Session: Imagining Nature and Culture

Globalization and Culture Stream


Day 1, Parallel Session 1A: 11:00am – 12:30pm

Location: Storey Hall (Building 16) – Seminar Room 3, Level 7, Room 1

Chair: Dr Mandy Oakham (RMIT University)


Chris Hudson Green is Good: Eco-aesthetics in Singapore

  • Presenter and main author: Associate Professor Chris Hudson (RMIT University)
  • Abstract: In the last four decades Singapore has been extensively greened. Some two million trees have been planted and a vast network of parks and gardens has been established. The greening of Singapore was, and still is, part of the nation building project; it was designed to produce a more sustainable and liveable urban environment, and it aimed to attract foreign investment by demonstrating Singapore’s efficiency and control. It also, however, had the effect of creating a new affective register in urban space. A green city represents aesthetic practices that generate ‘various mechanisms of fascination’ (Thrift, 2010: 290) that can create value for the reproduction of the consumer economy. Singapore wants to attract tourists, but it has gone beyond the image of a paradise of shopping and eating to create a new image of natural beauty and now markets itself ‘City in a Garden’. This presentation examines the ways in which the conjunction of aesthetics and environmentalism can generate an affective force. In Singapore this force has been mobilized in the interests of state building, national cohesion, economic development, consumer culture and place making. Green is not only good, it is aesthetically pleasing; as a global cultural imaginary, it can accommodate itself to the moral and ontological underpinnings of multiple state, commercial, community and individual projects.
  • About the presenter: Chris Hudson is a Research Leader in the Globalization and Culture Program in the Global Cities Research Institute and Associate Professor of Asian Media and Culture in the School of Media and Communication at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University. She has published widely on cultural politics in Singapore, including Beyond the Singapore Girl: Discourses of Gender and Nation in Singapore (NIAS Press, 2013), a study of the politics of fertility, narrative control and resistance in Singapore. She is a co-author of Theatre and Performance in the Asia-Pacific: Regional Modernities in the Global Era (Palgrave Macmillan). Funded by the Australian Research Council Discovery Project Scheme, this book examines the diverse theatre and performance traditions in the Asia-Pacific region. 
Timothy Ström The Culturalisation of Nature and the Naturalisation of Culture in Google Maps

  • Presenter and main author: Timothy Ström (RMIT University)
  • Abstract: ‘Nature’ and ‘culture’ are among the most complex words in the English language with their interface being highly contested, politically charged terrain. World maps can be seen as belonging in the nature/culture interface for they are cultural artefacts that attempt to order the space of the earth’s surface. Today, the world’s most powerful map is Google Maps, which has over one billion users each month. This article will briefly critique Google Maps from the double perspective suggested in the presentation’s title. On one hand, Google Maps serves to culturalise nature by taking information gathered by cultural and technological processes, from satellite photographs to cartographic surveying, and using it to present a stylised, manipulated, and thoroughly enculturated image of the earth. On the other, Google Maps serves to naturalise the culture that produces it by encoding the map with their values and practices. With this ideological manoeuvre, Google seeks to decontest the current world order, and their own privileged position within it, by using their representation of the earth to naturalise and promote an anthropocentric, automobile intensive, advertisement riddled culture of consumerism.
  • About the presenter: Timothy Erik Ström is a PhD student based in the Global Cities Research Institute at RMIT. His thesis is going under the working title ‘Mapping Google Maps: Critiquing an Ideology of Globalization’. He currently works as a research assistant for a project that is critically investigating the conceptual history of the word ‘globalization’. Timothy is a member of the International Organisation for a Participatory Society and occasional investigative journalist for the Real News Network.
Luba Pirgova Visual Images of Electricity in Times of Turmoil: Perceptions, Interpretations and Symbolism

  • Presenter and main author: Luba Pirgova (Cardiff University)
  • Abstract: Electricity is invisible and yet it has been turned into a product to be sold and consumed by society as both a necessity and as a commodity. This product, as any other product, has a visual form. The visual representations of electricity are also associated with a wide range of emotions and social practices.   Electricity becomes somewhat ‘visible’ to the people when it is lost, when it is threatened, even if it is for a short time. Usually, these are times of turmoil, such as wars and natural disasters. These are the times when electricity becomes a symbol of safety and security, a symbol of home and “our” space; a symbol of warmth and comfort, a symbol of light and hope. The focus of this presentation is on the perceptions of electricity of individuals and social groups as presented in visual imagery. It is based on both primary and secondary images produced and interpreted during natural disasters. Empirical data include analysis of photographs and articles published by the BBC and CNN, while following the Sandy Hurricane of 2012 in the USA, as well as field interviews commenting on pre- and post- Sandy perceptions of electricity in all its forms. The symbolism of electricity will be connected to more general issues of social and cultural sustainability as the perceptions of what is and what is needed intersect with questions of what might become if the perceptions and expectations remain unchanged.
  • About the presenter: Luba Pirgova has an MA (Hons) in Sociology, International Relations, and Film and Visual Culture from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.  She also has am MPhil in Modern Society and Global Transformations from the University of Cambridge, England. At the moment, Luba is enrolled in the PhD program of the Psychology department at Cardiff University, where she is affiliated with the social psychology, the understanding risk, and ethnography, culture and interpretative analysis research groups as well as the energy biographies project.  Her project is supervised by Professor Nick Pidgeon and Professor Karen Henwood. 
Tommaso Durante Aesthetics of Change and Urban Sustainability in Melbourne: Between Global Ideologies, Material Processes and Social Imaginaries

  • Presenter and main author: Tommaso Durante (RMIT University)
  • Abstract: Globalization, as a material process and an imaginary, is not just about changes of power relations between nation-state and the global system. Mostly, it consists of a multiplicity of micro-processes at local scale that are reshaping the urban landscape. This change occurring in the urban social fabric is significantly detectable as a visual phenomenon and this gives rise to an aesthetics of change. Thus the relation between material space and symbolic space of representations becomes central to an understanding of globalization dynamics. Urban sustainability, can be regarded as a main ideological key-concept to critically approach globalization. From the perspective of aesthetics of change this presentation will consider a given body of still images to examine urban dynamics at the local-global scale of Melbourne, Australia. Indeed, this presentation attempts to create the space for the articulation, not necessarily the response, to the question: “How, beyond ideological stereotypes, does a representation of urban sustainability look like?” Informed by theory and direct observation, supported by selected visual evidences, this paper argues that Melbourne’s urban dynamics display an exceedingly visual heterogeneity with respect to urban sustainability that also suggests a morphological, fragmented ideological landscape.
  • About the presenter: Tommaso Durante is an award-winning visual artist and a researcher in the Globalization and Culture Program of the Global Cities Research Institute (RMIT University). He moved from Italy to Australia in 2001 under a distinguished talent visa for art. He is also a freelance lecturer of Art History and Theory (focused on Europe and Italy). His academic research addresses the global imaginary as a visual-ideological phenomenon through the perspective of aesthetics of global change and the lens of political theory. Among his main research projects there are: an investigation on the symbolic construction of the global imaginary in Sydney and Melbourne leading to a doctoral in philosophy; The Visual Archive Project of the Global Imaginary; the production of innovative multimedia learning objects for Global Studies programs to enhance student comprehension of globalization concepts and facilitate inclusive online teaching.