Ghosting Politics: Speechwriters, Speechmakers and the (Re)crafting of Identity

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Michael Richardson


Despite public awareness of their role, speechwriters occupy an anxiously liminal position within the political process. As the ongoing dispute between former Australian prime minister Paul Keating and Don Watson over the Redfern Speech suggests, the authorship and ownership of speeches can be a fraught proposition, no matter the professional codes. Crafting and re-crafting identity places speechwriter and speechmaker in a relation of intense intimacy, one in which neither party may be comfortable and from which both may well emerge changed. Having written speeches for Jack Layton, former leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, I know just how complex, uncertain and productive that relation can be. This article conceives of identity as transindividual, formed in the intensity and flux of encounter, and weaves together the personal and the critical to examine politics’ speechwriting ghost.

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Author Biography

Michael Richardson, School of Arts & Media University of New South Wales

Michael Richardson is a lecturer in the School of the Arts and Media at the University of New South Wales, Australia, where he teaches media theory and political communication. His interdisciplinary research investigates the intersection of affect and power in media, literature and political culture. He is currently working on a project about drones and witnessing. He is the author of Gestures of Testimony: Torture, Trauma and Affect in Literature (2016), co-editor of Traumatic Affect (2013) and was awarded a 2014 Varuna PIP Fellowship for his in-progress first novel. Before entering academia, he was speechwriter to The Hon. Jack Layton MP, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada.


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