Two Queensland University of Technology academics suspended for their criticism of a PhD project have lodged a complaint against the university with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.
Earlier this year, John Hookham and Gary MacLennan were stood down as senior lecturers in the creative industries faculty after their opinion piece published in The Australian and On Line Opinion dismissed the proposed thesis as “misanthropic and amoral trash produced under the rubric of postmodernist, poststructuralist thought”.
The project, comprising of a reality TV-style film and a thesis originally titled Laughing at the Disabled, was described by the PhD candidate, Michael Noonan, as “an exploration of authorship and exploitation in disability comedy, the culmination of which will be the creation and production (for sale) of a six-part comedy series featuring two intellectually disabled personalities”.
Dr Hookham and Dr MacLennan took exception to the content, publicly criticised the project, and were suspended from the university for going beyond “civil academic discourse”. Their complaint to HREOC argues that the university punished them because of their “political opposition to postmodernism”, presumed to be the underlying theory behind the PhD.
The Australian reports that “Political opinion is one of few grounds for discrimination prohibited by federal law”.
Deputy director of the Castan Centre for Human Rights Law at Monash University, Adam McBeth, said there was “very little [case law] on what’s political and what’s not. I don’t know that you could point to anti-postmodernism as a political movement; it’s probably at best a cultural idea. It’s certainly arguable and it would be interesting to see it run”.
Long-suffering cultural studies, art, literature and architecture students will no-doubt welcome the prospect of either anti-postmodernism or postmodernism on trial. The movement that spawned inaccessible classics such as Jameson’s Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, Harvey’s The Condition of Postmodernity and Devo’s Post Post-modern man, is long-overdue for vexatious revenge metered out through the judicial system.