>Updates? What are those?

I’m technically on leave right now and don’t have to return to the rabbit-warren corridors of the university until June 2007. That’s about SIX months. I can’t quite believe it.

My colleague from Canada, Ashok Mathur recently passed through Melbourne and we managed to meet up a couple of times, which was nowhere near enough but it was a crazy busy time. Ash keeps a blog titled Cultural and Artistic Inquiry through which people try to keep track of his active Frequent Flyer points collection, er, or get to know the kinds of work and projects that he gets into. I’m really glad he managed to meet up with some of the Melb folk I contacted – these kinds of things bear fruit in unexpected and often long-lived ways.

In the lead-up to being on leave, I’ve handed over a bunch of hats I normally wear. This includes moderating various lists, the Asian Australian Studies news-blog, being a cluster convenor for a brand spanking new Asian Australian Studies Research Network (AASRN), and various conference convenor responsibilities for AAI 2 next June. It’s excellent to know that the things I created and helped grow are, at the moment, in the hands of the next generation of academics and thinkers. God, that sounds all smug when it’s not meant to. What I mean is that having enthusiastic people who embrace the ideas and directions of Asian Australian Studies, and challenge its formations and dynamics, is a priceless and real gift in an increasingly cynical and rationalised academic environment. For me, this engagement makes me want to use words like inspire, energise and – dare I say it? – synergy. There are circumstances that work together beautifully, with sympatico colleagues and perspectives, that aren’t a forced, coldly strategic stab at gaining research dosh. Yes, I understand the demand for bringing in external funding and the pressures institutions are under to prove the utility of their research. I just think that many of these money-grabs are counterproductive and, for institutions that don’t have a strong research culture already entrenched, short-lived in benefits.

The current university research emphasis on networks and collaborative project work is one I fully support, but this also has to be done with a discerning eye on what’s got natural ‘legs’ and what is being stitched together in a half-arsed fashion just so folks can use the right buzz-words or just to please the powers-that-be.

Eh. End of sermon. Again, don’t know how that one started. I was planning to be all jolly and warm-fuzzy. It’s hard to hold back the bilious tide sometimes.


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