What makes a good academic book? A response

Guest blogger Tess Lea is an ARC QEII Fellow in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies, University of Sydney.

Chris Gibson recently posted a thought-provoking review of my book on Darwin. It was the first review to take up the issue of risk-taking in writing, both from the perspective of writing about a place which is small enough that insults are consequential; and from the perspective of academic metrics. I was awestruck by Gibson’s insights and how he has honed in on my acute sense of vulnerability with this book.

As Gibson notes, Darwin completes a series on the capital cities of Australia by New South Books. I accepted the commission for two reasons. First, I will admit ego/vanity. I couldn’t bear the idea of someone else writing about Darwin, my birthplace. But second, I immediately saw it as an opportunity to address the challenge I have set myself in my current research. To wit: presuming I ever find a way to muddle through my current writing block and the thicket of ethnographic fragments I’ve accumulated about Indigenous housing and infrastructure, schools and health clinics, to address the question ‘can there be good social policy in regional and remote Australia?’ –– the question of communication remains. Continue reading

Mapping amenity in bushfire-prone landscapes

Blog post by Chris Brennan-Horley, Olivia Dun, Christine Eriksen and Nick Gill

“Treating a forest merely as a collection of trees ignores its contextual relevance to people” (Stankey and Shindler, 2006)

We have spent the past month looking at vegetation in the context of ‘amenity landscapes’. This blog post finds us currently in Bilpin – in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, NSW – conducting interviews with residents to try and understand the interplay between amenity values and bushfire preparedness. This relates both to vegetation in and around residents’ properties and in the surrounding landscape. This fieldwork is part of the ‘Co-existing with Fire: Managing Risk and Amenity’ project funded by the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre. A key aspect of this project is to develop mobile and spatial interview methods. Continue reading