Conference Scholarship for TASA Members with Disabilities Awarded to Chris Pollard, Deakin University:
I am grateful for the opportunity this scholarship afforded me to participate in the TASA 2015 Conference. The experience enabled me to receive valuable feedback on my current research, to be exposed to new and stimulating research across the discipline, and to make some valuable new contacts. The conference theme of neoliberalism is one that is important to me because I am currently researching the sociocultural and political–economic dimensions of the critical transition period of the 1960s and 1970s. The paper I presented at the conference focuses these large themes through the person of former Whitlam government minister and Deputy Prime Minister Jim Cairns. I am pleased to say that as a result of the valuable feedback that I received at the conference I have subsequently written this material up for publication. In the article I analyse Cairns’ complex political life with the goal of challenging certain common views of him as being ‘an idealistic dreamer’ or ‘a man made for opposition’. In place of these I suggest a more nuanced and better factually grounded account of his role in the story of social change in Australia. This story highlights Cairns’ unique attempt to juggle deeply held ethical principles and political pragmatism while approaching and holding office. It interprets him as ultimately a rational humanist moralist who, via his sociological perspective, made a significant contribution to Australian political life (see linked abstract).
I am also currently working on an article on the theme of ‘Cairns as a social theorist’. This article analyses Cairns as someone who followed the general movement of incorporating psychological and anthropological themes into political economy-based critical social theory. From the late 1960s onwards, Cairns sought to provide a more adequate account of agency, culture, childhood development, the role of race, gender and sexual and emotional repression. In this sense, Cairns’ theories are part of an Australian manifestation of a tradition of Western socialist thinking. This tradition comes to see the complex role of culture as crucially important in understanding how structural inequality is reproduced from generation to generation, and so crucial for coming to grips with possibilities for social change.
In addition to the Cairns project I also have a deep interest in the phenomenology of embodiment, particularly the work of Merleau-Ponty. I am currently researching and writing an article that critically assesses Merleau-Ponty’s theory of ‘the primacy of perception’ and ‘the lived body’. I have also published several articles on key themes in his philosophy, such as his phenomenological critique of cognitive science, his view of dialectics and his relation to Kant (see: https://deakin.academia.edu/ChristopherPollard).
The TASA 2015 experience was a very positive and encouraging one for me. There were the formal sessions, such as Professor Eva Cox’s inspiring Keynote Address ‘Putting the social back into social sciences!’ and the roundtable discussion I attended on the ‘Myths and dominant narratives of neoliberalism’, chaired by Professor Lisa Adkins. In addition to this, the informal ‘sessions’, where I met new colleagues and had many interesting discussions, were also invaluable. Once again, a big thanks to TASA for helping me to participate.