Department Seminar Series

Click here to download the Semester 2 2015 Seminar Series flyer.

Monday 3 August 2015, 1 - 2 pm
Speakers: Amanda Elliot (Sociology and Social Policy, University of Sydney)

Gamergate: Gender at work in the new economy

In 2014 there was an escalation of on-line harassment against women involved in the video game sector. In a phenomenon that came to be known as Gamergate, a number of women prominent in the sector were targeted by often-anonymous participants on a number of websites and through social media. These attacks, as well as the defence of these women, went viral amongst gamers and sparked months of intense, often vitriolic, discussion, threats of violence, doxing and swatting.

Gamergate, also prompted significant critical commentary and media coverage that has focused on the extent to which sexism and misogyny is rampant mongst gamers, and whether Gamergate could be understood as a backlash gainst perceived threats to core gamer identity. There has, however, been limited ttention paid to the fact that such attacks were directed against women whose on-line profiles, public presence and activities are a core part of how they support themselves financially - whether as cultural critics, journalists or game developers.

In this paper I explore the specific characteristics of the video game sector that have exposed women who work in it to the intensification of sexualised threats and harassment. Drawing on this analysis I then go on to argue that the laws and institutional provisions that emerged to provide (albeit limited) protection to women from sexualised threats and harassment in the Fordist workplace are ill equipped to provide any protection in the new economy.

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About the Speakers: Amanda Elliot
Amanda Elliot - key research interests focus around the relationship between social movements and welfare states, the politics of policy-making and the restructuring of contemporary welfare states.
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]

Monday 17 August 2015, 1 - 2pm
Speakers: Deirdre Howard-Wagner, Sarah Ciftci, Alex Page and Craig Ritchie (roundtable discussion)
Topic: Rethinking the sociology of Indigenous issues in the 21st century: Theory, Concepts and Practice

Recent public debates about racism and the constitutional recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people signal that there remains a signi¬ficant disconnect between the popular self-imaginings of the Australian state and the position of Indigenous Australians in this context. This disconnect represents a signifi¬cant theoretical and methodological challenge to academic and professional sociologists, political scientists, and law and society scholars working in this field.

A small but growing, group of Australian sociologists are responding to challenges within Australian sociology to ensure our disciplines framework of inquiry is more inclusive of Aboriginal perspectives and therefore more capable of achieving an understanding of the social realities of Aboriginal peoples. This group of Australian sociologists are rethinking interdisciplinary concepts and practice to: engage with and explain Aboriginal peoples’ social realities; locate Aboriginal peoples’ voices; and, account more for place and history, such as focusing on the idea of Australia as a product of settler colonialism.

The roundtable discusses how a group of scholars within the Department of Sociology and Social Policy are contributing to the expansion of Australian sociological thought and legal and policy practices in this regard.

Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]

Monday 31 August 2015, 1 - 2 pm
Speakers: Fran Collyer (Sociology and Social Policy, University of Sydney)
Topic: Global Knowledge Production: The Brand New World of Academic Publishing

The uneven spread of the global production and distribution of expert, scholarly knowledge has taken on a new salience with the emergence of a ‘knowledge economy’. On one hand stand the ‘winners’ of the game – the well-resourced countries and regions of the world with significant research infrastructure and highly-developed institutions – and on the other, researchers from the developing world where the research community, relative to the rest of the population, is very small and under-resourced.

The focus of this paper is one critical aspect of the processes of knowledge production - academic publishing – which is nested within an industry sector that is, in part, shaped and driven by the cultural traditions of academic work, but also by the vicissitudes of academic capitalism. In this global context, academic publishing is shown to have entered a new phase, with new markets established, new players entering the increasingly competitive ‘game’, and new standards constructed that stand as proxy measures for the quality of its products. There is considerable support – both theoretical and empirical - for the idea that these transformations in knowledge production are best theorised in terms of the core-periphery model of development, which describes an increasingly bifurcated world between the Global north and south.

Drawing on an empirical, international study of the production of academic knowledge in countries of both the Global north and south, this paper suggests modification to the model, proposing the existence of a hegemonic circuit of knowledge production amidst multiple transregional and transnational circuits of production, with publishing processes mirroring these circuits, sometimes alleviating but often exacerbating the inequalities. Some of the implications of these developments for knowledge production, for scholarship and academic work are discussed.

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About the Speakers: Fran Collyer
Fran Collyer - key research interests include the health care sector, focusing on the invention and development of medical technologies, the relationship between the state and the private sector, the privatisation and contracting-out of public assets and services, and the tensions inherent in marrying private with public services.
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]

Monday 14 September 2015, 1 - 2 pm
Speakers: Maciej Hułas(Department of Sociology, John Paul II Catholic University in Lublin, Poland)
Topic: Habermasian Public Sphere as a Locus of Civic Autonomy

Although some characteristics commonly associated with public sphere and civic autonomy can in a sense be traced back to axial civilizations, in reality they have both emerged as historical outcomes of speci_c social, political, religious and cultural constellations, and along with market economy and nation-state they compose inherent parts of the program of Western modernity. The bleak legacy of the last century with its gigantic disrespect to human life had in general revealed limits of modern democracies and the malfunction of civic participation. The collective guilt for war atrocities with which German society was stigmatized after the Nuremberg Trials led to petrifaction of its political activity weakening civic awareness of the war generation. In a quest of ways with which to overcome civic torpor, the issue of political participation began to draw more attention on the part of intellectual world whose various schools and traditions were eager to engage ever new intellectual potential to rede_ne the fundamentals of democratic system in line with their respective premises.The Habermasian tandem of bourgeois liberal public sphere and deliberative critical model of civic participation was conceived in the 1960s and since then it has been a subject to many redactions and reformulations. Well-thought-out as a stimulus to the civic activity on the basis of positive approach to the bourgeois vision of Enlightenment and its cultural legacy, Habermasian model of public sphere has been novel in its own right. His unequivocally favourable approach to the liberal modernity provoked a great deal of criticism and considerably impinged on his later intellectual theory delineating the vicissitudes of his later intellectual position.

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About the Speakers: Maciej Hułas
Maciej Hułas is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the John Paul II Catholic University in Lublin, Poland. His research interests lie within Catholic social thought, and comparative studies in public sphere. He is the author of Tamed Capital: Labour – Capital according to Oswald von Nell-Breuning, KUL, Lublin 2011; Solidarity according to the Polish Project, “ET-Studies” 2012, 3/1, p. 41–61; Public Sociology as a New Sociologial Subdiscipline according to Michael Burawoy, “RNS”, 2012 3 (39), pp. 29-67; Patria as Biography: An Argument for Biographical Patriotism, in (eds) Maciej Hułas, Stanisław Fel, Intricacies of Patriotism: Towards the Complexity of Patriotic Allegiance, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2015, pp. 187-225.
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]

Monday 21 September 2015, 1 - 2 pm

Michael Humphrey (Sociology and Social Policy, University of Sydney)

Discussant: Robert Van Krieken (Sociology and Social Policy, University of Sydney)


Rescaling Justice: impunity and the ICC in Kenya

This paper examines the role of law in managing political conflict in Kenya and the rescaling of justice to the ICC. Using the framework of political semiosis it explores the relationship between 3 historical transitions constructed as turning points. They are national independence 1963; election violence 2007-8; ICC intervention to investigate and indict key Kenyan political leaders. The paper argues that the ‘restlessness’ of these events reveal the long-standing inter-ethnic grievances about political injustice dating back to decolonization over the centralization of political power, ethnic domination in a multiethnic society, the ethnic distribution of land ownership, the institutionalized use of political violence in elections and the chronic impunity of the political elite. It develops Mamdani’s distinction between criminal violence and political violence – between individual agency v. political constituency – to show how the rescaling of justice to the ICC as an issue of  criminal violence was undermined by national and international political constituencies.

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About the Speakers: Michael Humphrey
Michael Humphrey - research interests focus on large scale social change and the governability of social life. This has been strongly framed by the impact of globalization on the relationship and connections between societies in the North and South.
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]

Monday 12 October 2015, 1 - 2 pm
Speakers: Fadi Baghdadi (PhD, Sociology and Social Policy, University of Sydney)

Discussant: Stephen Castles (Sociology and Social Policy, University of Sydney)


Space-Time and the Homogenisation of the Lebanese in Australia

This discussion brings empirical evidence to bear on current debates that have homogenised and portrayed Lebanese Muslims in Australia as the ‘other’. Using 38 semi-structured interviews with migrants from the Lebanese village of Marj El Zhour living in Wollongong, this study explores how Lebanese Muslims construct their world and place within it in regional Australia. Interviews with migrants and their children highlight how entry to, and navigating social institutions, are both an effect of and affected by local, national and global events. Using the theories of Peter Berger, Pierre Bourdieu and others, this study constructs a diasporic space where identities are forged, propelled and valorised. The process of externalisation, objectification and internalisation of lived realities are used to understand my participant’s experience of schooling. While participants recounted contrasting experiences of schooling – due to the intersection of race, ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality – there were strong similarities in the experiences of prejudice felt as a result of their ethnicity; which it is argued clashes with their desire to belong in Australian society.

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About the Speakers: Fadi Baghdadi - is a current PhD student, his research explores the globalisation of politicised Muslim bodies. It aims to understand how public discourse may affect religious identity and practice for Muslims living in the western world.
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]

Monday 26 October 2015, 2 - 4 pm
Speakers: Karen Körber (Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany)

Contested Diaspora: The Changing Image of the Jewish Community in Germany

The immigration of Russian-speaking Jews to Germany starting in 1989 changed the post-World War II community of Jews in Germany fundamentally. The paper will present tensions between di-erent communal identity constructions of the Jewish diaspora in Germany, due to this immigration. I intend to outline that the conicts connected with this migration process also have to do with the requirements and constraints of the symbolic and institutional order that a¬ects the actions of Germany’s Jewish minority, that is, its actors and organizations. For one, the symbolic image of a community of victims risks clashing with the actual heterogeneity of Jewish lives in present day Germany. Further, it stands increasingly in conict with the manifold narratives that, following the Russian Jewish migration, have gained in importance and have resulted in a shift in the identity of the Jewish community in Germany. And nally, it collides with the processes of transnationalization and multiple forms of belonging that are denitive for the future of the Jewish diaspora in Germany.

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About the Speakers: Karen Körber
Karen Körber - received her doctorate from the Humboldt University of Berlin with a dissertation on her field study about the migration of Russian-speaking Jews to East Germany in the 1990s.
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]

Monday 9 November 2015, 2 - 4 pm
Speakers: Yao-Tai Li (University of California, San Diego)

How Does Temporary Migration Leads to (Co-Ethnic) Exploitation: An Example of Ethnic Chinese Migrants in Australian Cash-In-Hand Labor Market

In Australia, there are many PRC-Chinese, Hong Kongese, and Taiwanese who are in the country for study or work. For example, according to the statistics from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, China provides the largest number of student visa holders in Australia. On the other hand, Taiwanese are now the third largest recipients of Working Holiday Visas in Australia. However, given the limited time they stay in Australia, temporary migrants like students or backpackers may find they are increasingly vulnerable to the harshest aspects of the labor market. 2014 General Social Survey data also shows recent migrants were less likely than people born in Australia to have done voluntary work (22% compared with 34%).

This paper asks two questions: for temporary migrants, how is an exploitative labor market constituted, and how do immigrant employees and employers understand exploitation involving co-ethnics? Taking ethnic Chinese migrants (PRC-Chinese, Taiwanese, and Hong Kongese) as an example, this paper examines employer hiring strategies, employee economic rationales, cultural perceptions, and the work experiences of ethnic Chinese migrant workers who find work in the informal sector in Australia. Based on 1-year participant observations and in-depth interviews with 40 temporary migrants, this paper argues language barriers, relatively higher earnings than home countries, the flexibility of cash-in-hand jobs, and the low expectation that job-seeker have of (co-ethnic) employers increase the willingness of ethnic Chinese migrants to work in the cash economy. On the other hand, employers look for an “obedient” employee and create the image of a “good boss” to decrease the expression of hostile emotions from their employees. Considering how economic factors and mutual cultural perceptions are embedded and reflected in the informal labor market, this paper concludes that when illegal exploitation is interwoven with the vulnerability of job-seekers, employers and employees develop different interpretations to rationalize and justify Australia’s exploitative cash-in-hand labor market. As a result, exploitation is recognized but tolerated.

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About the Speakers: Yao-Tai Li
Yao-Tai Li Yao-Tai Li is currently a Ph.D candidate in the Department of Sociology at University of California, San Diego. He is also an executive council member of Taiwan Working Holiday Youth (T-WHY) in Australia. His main line of research is at the intersection of race/ethnicity, migration, culture, and exploitation, focusing on how ethnic characteristics and mutual ethnic perceptions make employees exploitable, and how they shape and transform the ethnic identity and ethnic relations of pan-Chinese migrants (PRC-Chinese, Taiwanese, and Hong Kongese) in Australia. His work has been published in several scholarly journals including Ethnic and Racial Studies, Critical Sociology, and City, Culture, and Architecture.
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]

Past seminars

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]

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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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]