We’re nearly at the end of our first semester seminar series and again have been treated to fascinating insights and ideas from a range of speakers. The last seminar on humans and animals on May 20 promises to be equally interesting. Our next newsletter will have details of the series that begins on July 29 so you’ll be able to mark your diaries early. Steve Johnson and I will also be presenting details of the Centre’s Education for World Futures initiative on May 26 at 1 pm. We’ll send more details closer to the time.We’re pleased to draw your attention to a lecture series on Global Health beginning on Monday July 27. It’s primarily aimed at medical students but interested members of the public are also encouraged to attend. Details are below.
Professor Neville Bruce
Director, Centre for Integrated Human Studies
NEXT SEMINAR: SLAVES OR EQUALS? HUMANS AND ANIMALS May 20
“Animals, whom we have made our slaves, we do not like to consider our equals.” Charles Darwin
Humans are social animals not only amongst other humans – we also associate with other animals in various ways. Since ancient times we have domesticated pets and used animals for food and work, and it is possible now to use animal organs in human transplants. How far can we take this use – or is it abuse? Extinctions of native animals are not uncommon; have we spoiled our planet to the extent that we may see extinctions of working animals? How has our relationship with animals been portrayed in the arts?
Chair: Prof Dennis Haskell Presenters: Dr Dominique Blache, and beekeeper Peter Detchon. All are welcome and there is no charge to attend. The seminar is at 5.30 pm in Seminar Room 1.81 on the first floor of the School of Anatomy and Human Biology.
NOTES FROM THE LAST SEMINAR, WORK
Chair Professor Colin Macleod, in his introduction, said that attitudes to work differ, even in one person. At different times, work might inspire and satisfy us, or frustrate and annoy us. It could be similar to our relationship with our spouse, but while we could get support to work on our spousal relationship, we often struggle on our own to determine our relationship with our working life.
Professor Rob Lambert of the Business School described his five years of research in three production sites in Korea, Orange, NSW, and South Africa, where the aim was to find out the impact of global restructuring on the experience of work, on the individual, on the families of workers, and in the broader society (published in Grounding Globalization: Labour in the Age of Insecurity, Edward Webster, Rob Lambert and Andries Bezuidenhout, Blackwell Publishing, 2008).
Rob and his colleagues Edward Webster and Andries Bezuidenhout used methodologies of sociology – observation, interviews conducted at three monthly intervals over time, and survey data – and drew on the theory of Karl Polanyi. He explained that we are bound by the discourse of the free market, with its premise of international competitiveness and flexibility, and its commodification of humans. This created a world of profound insecurity for employees.
Rob described the site in Orange that started in WWII as a munitions factory and was restructured after as a refrigerator plant run by an Australian company, Email. After a long stable period, the factory was purchased in 2001 by Electrolux and over the next two years the workforce was reduced from 1800 people to 450. Rob found that individuals, families and the community were all damaged by this experience. A key aspect of people’s work was the search for meaning and identity, and insecurity drains the work experience of meaning. Solidarity and social connectedness are required to ameliorate the dystopian fragmentation of community that occurs in a self-regulated market. Solidarity can be achieved through social movements that may arise in response to particular moments in history; and counter movements could occur through people putting pressure on political parties to regulate the market.