Department Seminar Series

Monday 20 February 2017, 1 - 2 pm
Speakers: Craig Browne (Sociology and Social Policy, the University of Sydney)
Topic: Critical Social Theory

In my book Critical Social Theory (Sage, 2017) I seek to develop the social theory framework of Critical Theory. Critical Theory is shaped by its historical orientation and a recognition of its grounding in the social context. The challenges that these considerations pose are met through revised conceptions of Critical Theory’s key categories, like those of reification and alienation, and the explication of the changing ideological complexion of capitalist society. The disorienting effects that these changes have had on alternative strands of social theory are outlined and these deficiencies are shown to impede syntheses necessary for rectifying problems inherent in the current major statements of Critical Theory. My explanatory approach aims to disclose the contradictions that underlie the conflicts of capitalist society. To this end, the notion of the dialectic of control is deployed in order to delineate the relationships that social actors seeking to realise autonomy have to structural contradictions and to clarify the dynamics of conflicts to instantiate a just social order. Three contradictions are focussed on: the conflict between globalisation and democracy, the paradox of compelled but thwarted participation, and the current dynamic of system integration and social disintegration. My analysis is intended to contribute to the explanation and critique of the injustices, irrationalities and oppression of capitalist society. It is consistent with the Critical Theory methodology of specifying tendencies developing within present society that would lead to substantial emancipatory and democratizing transformations were they fully realised. In this way, my analysis consolidates Critical Theory’s immanent critique of the contradiction between the norms and ideals of autonomy and justice present in contemporary society and the actuality of its organisation and institutionalised social relations. I likewise explore the potentials and limitations of recent attempts in Critical Theory to formulate emancipatory visions based on conceptions that conjoin positive liberty and social justice, especially Axel Honneth’s interpretation of social freedom.

About the Speakers: Browne
Craig Browne works in the area of critical social theory. He is currently finalising a book comparing influential contemporary social theories and extending his research into the relationship between recognition, symbolic power and social imaginaries. He has received funding for research comparing pragmatist notions of creative democracy with ideas of democratic creativity in contemporary French social and political thought. This research into creative democracy builds on his Ph.D. dissertation: Projects and Anticipations: a Comparative Analysis of Habermas’ and Giddens’ Conceptions of the Social.
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]
Monday 20 March 2017, 1 - 2 pm
Speakers: Melinda Cooper (Sociology and Social Policy, the University of Sydney)
Topic: Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism

Why was the discourse of family values so pivotal to the conservative and free-market revolution of the 1980s and why has it continued to exert such a profound influence on American political life? Why have free-market neoliberals so often made common cause with social conservatives on the question of family, despite their differences on all other issues? In this book, Melinda Cooper challenges the idea that neoliberalism privileges atomized individualism over familial solidarities, and contractual freedom over inherited status. Delving into the history of the American poor laws, she shows how the liberal ethos of personal responsibility was always undergirded by a wider imperative of family responsibility and how this investment in kinship obligations recurrently facilitated the working relationship between free-market liberals and social conservatives.

Neoliberalism, she argues, must be understood as an effort to revive and extend the poor law tradition in the contemporary idiom of household debt. As neoliberal policymakers imposed cuts to health, education, and welfare budgets, they simultaneously identified the family as a wholesale alternative to the twentieth-century welfare state. And as the responsibility for deficit spending shifted from the state to the household, the private debt obligations of family were defined as foundational to socio-economic order. Despite their differences, neoliberals and social conservatives were in agreement that the bonds of family needed to be encouraged – and at the limit enforced – as a necessary counterpart to market freedom. Only by restoring the question of family to its central place in the neoliberal project, she argues, can we make sense of the defining political alliance of our times, that between free-market economics and social conservatism.

About the Speakers: Cooper
Melinda Cooper graduated from the University of Paris VIII in 2001.Her research focuses on the broad areas of social studies of finance, biomedical economies, neoliberalism and new social conservatisms. She has recently completed a manuscript Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism, to be published in Zone Book’s Near Futures series. She is one of the editors of the Journal of Cultural Economy and (with Martijn Konings) of the Duke University Press book series Transactions: Critical Studies in Finance, Economy and Theory.
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]
Monday 10 April 2017, 1 - 2pm
Speakers: Alex Page (Sociology and Social Policy, the University of Sydney)
Discussant: Gaynor Macdonald (Sociology and Social Policy, the University of Sydney)
Topic: Speaking back to ‘Advancement’: Engaging in critical policy analysis with Aboriginal community-run organisations in Western Sydney

The Commonwealth government’s introduction of the Indigenous Advancement Strategy in 2014 brought a mass-upheaval for many Indigenous community-run organisations. The voices and perspectives of Aboriginal service providers, advocacy groups, and title holders were not consulted prior to this implementation. Despite ongoing challenges by many parties up to 2017, the Commonwealth continues to be “listening, but not hearing” (Davis, 2015) demands to alter these arrangements. This paper responds to the one-sided accountability of the Commonwealth’s ‘Advancement’ era by emphasising the responses of several Indigenous Sector organisations in Western Sydney to this change. In working in the location of the largest urban Aboriginal population in New South Wales, this research highlights specific effects of such a blanket-style regime to a particular space/time, and how organisations adapt and reflexively overcome new impediments to service delivery. I argue that listening to the voices of Indigenous service delivery professionals affected by top-down policy is vital to transforming the state-sector relationship in Australia, highlighting significant policy issues within neoliberal settler colonial states regarding Indigenous rights to self-governance in the twenty first century. Undertaking sociological research that works with several Aboriginal community organisations has the capacity to record current relations, and to speak back to top-down policy regimes of “guardianship” (Sanders, 2014) through evidence of Indigenous political capacity and agency, organisational success, and on-going self-determination, despite these governmental constraints.

About the Speakers: Page
Alex Page  completed a Bachelor of Social Science (Honours, First Class) with a thesis titled Indigenous Peoples and the Settler-State in Twenty First Century Australia in 2012. His research focused on the dynamic between the Australian Settler-State and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander activists/advocates in the regional city of Townsville, North Queensland. In 2014, Alex began his PhD in Sociology at the University of Sydney, with a focus on Aboriginal community organisations and their relationships with Australian government structures. Since 2013, he has undertaken academic teaching as both tutor and guest lecturer in sociology and socio-legal studies, receiving a Dean’s Citation for Excellence in Tutorials with Distinction from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in 2015. Alex was the Higher Degree by Research Representative for the School of Social and Political Sciences 2015-16.
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]
Monday 15 May 2017, 1 - 2 pm
Speakers: Elisabeth Valiente_Riedl (Sociology and Social Policy, the University of Sydney)
Topic: Cash-register Advocacy: A view from the lived experiences of Australian Ethical Consumers

This research problematises the scope for advocacy through ethical consumption. Adopting a qualitative methodology, ethical consumer’s perceptions and experiences are documented. This permits a grounded examination of the advocacy/consumption nexus, including consumer’s relative prioritisation of (competing) ethical values and practices relative to traditional consumption concerns. It also assesses opportunities and constraints in ethical markets more broadly. Pushing beyond the dominant measures associated with evaluating market-based advocacy, including market growth metrics and analyses of impacts on associated production processes, this research evaluates the scope for advocacy and learning in ethical markets, through the eyes of Australian ethical consumers.

About the Speakers: Elisabeth
Elisabeth Valiente-Riedl's research focuses on the impact of ethical trade initiatives that lie at the nexus of corporate social responsibility and consumer movements. Elisabeth is currently examining the impact of the fair trade market in coffee on marginalised producers in Papua New Guinea. She is also involved in collaborative research projects evaluating the evolution of a human rights-based approach to development.
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]
Monday 17 July 2017, 1 - 2 pm
Speakers: Catriona Elder (Sociology and Social Policy, the University of Sydney)
Topic: At Home, Overseas: military postings overseas and (inter)national perspectives


About the Speakers: Weinfeld
Catriona Elder's areas of research expertise are in 20th- 21st century Australian cultural identity, especially relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Australia. In particular she has intensively explored some of the ways in which non-Indigenous peoples think about belonging and has analysed both the pleasure and anxiety that inform narratives of national belonging. Specific projects have focused on assimilation in popular fiction; whiteness and government immigration and Indigenous policy in the 1950s and 1960s. This work has drawn on and contributed to the development of Critical Whiteness Studies and Settler Colonial Studies in Australia.
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]
Monday 21 August 2017, 1 - 2 pm
Speakers: Sujatha Fernandes (Sociology and Social Policy, the University of Sydney)
Topic: Curated Stories: The Uses and Misuses of Storytelling


About the Speakers: Fernandes
Sujatha Fernandes is a Professor of Political Economy and Sociology at the University of Sydney, which she joined in 2016. Previously she was a Professor of Sociology at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Before this, she was a Wilson-Cotsen Fellow at Princeton University’s Society of Fellows in the Liberal Arts (2003 – 2006). She has a PhD in Political Science from the University of Chicago. Fernandes is the author of Cuba Represent! Cuban Arts, State Power, and the Making of New Revolutionary Cultures (Duke University Press, 2006), Who Can Stop the Drums? Urban Social Movements in Chávez’s Venezuela (Duke University Press, 2010), and Close to the Edge: In Search of the Global Hip Hop Generation (Verso, 2011). Her latest book entitled, Curated Stories: How Storytelling is Hindering Social Change, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press in 2017. She has published articles in many edited volumes and journals, including Signs, Contexts, Latin American Politics & Society, Ethnography, and Anthropological Quarterly. Her work has been translated into Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, and Chinese. She is a contributor to The New York Times,The Nation, and Dissent, among other publications. She has been featured in New York’s Daily News, and has appeared on ABC Australia, NPR, MSNBC, American Public Radio, BBC, and many other news outlets globally. She is an editorial board member of Transition: The Magazine of Africa and the Diaspora.
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]
Monday 18 September 2017, 1 - 2 pm
Speakers: Leah Williams Veazey (Sociology and Social Policy, the University of Sydney)
Topic: Mothering in the Digital Diaspora


About the Speakers: Veazey
Leah Williams Veazey moved to Sydney in 2013. She attained a first class BA (Hons) degree in French & German from Queens’ College, University of Cambridge and an MSc in Migration from Queen Mary, University of London. Both dissertations at undergraduate and postgraduate level received first class marks, and her MSc dissertation on diasporic women writers received the inaugural Martin Paisner prize. She has over a decade’s experience of working in non-profit communications and information services, focusing on health organisations and the women’s sector. Holding a professional qualification in online community management, she has recently specialised in managing online communities and social media for charities. Her research interests include migration, motherhood, citizenship and identity, online communities and social networking.
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]
Monday 16 October 2017, 1 - 2 pm
Speakers: Karl Maton (Sociology and Social Policy, University of Sydney)
Topic: What the hell is LCT?”: Introducing Legitimation Code Theory and the work of the LCT Centre


About the Speakers: Maton
Karl Maton is Director of the "LCT Centre for Knowledge-Building"at the University of Sydney. Karl is the creator of Legitimation Code Theory (LCT), which is being widely used to shape research and practice in education, sociology and linguistics. LCT is now an international and multidisciplinary community, including scholars in Australia, China, Europe, South Africa, South America, the UK and the USA, among others. There is a friendly and highly active community of LCT postgraduates and postdoctoral researchers at the University of Sydney, including: S-Club, a weekly data analysis workshop; LCT Roundtable, an internationally-renowned fortnightly seminar series; and LCT-OG, a self-organised PhD support group.
Venue: Room 148 RC Mills building, A26 [map]