Critical Event Studies in the UK and Australia: Lost in translation or one voice?

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CAUTHE Events SIG, Dunedin, New Zealand, Wednesday 8 February 

The title promised much and did not fail to deliver!  

Associate Professor Leonie Lockstone-Binney chaired a panel discussion between four esteemed event studies scholars from the UK (Associate Professor Jane Ali-Knight and Dr Sandro Carnicelli) and Australia (Associate Professor Kirsten Holmes and Dr Judith Mair) and an audience of about 20 interested academics from around the world.  As a New Zealander who has just begun her event studies teaching and research career (in Australia), I found it interesting to hear both the UK and Australian perspectives on event studies in higher education, how different the government policy agendas of these two countries are, and how these influence the educational outcomes.  Jane brought the UK Critical Event Studies website to everyone’s attention and discussed the #CritEvents symposium held in Manchester in September last year.  I must say I was green with envy – imagine being able to sit in a room with some of the best event studies academics in the world for a day, brainstorm ideas and thrash out some issues!

Judith posed a question for the audience: “what does critical event studies mean?”  but of course there was no consensus!  Answers ranged from thinking about the critical (i.e. important) parts of events, to ‘being critical’ and looking at wider impacts and influences that events may have rather than merely economic.  Following on from this, the panellists noted that while event operations has been the traditional focus of both teaching and research, there has been a more recent move away from this towards broader and more ‘meaningful’ research which incorporates the social and cultural perspectives and outcomes.  Certainly it was agreed that events as a field of study is newer than tourism and hospitality, that much more research is needed in this domain – and also that it needs to be more interdisciplinary.  It feels to me that we are now, as a global community, starting to look beyond the obvious in our field of study and seeking to dig deeper and make a difference with our research.

To that end, there was interest amongst those present for more international collegiality and the possibility of global networking/meetings to facilitate this was raised – via Skype or similar technologies.  From my newcomer’s perspective, between the AEME and CritEvents groups the UK event studies community seems tight-knit and collegial, with frequent communication and occasional get-togethers, and is something that we could look to emulate here in the Southern Hemisphere. 

Trudie Walters, University of the Sunshine Coast.

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