Law, ethics & philosophy
The Wheeler Centre
Rachel Kushner: The Mars Room
Ellena Savage and Rachel Kushner on stage — Photo: Scott Limbrick
‘This is a story that gets to the root of how my society is structured right now … There’s a way that prison is invisible to a middle-class person. It’s not a conspiracy, but it may be by design in certain regards. It’s a serious subject for a novelist.’
Rachel Kushner is among America’s brightest literary stars. With her previous, highly acclaimed novels, Telex from Cuba (about American expatriates in 1950s pre-Castro Cuba) and The Flamethrowers (about radical New York artists in the seventies), she explored two very different scenes of ideological chaos and confusion, with exhilarating prose and virtuosic storytelling.
Kushner's latest novel, The Mars Room, sees her applying her talents, once again, to probing the political context and meaning of a very specific time and place. This time, it’s the American prison system, and it's the present day. The Mars Room is about a woman serving two life sentences for killing her stalker and it’s the product of years of research, and close collaboration with Americans who have themselves served time.
In conversation with Ellena Savage for our Mayhem series in April 2019, the extraordinary Kushner talks crime, punishment and American institutions.
The Fifth Estate
Samantha Power on Influence and Idealism
How does a person navigate the change from activist outsider to influential insider? How do you balance idealism and pragmatism under pressure?
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Samantha Power has had to navigate these questions first-hand. From a troubled childhood in Dublin to a career as a war correspondent then academic, she landed at the heart of American politics in 2005 – when her critiques of US foreign policy drew the attention of Barack Obama. She joined his team, eventually becoming a senior human rights adviser.
After an early misstep (she branded Hillary Clinton ‘a monster’, and lost her job over the incident), Power served in the White House’s National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights. In 2013, she was appointed to the coveted position of US Ambassador to the United Nations.
As she reveals in her newest book, The Education of an Idealist, the intensity of her work was matched by personal struggle – trying to start a family, then raising young children; dealing with anxiety attacks and her own painful childhood. Power has been celebrated for her skill and influence, and has proudly worn the title of activist. She has also drawn sharp criticism from some quarters, particularly in her advocacy for ‘humanitarian intervention’, and her arguments for US action or inaction in Libya, Syria and Yemen.
In conversation with Sally Warhaft, Samantha Power discusses the complexity of decision-making, the tensions between activism and power, and the reconciliation of past and future.
Sally Warhaft and Samantha Power
The Wheeler Centre
Broadside: Necessary Truths: Fatima Bhutto and Mona Eltahawy
Sisonke Msimang, Fatima Bhutto and Mona Eltahawy on stage at Melbourne Town Hall — Photo: Sophie Quick
'The role of artists is never to celebrate power.'Fatima Bhutto
There's a million reasons why we're told to keep quiet on difficult subjects: propriety and decorum, convention and status, fear of retribution. When women try to introduce nuance into certain public debates, it doesn't usually go well for them. Western media conglomerates are often more interested in protecting power than interrogating it. If a woman offers an unvarnished analysis of power structures, or a contrary view, it's often framed as ugly, inappropriate or ungrateful.
In this episode, recorded at the inaugural Broadside festival of feminist ideas, two of the world’s most fearless, most honest, most forthright voices – Fatima Bhutto and Mona Eltahawy – unpick the challenges and pitfalls of a life of truth. With host Sisonke Msimang, they discuss artistry, the west, power and biography.
The Wheeler Centre
Broadside: Taking Up Space: Building the City That We Deserve
A woman’s place in the world and right to move through it freely has always been controlled. Workplaces, our city streets, pubs and parks are not just traditionally unwelcoming, but can be dangerous and destructive. Patriarchy has, until now, dominated our public spaces, and the way that different bodies and identities are policed within them.
So how can public space be reconceived, and how can we create a city that is truly accessible? Can we break our urban environments free from Anglocentric and gendered constructs of the past? And – are we even asking the right questions?
Pictured, left to right: Jan Fran, Niki Kalms, Caroline Martin, Gala Vanting and Jax Jacki Brown — Photo: Hannah Koelmeyer
In this episode, recorded at the inaugural Broadside festival of feminist ideas, host Jan Fran leads a discussion with writer and sex worker advocate Gala Vanting, spoken word performer and disability activist Jax Jacki Brown, YIRRAMBOI First Nations Festival creative director and Yalukit Marnang founder Caroline Martin and Monash University design researcher and XYX Lab founding director Nicole Kalms. They talk about urban space – and, ultimately, the intellectual work we have to do before we can even begin to talk about building anything.
The Fifth Estate
Sally Warhaft and Tim Costello
For decades, Tim Costello has been among Australia’s most outspoken voices on issues of social justice and global inequality. Through his work as a minister, as a lawyer and as the mayor of St Kilda council, he’s tackled pressing social issues – from gambling and homelessness to gun control.
He’s perhaps best known to most Australians, though, for his 15-year tenure as CEO of World Vision – a job which took him to conflict and disaster zones across the world, including to Darfur and to several countries affected by the Boxing Day Tsunami.
In his new memoir, A Lot with a Little, Costello reflects on his life and varied career. He reflects, too, on how his experiences have shaped his views on questions of equality, liberty, faith and community. With Sally Warhaft, he discusses the book, his ongoing work and the confronting and complex work of tackling global inequality.
The Wheeler Centre
Not Racist, But …: Racism and the Criminal Justice System
Santilla Chingaipe, Roxanne Moore, Tamar Hopkins and Fiona McLeod at the Wheeler Centre
In this edition of our Not Racist, But series, we discuss racial bias in the criminal justice system – from policing and legal aid to jury selection and sentencing.
Indigenous Australians account for just 2% of our country’s overall population and more than a quarter of our adult prison population. How, specifically, is this a function of explicit and structural racism across various facets of our enforcement and justice systems? And how are all non-white Australians – especially those from refugee backgrounds – disadvantaged when interacting with police and with the courts?
In this discussion, host Santilla Chingaipe and the panel explore how racial discrimination and bias play out on a daily and inter-generational basis in Australia. They look at racial data collection, too, and how sensationalist media reporting can skew perception, politics and policy.
With lawyer and Accountability Round Table Chair Fiona McLeod; Noongar woman, lawyer and NATSILS Executive Officer Roxanne Moore; and FKCLC Police Accountability Project founding lawyer Tamar Hopkins.
Anything and everything in Law, ethics & philosophy from across our archives.
Jeffrey Archer ‘in Conversation’ with Jennifer Byrne
(Click to watch video.)
Politician, pensmith, (ex-) prisoner - there are many ‘P’ words that come to mind when Jeffrey Archer is in the house. Archer toured Australia recently to promote his latest book Only Time Will Tell. He was joined by Jennifer Byrne for a conversation which turned out, for all intents and purposes, to be more of a soliloquy.
The Interrobang: A Festival of Questions
Why are people nicer when it’s your birthday? Questions of relativity and hope
Better Off Dead
5 The keys to life and death in someone else’s hands: the Netherlands, part 1
Towards an Accountable Media
“If journalism and the media industry in Australia are serious about rebuilding their absolutely disastrous standing, the work starts with reforming the self-regulation media ethics system.”
Johan Lidberg at New Matilda explains there are instances of media self-regulation that have worked in the public interest.
Explore these other subjects, across our site.