Australian Political Lives: Chronicling Political Careers and Administrative Histories

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John Nethercote, Tracey Arklay, John Wanna
ANU E Press, 2006 M10 1 - 130 pages
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This monograph brings together some of the best practitioners of the art and craft of political biography in Australia. They are simultaneously some of our best scholars who, at least in part, have turned their attention to writing Australian political lives. They are not merely chroniclers of our times but multidisciplinary analysts constructing layers of explanation and theoretical insight. They include academic, professional and amateur biographers; scholars from a range of disciplines (politics, history, sociology, public administration, gender studies); and politicians who for a time strutted the political stage. The assembled papers explore the strengths and weaknesses of the biographical approach; the enjoyment it can deliver; the problems and frustrations of writing biographies; and the various ways the 'project' can be approached by those constructing these lives. They probe the art and craft of the political biographer.

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Page 44 - By Bentham, beyond all others, men have been led to ask themselves, in regard to any ancient or received opinion, Is it true ? and by Coleridge, What is the meaning of it?
Page 47 - In finished anthropological writings, including those collected here, this fact —that what we call our data are really our own constructions of other people's constructions of what they and their compatriots are up to...
Page 47 - ... There is an Indian story — at least I heard it as an Indian story — about an Englishman who, having been told that the world rested on a platform which rested on the back of an elephant which rested in turn on the back of a turtle, asked (perhaps he was an ethnographer; it is the way they behave), What did the turtle rest on? Another turtle. And that turtle? "Ah, Sahib, after that it is turtles all the way down.
Page 45 - Coleridge, on the contrary, the very fact that any doctrine had been believed by thoughtful men, and received by whole nations or generations of mankind, was part of the problem to be solved, was one of the phenomena to be ac1 Mill quotes his own description from the essay on Bentham.
Page 89 - I have often thought that there has rarely passed a life of which a judicious and faithful narrative would not be useful.
Page 47 - Anthropology, or at least interpretive anthropology, is a science whose progress is marked less by a perfection of consensus than by a refinement of debate. What gets better is the precision with which we vex each other.
Page ix - Administration at the Research School of Social Sciences at The Australian National University. He is the director of research for the Australian and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG).
Page 48 - Since no given set or sequence of real events is intrinsically tragic, comic, farcical, and so on, but can be constructed as such only by the imposition of the structure of a given story type on the events, it is the choice of the story type and its imposition upon the events that endow them with meaning.
Page 48 - refuted," or their generalizations "disconfirmed," either by appeal to new data that might be turned up in subsequent research or by the elaboration of a new theory for interpreting the sets of events that comprise their objects of representation and analysis. Their status as models of historical narration and conceptualization...
Page 48 - ... data" they used to support their generalizations or the theories they invoked to explain them; it depends rather upon the consistency, coherence, and illuminative power of their respective visions of the historical field. This is why they cannot be "refuted," or their generalizations "disconfirmed...

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