Current Department Seminar Series

Click here to download Semester 1 2015 Seminar Series

Monday 4 May 2015 - 1 - 2 pm
Speakers: Catherine Waldby (Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Sydney)
Topic: Global oocytes: fertility tourism and the transaction of resemblance

Since the early 1980s, IVF procedures allow one woman to donate her oocytes (eggs) to another, and so enable women with poor fertility to conceive. As IVF treatment becomes more and more common and global, the demand for fertile oocytes has expanded dramatically. However different jurisdictions adopt widely different approaches to regulation, ranging from complete prohibition (e.g. Germany), through strictly altruistic gifting (e.g. Australia), to regulated and unregulated markets (e.g. United Kingdom/Spain and USA). As a consequence, oocytes have acquired enormous scarcity value and developed a complex social and economic life. The ways they are produced, circulated and negotiated has become an important dynamic in considering the ways reproductive capacities are distributed and biomedically enhanced, and the ways power relations between different populations and groups of women play out.

In this paper, I will present some fieldwork from my Future Fellowship involving interviews with Australian and British women who have travelled overseas to purchase oocytes. Like the more notorious practice of international surrogacy, this kind of fertility tourism allows women and couples to circumvent regulations and obtain kinds of third party fertility services that may be illegal in their resident jurisdiction. I will focus in particular on the ways the women negotiate the issue of the donor’s legal and biological identity in the process of assisted family formation. I will discuss the imperative to ‘match’ the donor with the recipient, and hence to conceal the donation, and the emergence of an alternative ethic that publically celebrates the trace of the donor in the formation of a ‘rainbow’ family.

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About the Speakers: Catherine Waldby
Catherine Waldby is Professorial Future Fellow in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy
Venue: Room 140 RC Mills building, A26 [map]

Past Seminar

Friday 27 March 2015 - 3 - 5 pm
Speakers: Celia Roberts & Adrian Mackenzie (Centre for Science Studies and Department of Sociology, Lancaster University)
Topic: Brain-based Parenting: Learning the Science of Care

What happens when scientific knowledges move from laboratory and clinical settings deep into therapeutic and domestic settings concerned with the care of children? What kind of care is expected from those trained in ‘brain-based parenting’? How are these forms of care taught, and what do they teach us about recent attempts to theorise bodily materiality and indeterminacy?

The ways in these knowledges coalesce and disintegrate in different domains of practice is instructive. Brain-based parenting, we argue, resembles the situation of the humanities and social sciences in the way that it draws on contemporary sciences to deal with the problem of how to move away from foundationalist accounts of subjectivity, bodies, power and value. The situation of social science and humanities scholars in relation to contemporary knowledge production in the sciences is akin to that of a social worker or parent trying to get to grips with ‘the science’ in working out what to do. Responding to disruptive indeterminacy, we suggest, might be less an ontological challenge than an ethical problem of how to observe, wait, bind or hold together volatile mixtures of feeling, habit and expectation.

About the Speakers: Celia Roberts & Adrian Mackenzie (Centre for Science Studies and Department of Sociology, Lancaster University)
Venue: Room 140 RC Mills building, A26 [map]

Monday 13 April 2015 - 1 - 2 pm
Speakers: Gyu-Jin Hwang (Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University )
Topic: The Welfare State and Redistribution in Korea

This paper aims to account for why the redistributive effect of the Korean welfare state remains meagre.

Given the fact that its small size is already a well-known factor, the paper directs our attention to the design and structural features of key social provisions and their distributional profile. The findings suggest that the design features of social provisions are progressive, but their distributional profiles are not. This is because there are other factors that undermine the seemingly progressive design of the welfare system in Korea.

The paper argues that in order to establish a fair and efficient welfare state, it is not only the increase in size that is important, but also the correction of the factors that diminish the progressivity of the welfare system.

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About the Speakers: Dr Gyu-Jin Hwang
Gyu-Jin Hwang is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy
Venue: Room 140 RC Mills building, A26 [map]

Monday 20 April 2015 - 1 - 2 pm
Speakers: Robert van Krieken (Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University )
Topic: Celebrity, Humanitarianism and Settler- Colonialism: G.A. Robinson and the Aborigines of Van Diemen’s Land

This paper examines the ways in which celebrity humanitarianism can be understood as an expression of humanitarianism more broadly, as well as ‘celebrity colonialism’, by discussing the example of George Augustus Robinson, who became a celebrity humanitarian in the 19th century for his (failed) attempt to save the remaining Aboriginal people of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) from settler violence. It places his efforts in the context of previous humanitarian concerns, especially the anti-slavery movement, and the global network of humanitarian projects. I explain how his activities demonstrate both the central role of celebrity in humanitarian activity and the significance of humanitarianism in attaining nineteenth-century celebrity, and I place the critique of celebrity humanitarianism as an exercise in contemporary colonialism in the context of the history of colonialism itself, drawing out the connections between humanitarianism in earlier historical periods and the more contemporary expressions in the ‘empire of humanity’. I conclude with some reflections on how the Robinson example throws light on how the dynamics of North-South relations in celebrity humanitarianism is bound up with the interconnections between humanitarianism, celebrity and colonialism.

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Click here to download the paper

About the Speakers: Robert van Krieken
Robert van Krieken is Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy
Venue: Room 140 RC Mills building, A26 [map]