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3 December 2012
For celebrity obsessed Australians it would appear to be the feast of a lifetime but when the world's celebrity experts gather at Deakin University from the 12 to 14 December for the inaugural Celebrity Studies Conference, the discussion will not be about the latest gossip from the stars on Twitter.
Conference organiser, Deakin University Associate Professor in Media and Communication and expert in stardom and celebrity, Sean Redmond, said the discussions about Don Lane, Molly Meldrum, celebrity chefs, Lady Ga Ga, Lindsay Lohan, Kevin Rudd, Dawn Fraser, Mickey Rourke among others would explore more interesting matters such as why Don Lane was a celebrity in Australia yet completely obscure in America.
“Similarly we are captivated by programs such as Underbelly, Chopper and Blue Murder but as academics we ask have we elevated criminals to celebrities, to the point where they hire agents to manage their media engagements,” Associate Professor Redmond said.
“Molly Meldrum, likewise, has shaped the Australian music industry but how has he been able to command such influence?”
Associate Professor Redmond said critics had questioned whether Celebrity Studies was a legitimate research pursuit, but it had proved its academic research pedigree when its key journal – the Celebrity Studies journal - was short-listed in 2011 as the best new academic journal by its peers.
“Celebrity Studies, is a key research strength at Deakin and it is now of the moment, but it has a history longer than you can imagine,” he said.
“In the 1970s it was more about stardom, but now you have philosophers, sociologists, economists, all exploring this field. There has been very interesting work done on Barack Obama, for example”
“We don’t like to admit it but celebrities offer us forms of identification and belonging, and we measure our happiness and sense of self-worth against them. They offer people, fans, a great deal of pleasure, and pleasure is a very important part of everyday life”.
Associate Professor Redmond said it was rare for such a large-scale, international conference to be held in Australia. It has attracted over 120 delegates and a special conference special edition of the journal will publish the best papers in 2014.
“As organisers we are excited by the international visitors and also the five keynote speakers - Professor Graeme Turner from the University of Queensland, Professor Christine Geraghty from the Universities of London and Glasgow, Professor David Marshall from Deakin University, Professor Susan Murray from New York University and Professor Chris Holmlund from the University of Tennessee,” he said.
Professor Turner will address the questions we are regularly asked by journalists – is celebrity a bad thing and what does it say about us?”, Associate Professor Redmond said.
Professor Geraghty will address academic concerns about the study of stars, Professor Marshall will explore the way persona has impacted upon the private and public worlds, Professor Murray will look at early American reality television, its stars, and its relationship to what we now see on our screens, and Professor Holmlund will look at the ‘global’ brand of Arnold Schwarzenegger and the need for academics to question the white, US, middle-aged, male assumptions on which it is created.
The Deakin academics presenting at the conference will be:
Kim Roberts, Celebrity: image, space, ground zero
Allison Maplesden, Lindsay Lohan the ‘Hot Mess’: Wayward Female Celebrity and Discourses of Mental Illness and Criminality
Adriana Szili, The Sports Persona: Profession, Gender and Sexuality in the individualised tennis identity
Dr Christopher Moore, “I’m kind of big deal on the Internet”: Reddit.com and the reshaping of celebrity
Constructing persona online: the gamer/gâmeur
Kim Barbour, The Artist in a Networked Society
Associate Professor Sean Redmond, - Performing Age in the Star Body of Mickey Rourke
Dr Cassandra Atherton, Dr Bonnie Blossman, The University of North Texas and Big, Rich Texas
Asociate Professor Stephen Alomes, Celebrity meets Populism in Europe? The Sarkozy and Berlusconi “Shows”
Deakin Media Relations
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Conference presentations will explore the 'celebrity academic' including Dr Bonnie Blossman (above), biology professor and star of Big Rich Texas. Photo source Style Media
Associate Professor Sean Redmond will explore male ageing and Mickey Rourke in his presentation at the conference. Photo Source David Shankbone Author David Shankbone