Current projects

  • Steven Bunce - From gente biento los desechables: Social stratification in Bogotá, Colombia
  • Inés Durán Matute - Between autonomy and subsistence: Indigenous communities immersed in global dynamics: Experiences and narratives of comuneros and migrants of the village of Mezcala (Mexico)
  • Liana Mercedes Torres Casierra - Colombian Migrants in Australia: Construction of Identity in Self-Narratives and in Response to Media Representations
  • Christian Tym - Alternative Visions of the Body and the Nation from the Amazonian Cultures in Ecuador

Former Projects

  • Annick Pellegrin - (Not) Looking Together in the Same Direction
  • Irene Strodthoff - Contemporary Chilean-Australian Relations: Transpacific Connections and Discursive Trajectories

Steven Bunce | PhD

Steven Bunce

From gente bien to los desechables: Social stratification in Bogotá, Colombia

My doctoral thesis explores the difficulties of achieving social cohesion in Colombia via an ethnographic analysis of its entrenched social stratification and class system, focusing on the capital, Bogotá. In a city as congested, segregated, wealth-disparate and problem-afflicted as Bogotá, life opportunities remain very much shaped by one’s social status and belonging to a certain rung on the class hierarchy - made all the more pronounced by a public policy of social stratification based on income and place of residence.

This ethnographic study is based on eighteen months fieldwork and interviews with a diverse cross-section of residents of Bogotá. By immersing myself in sites of not only disenfranchisement and stigmatization, but power and privilege, I map the multi-faceted and often antagonistic moral universes, social codes and perspectives of Bogotá’s highly demarcated neighborhoods, and the symbolic level at which people relate to or differentiate themselves from one another.
Moving away from the relentless and disproportionate emphasis on violence and armed conflict in Colombian society, my doctorate study aims to unveil the alternative social forces that obstruct the formation of a harmonious social fabric in Colombia.

This project is supervised by Dr. Vek Lewis and draws upon the guidance of several academics from Bogotá’s Javeriana University and the National University of Colombia.

My doctoral project follows an honours year with the Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies and an internship with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Geneva.

I moved to Bogotá in early 2011 and began collaborating with a variety of civil society organizations that work with internally displaced persons, human rights violations, sex workers, and youth at risk of forced recruitment into gangs and the army.

Inés Durán Matute | M Phil.

Project: "Between autonomy and subsistence – Indigenous communities immersed in global dynamics: Experiences and narratives of comuneros and migrants of the village of Mezcala (Mexico)”

The research aims to interrogate the policies and actions of the Mexican State (three levels: national, state, municipal) within the context of the experience of comuneros of the indigenous community of Mezcala, who have been raising concerns about the plans of the state, and its migrants to the United States associated with the Club Mezcala in Los Angeles, that are forced to leave due to the economic, political and social conditions. In this way, the study recreates and explores the experiences of these two groups while analysing neoliberal policies in Latin America, specifically in Mexico, and their impact.

Specifically the project aims to trace the institutional networks and the relationship between indigenous people (their projects and identity) and the Mexican state (the policies and government) immersed in global economic and political dynamics. The objective is to demonstrate the connection of the micro and macro levels, drawing the links between the external and internal forces in order to map key trends in the global-regional-local interface of power. Therefore, this study explains how the political economic processes nationally and globally shape their struggle, projects and identity reproducing the same models, while at the same time they challenge them and construct alternative autonomic projects.

This thesis is being conducted under the supervision of Dr Vek Lewis and Dr Fernanda Peñaloza within the Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies.

Ines Duran Matute obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with a Major in Spanish and Latin American Studies from the University of Guadalajara (Mexico). During her studies, she attended an academic exchange program at the University of Buenos Aires (Argentina) and another at the University of Alcalá de Henares (Spain). Regarding her research experience, Ines participated in a research project about Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC) in Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta (Mexico) sponsored by the International Labor Organization (ILO). In addition, Ines worked as a research assistant in the Department of Iberian and Latin American Studies (University of Guadalajara) and in the Research and Superior Studies Center of Social Anthropology (CIESAS-Occidente/Guadalajara). Since 2011, Ines was granted a scholarship from the University of Sydney to pursue her studies as a postgraduate research student.

Liana Mercedes Torres Casierra

Liana Torres

Project: Colombian Migrants in Australia: Construction of Identity in Self-Narratives and in Response to Media Representations

My PhD project investigates how Colombians in Australia construct and reflect on their identity(ies) as migrants through self-narratives elicited in different contexts (e.g. individual and group encounters). It looks at the extent to which this construction reflects and responds to the Colombian identity represented in media samples reporting on the socio-political events that have taken place in Colombia in the last ten years.

I graduated from Universidad del Valle (Cali, Colombia) with a bachelor degree in Modern Languages Teaching in 2004. I taught in the English for Specific Purposes section in the same university and also worked as an EAP trainer at Universidad Nacional de Colombia-Palmira in 2006.
In 2007 I was awarded the Macquarie University International Scholarship and moved to Sydney to undertake a Masters degree in Applied Linguistics (TESOL).

In my MA thesis I investigated the scope of improvement that overseas students could expect to reach in their listening skills after 10-12 weeks of intensive language training in ELICOS schools in Sydney. I had over 390 participants from 14 different language schools in the city's CBD.

From the adventure of being in close contact with people from such different backgrounds I thought of a research project that could add understanding on migration studies specifically in regards to people from Latin America. In late 2011, I was awarded the University of Sydney International Scholarship to start my PhD in the Spanish and Latin American Department with Dr Vek Lewis as my main supervisor.

Christian Tym | PhD

christian tym

Project: "Alternative Visions of the Body and the Nation from the Amazonian Cultures in Ecuador"

This project primarily takes an ethnographic approach to the study of indigenous practices surrounding medicine and healing. It seeks to combine a local-level process of translation of indigenous philosophies of the body and of healing with an activist ethnography of indigenous mobilisations within the broader struggle towards the realisation of a plurinational state in Ecuador.

Taking the adage that the personal is political as a starting point, the project will look particularly at the circumstances in which indigenous medical knowledge and practices come into engagement with the western, biomedical model. I suggest that this may be considered a microcosm for conflicts between the competing political visions of indigenous peoples and the agents of western modernity in Ecuador. If the nation is understood as a body, how might an executive-based politics founded on the rationality of mind be reconciled with an indigenous vision of the body and the nation that can be cautiously characterised, for the time being, as a more holistic and systems-oriented one?

Ethnography will be necessarily combined here with an element of historical work, aimed at carrying out a genealogy of the co-development in western thought of the mind-body duality alongside an exclusionary politics that empowers certain sectors - conceived of as the natural bearers of rationality - while marginalising others.

The project will be supervised by Dr Vek Lewis, as well as Dr Luis Angosto Ferrández and Dr Cynthia Hunter.

My doctoral research follows on from a related Honours-level project in Spanish and Latin American Studies at the University of Sydney, completed in 2011. My Honours project focused on sustainable development and the geopolitics of knowledge production, via an analysis of pharmaceutical bioprospecting programs based on the medicinal knowledge of indigenous peoples in Latin America.

I graduated from the University of Sydney with a B. Arts (Languages)(Honours) in 2011, after completing majors in History and in Spanish and Latin American Studies. Broadly speaking, aside from studying Spanish, my undergraduate studies revolved around European political history and international relations, in particular colonialism and resistance, as well as the history and philosophy of science and social science.

Former Projects

Annick Pellegrin | PhD

annick pellegrin

Project: "(Not) Looking Together in the Same Direction"
Completed: thesis available online.

This project, entitled “(Not) Looking Together in the Same Direction”, is a comparative study of “Latin American” self-representation and the Franco-Belgian gaze on “Latin America” in a selection of “Latin American” and Franco-Belgian comics. While this project is partly an extension of my Honours project, it has a much wider scope and a multidisciplinary approach. It is a project which is being conducted under the joint supervision of Dr. Vek Lewis (Spanish) and Associate Professor Bronwyn Winter (French).

I graduated from The University of Sydney with a Bachelor of Arts (Languages) (Honours) in 2009, with majors in French, Spanish, Italian and Linguistics. My Honours thesis was completed under a joint supervision between the Department of French Studies (Associate Professor Bronwyn Winter) and the Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies (Dr. Vek Lewis) and I was the first student to complete the honours program in the latter department. “Tintin and the Secret of Satire”, my thesis, was a study of the satire and the parody in Tintin et les Picaros, by the Belgian Hergé. I returned to The University of Sydney as a PhD candidate shortly after graduating from my Bachelor’s degree.

Irene Strodthoff | PhD

Irene Strodthoff

Project: "Contemporary Chilean-Australian Relations: Transpacific Connections and Discursive Trajectories”
Completed: Abstract available online.

This thesis breaks fresh ground as a comparative study between contemporary Australia and Chile from a socio-historical, cultural and geopolitical point of view within the focus of the Free Trade Agreement – FTA – signed by Chile and Australia in July 2008. Firstly, it examines the dominant self-perceptions and international projections of both countries and their relation to each other in light of globalisation and economic progress particularly since the return of democracy in Chile in 1990. At the global level, the political and economic changes after the Cold War have reconfigured transnational relations and representations in the Pacific Rim and have transformed Australia and Chile, usually imagined as distant places, into closely interconnected spaces. Secondly, this project analyses how power relations are deployed in official discourse, particularly regarding Australian-Chilean relations and to what extent they suggest mutual geopolitical asymmetries where capital has been placed at the centre.

I hold a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and a Diploma in Corporate Communication, both from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. I worked on public relations, press releases, web page update, media relations and full-time reporter for over 15 years in Chile before coming to Australia to study a Master of Arts in International Communication at Macquarie University in 2005. I started my PhD project in 2009, financed by a scholarship from the Bicentennial Fund, a program launched by the Chilean government in the context of the Free Trade Agreement signing by Australia and Chile in 2008.