Positioning public relations as an academic discipline in Australia

Hatherell, William & Bartlett, Jennifer L. (2005) Positioning public relations as an academic discipline in Australia. In Public Relations Institute of Australia Academic Conference 2005, October 2005, Brisbane, Australia.

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Academic public relations in Australia appears to be entering a new phase in its relatively short history. The early model in which tertiary courses were confined to teaching-focussed institutions and conducted largely by teacher-practitioners is being supplanted by one in which the discipline is now offered in most Australian universities, is increasingly embracing research, and is being taught by staff following more traditional academic career paths. Despite the formal association with the communication discipline through ANZCA, public relations academics have increasingly asserted the independence of their discipline and in reality have very little dialogue with other strands of the communication discipline. These developments call into question the most appropriate knowledge base for public relations as an academic discipline in Australia and its proper relation to the profession (and the PRIA as the professional body).

One danger associated with the assertion of disciplinary independence lies in the risk of excessive reliance on a relatively narrow body of work emanating from the more established US public relations academy, in the process ignoring much richer work in surrounding disciplines such as social theory, rhetoric, organisational communication, and business and society. The emphasis on disciplinary demarcation also seems curious during a time of growing ‘interdisciplinarity’ in the humanities and the social sciences. This paper critically reviews the construction of public relations as an academic discipline in Australia, drawing on some of the literature on academic disciplinarity to propose a repositioning of the discipline, one that is less focussed on asserting difference than on finding connections with other bodies of knowledge while maintaining close links with professional practice.

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ID Code: 3486
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Public relations
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2005 (please consult author)
Deposited On: 07 Feb 2006 00:00
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2012 09:38

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