Neo-barbarians at the gates.

This is what the Australian universities are wasting their money on.
Last week, The Australian newspaper's brow-creasing Higher Education liftout carried a perfectly serious front-page story with a picture of a London artist wearing a corset over his face.

It reported, without a whinny of amazement, that Sydney's Macquarie University was hosting an international conference of academics, plus artists like this face-flattened Brit, to discuss "Body Modification: Changing Bodies, Changing Selves".

The conference organiser, Queer Studies lecturer Nikki Sullivan, explained that they would for three days discuss how we pierce, tattoo, brand, stretch, suction and slash our bodies, and how bad people are to judge us for doing so.

She raised the example of people volunteering to have a leg or arm amputated, simply because they do "not feel at ease with it, or would prefer the look or feel of a radically altered body".

It was wrong to dismiss such people, proudly hacking off their healthy limbs, as mentally ill. This was, as the paper put it, actually a "legitimate phenomenon".

"What is self-mutilation and what is body art -- that line is very unclear," said Sullivan, a mother with five tattoos and piercings in her nose and ears.
No, it isn't.

Don't think Sullivan is on a frolic of her own deep in the flatulent bowels of Macquarie's Department of Critical and Cultural Studies. Let me demonstrate by giving you the titles of some of the other papers delivered at her conference, which is sponsored by the Cultural Studies Association of Australasia.

The show kicked off with "A Straight Boy's Experiences of Getting a Prince Albert Piercing (of his penis)", and not surprisingly moved on to "The Phallus as Freak-Show", followed by "White Trash Get Down on Your Knees, It's Time for Cake and Sodomy". An Indian academic then talked of this "Elective Amputation", before things perked up with "Performing Muscular Drag in Circus".

Then came "How to Murder Barbie, F... Mommy and Live Forever", and "Am I 'Becoming-Rat' or Losing My Ear?", Before the fun ended with "What an A..e Can Do", "He F...ed Me on National TV" and "I Make Myself in Hurting Myself".

Sullivan herself spoke on "Queer Ethics: On (Not) Reading the Face of Michael Jackson". And the keynote speaker was Del La Grace Volcano, a "queer, lesbian photographer" who became a "Gender Terrorist, an Intentional Mutation and Intersex by Design" -- a "he" who "subverts . . . the notion that only two genders exist, male and female".
And to think I giggled at the "Self and Other" PoMo conference they had at U of L when I was there as an undergrad in the early 80s. If they'd had a freak show like this I'd be obligated to torch my diploma as a worthless piece of garbage.

Queer Studies. Judas Priest, that'll get you a job in the real world.

[Via Tim Blair. The 5/02 entry, scroll to the post about Rupert Murdoch.]

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