Dr Devorah Wainer

PhD UTS, Sydney (Chancellors List Award); BA (Cum Laude) University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg; Higher Education Degree (First Class) South Africa
Honorary Associate

A22 - Old Teachers' College
The University of Sydney

Telephone +61 2 9114 0905

Biographical details

Devorah Wainer received the coveted Chancellor’s List award for outstanding calibre doctoral scholarship (2012) for her interdisciplinary thesis: Beyond the Wire: Levinas vis-à-vis Villawood is a Study of Emmanuel Levinas’ Philosophy as an Ethical Foundation for Asylum-Seeker Policy. In this work Devorah employs Levinas’ ethics to do justice to the lives of incarcerated refugees.

She is continuing her research program developing approaches to Human Rights through the Humanities rather than legal or policy frameworks. The starting point for Devorah’s ongoing research questions is based on elements of personal life experiences in connection with events and processes unfolding around her. Her current project is to open new spaces for asylum-seeking refugees to inhabit and to show citizens how to occupy those spaces face-to-face with them.

Refusing to remove agency from already disempowered and silenced research subjects, Devorah developed the interdisciplinary research methodology – The Midrash Methodology. Within the interdisciplinary frame Devorah is internationally known for her deep understanding and application of the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. She lectures on her three research interests (refugee studies; Midrash Methodology; Emmanuel Levinas) in the United Kingdom, United States and Australia. Devorah has supervised Masters and PhD students in Australia and USA in their substantive subjects and those using the Midrash Methodology that Devorah developed. A passionate believer in power of social change Devorah teaches tertiary and high school students (and the public) to bring about a more informed and open-minded society. Her work is a tender counterpoint to a shrill and uncaring political discourse on Human Rights generally and more specifically asylum seeking refugees.

Devorah is a member of the Sydney Asia Pacific Migration Centre (SAPMiC).

Teaching and supervision

Human Rights Simulation for Masters Students

The unit of study will provide students the opportunity to assume institutional roles within the international human rights framework, and understand its opportunities and constraints in responding to social problems rooted in inequality, precarity and violence. This unit reaches beyond traditional classroom instruction by simulating a range of human rights issues, engaging students in exercises designed to practice skills for future human rights advocacy, including documenting human rights violations, data collection, interview techniques, mounting campaigns, engaging with the media and alternate digital spaces.



  • Wainer, D (2015) Beyond the Wire: Levinas vis-à-vis Villawood. How does a witness write about the experiences of seekers of asylum held in a detention centre without further silencing and invisibilising them? And how can she validly speak of her relationships with those who are incarcerated, and theirs with each other? Levinas’ ethic of the face-to-face encounter provides a way as a counter point to the shrill and uncaring political discourse. Book Boffin, Sydney. ISBN: 978-0-9775-1048-1

Scholarly book chapters

  • Wainer, D. (2016) Midrash Methodology, in S. Segal & C. Jankelson (eds.) Face to Face in practice: London, London: UK. Gower. ISBN: 978-1-4724-2488-4
  • Wainer, D. (2016) Human Rights from the bottom up, in W. Simmons & D. Wainer (eds.)

Editorial Panel

  • Simmons, W and Wainer, D (2016) Human Rights Voices. Routledge.

Book Editor

  • Wainer, D (2014) Business Feel: Leading paradigm shifts in organisations (2nd ed.) Segal. S. London, UK. Palgrave. ISBN: 978-0230-2427-911

Refereed conference papers, workshops, and presentations

  • Wainer, D. (2015) Levinas philosophy seminar “Eros and Ethics” John Cabot University, Rome, Italy.
  • Wainer, D. (2014) The voice of the silenced in the Australian detention system: a research methodology of multisensory listening and writing: Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford University
  • Wainer, D. (2011) Midrash Methodology: A Levinasian Approach to Research: North American Levinas Society annual conference, Texas A & M University, USA
  • Wainer, D. (2011) Finding the freedom ‘Thru the Wire’ to welcome the asylum seeker , International Conference: Performance and Asylum-seeking refugees: Ethics, Embodiment, Community: Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Wainer, D. (2010) What’s in a Word: Is this nation a lover of facts or stories?: United Nations Dialogue amongst Civilisations, Sydney, Australian
  • Wainer, D. (2007) Multiplicity and the Ethics of community: North American Levinas Society: Levinas and Community. Purdue University, USA
  • Wainer, D. (2006) Transcending Today: United Nations Dialogue amongst Civilisations, Sydney, Australia
  • Wainer, D. (2005) Hineni—Here I am—the Response-able way of being with refugees: Intersections, International Colloquium, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  • Wainer, D. (2005) The Garden of Hope: Creating hope in Villawood Detention Centre: Oasis Graduate School, Borderlands, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Wainer, D. (2003) What do global citizens do? Create Peace DNA and Cultural DNA: People of Spirit Dialogue, UNESCO Civilisations, Sydney, Australia

Other seminars, workshops, presentations, and panels

  • Festival of Democracy (2015) Heterotopia: Holding a mirror to indifference. The University of Sydney, Australia
  • Human Rights to Human Security (2013) Opening address Model Global Parliament, New South Wales Parliament, Sydney, Australia
  • Who in Los Negros will remind the asylum-seeking refugees of themselves? (2013) Refugees, Seekers of asylum of Asylum-seeking refugees and the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Solution, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney, Australia
  • Open for discussion is a re-invigorated approach to Human Rights based on lived-experience. Human Rights from the Bottom Up (2012) Human Rights Institute, Department of Sociology and Social Policy, The University of Sydney, Australia
  • Beyond the Wire: A case study in qualitative research methods for research into management, social and political issues as applied to refugees and how an ethics application can improve PhD research (2012) Macquarie University, Australia
  • Emmanuel Levinas: Understanding his philosophy through knowing is biography (2012) Community College, North Shore, Sydney, Australia
  • Myself and the Other: Relating with a new consciousess of Diversity (2011) The Sydney Symposium, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia
  • A Fusion of Jewish Text and Social Issues (2011) Limmud Oz, University of New South Wales
  • Hineni: Here I am to present a story (2006) Jewish Free University, Shalom Institute, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

Selected publications

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  • Wainer, D. (2015). Beyond the Wire: Levinas vis-à-vis Villawood. Sydney: Book Boffin.

Book Chapters

  • Wainer, D. (2016). Midrash Methodology. In Steven Segal and Claire Jankelson (Eds.), Face to Face with Practice: Existential Forms of Research for Management Inquiry. Routledge. [More Information]


  • Wainer, D. (2016). Midrash Methodology. In Steven Segal and Claire Jankelson (Eds.), Face to Face with Practice: Existential Forms of Research for Management Inquiry. Routledge. [More Information]


  • Wainer, D. (2015). Beyond the Wire: Levinas vis-à-vis Villawood. Sydney: Book Boffin.

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