and most of what I see in celebrity brings out, you know, the kind of Frankfurt School response in me and I think “my God, how much time we’re wasting on this.” So, maybe to some extent I’m masquerading as somebody who works in celebrity studies but I’m very critical of what that’s done to the media and to the range of product we have available to consume.

AA: Thinking back to the football manager example and the question of experts which, of course, had varying fortunes over the past decade, how well do you think universities are positioned under their current mandates to lead dialogues about truth and trust emerging around the media which have social and cultural resonance as opposed to the more narrow sort of vocational outlook that’s being prescribed in the education policy?

GT: I think that they’ve been thrown a bit of a lifeline lately, actually, because the expertise around the virus is so urgent and there is so little known outside. Really the media and government have had no recourse but to go to people who have got scientific expertise. So, I think that’s rescued the university sector to some extent, from really the reconfiguration of what they think of them, as what they do from being an educational institution to being a training institution. And I think, really, the university sector, certainly in Australia, has gradually renounced the kind of public interest role. It’s very rare to have them talk about university education as intrinsically a public good. They’ll talk about it in vocational terms, in training terms, but the idea of an education as being something that a civilised country wants its citizens to have to the highest possible level that they are equipped for, you know that idea has kind of gone and I think the universities have really lost a lot of credibility over the last decade or two as they’ve struggled, I think, too hard to adapt to the government’s commercialisation model of seeing themselves as businesses. They should have pushed back against that much harder, much earlier, and said “we’re not a business, we’re a public good.”

AA: And I suppose those of us in media and cultural studies have been part of that because we were a beneficiary of vocation training programs.

GT: Yeah, that’s true.

AA: While at the same time being subject to ideological attacks in different parts of the world as a serious and worthy academic endeavour. And there’s been a growing disconnect, it seems, also between media studies, which you talk about in the book, and other critical disciplines. Is all of that because the kind of critical approaches that you’re talking about have become too easily associated with ideological skirmishes?

GT: Yeah, I think we lost that battle quite some time ago. The criticism was, itself, particularly coming from a humanities or social sciences basis, was too easily dismissed as opinion, and motivated opinion. We were then in competition with other opinion makers, politicians, journalists, etc., but without the public platform that they had. And often the explanation of what we do and why we do it is more complex than can be summed up in a couple of words and we find that when we do interviews with journalists, they get impatient when we have a sentence with more than three clauses in it. It’s very hard to defend that process. So, I think that critical disciplines of all kinds have found it difficult to thrive in a situation where education has been instrumentalised to the extent that it has.

AA: At the same time, we’re going into a period now where people are more dependent upon media than ever. They’re spending more time, doing more things with media than ever. That’s going to go on for an extended period so you’d think the concerns and the expertise in media studies would be crucial in thinking about how the world is going to look one year or five years ahead. How can that case be made most effectively?

GT: Well, we’re not in a great position to make it at the moment because we don’t know enough about how people actually interact with that new media context. We don’t know how they’re making their choices. We don’t know how it’s assimilated into practices of everyday life. This is a big gap in our field. We know a lot about how the industry has changed. We don’t know a lot about how consumers’ interaction, or audiences’ interaction with those industries has changed. And I suspect, once we do know that, that information will be valuable, not just to the community but to the industry and to government. But there’s going to be, well we need a lot of research before we’re in that position. I think I say in the books somewhere that we knew far more about television, for instance, back then than we know now because things have changed so much and it’s going to take a while of empirical research, not just theorising, to learn what we need to know to be able to say sensible things about power, how culture is actually constructed via media or via mediatisation.

AA: That’s something I wanted to draw on as well because aside from media studies you also talk about cultural studies in this book and the classic kind of cultural studies approach from its origins. It seems to me that there is an awful lot of information now available in the form of data about audiences . . .

GT: Yeah, that’s true.

AA: . . . as data points, as click trails, but very little understanding of the meanings made by audiences or the kind of media worlds that they inhabit from their perspective. So, it seems to me that there is an urgent need to rethink the kind of humanities approach to the audience, which is more expansive and harder and more time consuming work to do. So, you can understand why it’s simpler to follow industry data, automatic data collection, and try and work from that but it seems to me there is a danger in doing so.

GT: No, I think that’s absolutely right and in many ways researchers of my generation, we came to this with a range of skills but we don’t have the range of skills you need to do the kind of data analytics that you’re talking about and we’re not likely to develop them. It’s probably your generation of scholars that are the ones that have the capacity to lead that and that’s what needs to be done. It’s a different discipline now because it’s dealing with different kinds of business models. The commodification of data has changed everything, really, about what media studies needs to focus on. Now, people such as me can draw on what is published in that area but we’re not going to be able, actually, to go out and do the research independently ourselves. We’re going to have to work in teams and we’re going to have to listen to people who know more about this than we do. And that does seem to be happening, you know I think that does seem to be happening. But, it’s very difficult because so much of this information is commercial in confidence or it’s kept behind walls. Trying to find out how many people watch Netflix and what they watch—you know, good luck with that. But clearly, you know, if we want to understand what’s going on that’s a really important part of the landscape we need to understand and it’s in our interest to understand it but it’s not in Netflix’ interest to tell us.

AA: Is there not a recognition, you think, on the industry side that they do need people who are able to see through the pile of data and do some kind of analysis that’s meaningful?

GT: I think there is and I think that when you talk to people in the industry they do express that concern. But it is hard to see where the money to do it is going to come from because the industry itself is not going to fund it. And government, you know we’ve got our small grant program through the ARC and so on that you can go to but there is so much work that needs to be done and it’s hard to see how, particularly now under the kind of constraints that we’re going to face into the next four or five years, it’s hard to see how much money will be invested into these areas. And what I’m concerned, too, about [is] how successful applications within media and cultural studies have been in the ARC in recent years. There has been a drop in that and it has an effect on what gets done and what people can afford to do.

AA: Perhaps the sheer volume of media that is available has generated some complacency as well as complexity. I think your book seems to suggest there is a danger the media could fail us without that body of critical knowledge being applied early on.

GT: Yeah, I think that’s true and, in many ways, they’re probably not failing us now but shortly before they probably were. I think one of the, well to give you an example of the kind of thing that I would point to [is] the way you hear all kinds of discussions about the way politics has been played out in recent years by slogans and puerile ideological battles, etc. and to some extent it is the media’s fault that that’s been allowed to happen. They haven’t bothered to do the research. They’ve played the game of reporting conflict as a sport, political conflict as a sport rather than as an area of policy. And now they’re complaining that, for instance, they complained about the privacy laws and the way in which they’re being slowly introduced under border security remits and saying that they’ve gone too far and yet you think when those things were introduced, headlines in The Australian and so on were attacking people who raised concerns as being kind of civil liberty greenies and so on. They never bothered to look carefully at what had happened, they never bothered to scrutinise them, because all they wanted to do was to support the Coalition government and make Labor look like idiots. So, they’ve done that. Now they’re in a position that they have only themselves to blame for and they’re whining about it. They should have been standing up and scrutinising legislation properly all the time and they never did. And so now, they’ve suddenly realised that there are implications for the industry that they didn’t pick up because they were too busy playing the political game in what they did in their reporting.

AA: It makes me wonder about the compression of the attention span there. I mean, I think if we look back at the early years of work on the digital media, for example, many of the tendencies that we’re so concerned about, the surveillance, accountability, concentration, were all really flagged in the late 1990s by people who could think forward. And yet, that doesn’t seem to have made a huge difference in stopping those things from unfolding. And so, when you talk about the future of a critical agenda, how do we, what is the best way to convince people that a critical approach is about anticipating the future, it’s not just about knocking things down?

GT: It’s a good point. Well, I think moments like these are probably moments when that can be done, reminding people of the importance of listening to advice and I think that there is a bit of that going on, actually. You know, it’s interesting there the really great book that Michael Lewis wrote that was about the way, it was in a sense a book to try to convince Americans of the importance of government. You know, sometimes it’s a good thing to do. And all he did was just go through what Trump did when he took power and didn’t install a bureaucracy. He didn’t reappoint, he didn’t appoint people to important instrumentalities and they affected the environment and health and so on. What Lewis does is just go through those organisations and show what the effect of that has been on the ground. Although he never actually says it in the book, it’s about “this is why you need government.” And it does seem to me that what we’re looking at now is an opportunity and, to be fair, the press in particular are taking this opportunity, just to say “we got it wrong. We do need to have a decent structure provided by government to protect the national interest and to protect everybody equally etc.” So, you know, there is, there are moments like these, I think, when that can be said and I think there were similar things happened during the bushfire crisis. Well, so I guess it’s a matter of people are working in our fields taking advantage of that and trying to get their heads on television and trying to get their op-eds in the newspapers. You have to seize these moments because they’re not going to be routinely available.

AA: Also, we’ve talked a lot about the Australian context but much of the work that you refer to in the book is really global in nature. You’re talking about many different parts of the world where these research projects have touched on and comparing contexts across democracies and authoritarian regimes and across Asian countries, from North America to Europe to Australia. How do you see Australia, in that sense? Do you see the Australian scene in a fresh light because of that broader comparison?

GT: Not necessarily. I guess I was always aware of a kind of exceptionalism in Australia, partly geographic, but also historical. And so, I guess what I learnt was more about the proliferation of diversity, the fundamental diversity of the various contexts that I worked in and that I was introduced to by people I was working with. So, it probably did that, it reinforced and provided some kind of detail for what I guess i assumed to be the case. Often we found, particularly when I was working with Anna Pertierra in the Federation Fellow project, we often found things turned out to be a little different to what we’d expected, in Mexico, in particular, we found that. But there was always that sense that it was not going to work out the same way everywhere and the narratives of media change that had come from the US primarily that assumed a kind of global queue of people waiting to become just like Americans—never bought that, I always thought that was wrong. And the research certainly demonstrated that was the case. Very convincingly.

AA: How was it to revisit work from a decade, from a number of different projects, from here and to look at those pieces together. Did it make you kind of re-evaluate the whole research critical stuff?

GT: Yeah. Actually it’s a pretty interesting thing to do. People always talk about going back to their own work and either being alarmed by it and thinking “oh, my God, that’s terrible” or else thinking “Oh, God, I couldn’t do that now, that’s maybe the kind of thing I can do there now.” I guess that was kind of my feeling, that I went back. It’s a bit like reading somebody else who you really agree with. You go, “yeah, that’s right.” But I can also see the repetition of concerns just keep coming up as you go through and remind you of how, how little you knew at particular points in time and how things have changed and how you needed to observe those changes and accommodate them accordingly, in what you were thinking. So, it’s been a really interesting experience going back over the material and seeing a kind of intellectual trajectory over a decade or so that’s been a decade of pretty dynamic change. So it’s been an interesting thing to engage in.

AA: And so, having taken stock of that, do you think that this is the moment, then, to set an agenda in media and cultural studies and going forward?

GT: Yeah. I mean, the last essay in the book is kind of aiming at that, I think, but it is pretty much what we’ve been talking about the need to recover the critical imperative as a fundamental point of media studies, that there’s a kind of implicit argument that we’ve been trapped into being too descriptive and now we need to be much more critical and to undertake that as being what it is we do. So that’s the message. The other message, though, is specifically about media and cultural studies where I think cultural studies has become far too arcane and too elite in the way it’s developed in recent years. I think theoretical clarification and development has seen an extraordinary amount of activity going on but I also think it has taken us into a lot of niche areas, which is fine for those niche areas, but it’s lost that kind of broad public engagement that it had when it started. Nobody would accuse Stuart Hall’s work of being niche. Or the work coming out of that Centre being niche. But I think a lot of the work that’s being undertaken now, it is like that. I mean, partly that’s being driven by the need to get research funding, you have to find these gaps in the field, etc., and partly it’s people are free to follow their own interests and I’d be the last one to criticise them for doing that.

But I think cultural studies could learn, actually from media studies a bit more about how to undertake a public role. And I think media studies, despite what I’ve been saying about it losing its critical edge, I think it has had a better career in that area in the last decade or so, than cultural studies. But I think what cultural studies can do is provide methods and theoretical frameworks and so on and where the sophistication of cultural studies is staggering now compared to where it was when I started in the field and I think that media studies can benefit a lot from collaborating with cultural studies for that reason.

AA: The joining together of that kind of work at the public front line and the empirical knowledge with some of this kind of theoretical development will help us kind of get to grips with the object that we’re dealing with.

One of the things that I really like about this book is that not only are you flagging the kind of concerns that are coming up consistently and the issues that have been raised, which are big issues that we’re talking about—power and democracy—but at the same time there’s a very pragmatic tone that there are things that should be done and things that we can do. That, I think, is a really important message to be able to take away. We may not be well placed institutionally in some respects or in resources or the means at the time but there is at least a clear sense of what it is we should be doing.

GT: Yeah, and I think, in universities, I think in recent years we lost a sense of how much power we actually have. I think people got worn down, you know, by change. By the lack of political support, I suppose. And so they forgot that they actually do have more power. You know, the example I always go to is all the performance indicators that universities have now introduced, many of which are ludicrous, and many of which are used to bully staff and distract junior staff in ways that are very unproductive. They don’t work if people don’t cooperate. If you don’t supply that information, they don’t work. And yet nowhere has that been suggested that I am aware of. Really, it’s about time people said, “no we’re not going to do this.” But they don’t feel they have the power and now with the kind of crisis that the universities are in, I think that’s probably going to be even worse. But it does seem to me that within the School or within the Faculty people have a lot more power than they think and they should, at least, test the limits of that. Make the university prove that they have no power by contesting it.

AA: If we think back, then, a little, to when you began in media and cultural studies, this was an area which was exciting to undergrad students that was allowing them to deal with issues in the here and now and in their own lives and they enrolled in large numbers. Do you think, in the present situation, there’s some cause for optimism when it comes to engaging with the upcoming generation on the kind of issues that we’ve been talking about?

GT: Yeah, I think that’s what digital media has done. I think that really that’s got to be the place where we engage with that generation, I think. Certainly, when cultural studies started, it was fantastic. Students were so relieved to actually be addressed about their own culture in ways that didn’t denigrate it at all, or refused to understand that it might actually generate something meaningful. So, I think, you know, that’s a long way back. So we’ve gone way past that now, you know that’s not an issue now. But, I think, there is still the issue of attempting to get students to understand the importance of understanding how power operates. But I think digital media is the place where that can be done because they’re actually at the coal face of that and they do understand. Some of the ways in which that works, and I see around them some of the ways in which that works. That’s the place where I’d see real potential for the future, developing programs in those areas, that build on, that are not ignorant of the cultural studies past, but that build on the previous industry formations in order to talk about how they operate now. And often you do that by talking about how they are similar rather than how they are different.

AA: So we find ourselves still on the road to renewal in that sense?

GT: Yes, yes we do. It’s been a long road. Yeah, that’s true, it is that Stuart Hall road to renewal that we’re on. I think there’s a lot of really good work being done in the field and really challenging and interesting work and some of the things that I’ve been saying about what needs to be done, there’s plenty of people out there who would simply say, “we’re doing this already.” And I think that’s great. But it’s made difficult by the way in which the universities have mutated over the years and the role of humanities disciplines, in particular, has had to be continually defended. Not as a series of interventions but as a kind of constitutive role of the humanities that has to defend itself always, already. It always has to be done and I think, you know, that wears people down and it’s hard to maintain and they need help to keep that going.

AA: But, still, there’s a lot of optimism in this book, and excitement about the kind of work that’s happening in television studies, for example, and in other areas, so you have no sense that we have, sort of, completed a mission or run to the end of a paradigm. Really the horizon seems to be opening up in some [unclear].

GT: That’s right. You go to the big conferences. I always go to the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference, when I can, and you hear what particularly the younger scholars are doing there, it’s just fantastic. There is so much good work being done. Harder to see how they get it supported sometimes, financially, but there’s a lot of good work being done, a lot of really good people in the field.

AA: Is this book, then, fundamentally a springboard for them?

GT: That would be good if that’s how it worked, yeah. Probably not going to be a springboard for me. [laughs—unclear] Probably not much spring left in me. But it would be good if that was seen as something people got from it, yeah.

AA: Well thanks very much for your time, Graeme. It’s been fantastic to talk to you.

Graeme Turner and Adrian Athique