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Research projects

Supporting and cultivating collaborative research
View the list of our current funded research projects (2017-18)

Fellowship research projects

Our 2018 SSSHARC Fellowships were awarded to researchers whose work will produce theoretical and practical outcomes. The researchers and their projects are detailed below.

Human being to human body: Identity, memory and humanity in the display of and interaction with human bodies 

Dr Fiona Gill

Fiona’s work examines treatment of the dead in post-genocidal or conflict societies. Her focus is on tensions between the activities of forensic science and the social, cultural, political and religious sensibilities of the impacted communities. The aim is to gain a greater understanding of the ways in which social and scientific approaches to human rights and the dead might be married to provide better outcomes for post-genocidal societies.

Mapping and measuring Australian visual cultures across YouTube 

Dr Jonathon Hutchinson

Jonathon's project seeks to analyse the behaviour of YouTube influencers, including their publishing strategies and the way audiences interact with their content. The aim is to provide valuable insights for non-commercial institutions that wish to engage large audiences across YouTube, as well as to provide information for better policy design for social media communication for the Australian Communications and Media Authority. Jonathon hopes to produce a digital media method tool that enables researchers to explore YouTube for public issues.

Social media analysis of Islamic State online propaganda in Australia 

Dr Aim Sinpeng

Aim’s work will measure and analyse how the process of online radicalisation of violent extremist groups, particularly Islamic State, occurs on social media within the Australian context. This will lead to better-informed decisions regarding counter-terrorism and cybersecurity policy, and a greater understanding of radicalisation within the Australian context.

Worker trust management and delegation of decision-making authority 

Associate Professor Andrew Wait

Andrew’s research will investigate the determinants of worker trust in management and the possible link between worker trust and delegation of decision making. The project will improve our understanding of relationships and how they affect productivity within companies.

Huddles

These are one-day exploratory research retreats investigating a problem of real-world and theoretical significance, held in an intensive, discussion-based setting. 

Language as a tool for empowering Indigenous communities

Understanding whether language and linguistics play a role in empowering Indigenous communities. This huddle will identify and invite activists and academics, including members of Indigenous communities, to collaborate on this project to collect and analyse the evidence. 

Lead academics: Associate Professor Ahmar Mahboob and Professor Jakelin Troy

A conceptual framework for the interdisciplinary exploration of Tibetan Buddhism

Connecting international experts and enabling interdisciplinary exchange between Buddhist studies and cognitive neuroscience. The huddle aims to develop a conceptual framework for exploring Tibetan visual meditations.

Lead academic: Dr Jim Rheingans

The tedium is the message

This research huddle examines boredom’s dynamics such as its nature, manifestations and implications for institutional practices, and asks: 

  • Is there a specifically 21st-century boredom, and how might this relate to the now-ubiquitous presence of technologies and the electronic mediation of selfhood?
  • Is boredom an intrinsically negative experience to be eliminated? Or, does it signal the desire for something different and better, and so should be worked with and through?

Lead academics: Dr Debra Talbot and Dr Millicent Churcher

Social and political impact of translation

Raising awareness among social and political actors of the need to strengthen social cohesion and intercommunal communication by enhancing understanding of the ways translators mediate between cultures and create bridges for peaceful and productive coexistence among communities. 

Lead academic: Professor Vrasidas Karalis

The surveillance huddle

Bringing together scholars from diverse fields including politics, media, sociology, art history and literature to examine the impact of surveillance in cultural, political and social realms in terms of contemporary life and possible futures, to better understand and assess surveillance's reach, to envisage potential developments and to uncover aspects that deserve resistance.

Lead academic: Professor Peter Marks

How sustainable is the next internet?

Discussing the emergence of the ‘next internet’, which refers to three interconnected systems: cloud computing; big data analytics; and the internet of things. We will explore its sustainability by elaborating on ideas, arguments, evidence and studies that will lead to potential plans for landmark research.

Lead academic: Dr Benedetta Brevini

Working across difference and inequity in social work and policy studies

Bringing together critical social work and policy studies researchers to develop concrete and creative ways of working across differences such as race, gender, age, class, ability, culture, ethnicity and sexuality in the fields of social work and social policy.

Lead academics: Professor Donna Baines and Associate Professor Susan Goodwin

Dark money

Hosting Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston in a Sydney Ideas keynote on the encroaching corporate influence over government in all its manifestations: political donations; lobbying; multinational tax avoidance; government secrecy and surveillance; "revolving doors" between industry and government; and the "outsourcing" of government to the private sector. 

Lead academic: Professor John Keane

Everyday militarisms

Exploring how military mentalities, structures and imperatives permeate our everyday lives. From gaming culture to drone surveillance, personal healthcare and climate change, we will explore how militarisation has seeped into almost every aspect of our environment. Our objective is to chart how military events, technologies and discourses are entangled in everyday environmental, social, and cultural worlds, both making and unmaking them. 

Lead academics: Dr Astrida Neimans and Associate Professor Tess Lea

Ultimate peer reviews

Our Ultimate Peer Reviews identify researchers who have completed a draft of a major research output with the potential to become a landmark work. The researcher then defends their thesis in a public event in which an invited scholar acts as their interlocutor and critical ‘opponent’.

Homeland activists without a home

Dr Susan Banki’s research examines the phenomenon of precarious homeland activists; that is, people trying to reform a repressive regime from outside that country, and who themselves are precarious – without the security they need to engage in activism. 

Treacherous play

When we play games, we are expected to be honest. Deception and betrayal are largely treated as off limits in multiplayer games. Dr Marcus Carter examines games in which treachery, deception and duplicity are encouraged and even demanded.

Book Manuscript workshop: Birth of the state – The place of the body in crafting modern politics

Associate Professor Charlotte Epstein’s manuscript (under contract with Oxford University Press) traces the place of the body in the making of modern politics since the 17th century. In the book, she will show how the body was used to craft various forms of ‘naturalisations’ upon which the contemporary state rests; for example, the idea that security is ‘natural’, and that the state’s role is to provide it at all costs. This critical work serves to unsettle the taken-for-granted assumptions of contemporary politics by tracking where these assumptions originate and how the body served to lock them in.

Masters of wonder: Kantu techniques of recognition and renewal

Recently, mutual recognition has been identified as an evolved characteristic that distinguishes humans from other primates, while philosophers have defined justice in terms of recognition. “Masters of Wonder” reveals Kantu analytics of this core compulsion while crystalising lessons from the ethnographic method, understood as itself an art of mutual recognition. Dr Holly High examines how this critically exposes the liberal bias of much familiar thinking on recognition, opening space for rethinking this core concept.

Humbling power: The future of democracy

Distinguished political thinker Professor Nadia Urbinati (Columbia University) will review Professor John Keane’s Humbling Power: The Future of Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2018). Humbling Power is a substantial, book-length research project that presents fresh perspectives on the global fate of democracy. Engaging a broad range of challenging themes, from rising social inequality and market failures to the unfinished communications revolution and the spread of cross-border chains of unaccountable power, the project reassesses the future of democratic politics. It also reinvigorates the democratic imagination by showing that in matters of democracy, many creative and destructive real-world things are happening that are not just unexpected, but much stranger than we can presently think.

Reading nation in translation

Dr Fiona Lee’s project examines the changing formations of race in Malaysia from 1948 to the present through analysing literary and cultural texts. In capturing the shifts in racial forms and national ideologies, these works engage in acts of translation insofar as they make unfamiliar, multilingual contexts legible to multiple audiences at home and abroad. Dr Lee will consider how representations of race and nation translate – or don't – across different contexts, under what conditions, and to what ends.

Promises and lies: Wiradjuri experiences of Australian modernity

Cutting through swathes of myth-making by nation-builders, anthropologists and historians, this book spans two centuries of the Wiradjuri people's trauma, humour, hope and achievement as their country became the pastoral and agricultural heartland of NSW. Relegated to historical oblivion, social values and moral authority nevertheless sustained a distinctive Wiradjuri lifestyle over time. Dr Gaynor Macdonald explores this remarkable history and how it presents a fresh perspective on failed government policies, examining why current policy is more destructive for Wiradjuri people than even the violence of the frontier.

All marriage is gay marriage

After achieving marriage equality, all marriage is gay marriage, at least for the popular purpose of renegotiating a general attachment to the form. Instead of promoting an inclusive model of marriage that accommodates heterosexuals and homosexuals alike, Associate Professor Lee Wallace considers the ways in which marriage has always been a gay proposition. To help make this argument she starts with divorce, as all great marriages do. 

Interlocutor: Professor Robyn Wiegman, Duke University

Retreats

A five-day retreat held off-campus in an intensive, discussion-based setting. 

Multilingual Australia: Past and present

This retreat seeks to uncover and explore largely untapped archival sources in their original languages and in so doing transform academic research into Australia’s past, as well as provide insight into how this past has contributed to the nation's diverse cultural and linguistic present. Multilingual approaches to these materials have the potential for impact beyond academia, with opportunities for collaboration with a range of cultural and community organisations to develop and deliver exhibitions, public programs, literary, film and cultural festivals that will bring the riches of these archives to a broad and diverse public.

Lead academics: Dr Avril Alba and Dr Sonia Wilson

(What do we) WANT?: Feminist, queer, anticolonial environmental humanities

From the desirous pull of the fossil-fuelled life to activist claims for an alternative polis, the question of “want” is a vital yet underexamined dimension of environmental crisis. This research retreat (with local academics and international scholars Stacy Alaimo, Kathryn Yusoff, Stephanie LeMenager and Eva Hayward) will debate and document the insights of feminist, queer and anticolonial perspectives on desiring bodies and the demand for change in the context of the most pressing environmental issues of our time.

Lead academics: Dr Astrida Neimans and Dr Jennifer Mae Hamilton

Organising the 21st century city

In a growing number of cities, people are challenging their frustration with existing citizen engagement processes into creating urban alliances and/or citizen platforms that bring together diverse civil society actors to articulate and pursue common interests. This three-year project, funded by the Henry Halloran Trust/Incubator, will bring together the first internationally comparative study of these initiatives and will explore development of two books at our retreat.

Lead academics: Professor Simon Tormey, Dr Amanda Tattersall and Associate Professor Kurt Iveson.

Pop-up research labs

A three-week intensive program of research on a problem of real-world and theoretical significance.

Brave New Law: Legal Personhood in the New Biosciences

The new biosciences and their attendant technologies are radically challenging the nature and structure of legal personhood. In this pop-up research lab we will explore the complex issues that are emerging in the intersection of law and biology and displaying highly composite problems that puzzle existing legal concepts and regimes. It is paramount to social and legal theory to get a grip on these problems and to start conceptualising new approaches and innovative methods.

Lead academic: Dr Sonja Van Wichelen

Critical research into death in contested circumstances

Bringing together key scholars of death investigation from around the world to deliver practical outcomes and theoretical innovation following deaths in contested circumstances. This pop-up research lab will explore how we might learn from sudden-death investigation across multiple sites and contexts so as to collectivise thinking through fatality and its effects and align multidisciplinary and cross-jurisdictional knowledge. Crucially, the lab will contribute to building new ways of socially, legally, politically and theoretically understanding critical death events and their aftermath.

Lead academic: Associate Professor Rebecca Scott Bray

Anastasia: Communicating heat and climate vulnerability through performance

Climate change will bring longer and more intense heatwaves, and yet our infrastructure, governance and public knowledge are often inadequate to address the threat. Experience with climate change science illustrates that the public is not convinced by science alone, and alternative ways of communicating are necessary. We will examine how academic knowledge about climate change and heatwaves can be translated to the public through performance. Using a truly transdisciplinary approach we will bring together scientists, social scientists, artists and performers to mobilise climate knowledge.

Lead academics: Professor David Schlosberg and Dr Alana Mann

Projects with multidisciplinary initiatives

We are actively involved with colleagues from the University’s multidisciplinary initiatives including current projects funded with Sydney Nano and the Marie Bashir Institute.