Department of Sociology
The Sociology Department has a rich history of research and remains committed to keeping sociology an open and diverse discipline. This commitment is reflected in our research endeavours past and present.
When the Australian Sociological Association tried to establish The Top Ten Most Influential Books in Australian Sociology (2003), four of the books selected had been published by academics as members of the Department. Today, a vigorous research environment continues to flourish. Current staff research across the applied and the theoretical ends of our discipline, with special interest in the fields of social theory, ethnicity and globalisation, crime research, intimacy and the generations, work and organisations, social survey research, art and culture, and political economy.
In recent years, staff have published in a wide variety of local and international journals. These include: Current Sociology, Thesis Eleven, Ageing and Society, Australian Journal of Political Science, Journal of Sociology, Work, Employment & Society, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Sociological Theory, Cultural Sociology, Sociological Research Online, Australian Journal of Social Issues, and the European Journal of Social Theory.
For a complete list of staff interests and publications please see the staff profiles.
CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECTS
Ongoing study focussed on theories of care, the changing mix of informal and formal provision, innovative practices of care provision and receipt, and research into the characteristics of current and future care workforce in ageing societies.
Keywords : care - human services - social policy - social support - work
Researcher : Michael Fine
This research is based on the New South Wales Case Management Research Collaboration, a partnership linking Community Options NSW, The Aged and Community Services Association of Australia (NSW), Community care Northern Beaches (CCNB), and NSW Department of Health in a collaborative research program with the support of Macquarie University. Currently undertaking survey of case management services in New South Wales.
Keywords : case management - human services innovation - service provision
Researchers : Michael Fine; Virginia Simpson-Young; Eliza Pross; Prue Sky; Elizabeth Lattimer-Hill; Lindy Clarke
Constituencies for Welfare: Public Responses to Australia's 'New Welfare State' (ARC Discovery Grant)
This project explores two essential features of welfare state dynamics: the responsiveness of public policy to welfare opinion in Australia, and emerging welfare priorities and expectations of the Australian public. The project has produced a conference paper and will contribute to longer article on policy responsiveness.
Keyword : Social change - Political sociology - Public opinion - Public policy - Welfare state
Researchers: Shaun Wilson, Gabrielle Meagher (USyd)
Corporations are usually addressed as either major players in the market or as business organisations. Thus, as Craig Calhoun points out, modern corporations have "received very little attention in sociological theory even though it is central to modern institutional arrangements". This project attempts to contribute to establish a sociology of corporations from the viewpoint of social interaction.
Keywords : Corporations - Corporate - C ulture - S ocial interaction - O rganisations - W ork society
Researcher : Norbert Ebert
Keywords: Civil Society - Democracy - Non-government organisations - Participation
Researchers: Ariadne Vromen (USyd); Ian Marsh (USyd); Ben Spies-Butcher
A monograph that will provide the first comparative history of women's public service radio programming in Canada and Australia via correspondence and audience research, scripts and listeners' letters. Research is complete, and currently book chapters are being developed. Sections have been published in international referred journals such as Storytelling.
Keywords : Gender and media - Intimate sphere - Radio history - Spatiality
Researcher : Justine Lloyd
The current projects are, first, looking at the 'way forward' to restore trust within the financial industry and the trust of citizens in the banks, other financial institutions and, basically, in money. Sociological conceptions of impersonal trust and economic democracy are used. A second research project is examining how risk managers in major German, British and Australian banks cope with their 'back office' status and contradictory demands to allow traders to make profits when times are good, but to safeguard the solvency of their financial firms. It compares their views (from interviews) before and after the global financial crisis, and is working on the hypothesis that the former attempts to quantify financial outcomes that will always be uncertain were, unsurprisingly, doomed to fail, as we have seen. Again, the project seeks a way forward for banks to foster social development in responsible ways. Theoretical work is also current on sociological theories of money that have long acknowledged that money involves a three-way relation between lender, borrower and the 'community' that vouchsafes the value of money (as Simmel and Weber suggest, respectively). Government bail-outs are evidence of the 'community' relationship, but also demonstrate that the value of money is determined by the outcomes of social conflicts between creditors, debtors, governments and the banks. Money is not a commodity but a promise into the future, which banks create for a consideration (fee). A fourth project is looking at attitudes that people have towards their financial future. My 'financial anxiety' questions in the quality survey (Australian Survey of Social Attitudes) showed a near majority of Australians 'worry a lot' about their financial future. A small poll I conducted in the UK Mori Opinion Poll, after the run on the bank, Northern Rock, showed only a third worrying. Further work on attitudes and knowledge about money is planned.
Keywords: Impersonal trust - Organisational distrust - Risk and uncertainty - Social attitudes - Social divisions
Researcher: Jocelyn Pixley
This project explores historical and present day encounters of cross-cultural interactions and race relations in Singapore. Although the immigrant city state considers itself to be a racially tolerant and harmonious multiracial society, everyday social tensions and discomforts arising from living with cultural difference are rarely officially acknowledged. Indeed, the term racism is entirely absent from official discourse and public debate in Singapore. The study critically examines some of the everyday forms of racism that ethnic minority groups (in particular, Indians) experience in Singapore.
Keywords: Cross-cultural interactions - Ethnicity - Everyday life - Race - Racism
Researcher: Selvaraj Velayutham
Individualisation has become an ambiguous feature of late modern societies. It carries a sense of liberation, yet individuals are compelled to cope with a fragmented and pluralised social order largely by themselves. While the advance of individual freedoms is taken-for-granted, the seemingly unnoticed structural imposition to individually negotiate the boundaries between systemic and normative processes is portrayed as individual freedom and social integration. This project explores the ambiguities underpinning individualisation as they emerge from contemporary transformations of capitalism and work.
Keywords: Beck - Capitalism - Habermas - Individualisation - Lifeworld - System
Researcher : Norbert Ebert
Information and Cultural Exchange: a study of best practice in community building, participation and cultural citizenship through creative practices (ARC Linkage Grant)
Study of the Sydney community arts organization Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE. This project offers new approaches to questions of cultural diversity beyond multiculturalism by bringing together the notions of culture and citizenship, thereby reframing the international debate over cultural citizenship within the Australian context. Of particular interest is the role of ICE in formulating spaces for communities to access and create media forms that have been key to effecting social change. Partner organizations are: ICE, Arts NSW, and OzCo.
Keywords: Community - Cultural development - Critiques of multiculturalism - Media access - Social action
Researcher: Justine Lloyd
This study is about the experience and practice of multiculturalism in Australian workplaces. Using primarily qualitative research methods, it explores how culturally different workers get on with one another in diverse workplaces and how they negotiate difference at the everyday level. It also investigates the impact of neo-liberal work place changes and broader discourses, stereotypes and moral panics on intercultural relationships at work.
Keywords: Everyday life - Interethnic relations - Multiculturalism - Racism - Work
Researchers: Selvaraj Velayutham; Amanda Wise; Gillian Vogl
Summary: Since 2005, I have been involved an international collaboration with The Free University in Berlin, which has been funded through the ARC International Linkage program and hosted by the Centre for Cultural Research at UWS (CI: Dr Fiona Allon). The collaboration, titled 'Open Cities: Cultural Articulations of Citizenship in Berlin and Sydney' has been developed through workshops in Berlin in September 2006. During October 2007 German researchers visited Sydney for further research workshops and a symposium titled 'Liquid Cities'. An edited collection of papers from this collaboration will appear in a special issue of the journal Space and Culture in 2010 (volume 13, number 1).
Keywords: Cultural citizenship - Belonging - Globalisation - Migration - Urban studies
Researcher: Justine Lloyd
Anecdotal evidence suggests that young adult home buyers usually find it either difficult or impossible to enter the housing market without familial support. Social scientific evidence about this everyday practice is scant. As a first exploration, his research project investigates (1) the role of private, intergenerational transfers in young adults capacities to enter the home-buyers market, and (2) changes in the quality of relationships between parents and their adult children. Home ownership rates among 25-34 year olds are declining. We also know that marital status is a key factor in the decision to buy a home, and that income plays a significant role. However, in the Australian context, we don't know what role parental support plays in young adults home purchases. The focus is on three types of intergenerational transfers: direct material support, indirect material support and non-material support.
Keywords: Family - Intergenerational relationships - Intimacy - Housing market - Qualitative research
Researchers: Harry Blatterer ; Bernard Leckning
The project researches the effects of media regulations (and of related institutional structures) on political communication in Australia. How does the organization and operation of Australian media condition the way in which Australians think about politics? In what respects are basic and mundane notions about power, democracy, nationhood, distribution, fairness, rights and political obligation shaped by the press and electronic media? The project brings new international research on political communication to bear on a number of basic contemporary problems that are widely attributed to the media. The project will generate new and accessible empirical data with a multi-method approach using focus groups, survey evidence, and content analysis.
Keywords: Communication - Media - Media Policy - Politics - Regulation
Researchers: Michael Pusey; Paul Jones (UNSW)
Drawing upon the insights of visual sociology , this project builds on original ethnographic research conducted with quarry workers in Carrara in the late 1980s and more recent research that looks at the ways in which visual artists - photographers and sculptors - work with and envision the marble landscape. The project is informed by phenomenological approaches to labour and visual practice both in terms of the ways in which quarry workers engage with the immediate physical environment and the ways in which artists imagine their own investments to this place. The project is constantly evolving, a reflection, no doubt, of the researchers own longstanding associations with quarry workers, photographers, painters and sculptors who all live and work within this community: a place that is literally drunk on stone. The current phase of this involves a series of interviews with women sculptors: Carving Lives: women sculptors at Carrara. The women are from very diverse cultural backgrounds. But they are equally inspired by Carrara and its marble landscape. What draws these women to this place? How are their artistic practices informed by both the material with which they work and the immediate physical and social landscape? Beyond the micro history and culture of Carrara, this project has a broader agenda to engage with debates within the sociology of art on the nature of creative labour and the material practices of artists more generally.
Keywords: Carrara - Sociology of art - Materiality - Phenomenology - Visual Sociology
Researcher: Alison Leitch
Today the search for a 'haven in a heartless world' is being revisited in a range of critical discourses about an embattled private life. My research project will explore and evaluate the consequences of the rescuing intentions typical of recent theories of intimate life. It argues that the quest for a haven that dominates the contemporary literature generates overly normative versions of intimate life. Cultural differentiation has invaded the intimate sphere and neither love nor friendship has 'won the race' to resolve its meaning. Hegel told us long ago that that an 'immense contradiction' unsettles the way in which the intimate union represents its value and, much later, Adorno made a similar point when he advised us that there are 'no peaceful enclaves' to be had. The project will reject the search for normative scripts and explore contemporary intimacy as a register of our efforts to negotiate and make sense of the lived effects of a range of cultural expectations and hopes.
Keywords : Critical Theory - Friendship - Love - Privacies
Researcher : Pauline Johnson
Tax expenditures have been growing rapidly in the past 25 years. Unlike much of the rest of the Australian welfare state, these payments tend to be focused on higher income earners and subsidising private service provision. We are examining how we can better understand the role these payments play, why they have been increasing and the implications of this for distribution and economic activity.
Keywords: Private provision - Social services - Tax - Welfare
Researchers: Adam Stebbing; Ben Spies-Butcher
The rise of the Greens raises significant questions for our understanding of the social support bases of the major parties. The success of the Greens has been linked to longer term processes of political dealignment, with party identification and membership falling, the relationship between class and voting intention weakening and the rise of postmaterialist politics. Yet analysis of the Australian Election Study suggests the Greens voting base is far more demographically and ideologically defined than the previous balance of power party - the Australian Democrats. While Greens are more likely to identify with postmaterial politics, they are also more likely to belong to a distinct political and class base.
Keywords: Class - Greens - Ideology - Political parties - Postmaterialism
Researchers: Stewart Jackson (USyd); Ben Spies-Butcher
This is an interdisciplinary, collaborative project on the cultural literacies and technologies of 'listening'. During 2008 the Listening Project began a program of collaboration that generated sustained discussion and publication around the practices, politics and ethics of the cultural literacy of 'listening'. Overwhelmingly, habitual critiques of representation and the politics of 'speaking' (or giving voice to the voiceless) are seen to be giving way to investigation of more active possibilities for social inclusion and change based on recognition, dialogic engagement and acceptance. The project has developed a new area of study through an innovative model of networking, bringing together researchers across a range of disciplines as well as media and cultural producers. By examining the neglected dynamics of 'listening', participants have helped negotiate listening an emerging focus in Media Studies and citizens' media interventions.
Keywords: cultural literacies, critical media studies, technologies of listening
Researcher: Justine Lloyd; Tanja Dreher (UTS); Penny O'Donnell (USyd)
Are personal, intimate, bonds in trouble? On the one side intimate (close, warm, romantic, caring, supportive) relationships are thought to be under pressure from the damaging intrusions of restructured markets. Equally, on the cultural side, economic ideas penetrate ever more deeply into private life as denominators of value for significant life decisions. This project examines the meaning and value that Australians give to intimacy in their lived experience. The results of the project will provide clear empirical and conceptual baselines for a range of sociological and policy related studies into the health and resilience of personal relationships in contemporary Australia.
Keywords: Family - Intimacy - Private sphere - Social change - Social Policy
The project aims to produce a book ms which deepens our contemporary understanding of the image. The ms will be divided into two sections: One examining the historical and philosophical foundations of the image through an examination of the image in Plato and Ancient Greek culture and philosophy; Byzantine image; the image in the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, and the image in Industrial society. Section two will look at the aesthetics of the image in digital technology as well as the image in photography and cinema.
Keywords : Aesthetics - Image - Ontology - Technology -Transparency
Researcher: John Lechte
Transnational Affect and the Moral Economies of Temporary Skilled Migration of South Indians to Australia (ARC Discovery Grant)
This is a three year project funded by the Australian Research Council Discovery Grant Program. The project aims to develop insights into the cultural and social impacts of temporary migration from the perspective of the temporary skilled migrant, and in terms of their impact on Australian social and cultural landscape. The research will explore in particular, how gender and temporary visa status shape their experiences of migration, decisions on settlement, family reunion, and engagement with Australian society and everyday life.
Keywords: Affect - Integration - Migration - Moral economy - Transnationalism
Researchers: Selvaraj Velayutham; Amanda Wise
The Your Rights at Work campaign run by trade unions in the lead up to the 2007 federal election is one of the most significant examples of a social movement directly engaging in parliamentary politics. After two decades of falling membership and repeated claims of declining relevance, trade unions appear to have been remarkably effective in pressing their claims politically. In this project we explore the campaign, evaluating effectiveness in terms of ability to influence voters preferences and attempt to place the campaign within the social movement literature.
Keywords: Election - Industrial relations - Labor Party - Social movements - Trade unions
Research undertaken through the Centre for Research on Social Inclusion and Red Cross Australia
Keywords : Capacity building- Volunteers
Researchers : Michael Fine, Virginia Simpson-Young, Rochelle Spencer
"We thought Darwin had thrown the Redeemer away": Emily Dickinson and the Nineteenth Century New England Darwin Wars'
Part I of this project includes: a) an examination of the reception of Darwin in Emily Dickinson's New England through an examination of 19 th century New England periodicals and monographs; b) a discussion of the pre-Darwinian evolutionary theology movement in the United states; c) a comparative study of Emily Dickinson's reading, drawing on extensive research with the poet's library and the periodicals to which she subscribed and Darwin's reading, working with his reading notebooks, letters, and library lists. The project also establishes d) the affiliations and interconnections between members of Dickinson's intimate circle with Darwin himself as well as his larger cultural circle and e) examines the shared vocabulary and world view of these two great 19th century naturalists who minutely recorded in all they wrote the transformed concept of nature manifested by 18 th and 19 th century science. Part II focuses on the writing of Emily Dickinson, with particular emphasis on the nature writings, the idea of God, and, borrowing the title of a collection of Darwin's early writings, 'Metaphysics, Materialism and the Evolution of Mind'. Whereas Darwin was assuaged by the creative potential of natural selection and his privileging, in the case of humans, of community or group selection, Dickinson was less sanguine. Although she shared the joy and wonder - indeed 'the grandeur in this view of life' - she was concerned with the spectacle of individual pain and suffering, and articulated what might be called 'the emotional toll of Darwinian theory.'
Keywords: 19th Century Dickinson - Evolutionary theology - Darwin - Science and Religion
Researcher: Joan Kirkby
In the context of cultural and economic transformations to the global economy, there is a newly emerging intensity to the circulation of public discourse around food and identity. Food - how it is produced and how it is consumed - is of particular interest in the contemporary era because of the ways in which eating is a mundane expression of the visceral nature of our connectedness and distance from each other, from ourselves and our social environments. Eating captures at the phenomenological level the dual narratives - celebratory and anxious - that are accompanying contemporary discussions on the formation of individual and collective subjectivities in these 'new times'. Moreover, as even a casual perusal of the media attests, the production and distribution of food is rapidly becoming key to political debates on a range of pressing contemporary issues such as climate change, sustainable food production, food security and international trade wars. This research project is concerned with gathering case studies that examine various social and political movements of citizens, farmers and consumers who are currently engaged with alternate visions of food production and consumption. My interest in the topic began with research I conducted on the politics of the Slow Food Movement in Italy. Having written about the origins of this movement in Italy and its concern with the protection of cultural landscapes and foodscapes in the context of Europeanization, as well as comparisons with the politics of the French Farmers Confederation and their campaigns against genetically modified foods, I have now turned my attention to investigating what I call the 'Bush Food movement' in Australia. I am currently conducting a series of interviews with a number of the key protagonists: restaurateurs and others who were actively engaged with the promotion of native Australian ingredients during the 1970s. A key question that has emerged from these interviews is the question of culinary racism. To what extent can food act as a medium of cultural integration and reconciliation within the fraught politics of Australian multiculturalism and racism? What are the limits to this kind of food politics? And what are its potentialities?
Keywords: Bush food movement - Culinary racism - Food politics - Multiculturalism
Researcher: Alison Leitch
WorkChoices and the Experience of Australian Working Life ( Macquarie New Staff Grant)
This project is collecting qualitative interview data for the Australia at Work project in conjunction with
Sean Scalmer at Melbourne University and the Workplace Research Centre at Sydney University. Results
have been published in the 2nd Australia at Work report available at: www.australiaatwork.org.au The project has been financed by grants and resources from both Macquarie University and Sydney University.
Keywords: Social change - Sociology of work - Qualitative social research - WorkChoices
Researchers: Shaun Wilson, Sean Scalmer