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Where to for humanities in a corporate world?

Emeritus Professor Graeme Turner

Australian scholar and international authority on cultural and media studies, Emeritus Professor Graeme Turner, will discuss the role of humanities and social sciences in a changing tertiary culture in public talks at Massey University’s Wellington and Manawatū campuses.

Professor Turner’s talk, The Place of the Humanities in the Corporate University, will address questions such as ‘Do the arts and the humanities still have a place in the contemporary university system?’ and ‘do they still matter?’

He says that as universities globally become more corporate and commercial, and as the university increasingly defines itself as a location for training, on the one hand, and scientific research, on the other, that “the connection between the university and a liberal education is starting to attenuate.”

The pressure of such an evolution is being felt in the humanities and creative arts sector, he says.

In his talk, Professor Turner will draw on his co-authorship of a major study of the condition of the humanities, arts and social sciences in Australia, Mapping HASS (2014). In the study, he addresses the issue of the place and value of these disciplines in a context where the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) are “sucking up most of the oxygen in the system, as well as most of the institutional investment.”

A summary of his report says: “The aim of higher education research, in all fields, is to understand our world and our place in it. The aim of higher education teaching, in all fields, is to pass on those modes of understanding and what they tell us. Sometimes such understanding is an end in itself – it generates knowledge, which is a public good.

“Sometimes it is used to change something, from the structure of a cell to the social habits of a culture. The contribution of the humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS) to that enterprise – of generating and disseminating knowledge, as well as understanding change – is as important as the contribution of the physical and natural sciences.”

Challenges for arts degrees prompt revitalised BA at Massey

The topic aligns with discussions, changes and activity in Massey’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, focussed on highlighting the value of arts degrees and research in these disciplines.

A re-vitalised Bachelor of Arts degree, with new core papers on national, global and active citizenship, aims to address and overturn negative perceptions and myths around the value of studying humanities and social sciences, says Dr Elspeth Tilley, an Associate Professor in Expressive Arts at the Wellington campus, who is coordinating Professor Turner’s visit.

Re-invention of the media – where to from here?

Professor Turner’s visit, sponsored by Massey’s W.H Oliver Humanities Research Academy, and organised by Massey’s School of English and Media Studies, will also include a public panel discussion in Auckland next Friday, on the future of the news media in a digital age.

At that event Professor Turner will draw on his recently published book, The Re-Invention of the Media (2015), in a discussion of the implications – both now and for the future – of the wide-ranging changes in the structure, content, function and operation of the media over the last couple of decades.

Issues canvassed will include the media’s thoroughgoing commercialisation, the fragmentation of media markets, the rise of entertainment and the declining commitment to news and information, the place of social media and the myth of democratisation, and the impact of celebrity culture on society as well as on the practices and content of the media. 

The event is co-hosted with Radio New Zealand with Jim Mora as facilitator and host. Panellists will include Massey’s Professor of Societal Psychology Darrin Hodgetts, who has been researching media marginalisation and its effects, including on Māori. He will be joined by well-known media personalities (to be confirmed).

Event information:

Public lecture: The Place of the Humanities in the Corporate University

Monday October 19, 5.30 – 6.30pm: The Pit, Te Ara Hihiko, Massey’s Wellington Campus. 

Wednesday October 21, 2.30 – 3.30pm: Ira Cunningham Lecture Theatre, Massey’s Manawatū Campus. 

Panel discussion: The Future of the Media

Friday October 23, 6.30 – 7.45 pm: Auckland Art Gallery, Cnr Kitchener and Wellesley streets. 


Emeritus Professor Graeme Turner is the founding Director of the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies (2000-2012), and one of the leading figures in cultural and media studies in Australia and internationally. His research has covered a wide range of forms and media – literature, film, television, radio, new media, journalism, communication, and popular culture. He has published 23 books with national and international academic presses; the most recent are (with Anna Cristina Pertierra) Locating Television: Zones of Consumption (Routledge, 2013), What’s Become of Cultural Studies? (Sage, 2012) and Ordinary People and the Media: The Demotic Turn (Sage, 2010).

Professor Turner is deeply engaged with research and higher education policy. Formerly Professor of Cultural Studies in the English Department at the University of Queensland, he is a past president of the Australian Academy of the Humanities (2004-2007), an Australian Research Council Federation Fellow (2006-2011), and Convenor of the ARC-funded Cultural Research Network (2006-2010). From 2001 until 2004 he was a member of the Expert Advisory Panel for Creative Arts and Humanities of the Australian Research Council and he is only the second humanities scholar to serve on the Australian Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council.

For more information contact Dr Elspeth Tilley:, or M: O211 704846.

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