Gender and Cultural Studies -- Postgraduate projects

Click on the names below to see current and past research projects and publications for postgraduate students in Gender and Cultural Studies.

Current projects

Alexa Appel Emilie Jervis Rany Pen Sara Tomkins
Alifa Bandali Kate Johnston Dallas Petersen Linda Daniela Villegas Merado
Julia Broom Paul Kelaita Paul Priday Bin Wang
Kurt Bugden Maria Koleth Grace Sharkey Helen Walters
Hysin-Yi Cheng Kate Lonie Michelle Starr Scott Webster
Christen Cornell Thomas Michel Timothy Kazou Steains Karen-Anne Wong
Kerryn Drysdale Kate O'Halloran Natalie Tao Annie Wu
Lisa Heinze      

Past projects

Inez Gershonowitz Jessica Kean Lina Nope-Williams
Liam Grealy Tim Laurie Li Meng  
Luz Hincapié Nancy Lee Shams Quader
Maria Elena Indelicato Remy Low Nikki Savvides
Sophie Johnson Wei Miao Zitong Qiu
     


Alexa Appel
The Father-Daughter Relationship in Contemporary Popular Culture: Femininity, Fatherhood and the Therapeutic Ethos

This thesis argues that contemporary therapeutic discourses on the father-daughter relationship – namely the discrete language ideologies, recurring images, moral categories and meta-narratives produced in and through a ‘therapeutic ethos’ (Illouz, 2008) on father-daughter relations – matter a great deal for understanding why themes of sexual protection, territoriality and the vulnerability of the ‘female psyche’ persistently characterise American ‘pop culture’ representations of the father-daughter relationship. This research project proposes that prevailing therapeutic discourses on the father-daughter dynamic are problematic; firstly, as they are grounded in socially constructed, patriarchal ideologies regarding the emotional and social requirements of women from men (i.e. their fathers) and, secondly, because they render it close to impossible for girls and women to conceptualise their relationships, sexualities, behaviours, life failures and successes beyond the language ideologies distinguishing this socially embedded matrix. A cultural habit of assuming that 'the father' ultimately shapes the character and life choices of their daughters, as this thesis emphasises, affects how we perceive our social worlds and, importantly, ourselves in profound ways. In order to demonstrate the legacy of therapeutic discourse amongst popular depictions of girls and young women, this thesis conducts a broad survey of popular representations of the father-daughter relationship in American's mass media, spanning from the late twentieth century to the present. The chapters of this thesis respectively focus on a particular cultural industry – i.e. 'pop psychology', romcoms and teen film, television sitcoms and talk shows, online self-help resources and the press.


Alifa Bandali
‘The work is good’: An examination of a women-centred NGO in Malaysia

My thesis is centered on ethnographic fieldwork conducted at an international women’s human rights organization based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I explore how the women engaging in this type of work view themselves through feminist ideologies, personal histories as well as issues surrounding health and how this is reflected in not only their personal lives, but their professional lives. I draw on Arlie Hochschild’s emotional labour thesis, where she discusses ideas of inducing and suppressing emotion in the workplace and what this means to individuals’ investments in their work. By researching predominantly a female-dominated environment, my research not only explores gender aspects, but also considers what motivates individuals to get involved in this type of work and what this means to them.


Julia Broom
The Labouring Subject in the Contemporary Indian Novel

This thesis explores the figure of the labouring subject in three Indian novels. It maps aspects of contemporary labour subordinated to regimes of flexible accumulation which structure the global economy, and in which the Indian worker is increasingly enmeshed. Here the neoliberal view of citizenship – that would have every citizen the entrepreneur of his or her own future – is examined in relation to three forms of labour as they are represented in the novels on which this thesis focuses. To this end it examines modalities of labour associated with: (i) the begging industry as portrayed in A Fine Balance (Mistry 1995); (ii) the outsourcing industry as characterised in The White Tiger (Adiga 2008); and, (iii) the undocumented worker as illustrated in The Inheritance of Loss (Desai 2006).


Kurt Bugden
Butterflies in The Stomach: Fluid Feelings, Feeling Fluids

This thesis explores the psychosomatic relationship between feelings – particularly of lust, disgust, disorientation and anxiety – and bodily fluids, their movements, secretions, pulsations, ebbs and flows. I argue that this relationship is psychosomatic because feelings and fluids are neither purely of the flesh nor “divined” by consciousness but are, rather, mingled and render one another intelligible. Drawing largely on the work of Alphonso Lingis, Michel Serres and Elisabeth Wilson, I aim to get at the pulsating heart of feeling, to probe the queasy gut, to make sense of the perspiratory pores and the weeping eyes, to attune to the nervously full bladder. In the first section of the thesis, I focus on “queer” feelings of disorientation and anxiety in relation to experiences of sweating, breathing and those peculiar experiences of feeling butterflies in the stomach. The sensations of butterflies in the stomach exemplify how feelings often mix with, infuse and can distort one another. The weight and specificity of a feeling is, in this sense, always situational. In the fourth and fifth chapters, I turn my attention to the headiness of specific bodily fluids. With an emphasis on breath and sweat, I explore the ways in which bodies feel, and are effectuated, moved or “thrown” by certain aromas and stenches. I call this process “smelling feeling”. Geared towards the lived experiences of queer people, these chapters mark an attempt to extend and supplement the project of queer phenomenology, and to further explore the ways in which non-visual phenomena can both inspire and enervate erotic feeling. In the second section of the thesis I consider more thoroughly erotic feelings of lust and their intelligibility through psychosomatic processes of salivation, perspiration, tumescence, lubrication and olfaction. The final chapter offers a study of the erotics of urine, its texture, variable aromas and its erotic transaction as a “queer” sexual practice. Throughout the thesis I draw on work carried out in the scholarly fields of phenomenology (and indeed queer phenomenology), queer theory, affect theory, the biological sciences, sensory theory or, in general, studies of embodiment. I also draw on narrations of lived experience (through both prose and poetry) and empirical research done within “queer” communities.


Hysin-Yi Cheng
Saving Lives in Wasted Places: the Practice of Volunteers in Public Animal Shelters in Taiwan

The project focuses on the ways that volunteers help animals in public animal shelters in Taiwan. In the public's view, the remote locations, poorly-maintained environment and the high rate of euthanasia render the shelter as the last resort for stray animals. Employing Michel Foucault's idea 'discipline' and Michel De Certeau's idea 'tactics', the project examines the practices developed in the shelter, particularly focusing on how volunteers make changes in the limit of institutional rules. First, the project examines the shelter norm resulting from the policy of stray animal control. Second, the project examines the motivations of volunteers and the challenges brought to them by the shelter norm. Third, the research examines how the volunteer community influence the institutional culture.



Christen Cornell
Cultural Space and the Post-socialist Global City: Beijing’s contemporary art districts

My thesis is a study of Beijing’s contemporary art spaces in the post-reform era, that is, the areas where artists have lived and worked communally since the years directly following the protests at Tiananmen Square in 1989. Variously known as painters’ villages (huajiacun), art districts (yishuqu) and, more recently, creative industries precincts (wenhua chuanye jijuqu), these spaces have emerged in the matrix of China’s post-reform urbanisation and in a co-production with a range of new values, and community and industry relationships. By investigating these changing contexts for artistic production in post-reform China, my work seeks to illuminate this production’s broader socio-political role – its place in the bigger puzzle of China’s economic, urban and cultural development. Many scholars have looked at post-reform urbanisation in contemporary Chinese art, but my work aims to reverse that and consider the role contemporary Chinese art has played in Beijing’s post-reform urbanisation.


Kerryn Drysdale
'Communities of Investment': an examination of Sydney's drag king scene

My research looks at the 'communities of investment' in Sydney's drag king scene to interrogate how different 'flows' or 'layers' of desire both constitute and represent the various participants within it. Rather than looking at drag kinging as a practice, informed by performance studies and queer theories that see participants divided into performer and audience, I use a cultural studies approach to reposition it as a scene. My ethnographic research design, including auto-ethnography and group discussion analysis, allows me to trace the investments throughout the lifecycle of this scene - from its early emergence, through its peak of participation and its eventual demise. This research aims to show how different participants are invested in drag kinging, and how these different investments intersect to produce this drag king scene.

Publications:

  • Drysdale, K. (2014). "When Scenes Fade: Methodological lessons from Sydney's drag king culture", Cultural Studies, Online, 1-18
    Available: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09502386.2014.937939.

Lisa Heinze
Fashioning Sustainability

Despite the increasing number of sustainable fashion labels in the market, mainstream fashion consumption practices remain environmentally unsustainable. This project will examine fashion shopping practices with the aim of understanding fashion decision-making processes and consumer awareness of sustainable fashion. Fieldwork will occur on either end of the sustainable fashion spectrum, with both sustainable fashion advocates and mainstream fashion consumers. In-depth interviews will be held with leading sustainable fashion labels and advocacy groups to examine the history of the movement and sustainable fashion consumer behaviour. An ethnography of fashion shopping will be conducted with ‘fashion lovers’ to develop a richer understanding of fashion shopping practices.


Emilie Severino-Jervis
Modern Experience, Textuality, and Feminism

My thesis looks at sex and gender with relation to the central question of experience in theories of modern Western subjectivity. This work looks particularly at twentieth century literary and critical-cultural texts which can be considered part of an avant-garde tradition. It also looks at feminist writing and aesthetic theories of modernity to understand how experience works textually with relation to the “feminine” and to the politics of women’s “lived-experience”. This thesis asks how experience might be theorised from an aesthetic and creative feminist perspective, how this relates to the question of experience posed by philosophers and male-writers in the twentieth century. What “new” perspectives or critical-opening can be offered through this conversation of textual experience and modern identity/subjectivity? More recent textual examples are taken from popular and art-house film and I ask how experience is currently informed by conventions of cinematic representations of sex/gender and female creativity.

Publications:

  • Dalton, J and Severino, E. 'The Position is Arranged: Sade and Abu Ghraib', in Beckman, F & Blake, C (eds), Angelaki Journal of Theoretical Humanities: Shadows of Cruelty, Sadism, Masochism and the Philosophical Muse (Part Two), 2009, Volume 14, Issue 3, Routledge: London.

Kate Johnston
Following Tuna: sustainability, regulation, community

Using the tools of cultural studies, environmental humanities and the interdisciplinary fields of food and sustainability studies, my PhD critically examines the ubiquitous term sustainability. I look into the emergence of sustainability as an integrative concept, expressed through three-pillar (social, economic, environmental) and four-pillar (culture) models. The addition of culture in the late 1990s is of particular interest and offers an opportunity to consider the cultural dimensions of sustainability itself and to think through the deeper notions of sustainability, to ask what is actually being sustained - species, taste, cultural practice, knowledge, economic system? I draw on Michel Foucault’s notions of discourse to extend this inquiry to ask what versions of sustainability are practiced? What are the epistemological foundations and genealogy of sustainability itself? And to consider the institutionalisation of sustainability in NGOs, and inter-government and state authorities. I suggest that certain versions of sustainability and certain material things and social processes (traditions, tastes, economic systems) are enabled; yet others are rendered obsolete. Moreover, despite the best intentions to address each realm of the four-pillar model there are material and political limitations.

This wider inquiry is informed by ethnographic observation and interviews. In 2013 I conducted fieldwork across Italy following tuna, fishery regulations, campaigns, and traditional tuna fishing communities. Today fishing involves a number of participants (scientists, regulators, industry, fishermen, locals, activists) all vying for different causes and a stake in the controversial tuna. My own interest is to consider how local communities are implicated in global marine policy, campaigns, tastes and industries and to observe the practices of rendering tuna as sustainable or unsustainable. I combine this research with an inquiry into global tuna sustainability campaigns and certifying practices.

Publications:

  • Johnston, K S (2014) ‘“Dal Sulcis a Sushi”: Tradition and Transformation in a Southern Italian Fishing Community’ in A Journal of Media and Culture, ‘Taste’ edition. Vol. 17 (1)
  • Johnston, K (2011) Chapter entries: ‘Moldova’, ‘Romania’, ‘Saami’ in Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia. Greenwood Publishing Group, USA. Edited by Albala, K.

Paul Kelaita
Queer Infrastructure: Distributed Belonging in Greater Sydney

This thesis argues gay belonging is embedded within infrastructural networks. My research intervenes in the narrative structure of gay spatial imaginaries by unpacking Scott Herring's concept of 'queer infrastructure' in Sydney. This argument is developed through my analysis of location, movement, and belonging for gay individuals across Sydney, particularly the relationship between the city, western and south western suburbs. My argument is conducted by dismantling representations of urban, suburban, and exurban Sydney. Central to this research is the way in which distinct spatial imaginaries cohere and conflict across Sydney. In constructing a theoretical framework around 'queer infrastructure' I look to representations of gay identities and publics within particular artworks and exhibitions that represent intersections of infrastructure, identity, and spatial imaginaries. I extend my argument by looking at the way commuter identities operate a distinct function in the enactment of relationships to queer space. Continuing a theme of movement, I also look at the way in which mobile infrastructures, particularly geo-social hook-up apps and internet sites that help enact contemporary gay beats, relate to changing concepts of located gay identities.


Maria Koleth
Popular Development, Planetarity and the Ethical Turn

In the last decade, development has become a popular tourist activity, particularly for young people embarking on study or career breaks. It is now a desirable past time to travel to economically disadvantaged regions for short periods of time and volunteer or undertake immersion with development and conservation organisations. This so-called development tourism is one of the more contentious forms of popular development but also one of the most rapidly expanding. In a field traditionally made up of experts dispensing advice to ‘Third World’ communities, development tourism is enacting a significant change. While attempts have been made to recognise the importance of vernacular practices of this kind, this project addresses the lack of analyses in the field, which seek to move development ethics away from a limiting consensus over human development paradigms towards an understanding of the materiality of its practice on a more-than-human, planetary scale. Drawing on the tradition of postcolonial thought in development, this project poses a multi-sited ethnography of development tourism as a response to the challenge of a neo-materialist planetarity. The multi-sited ethnography includes interviews with 22 development tourists in Sydney as well as participant observation in development tourism programs in Peru and Cambodia.


Kate Lonie
“Moving Forward?” A comparative study of the media coverage of female politicians in the UK and Australia, and the subsequent impact on leadership ambitions amongst young women

My dissertation considers the contemporary media representation of women in politics in both the UK and Australia in the period of 2010-13, as well as the subsequent impact of such coverage on the leadership ambitions of young women. It will explore the extent to which the traditional focus on appearance and private life persists for female politicians in different geographical and cultural contexts, through an analysis of news media and online resources, fictionalised popular culture representations of women in politics (as evidenced in television and film), as well as interviews with a range of young women in both countries. In the aftermath of Julia Gillard’s tenure as Prime Minister, and the often-controversial (and gendered) media attention that she gained, there has been much speculation, socially, that young women have been put off from entertaining/entering a career in public life. In order to properly understand this issue, I have designed a questionnaire that will consider how the young women involved in the study form political ideals and how they engage with media, as well as their opinions regarding the media coverage of politics – with particular focus on how female politicians are represented. For the purpose of this study, I define “young women” as participants who are aged between 18-30 years, speak fluent English and are living in either Australia or the UK. They also need to be able to identify themselves, politically, as “right-leaning,” “left-leaning” and “uncommitted.” Asides from these characteristics, I am also hoping to interview participants who are as demographically diverse as possible. 24 interviews will be conducted in both Australia and the UK – thus 48 in total. It is expected that this qualitative research will primarily take place in Sydney, Australia and London, United Kingdom - comparable urban settings in Anglo contexts.

This study is highly topical given the media attention afforded to former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, as well as the coverage of the death of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and the subsequent focus on her work and legacy. In discussing women and politics, the links between these countries go beyond the obvious historical connections, with the relationship between contemporary media political coverage and the leadership aspirations of young women being worthy of further exploration.


Thomas Michel
Squaring the Circle: The Culture of Modern Government and the Northern Territory’s 2008 Shires Reform

In July 2008, the local government sector of the Northern Territory underwent the most sweeping reform of its short history. Citing chronic administrative, governance and service delivery dysfunction, the Northern Territory Government forcibly amalgamated 53 community councils – of predominantly rural, remote and majority Indigenous communities – into eight regional shires. The new structures were to achieve economies of scale, improve service delivery, and provide communities with increased opportunities for development. Over six years have now passed, and many of the functionalist expectations of the reform have been met: more administrative stability and accountability in the sector; improved efficiency and effectiveness; and growth in employment. Yet despite these empirical achievements, the reform remains unpopular among many Indigenous residents of the new shires. A common criticism is that the new shires undermines community control over local decision-making, and now represent another chapter of Indigenous disengagement from the processes of government.

My thesis uses the 2008 local government reform as the setting to examine the intercultural tensions, misunderstandings and power imbalances that have long accompanied government policy implementation in the field of Indigenous affairs. Particular focus is given to how the culture of modern government, armed with a constructed evidence base, rationality and common sense, served to create and reinforce the failures of the community council sector and the required remedies. This study thus turns the ethnographic lens onto a neglected cultural object of analysis: the people, organisations and institutions who are responsible for creating, sustaining and believing in government policy.


Kate O'Halloran
The ethics of queer anti-normativity

This thesis charts the ethical agenda of U.S.-based queer theory from its inception, exemplified in key figures such as Eve Sedgwick, Gayle Rubin, Michel Foucault and Judith Butler, to its institutionalisation as an anti-normative and/or anti-social academic discipline. Engaging with some of its most canonical and influential texts and figures in Michael Warner, Jack Halberstam and Lee Edelman, the thesis suggests that the anti-normative and anti-social tenor of these works becomes problematic in translation to an activist and/or ‘community’ setting. I investigate, for example, some of the key sources of contemporary conflict within local queer communities, to suggest that in practice, queer anti-normativity has become an imperative that betrays the anti-identitarian and ethical beginnings of the discipline. In particular, this thesis is concerned by queer’s constitutive distance from ordinariness, from so-called less radical pasts and from feminist concerns. I argue that in practice, the capacity to satisfy queer (anti-)norms is related closely to privilege, which begs the question of who ‘justifiably deserves’ to be, and who is currently, represented by queer scholarship and/or communities. Key case studies analysed include: Queer Collaborations (QC), Querelle magazine, the Feminist Futures conference (Melbourne 2011), SlutWalk and the Sydney queer cabaret scene (via strip night Pirate Jenny’s). Each case study is explored through the lens of one of three key queer theoretical preoccupations: ‘identity’, ‘temporality’ and ‘community’.


Rany Pen
White Gold: A study of gender relations in rural Cambodia

What is like to be Neak Sre or rice farmer in today Cambodia? During the past two decades, starting from the 1991 Paris Peace Accord, Cambodia has transformed itself politically and economically. From a communist-socialist way of governing to democratically elected government, Cambodia’s economy has been shifted to the market economy as well. In this regard, gender relations have both resisted and influenced by these changes. They are constructed and re-constructed as the society continues to evolve. However, unlike in urban areas, rural Cambodia still maintains a strong attachment to the tradition that is not only inspired by Buddhist values but also the patriarchal system. The later is seen as imposing barrier for rural women to advance and to move beyond the family enclosure. My research interests centre around the areas of gender equality, culture, development, and rural society, as well as its interaction with external influences brought in by the changes of political and economic ideologies. The research attempts to analyse the construction of gender identities in rural Cambodia and to explore barriers and opportunities for women’s advancement especially in agriculture sector. As the majority of Cambodia’s population are rice farmers, I will also follow and examine rice production especially its connectedness with the construction of gender identities amongst rice farming population.


Dallas Petersen
Celluloid Reflections: Challenging Orientalism at a Cross-cultural crossroads

My thesis will be an examination of Hollywood’s current portrayal of China set against the backdrop of China’s rise to economic prominence. In their study titled Spaces of Identity: Global Media, Electronic Landscapes, and Electronic Boundaries, Robins and Morley went on to state “The ‘Orient’ exists because the West needs it; because it brings the project of the West into focus.” I would assert that this statement still rings true in the face of China’s current global reach, but any examination of contemporary films must also account for the question of viewership. Hollywood films are a global product and they are consumed throughout the world with a particularly large market in China, with Hollywood now actively making blockbuster films to cater to the Chinese market. With this in mind it is crucial that any study of visual representation and perception be wary of writing off these films as merely “orientalist”. Elements of orientalism can certainly be found in each of the films that I will analyze but it is important to delve deeper than a facile analysis of orientalist markers.

My thesis will use orientalism as a platform to enable me to take the next step and analyse not only American visual representations of China from a Western perspective, but more fully engage in problematizing the cross-cultural exchange that Hollywood facilitates. As a key component of my research I will engage in textual analysis of these films, and also compare this analysis with critical and popular reviews from the West. I will then flip this occidental focus by bringing into my study an analysis of critical and popular reviews of these Hollywood films from within China. It is my hope that in comparing these cultural perspectives I will be able to enable the critical potential that is embedded in the films under discussion. This will allow me to offer a more holistic interpretation of the texts, one not solely based on a Western bias.


Paul Priday
Masculinities in Transnational Advertising Agencies

An empirical gender study into masculinities in transnational business. The selected sites are transnational advertising agencies in Sydney, New Delhi and Shanghai and the men who work in them. The importance of transnational business as an institutional location for research into men has been recognised and an understanding of institutions is regarded as important for an understanding of masculinities. This study adopts a socio-cultural perspective viewing advertising agencies as sites that professionally specialize in manufacturing and trading affect in support of brands. The men who work in them act as affect brokers and are involved in the ongoing conscious manufacturing of self that is then distributed through self-managed media. The research is conducted using participant observation as an ethnographic methodology combined with in-depth individual interviews.


Grace Sharkey
Pornographic Identification: Identity, Sexuality, Representation

This thesis explores the relationship between identity and pornography focusing on what it means to identify with someone in pornography and how pornography works as a space in which identity is negotiated.Since academic research first began to widely consider pornography it has remained a key reference point for discussions of representation and sexuality. For feminist, cultural studies, sexuality studies and screen studies, the key concept of “identification” has not only been taken to analysis of pornography but become key to understanding the form and effects of pornography and, in turn, different accounts of identification have been tested against pornography. This thesis is focused on the way pornography is a place in which the link between identity, gender and (queer) sexuality is processed again and again, both on screen and by the user.


Michelle Starr
Effects of Gender-Role Conformity on Women’s Representation in the C-Suite

As the seat of some of the more visible manifestations of gender inequality, much emphasis has been placed, understandably, on assessing, with a view to transform, the structural and cultural biases and discriminative practices prevalent within corporate organisations. These systemic forms of gender inequity have been studied extensively and addressed through the introduction of laws, policies and changes to workplace practices introduced through various Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) initiatives. Unfortunately, and for reasons that continue to puzzle change advocates, the initiatives developed have failed year after year to deliver the hoped for outcomes that would result in increased levels of women in c-suite (chief executive-level) positions.

This research project will explore the lifestyle and work-related choices made by women who have been successful in securing executive leadership positions within Australian private sector organisations. The objective of this research is to identify causative factors outside the workplace that influence the number of women in executive c-suite leadership roles within Australia.


Timothy Kazuo Steains
Representations of Japan in Contemporary Australian Literature and Cinema

My work looks at representations of Japan in contemporary Australian literature, cinema (and other media yet to be determined). I argue that these cross-cultural representations reflect both the transnational flows and nationalising forces affecting Australia's perceptions of Asia. My project starts by looking at films and novels by white Australian directors and writers. I point out how these texts stage Australia's changing local and global affiliations and ask where these representations might go further in their interactions with the global. I then go on to explore the unique potential of representations by Asian Australian, Japanese Australian, and Asian Australian mixed race people. This later work may include blogs and online communities, and would consider how new media offers different possibilities for intercultural exchanges between Australia and Asia. I'm also a research assistant on Helen Young's project Imagining Diversity: Race and Ethnicity in Popular Fantasy, which examines discourses of diversity and difference in fantasy literature, film, television, games, and in the fan cultures which revolve around them. In 2013 I taught on a first year course, in the Department of English, entitled 'Constructing the Fictive Self.'


Natalie Tao
The narratives of Thai migrant women with intercultural relationships in Australian context

This project investigates the lived experiences of Thai migrant women who are or have been in international relationships with Caucasian-Australian citizens. It aims to explore and understand the different factors involved in those women’s decision-making for international migration. I try to challenge the existing literature which often limits understandings of women’s migration decisions to economic bases. Furthermore, by analysing the blog discourses, I would like to find out the culturally-embedded stereotypes and assumptions that construct Thai women’s images and their relationships with foreigners. It will be used to compare with my interviewees’ narratives on their self-identity and their relationships with Caucasian-Australian partners. The performances and negotiations that migrant women make in the roles of daughters, wives, mothers and workers after migration are often still affected by the social and cultural structures of their countries of origin as well as the country of destination. Therefore, this project examines how those migrant women develop strategies to deal with a range of relationships they encounter in their daily lives, whether the intimate relations with their foreign partners, relations with their original families and partner’s families, relations with other women, including Australian women and those from the same diasporic group.


Sara Tomkins
Black-Jewish Relations in Contemporary Jewish American Comedy

African Americans and Jewish Americans have had a unique relationship throughout history, characterised by both identification and conflict. Cornel West has argued for ‘the profoundly Jewish nature of modern African-American peoples as well as the profoundly Black nature of modern American Jewry’ (1996:221). This thesis is interested in the ways blacks and Jews have been paired together in the American national imaginary and the cultural and political effects of this relationality. Central to this project is a focus on the way that the experience and rhetoric of mutual suffering has been used as a foundational idea for black-Jewish relations.

My project uses Jewish American comedy as a tool to analyse this idea of relational suffering. I aim to show that contemporary comedic engagements with ideas of blackness are functioning concurrently to construct, destablise, and critique notions of American Jewishness. My project has a particular focus on satire, racial performance, and appropriation. It will include a number of case studies on figures including Sarah Silverman and John Safran in order to investigate the ways in which racial and ethnic differences are articulated through the lens of black-Jewish relations.


Linda Daniela Villegas Merado
NO WAR IN MY NAME: Girls and Hip-Hop Culture in México

In the current socio-political context of Mexico permeated by drug war, organized crime and femicide, there has been a remarkable escalation of violence, that girls and young mexican women from marginalized areas of the country (daughters of women who work in maquiladoras, indigenous women) have denounced through hip hop culture. My research project aims to analyze the strong hip hop female movement in three states of Mexico: Chihuahua, Oaxaca and Nayarit, through the cultural manifestations of female groups such as Batallones Femeninos BF (Women's Battalions) of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Zapatillas de la Calle (Street High Heels) from Tepic, Nayarit and Mare Advertencia Lirika, from Oaxaca, Oaxaca.

I would like to explore the hip hop music made by these young women as part of a culture that is being generated in the uprising of the fight against drug trafficking of former mexican president Felipe Calderon (2006-2012), but also as a way to position themselves as young women in a country that continues to be deeply androcentric. Batallones Femeninos is within Kolectiva Fronteriza (Border Kolectiva), a group of women that have been participating in the recovery of public space that has previously been coopted by organized crime, through cultural proposals to eradicate violence against women. They are settled in the US-Mexican border, specifically, Ciudad Juárez, a city characterized by the high rates of femicide for over two decades. These young women are creating a new female subjectivity within a war context. They are using their lyrics as a weapon of struggle, organizing themselves through cultural practices such as hip hop to generate a resistance dialogue. My research aims to analyze the construction of citizenship and female subjectivities of girls and young women from marginalized sectors through the appropriation of hip hop cultural practices that denounce the vulnerability situation they live within the current Mexico’s drug war and violence against women.


Bin Wang
Young feminists and Chinese Modernity

This thesis attempts to probe into the intricate and complicated relation and tension between Chinese feminism and modernity through a study of feminists in the past and present. I will start with a genealogy of Chinese feminism that serves to explicate how the ‘women question’ became one of the quintessential features of Chinese modernity at the threshold the twentieth century, and how feminism incorporated and was later subsumed into other aspects of modernity, including New Culture Movement, socialist construction, modernization and global capitalism. As my research focuses on the era of contemporary China it addresses how historical discourses and practices of Chinese feminism get enacted and articulated in different social and cultural conditions. Centrally, I aim to unravel how young feminists today, with their subjectivities constituted at the intersection of various discourses, engage with gender politics and thus ‘engender’ Chinese modernity in a critical way.


Helen Walters
Fancy a dress-up? Fancy dress practices in suburban Sydney

My thesis is a study of the fancy dress practices and experiences of a social group of Baby Boomer friends in Sydney. The project draws on over thirty years worth of diverse stories from selected members of the group and documents their involvement and participation in fancy dress costuming and parties. The project explores what fancy dress means both to the individual and the group and will discuss fancy dress as: a means of self-expression, a means of group identity and cohesion, a communal fun activity and a source of shared memories. I will also look at how the costumes are produced and embodied.


Scott Webster
"Facts on the Ground": Domicide and the Production of Space in Palestine

‘Domicide’ … “the deliberate destruction of home by human agency in pursuit of specified goals, which causes suffering to the victims” (Porteous and Smith 2001: 12)

My research investigates domicide as a long-running feature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. An account of Israel’s use of domicide, both historic and contemporary, reveals underlying expansionist and memoricidal aims. However as with any effort to ‘produce space’ these goals ultimately generate, and exacerbate, contests over spatial meaning. This project subsequently examines how these struggles manifest within different forms of Palestinian cultural production and social practice. The significance house-keys have acquired within Palestinian inter-familial and communal customs, as well as cultural (re)production, provides insight into the ongoing suffering of Palestinian domicide victims. Attachment to the house-key is viewed as emblematic of that felt towards the lost home – even a continuation of that connection by other means. A series of analyses explores the ranging re-configuration of the key’s symbolic value as it permeates different forms of cultural production and activity, embodying both loss and resistance toward the goals of Israeli domicide. The project then shifts to examine post-domicide landscapes through an ethnographic study of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions’ (ICAHD) 2013 annual rebuilding camp, held at Beit Arabiya in Anata. A Lefebvrian framework is utilised to critically examine the community’s appropriation of this particular site in their efforts to re-frame its narrative as a direct challenge to domicide’s aims. It is proposed that by revealing the inherent struggle over spatial meaning caused by domicide, deterministic understandings of spatial production are evidently flawed. Nevertheless domicide, whilst unable to effectively silence alternative narratives, still inflicts profound suffering – as highlighted by the wide-ranging analysis of its practice and effects in Israel and Palestine.


Karen-Anne Wong
Child's pose: Children's Yoga, Embodiment and Relationality

My research is an ethnographic study of children's yoga practices, investigating how relationships are embodied. I have conducted focus groups, interviews and/or questionnaires with approximately 60 child and adult participants. Being a children's yoga teacher myself, I have also conducted in-depth participant observation. I also filmed much of this fieldwork, and have created a short ethnographic film representing practitioners and their views on yoga. I am using this data to analyse how child yoga practitioners in this study negotiate relationships with themselves and others. The relationship with self is considered an embodied one, as in this context, children are learning specific bodily techniques which alter their understandings of their own capabilities. However, the discourse of the class also posits participants in relationship with imagined versions of the self, such as the future 'adult' self. Some of the most utilised imagined selves are those of animals, as in the case of downward-facing-dog, fish, cat and dolphin pose (to name a few). I examine how these relationships are becomings enacted through, and as a result of the body. Relationships with others that I examine include that of peers, the teacher and the surrounding space, or institutional circumstance. Here I question how the body affects hierarchical social structures and degrees of power.


Annie Wu
Changing Fortunes, Changing Identities? Social Identities and Vietnamese Wives and Mothers in Taiwan

This project is primarily concerned with the changing fortunes and changing identities of Vietnamese women who immigrate to Taiwan for the purposes of marriage to Taiwanese nationals. It focuses on the voices of those women, whether they feel well and happy or not after their relocation. Thus it is engaged with the impacts of the intercultural marriage phenomenon between Taiwanese men and Vietnamese women in Taiwan, particularly the impacts on the women themselves and their families, as the women describe them. The project examines only a part of the contemporary movement of women around Asia and East Asia for marriage purposes and as such it critically analyses the existing literature about this phenomenon as a whole, not just within Taiwan. In this connection it also draws particularly on the literature and the existing Korean multicultural policies toward the immigration of Vietnamese women and their domicile in Korea for the purposes of marriage.


Past projects


Inez Gershonowitz
After Ellen

In this project I critically consider the increasing visibility of lesbians and gays on television, by examining representations of Ellen DeGeneres, both on and off screen after she famously came out on the sitcom, Ellen in 1997. I focus on the production and reception of the sitcom, The Ellen Show (2001), which followed Ellen and the daytime talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres show (2003-present) to show how DeGeneres has helped to normalise the presence of lesbians on television and by extension, dominant culture. I maintain that based on her high ratings and evident popularity, Ellen is America's sweetheart - entertaining people of all sexes, genders, sexual orientations, and ages. While the decision to come out would have a huge impact on DeGeneres' life and career, the coming out of the actress and her character led to an international discussion of the presence of lesbians and gays in prime-time television and lead to an increase in lesbian visibility and representation on television.


Liam Grealy
Punishing paedophilic sex offenders: Cultural studies, consent, and community protection

Liam submitted his doctoral thesis in February 2013 and has been lecturing in the department in 'Introduction to Cultural Studies' and 'Youth Cultures' since that time. His thesis examined changes in Australian law and policy across the last decade in relation to the punishment and post-sentence detention and supervision of child sex offenders. It asked why this offender group has been central to recent political debate and significant legal reform, drawing on enlightenment justifications for punishment and examining the place of the child in the law. The thesis also considered in what ways cultural studies can and should engage with law and normative commitments. Apart from teaching, Liam is currently working on a co-authored project with Catherine Driscoll on the international emergence of media classification systems and their significance for institutionalising an idea of minoritised adolescence.


Luz Hincapié
Pacific Transactions, Identity, Race, Hybridity: Japanese immigrants to Colombia

This project centres on the immigration of Japanese to Colombia to understand the fluid identities and hybrid subjectivities that are born of the experience of immigration. For this purpose, the project will use methodologies from ethnography, oral history and life writing in order to interview Colombians of Japanese descent. The study explores how processes of identity formation are shaped by the uniqueness of being Colombians of Japanese descent and how a sense of belonging is constructed. It asks what is invested in the immigrants' strategies of identification. It also asks how the discourses on race and racial identity constitute the relationship between the Japanese descendents and the Colombian population at large. A multi-disciplinary perspective will be adopted, to 'get at' the affective and cultural dimensions of being a Colombian of Japanese descent through a theoretical framework from related disciplines such as anthropology, cultural studies, and literary studies.


Maria Elena Indelicato
International students: a history of race and emotions in Australia

Maria Elena Indelicato has an MA in Communication Science from the La Sapienza University of Rome. She submitted recently her PhD thesis on international students as a case of Australian border politics and practices. Her research interests include the processes of racialisation through and by emotions. She is also critically analysing the denial of Indigenous Sovereignty in Australia as a major factor in shaping understanding of race and race relations in, during, and after, the formation of Australia as an independent colonialist, and racially exclusionary, nation-state.


Sophie Johnson
On a Tightrope? Technologies of Motherhood in Neoliberal Society

For women transitioning from pregnancy to first-time motherhood, the everyday management of personal health (both their own and that of the foetus/infant) has come to encompass a combination of physical, emotional, psychological, intellectual and moral work. This thesis examines the ‘work’ of contemporary western motherhood. Drawing on qualitative research conducted with middle-class women in Sydney over their transition to first-time motherhood, I show how mothers engage in technologies of the self (Foucault, 1985) which consist of practices undertaken to ensure the health and well-being of the foetus and infant. Mothers are not simply responsible for the self, but also for the unborn other, termed here as ‘being-for-intimate-others’. An examination of these technologies and their adoption by women reveals how dominant discourses are resisted, negotiated or differentially embodied by women facing first-time pregnancy and motherhood. In the context of information overload, choice and risk, in this thesis I identify a new ideology of mothering which responds to disciplinary pressures and, to some extent, pushes back against some elements of neoliberal responsibilisation. First-time mothers who engage in this ethic of ‘relaxed’ mothering work hard to manage advice, emotions and expectations and in the process transform pregnancy and parenting into a ‘project’. The emergence of a ‘relaxed parenting’ approach and adopting parenting as a ‘project’ can also be linked to the extension of an entrepreneurial ethic in which mothering becomes professionalised – a frame that is likely closely associated with the class positioning of my sample. The ‘project’ of parenting provides a partial resolution to the conflicts between work and mothering and provides a way of navigating these two domains at once and creating a sense of value in relation to mothering. Professionalised mothers engage in specific techniques for being competent mothers, which include ‘relaxing’, enlisting new technologies and devices such as smartphone applications and accessing online support. I explore how the ‘device-ification’ of mothering purports to turn it into an administrative and calculable activity. I also demonstrate how, ironically, ‘relaxed’ mothering actually involves a great deal of ‘work’.

Publications:

  • Johnson, S. (2014) ‘“Maternal Devices”, Social Media and the Self-Management of Pregnancy, Mothering and Child Health’. Societies 4(2), 330–350. Available online: http://www.mdpi.com/2075-4698/4/2/330

Jessica Kean
Intimate Theory: Mononormativity, negotiated non-monogamy and
the politics of love


Increasingly described as a legislative inevitability in Australia, gay marriage is often heralded as the certain, if temporarily stalled, triumph of love and an overdue public symbol of the tolerance of sexual diversity. In this context it is worth renewing queer questions about the limits of legitimate intimacy in contemporary Western cultures – limits which may not be challenged by granting same-sex couples state recognition. Instead of adding another voice to debates about the potential consequences of same-sex marriage, this thesis approaches the contemporary politics of love from the perspective of those who do not march two by two, asking what we might learn from practices of negotiated non-monogamy. Analysing TV series, blogs, self-help books and first-person accounts alongside 23 qualitative interviews conducted with queer non-monogamists in and around Sydney, the thesis explores the way sex, love, friendship, emotion, and intimacy are currently theorised in relation to non-dyadic relationships. Friends who fuck, fictional polygamists, ‘ethical sluts’, swingers, and polyamorists are considered side by side in order to draw out the tensions (productive and otherwise) that animate stories of sex and love beyond the couple.

The thesis considers non-monogamous scheduling strategies, taxonomic skirmishes, measures of significance and theories of jealousy in relation to queer and feminist thinking on intimacy. Idiosyncrasies and unexpected resonances within the material are used to map the political valencies of discourses surrounding these marginalised relationship styles, contributing to scholarship on how contemporary negotiated non-monogamy can be understood - an active concern as queers are increasingly encouraged to dream of wedding whites. Offering an extended conceptualisation of mononormativity - one entwined with but ultimately distinct from heteronormativity - the thesis also addresses broader patterns, ideals and institutions of intimacy, arguing that more people stand to benefit from the decentring of monogamy than those who actively pursue a life outside it.


Tim Laurie
Deleuze, Music and the Politics of Cultural Criticism

Tim Laurie's PhD thesis examines the politics of writing cultural histories, with a focus on music as both an object of history and a resource for reorienting historical discourses. This project draws on a range of disciplines involved in music criticism and history, including anthropology, ethnomusicology, postcolonial studies, sociology, historiography, bibliography and aesthetics, but focuses primarily on Gilles Deleuze's post-structuralism as a possible way of renegotiating issues of cognition, memory, writing and aesthetics. My own case studies include the cross-marketing of r&b singles in the 1950s, covers of Motown songs by rock artists and hip hop producers, and heavy metal versions of blues and folk songs. This includes an examination of authority and expertise when constructed through different mediums - 45s, LPs, magazines, journals and books - and opens onto wider discussions around the politics and history of writing as a means of securing cultural knowledge.


Nancy Lee
Celebrity chefs: class mobility, media, masculinity

Nancy submitted her thesis in March 2014. Her research was about the effects of celebrity culture on chefs working in Sydney and Sydney's chefs in the international context and involved in-depth interviews with some of the city's critically acclaimed chefs. Gender - in particular, the institutionalisation of masculinities in professional kitchens - and the integration of social media in chefs' labours were some of the topics explored in her research. Her thesis addresses a gap in empirical research in the field of celebrity studies, and contributes extensive social media analysis in the context of celebrity culture.

Publications:

  • Lee, N. (2012) 'Make or Break: Building chefs in Sydney food media.' Locale 2, 140-159.

Remy Low
Schooling Faith: Religious education and neo-liberal government in "parent-controlled" neo-Calvinist schooling

Since the mid-1990s, there has been a sustained growth in religious schooling in Australia generally and with it, an intense dispute has swirled around the acceptability and desirability of this trend. In turn, these debates in the realm of education are not separate from broader questions arising in ostensibly secular-liberal nations like Australia over what has been termed the ‘new visibility of religion’ in public life. In my doctoral research, I bring the questions surrounding the new public visibility of religion to bear on the issue of religious schooling in Australia with a specific focus on the case of the Neo-Calvinist ‘Parent-Controlled’ schooling movement.

Publications:

  • Low, Remy and Redden, Guy. 'My School, Education, and Cultures of Rating and Ranking'. Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 2012, Vol. 34, Issue 1-2.
  • Low, Remy. 'The Inevitability of Religious Politics: Juan Luis Segundo and religion as faith and ideology'. From the proceedings of Challenging Politics: New Critical Voices, University of Queensland, 10-11 May, 2010.
    Available online: http://www.polsis.uq.edu.au/docs/Challenging-Politics-Papers/Remy-Low-The-Inevitability-of-Religious-Politics.pdf

Wei Miao
From National Allegory to Sentimental Fabulations: Gender, Affect and the Representation of Chinese Migration to the United States in the Post-Tiananmen Era

Written in the wake of Rey Chow's theorization of the Chinese sentimental, this thesis deploys an affect-centered conceptual framework to study selected televisual, filmic and literary narratives of Chinese migration to the United States produced in the post-Tiananmen era.

Publications:

  • Wei Miao. 'On the English Translation of the Chinese Phrase "Hai Xuan"'. Journal of Zhengzhou Institute of Aeronautical Industry Management (Social Science Edition), 2008, (1): 128~9. (in Chinese)
  • Wei Miao. 'Design of Simulation Activities in College English Classes'. Journal of Inner Mongolia Agricultural University (Social Science Edition), 2006, (4): 583~4. (in Chinese)
  • Wei Miao. 'Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter'. Journal of Shaanxi Normal University (Philosophy and Social Sciences Edition), 2003, (25): 254~8.
  • Wei Miao. 'Critical Linguistic Analysis of President Bush's Speech on "9.11"'. Foreign Languages Teaching, 2003, (24): 233~4. (in Chinese)

Li Meng
From Perplexity to Escape: Tragic Fictional Representations of 1980s Chinese Intellectuals in Huang Beijia's Nine Novellas

The 1980s witnessed a crucial interim during which China was recovering from the trauma of The Cultural Revolution while adapting itself to the changes brought by its Reform Era. The Chinese intellectuals of the 1980s, susceptible to the vicissitude as always, impressed the history and narratives of intellectuals with various responses, among which, the tragic and melancholic response was one of the most prominent.

The thesis highlights the tragic representations of intellectuals in 1980s in nine novellas of Huang Beijia, woman writer well-known for her concern over Chinese intellectuals. By studying the intellectual sexuality, intellectuals' social engagement, their transgression and connection of the West and self-orientation in the Reform Era, the author argues that perplexity is the major trigger of tragedies of the 1980s Chinese intellectuals who resort to escape in response to their adversity and trauma.


Lina Nope-Williams
The Construction and Reconstruction of Gender and Identity through Food in Indonesia

My study is focused on the question whether food has influenced on the changes in attitudes towards the understanding of gender and identity in the contemporary Indonesian society. This extends to the query whether food influences the process of family unification and structure along with the social changes. Ultimately, the enquiry is whether food has significant roles in the changes in construction and reconstruction of gender and identity in Indonesia. Factors such as globalization and economic growth contribute to the socio-cultural changes which may bring changes in and re-negotiation of the norms and ways in which people communicate with their families and members of their social circles. The discussion of gender, identity and socio-cultural changes in relation to food consumption and food habits can be viewed from Indonesian traditional and modern perspectives. Particular trends have emerged among Indonesians that have had consequences for their traditional food patterns. The transformation of gender and identity structures may either be a result of the changes in society or a response to the changes.

I undertook the fieldwork in Yogyakarta in 2010. It involved interacting and communicating with members of Indonesian society, making observations and conducting semi-structured interviews. Grown up in this city, I decided to apply the theories of “reflexive ethnography”. During my candidacy, I both attended and presented on seminars and conferences (locally and internationally). I submitted my thesis in 2013 and currently I am still making endeavour to publish articles related to my study.

Publications:

  • Nope, C.Y. 'Jerat Kapitalisme atas Perempuan'. Marselina, 2005, Yogyakarta: Resist Book

Shams Quader
Head banging in Dhaka: an exploration of a Bangladeshi alternative music scene

This thesis is about understanding the birth, development and maintenance of a technically subcultural music scene based on international metal genres in the socio-historically unique milieu of the postcolonial developing country of Bangladesh. Both the usefulness and limitations of theoretical frameworks dealing with alternative music related youth cultures, largely developed in western Anglophone countries, explaining the distinctive configurations of symbolic, social and economic elements through which a particular scene is mobilized, will be assessed by the empirical study of this alternative music scene. In this locale, the actors involved express their sentiments towards local situations with the resources available to them through the motivations of ‘local factors’ which accentuate a rather unique discourse of an alternative music scene. Similar studies have been done in other Asian countries like China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, but never before in Bangladesh, where there is an overall lacking of music related scholarly work in English. Based upon interviews with key figures of the scene, ethnographic observation and textual analysis, this research suggests that the urban youth’s frustration towards the poor situation of the country is channeled into desires to develop an alternative liberal space of artistic autonomy through the exploration of foreign music styles and the fantasy worlds of metal. While participants assert aesthetic distinction of their music from mainstream rock and pop, one of the main findings shows that they are not much concerned about ideas of selling out to the corporate music industry if they become popular without sacrificing aesthetic integrity. Emphasis is placed on Translocal connections with other alternative music scenes elsewhere while the local scene remains based on the activity of largely middle-class, part-time, male musicians who share particular economic, cultural and social resources that afford their participation. The empirical findings from this thesis raises questions about the extent to which this local scene represents canonical discourses of alternative rock and whether its transnationalism is properly explained through hybridization of international cultural forms.


Nikki Savvides
Animal-centred volunteer tourism in India, Indonesia and Thailand

My PhD thesis aims to reconfigure the destructive aspects of the tourism industry through the development of a practical ethics of tourism. With a particular focus on tourism practices in the Asian LDC nations of Thailand, India and Indonesia, I consider how forms of volunteer and conservation tourism focused on improving the lives of injured, rescued and endangered animals contribute to a paradigm for ethical tourism by engendering cross-species and cross-cultural engagements. In recognising the potential that such engagements have to dissolve the enforced boundary between humanity and nature, the thesis puts the animal back into the human notion of ‘community’, while conversely reconfiguring ‘the environment’ to include the human. By incorporating forms of indigenous knowledge with my own experiences conducting research in the field, and by placing animals at the centre of questions, ideas and theories about tourism practices, the project aims to ‘write in’ the agency of (human and non-human) subalterns while also allowing myself, as author and as tourist, to test the potentiality of the practical ethics first hand. In developing an ethical framework for tourism practices, the thesis ultimately aims to encourage a form of transnational or global responsibility within the tourism industry.

Publications:

  • Savvides, N. (2012) 'Communication as a solution to conflict: similarities in divergent methods of horse training'. Society and Animals 20(2), 75-90.
  • Savvides, N. (2012) 'A dog's life on the streets of Bangkok'. In DeMello, M. (Ed.) Speaking for Animals: Animal Autobiographies, New York and London: Routledge.

Zitong Qiu
Youth and Chinese Modernity (1919-2010)

This PhD thesis explores how May Fourth modernity (1919-1921), socialist modernity (1949-1976) and postsocialist modernity (1979-2010) as different mode of dominant modernity play out in the discourse of youth in different historical eras. The thesis is comprised three parts. Each part consists of one historical background chapter and one chapter outlining a case study. Three historical background chapters constitute a cultural-historiography of youth through examining the dynamically linked tensions between the continuities and discontinuities of different modes of modernity that crystalised in the experience and discourse of youth. Three case studies examine three films: Song of Youth (Cui Wei and Chen Huai’ai, 1959), Sacrificed Youth (Zhang Nuanxin, 1985) and The World (Jia Zhangke, 2004). I read these films by utilising sexuality, ethnicity and class respectively as lines of inquiry to construct a new historiographical reading of May Fourth youth, socialist youth and postsocialist youth. There is a striking dearth of research on Chinese youth within youth studies, and within that small field most scholarship leans too heavily towards political science and sociology. In contrast, my study not only attempts to provide a new perspective on the ongoing debate surrounding the interface of area studies and cultural studies, but also seeks to stimulate a debate about what Chinese youth studies is, could be, and may become.