Statement Regarding the Veto of Literary Studies ARC Grants

The recent decision by the acting Federal Minister for Education, Stuart Robert, to exercise his veto against four literary studies grants recommended to him by the Australian Research Council constitutes an attack on literary studies and literary culture in Australia. The only public justification that Robert provided for the apparently arbitrary process that led to this decision is that the projects “do not demonstrate value for taxpayers’ money nor contribute to the national interest.” That two-thirds of the six censored grants should be in literary studies demonstrates a dismissive attitude to the value of the imagination and creativity.

Nor is this an isolated occurrence. Four years ago, the former education minister Simon Birmingham rejected eleven ARC projects recommended to him, all in the Humanities, including four from literary studies. The actions of the government reveal that it is committed to defunding Australia’s literary culture by overriding academic autonomy and determining what kinds of knowledge can and cannot be pursued. This is especially ironic given its recent campaign to defend freedom of speech on Australia’s campuses.

Blocking literary grants not only negates a central tenet of academic freedom – that truth be pursued without interference from the state – it degrades Australia’s cultural fabric. Australia is home to the world’s most ancient enduring literary tradition: the song cycles of our First Nations people. Literary representations have always shaped and influenced who we are or might be and have done so for every culture on the planet across humanity’s history. Understanding this rich fabric of representations is critical to our respectful global citizenship and our own self-understanding.

Please consider adding your signature and circulating the letter linked here to fellow scholars, writers, and others in industries connected to literature: https://bit.ly/32FpQmO

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