Doctoral completions

Congratulations to the following members who have recently completed doctoral studies:

Name: Fabian Cannizzo

Title: Governing Australian academics: An analysis of governance and subjectivity in Australian universities

Institution: Monash University

Supervisors: Professor Alan Petersen, Dr David Holmes, Dr Nick Osbaldiston


This dissertation addresses the question of how academic work is governed in universities in the 21st century. It identifies the factors shaping academic governance in public universities. Recent research suggests that academics operating in such settings confront values tensions emerging from the restructuring of higher education within global knowledge economies. A managerial ethos is becoming ever more present, stemming from the uptake of both neoliberal higher education and research policies at the international and national levels and the uptake of performance management systems at the level of the university.

To account for the complexities produced in such a transformation, this thesis uses a poststructural analysis of academic governance. Governance is broadly defined as attempts to apply rational control techniques to known phenomena. Consequently, governance occurs not only at the levels of state and university, but also within the department, between colleagues, and at the level of the individual. The thesis draws on Michel Foucault’s writings on governmentality, Nikolas Rose’s theory of advanced liberal governance, and Judith Butler’s relational model of ethics. Two groups of data are used. The first includes strategic planning and policy documents from eight South-Eastern Australian universities, which are used to establish common discourses of governance through which universities attempt to classify and prescribe ‘good’ academic conduct. The second set of data are drawn from open-ended interviews conducted with twenty-nine members of academic staff from Australian universities, through which the career aspirations and discourses of self-governance of academics are explored. These two data sources have been accessed to reconcile university and academic categories of governance into a more comprehensive institutional analysis.

The findings of this study suggest that academic governance relies on amalgamations of discourses, strategies and techniques for self-government that cannot be described by reference to a single policy discourse or technology. Rather, patterns in academic governance are emerging around a new academic ethos (or ‘spirit’), which is deeply embedded in a culture of authenticity in liberal democracies and made possible through heterogeneous practices of self-government. Future studies of academic governance can benefit from focusing on the intersection of cultural and technological components of governmental regimes.

Name: Diane Elizabeth Luhrs

Title: Intergenerational family-farm transfer: Family members’ experiences and rural social issues

Institution: Monash University

Supervisors: Dr Michelle Duffy (principal), Dr Sally Weller (associate), Dr Nick Osbaldiston (associate)


This thesis examines the relationality between farm family decisions and actions to institute intergenerational family farm transfers and changes to families, rural farming communities, management of the natural resource on which farming depends and management of the remaining natural environment. The thesis argues that the supposed private domain of family business decisions regarding intergenerational farm transfers cannot be considered in isolation from possible impacts on the social well-being of family members, relationships between family members, viability of family farms, sustainability of services, facilities and amenities of rural farming communities, and management of natural resources and environments within farming districts.

The thesis provides a liberal feminist critique of the sociopolitical structure of farming families and their approaches to and management of the phenomenon of intergenerational family farm transfer. It examines how issues of gender are implicated in family members’ decision-making and actions directing farm transfers. It further examines how these decisions affect the opportunities for family members in the next generation, relationships between siblings after farm transfers, relationships between members of the older and younger generations within families and the social consequences ensuing from these relationships following farm transfers. Hence, this thesis engages with how family members negotiate farm transfers and the social consequences of these transfers.

The second focus of the thesis is on the changes to rural communities that are directly and/or indirectly linked to families’ decisions and actions at the time of intergenerational family farm transfer. This requires an examination of the interdependent relationship between farming communities and members of farming families within the districts of those communities. The third focus of the thesis is on the implications for natural resource management in farming regions arising from intergenerational family farm transfers and subsequent changes to rural communities.

Qualitative data were obtained from interviews with farm family members and other members of rural communities associated with farm family members. The thesis also draws on the author’s insider status as a non-successor daughter, a local teacher of farm family children, an environmentalist active in Landcare projects for local environmental conservation and restoration, and a resident in a regional town dependent on farming to support its businesses.

The thesis concludes that Australian State and Federal Governments through their farm policies and programs, the farm family and members of rural communities are all complicit in enabling farms to operate (or not) and to be transferred (or not) to the next generation. They are also all complicit in maintaining the masculine hegemony of rural farming communities which in turn contributes to the declining rural populations, the loss of community services and amenity in broadacre farming districts and to the lack of personnel to manage the natural resources in these areas. Farm owners, by their attitudes to and methods of instituting intergenerational farm transfers, are also responsible for the state of intrafamilial relationships and the wellbeing of family members during and after farm transfers.

Name: Susan Banks

Title: ‘Becoming people to each other’: How practice and meaning intersect in the delivery of aged care and disability support

Institution: University of Tasmania

Supervisors: Dr Emily Hansen (primary), Professor Douglas Ezzy


This is a qualitative study of how practice and meanings of care intersect in the delivery of support to people with disabilities and the frail aged. The work contributes to better understanding about what constitutes high quality paid support for people with disabilities and the frail aged. Such supports can make leading an ordinary, independent life possible, and allow people to contribute to an inclusive society.

What was missing from this field was research on the experience of paid support work for those doing it and those in receipt of support services, whether in their own homes, in day centres or in residential facilities. This is the gap the research addresses. Data were collected through repeated interviews with and observations of aged care and disability support workers and clients (n = 29) in a range of settings.

Building on and linking Arlie Hochschild’s work on emotion and Axel Honneth’s work on recognition, the findings showed that both recipients and workers face common struggles for recognition and meaningful personal identities. Emotion work is an important element in successful encounters.

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Name: Jennifer Ayton

Title: Understanding early cessation of exclusive breastfeeding: A mixed method study

Institution: University of Tasmania

Supervisors: Dr Emily Hansen (primary), Associate Professor Ingrid Van der Mei, Professor Mark Nelson


This thesis investigates early cessation of exclusive breastfeeding (the feeding of other milks/foods before 6 months) in Australia using Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of practice. Factors associated with low rates, and how women experience stopping exclusive breastfeeding through the use of infant formula milk are explored using mixed methods.

Secondary analysis of a national representative sample of 22,202 mother and infant pairs derived from the 2010 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare cross-sectional survey, the Australian Infant Feeding Survey, and data from 22 focus groups involving 108 Tasmanian mother–child pairs were used. Bourdieu’s theory of practice provided a theoretical framework for the qualitative analysis.

Few infants aged less than 6 months were exclusively breastfed. Half of the infants from the national representative sample had ceased exclusive breastfeeding before the first two months. Multiple factors were associated with interrupting exclusivity, with the mothers’ partners’ preference for bottle-feeding, or having no preference, most strongly associated with cessation.

Mothers in the focus groups understood breastfeeding as feeding from the breast, and valued this form of feeding above all other milks and methods because it is viewed as natural. However, the concept of ‘exclusive breastfeeding’ had little relevance for them. Women struggled to convert their embodied physical capital (breasts, milk, nipples) to feed their children. Mothers described deploying non-maternal capital such as fathers and dummies as ‘allofeeding’ methods to support breastfeeding. A disjuncture thus occurs between practice, what mothers do (use formula) and the maternal habitus, (to breastfeed). As a result, many mothers were unable to ‘make sense’ of their use of formula, resulting in powerful feelings of personal and social failure and breastfeeding grief. Reframing breastfeeding as a cooperative practice may also help alleviate the guilt and shame many women experience as a result of disjuncture. The findings are of national significance in reframing breastfeeding as a collective family practice.

Name: Karla Elliott

Title: Navigating mobile masculinities: Young men in Melbourne and Berlin

Institution: Monash University

Supervisors: Professor JaneMaree Maher, Associate Professor Jo Lindsay


This thesis explores contemporary mobile masculinities amongst young men in Melbourne, Australia and Berlin, Germany. Based on a schema of open margin and closed centre, I investigate movements of men towards and away from openness of masculinities. This research contributes to exploring and understanding navigations and narratives of masculinities in neoliberal late modernity. I consider qualitative, narrative interviews conducted in Melbourne and Berlin with 28 men between the ages of 20 and 31, the majority of whom were men of the centre: middle-class, heterosexual, white men from post-industrial societies.

Drawing on feminist theory and critical studies on men and masculinities, I position the margin, rather than the centre, as the site of open possibilities for masculinities. Mobility, movement and openness were key themes to emerge from this research. The mobility of masculinities discovered was bound up with configurations of work and intimate life in neoliberal late modernity. I discovered movement towards openness amongst participants from Australia and Germany alongside the continuing influence of more closed expressions of masculinity. Furthermore, contradictions and tensions of masculinity that could not be located as either open or closed emerged from participants’ narratives. These nuances reveal challenges, but also possibilities, for fostering greater openness.

I explore mobilities of masculinities across three analysis chapters. The first considers narratives and expressions of more closed masculinities amongst participants, despite changes compared to their fathers’ generation. The next analysis chapter explores the contradictions and tensions of mobile masculinities, focussing on narratives of career, the privileges and pressures of masculinity and the search for an essential, authentic version of manhood. The final analysis chapter investigates participants’ thoughts on the concept of openness and the movement of some of these men towards greater openness of masculinities. Notably, this openness was developing amongst Australian men living in Berlin in conjunction with their mobility to the city and their rejection of career as integral to their lives. In addition, I consider evidence of openness in the form of caring masculinity in the narratives of one German participant who was working-class and queer: a man of the margin.

The findings of this thesis demonstrate that ongoing inequalities and the influence of more closed masculinities require continuing, sustained attention and problematisation. At the same time, this research indicates that movement of men of the centre in post-industrial societies towards increased openness of masculinities is possible and occurring in some instances. This movement towards openness, and a rejection of the domination of closed masculinities such as hegemonic masculinity, is critical for fostering more caring masculinities and for contributing towards greater gender equality.

Name: Johanna Garnett

Title: Saving the world with organic agriculture: Environmental peacebuilding in the nascent democracy of Myanmar

Institution: University of New England

Supervisors: Dr. Marty Branagan, Dr. Rebecca Spence, Dr. Bert Jenkins


This thesis is based on a case study into a unique environmental peacebuilding initiative that has been developed by Myanmar nationals, in an effort to address some of the socio- ecological issues facing this nascent democracy. A grassroots, environmental, social movement organisation, the Network for Environment and Economic Development (NEED), has established a school and eco-farm in Myanmar, and has designed an environmental adult education (EAE) program, aimed at agrarian youth. The thesis discusses attempts to live simply and peacefully in a world that, despite ‘sustainability’ rhetoric, often forces us to do just the opposite, and is a unique contribution to the research into informal critical adult education for social action, and for environmental peacebuilding. It is also an example of grassroots activism emerging from the global South. The study utilizes Paulo Freire’s notion of ‘conscientization’ (critical consciousness), critical social theory, the writings of critical theorist Herbert Marcuse and a Marxist theory of social movements, as lenses through which to analyse the learning that is occurring within this program, as well as the potential it has for broader, transformative social action.

This thesis was awarded the Chancellors Medal for International Impact.

Name: Angela Leahy

Title: The Recovery of Natural Law for the Sociology of Human Rights

Institution: Murdoch University

Supervisors: Prof Gary Wickham, Dr Barbara Evers


The thesis addresses the dismissal of natural law thought in the sociology of human rights. By treating natural law as theory rather than doctrine, the thesis is able to recover sociologically relevant ideas in the early modern natural law theories of Grotius, Hobbes and Pufendorf, examples of rights thought in which great importance is placed on the social conditions of the rights bearer, and in which connections are made between the achievement of society and the protection of individual rights. The thesis points to ways in which key ideas in these natural law theories are relevant to major themes and issues that have emerged within the sociology of human rights, including the distinction between foundationalist and constructionist approaches to human rights, the distinction between description and advocacy of human rights, the treatment of the role of the state in securing human rights, and the social import of human rights. It argues that taking a descriptive rather than reactive approach to natural law enables the sociology of human rights to engage with the implications of natural law theories, and the concept of human rights, more robustly.

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