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Zero tolerance is a faith and not a policy. Creativity103/Flickr

Like men possessed: what are illicit drug laws really for?

According to the UK government’s “first evidence-based study”, released at the end of last week, tough laws for personal possession of illicit drugs fail to lower levels of their use. This is not news…
Landscape architects need to mediate between the soft and hard elements of the city. Forecast, photo by John Gollings

Future forecasting: landscape architects might save the world

I predict we’re going to hear a lot more from landscape architects in the coming years. There has long been a misunderstanding about what they actually do – “something about gardens” being a common response…
One of the works on show at Manifesta 10: Francis Alÿs, Study for the Lada “Kopeika” Project. Brussels—St. Petersburg, 2014. (Courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner Gallery. Commissioned by MANIFESTA 10, St. Petersburg. With the support of the Flemish authorities. Installation view MANIFESTA 10, General Staff Building, State Hermitage Museum.) Manifesta

A Manifesta without a manifesto: contemporary art in St Petersburg

Manifesta is a nomadic European biennial exhibition of contemporary art that sets up camp in a different European city every two years. In 2012, Manifesta 9 was held in Limburg, Belgium, and considered…
Visitors of Afghan nationality wearing hijabs outside Parliament House yesterday. Lukas Coch/AAP

Burqa and Niqab: they cover the face, not the mind

A call to ban the burqa has permeated Australian political discussions since police raided the homes of suspected Islamist extremists in Sydney and Brisbane on September 18. Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi…
Photographs sometimes mean what they can be shown to mean. AAP Image/Julian Smith

Terrorism, truth and trust – how dramaturgy informs real life

Drama and its core principles are to be found in theatres while the real world goes on outside, right? Wrong. And recent events bear this out. Dramaturgy is the art of managing events in time for the benefit…
Most of the world continues with a criminal justice approach to drug use despite ample evidence of its harmfulness. Jason Verwey/Flickr

What works best in the war on drugs

In 1967, the Beatles took out a full-page advertisement in The Times describing Britain’s marijuana laws as “immoral in principle and unworkable in practice”. Almost half a century later, both past and…
Clare Wright’s Forgotten Rebels of Eureka has been justly praised - and it’s an important addition to Australian feminist history. Paul Baird/Flickr

Noted works: The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka

Clare Wright’s The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka (2013) is a career-defining work of scholarship and storytelling. The significance of her historical intervention and the power and flair of Wright’s narrative…
Some of the bird world’s mimicry superstars. Clockwise from top left: superb lyrebird; silvereye; satin bowerbird; Australian magpie; mistletoebird; brown thornbill. Alex Maisey; Justin Welbergen; Johan Larson; Leo/Flickr; David Cook/Filckr; Patrick/Flickr

The mimics among us — birds pirate songs for personal profit

From Roman classics to British tabloids, humans have long celebrated the curious and remarkable ability of birds to imitate the sounds of humans and other animals. A recent surge of research is revealing…
Professor Ian Chubb: ‘We are a nation in 'transition’, we hear. But to what; and how?‘

There are no free rides to the future: Australia’s Chief Scientist

This is a transcript of the 2014 Jack Beale Lecture on the Global Environment, hosted at the University of New South Wales. Tonight I want to talk about the future. I know that it’s not a novel thing to…
Nicholas Clements’ The Black War sheds new light on the long and bloody war between colonists and Aboriginal people in Tasmania in the early 19th century. Crop of Governor Davey's Proclamation to the Aborigines, Wikimedia Commons

Noted works: The Black War

Nicholas Clements, The Black War: Fear, Sex and Resistance in Tasmania (2014, University of Queensland Press). In the heat of commemoration of Australians’ involvement in the first world war, it’s timely…
Strange as it may seem, many participants at Gallipoli took the time out to ponder the beauty of the landscape. Mattia Notari - Foto

Long read: Gallipoli, the beautiful city

If you do a historical study of the Gallipoli battlefields, or even if you are just a passing visitor to the sites, one of the first things to strike you is all the different names. At the Anzac battlefield…
A new collection takes stock of the four decades that have passed since the publication of Dennis Altman’s landmark book, Homosexual. malstad

Noted works: After Homosexual

Noted Works is a new series on The Conversation devoted to long-form reviews of significant new books. See the end for further details. Dennis Altman was a young, articulate activist and out gay man when…
Less than welcoming… policies that prevent asylum seekers working are dehumanising. AAP Image/Newzulu/Zebedee Parkes

Asylum seekers and the dignity of work

My interview with Mr Syed did not get off to a great start. We’d arranged to meet at the Dandenong library – part of the city council building, a huge, bright orange edifice in the redeveloped heart of…
The ABC has a charter requirement to reflect the national identity – but it falls short when it comes to cultural diversity. Velovotee

Whose Australian stories? Cultural diversity at the ABC

Australia’s national broadcaster this week launched a rebranding campaign for its flagship television channel, ABC1, that features Australians from diverse cultural backgrounds. But if you look at the…
Whoa there, little lady: women in the workforce face a financial penalty for simply being female. Flickr/ Boston Public Library

Not missing in action: the enduring penalty of ‘being female’

While many aspects of working life have changed in recent decades, the inequality of outcomes experienced by male and female employees has been remarkably resistant. Within corporate Australia the proportion…
‘An unexamined life is not worthy of a human being’: Socrates. Shutterstock

Why study humanities?

This is a revised excerpt of a talk given to students at the Inaugural Australian Youth Humanities Forum, hosted at the University of Melbourne’s Parkville campus. After two days at this fine conference…

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