FASS researchers head to Europe’s leading social and political sciences institute to tackle pressing issues facing modern society

By Nena Serafimovska

5 July, 2018

Each year the Sydney Democracy Network coordinates an international exchange with the WZB Berlin Social Sciences Centre and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney. The exchange gives researchers the opportunity to collaborate on key research projects, events and teaching, as well as providing a rich cultural experience.

Melinda RankinAlexandre LefebvreLlewellyn Williams Brooks

Dr Melinda Rankin, Associate Professor Alexandre Lefebvre and PhD candidate Llewellyn Williams-Brooks


This year, three Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences researchers are making their way to Berlin to further their work on a variety of pressing social and political issues.

Dr Melinda Rankin, from the Department of Government and International Relations, is currently at the WZB examining the ways in which Syrian and Iraqi refugees have attempted to use Germany’s universal jurisdiction to pursue accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity. 


“Germany makes for a particularly unique and interesting case study because it was one of the few democratic countries to invite refugees into the relative safety of its borders, as Europe experienced the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, and because Germany’s legal system is based on universal legal jurisdiction”, said Dr Rankin. 


“The WZB exchange is an invaluable opportunity, particularly to work with other expert researchers and to present at peer review seminars, where I was able to gain important feedback on my research.”


Associate Professor Alexandre Lefebvre, from the Department of Government and International Relations and Department of Philosophy, will visit the WZB in November to work on a project to theorise and defend liberalism, and to investigate how it can serve for the basis for a full and rewarding way of living.


“The WZB is renowned for cutting edge political and democratic theory, which is the perfect place for me to begin this project. It is home to several world-leading political theorists who work on contemporary crises and liberal democracy”, said Associate Professor Lefebvre.


“I’m especially looking forward to exploring how promoting liberalism as a way of living might serve a wider stabilising role for liberal democracies, with eminent theorists Professor Wolfgang Merkel and Professor Rainier Forst.” 


Llewellyn Williams-Brooks, PhD candidate in the Department of Political Economy, will collaborate with researchers over a 3-month period to better understand how German industrial relations are shaping labour market inequalities in the Eurozone.


“The WZB provides a unique opportunity to enhance my PhD research through a close study of the German work regulation known as ‘Model Deutschland’. Using my skills in urban geography and labour economics, I will engage in a comparative regulatory analysis of the German and Australian experiences of work during the period of globalisation”, said Williams-Brooks.


“A hallmark of democracy is the provision of good and stable work for the vast majority of the people. This ensures that individuals and their communities are able to attain a basic standard of living, while also contributing to their nations and the global community.


“While we live in a period of unparalleled growth and wealth in Australia, access to dignified work and conditions have not been equally shared. The rise of the ‘gig economy’ and the casualisation of work, coupled with the rising cost of living and housing are creating inequality. It is essential that we come to terms with the condition of work in Australia, past and present, in order to nurture our own institutions of democracy, providing stable foundations for peace and prosperity into the future. My aim is to provide economic policy alternatives for a better future for all Australians”


Read about the experiences of our researchers who recently returned from a winter exchange at the WZB, on page 26 of the SSPS Magazine.