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Creating Space for Protest and Possibility

Nimbin, Australia, from 1973

Rob Garbutt

This article brings together the ideas of protest and counterculture in a productive engagement. If protest is understood as publicly bearing witness in opposition to something, then countercultures often do this as rejections of dominant cultures that are folded into everyday life in order to create spaces for possible futures. The countercultural experiments undertaken in the region around Nimbin, Australia, are an example of such space creation. Using interviews, presentations, and archival materials collected at a 2013 community conference marking the 40th anniversary of the 1973 Nimbin Aquarius Festival, I will explore these experiments in the context of countercultural protest. The Festival not only gathered together people under the banner of the counterculture, but provided a unique space for gathering around common matters of concern to create an ongoing countercultural community. This community continues to develop practical knowledge regarding sustainable living and innovations in grassroots environmental protest.

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Giovanni A. Travaglino and Benjamin Abrams

Since its inception, Contention has aimed to illuminate our understanding of activism and political behavior across a full variety of contexts and settings. By examining political behavior across multiple geographical and social sites, we can explore unique opportunities to expand the horizon of our theoretical frameworks, test the generalizability and applicability of our claims, and gain a stronger grasp of how different structural arrangements and historical trajectories might shape political action.

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Introduction

Why Q1 Hamlet Matters

Terri Bourus

This introduction situates the special double issue ‘Canonizing Q1 Hamlet’ in the context of the early publication history of Shakespeare’s tragedy and the recent critical and editorial interest in the first edition. The first edition of Hamlet – often called ‘Q1’, shorthand for ‘first quarto’ – was published in 1603, in what we might regard as the early modern equivalent of a cheap paperback. Q1 Hamlet is becoming increasingly canonical not because there is universal agreement about what it is or what it means, but because more and more Shakespearians agree that it is worth arguing about. If we read or perform it, rather than simply dismissing it (as was done for most of the twentieth century), Q1 makes us think: about performance, book history, Shakespeare’s relationships with his contemporaries, and the shape of his whole career.

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More than Luck

Australian Protest in a Social Movement Society

Ben Hightower and Scott East

This introduction begins by challenging a common narrative formed in relation to Australia—that it is a “lucky country.” This “exceptionalist” view of Australia is also evidenced in national legal frameworks relating to human rights. Drawing on histories of Australian politics, it is argued that social justice stems not from luck or an exceptional legislative system, but from various forms of social contestation. Especially since the global protests of 2011, more scholars are considering the organization, impacts, and practices of social movements that occur on a global scale. Despite the evolution of globalized protest, this collection is informed by Connell’s southern theory (2007), which identifies the unequal geopolitics of knowledge. The articles in this issue provide a diverse range of case studies that can inform protest practices and evidence the vitality of dissent in Australia. Activist knowledges and a quest for collaborative approaches to protest are the two elements that run throughout this issue of Contention.

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Jane Mummery and Debbie Rodan

Signaling dissatisfaction with particular events, policies, or situations, modes of protest encompass individual expressions through to the development and mobilization of social movements. Indeed, protests can range from bodies blocking space and time to the aggregation of clicked signatures in an online petition and the sharing of campaign content through social media. All of these modes are currently employed within the Australian public sphere to bring about change or closure of the live export industry. This article analyzes the current dimensions and flows of public protest against Australia’s live export industry, examining how they are shaped not only by a myriad of organizations but also by differing modes of protest, as well as by the different modes of appeal in use by activists to mobilize the Australian public sphere in protest. Through this discussion, insight is gained into some of the capacities and efficacies of multimodal protest and its significance for both public engagement and political and industry uptake.

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Hanne Busck-Nielsen and Jean Sprackland

Half-light, by Hanne Busck-Nielsen Prayer, by Hanne Busck-Nielsen Yeast, by Jean Sprackland

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Pranks in Contentious Politics

An Interview with Pauline Pantsdown (AKA Simon Hunt)

Ben Hightower, Scott East and Simon Hunt

There is often a division between scholarly publication and activist knowledge—something that Sarah Maddison and Sean Scalmer (2005) suggest may be countered by taking the knowledge produced by activists seriously. In this interview, Simon Hunt reflects on the genesis of Pauline Pantsdown, a drag persona that he developed in the late 1990s in reaction to Australian Conservative politician Pauline Hanson, who generated controversy for her racist and divisive views. The introduction briefly considers the importance of activist accounts and contextualizes Hunt’s practice in relation to arts activism and networked societies. From there, Hunt discusses a range of significant considerations for activism, notably the significance of using persona as a means for activism, the affordances and challenges of using social media, and methods for activating participation in a changing media landscape.

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Danielle Brady

The struggle to save the Beeliar Wetlands, an urban remnant bushland in Perth, Western Australia, demonstrates elements of both urban social and urban environmental movements. At the end of 2016, 30 years of objection to the continuation of the Roe Highway development (Roe 8) culminated in months of intense protest leading up to a state election and a cessation of work in 2017. During the long-running campaign, protestors fought to preserve high-conservation-value bushland that was contained in the planned road reserve. At the heart of this dispute were competing spatial uses. This article will analyze four protest actions from the dispute using Henri Lefebvre’s concept of the production of space, and will demonstrate that the practices of protest gave those fighting to preserve Roe 8 the agency to reinscribe meaning to the natural uses of the Beeliar Wetlands over and against the uses privileged by the state.

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Alessandro Pelizzon and Jade Kennedy

In the past two decades, “Welcome to Country” and “Acknowledgment of Country” practices have become commonplace at the commencement of most public events throughout Australia, and it is highly unusual to participate in a public event where some words of acknowledgment of the traditional owners and custodians of the locale are omitted. This article traces the origins of such practices while identifying the semantic, political, and conceptual differences between them. It articulates how precolonial protocols of encounter among distinct groups and individuals inform “Welcome to Country” practices, attesting to the ontological and epistemological continuity of the latter in relation to the former. It explores recent trends in the public understanding and positioning of both “Welcome to Country” and “Acknowledgment of Country” speeches and events, contextualizing their emerging positioning within the fabric of Australian settler colonial relations, particularly in the context of contemporary discourses on Aboriginal sovereignty and the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

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“Amazing Rapidity”

Time, Public Credit, and David Hume’s Political Discourses

EDWARD JONES CORREDERA

This article explores David Hume’s views on public credit, the state, and geopolitics as outlined in his Political Discourses. By drawing attention to Hume’s analysis of the speed of political economic dynamics, the article suggests the philosopher feared that public credit, a crucial source of eighteenth-century European economic growth, fundamentally revolutionized the pace of social relations, the mechanics of the state, and European geopolitics at large. Hume’s study of public credit highlighted its role in reshaping eighteenth-century visions of time, and the philosopher’s disappointment with his own solution, in turn, reinforces the need to consider the multifaceted effects of public credit in the modern world.