Sydney School of Education and Social Work events – 2017 Archive

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Working with theory in social research

Developing a methodological imagination

1 November 2017


What is worth retaining above all from this approach is its creativity. We should not seek to extract a method … but rather to identify a certain ethos of investigation, a way of asking questions, a focus not upon why things have happened, but how they happened and the difference that that has made … Above all, the aim of such studies is critical but not critique … to identify and describe differences and hence to make criticism possible. — Rose, N., O'Malley, P., & Valverde, M. (2009). "Governmentality". Annual Review of Law and Social Science, 2, 83-104, 2009.


This presentation will focus on the relationship between Foucault’s theoretical concepts of knowledge, power and discourse and their deployment as methodological tools and strategies. Using a specific research project undertaken by the presenter to contextualise the discussion, the seminar will guide participants through some of the key issues and challenges encountered when ‘working with Foucault’. These include substantial variation in how Foucault’s work has been taken up depending on disciplinary and geographical context and an apparent cleavage between scholars who work with Foucault’s theories and those who focus on his methodological approach. Particular attention will be given to the process of moving beyond an abstract intellectual encounter with Foucault to an engagement that enables the clear and coherent account (one required of any researcher) of how his work was used at a concrete level to design and conduct empirical research. This includes such ‘mundane’ technical decisions as what data to collect, choosing the site of investigation and evaluating the place of the interview method in Foucauldian research.

Event details

  • When: 4–6pm

  • Where: Room 323, Education Building A35, Manning Rd, University of Sydney
    Education Building A35
    Click image for interactive map.

  • Cost: Free

  • RSVP: RSVP by emailing the research student liaison officer.

  • Contact: Research Student Liaison officer
    T: +61 2 9351 6268

  • More info:

  • Speaker: Suzanne Egan is the 2017 Ewing Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Sydney School of Education and Social Work (SSESW), The University of Sydney. Initially, after completing her PhD at SSESW in 2015, she worked in the School of Social Sciences and Psychology, Western Sydney University. Dr Egan's research interests lie broadly in the deployment of contemporary social theories, to think through and research current social issues and concerns. Experience working in women’s and youth services enabled an understanding of the possibilities as well as limitations of a range of social theories and concepts, in particular feminist and poststructural theories of gender, power and sexuality. Dr Egan's PhD thesis focused on the relationship between feminist and medical knowledges of sexual violence. Her current projects extend on this research by theory-building in relation to the associations between neurobiological understandings and feminist knowledge/practices of sexual violence and through continuing to engage with and question the relationship between theory and methodology in empirical research.

Working with theory in social research

Where Room 452, Education Building A35, Manning Rd, University of Sydney
Education Building A35
Click image for interactive map.


4 October 2017

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