Doctoral completions

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

Name: Jane Brophy

Title: Stem cell tourism in China: The dynamics of a moral economy

Institution: Monash University

Supervisors: Professor Alan Petersen, Associate Professor Megan Munsie

‘Stem cell tourism’, where patients travel internationally to access clinically unproven stem cell treatments, has prompted concern over the welfare of travellers. This thesis examined the Chinese market for such treatments to investigate the sociological underpinnings of the phenomenon. It found that emerging biotechnologies bearing high hopes for clinical translation are alluring for patients whose decision-making processes are shaped by a moral imperative to act in the face of illness, as well as treatment providers who seek unregulated spaces to provide such treatments. It argues for greater emphasis on stronger healthcare communities to meet the moral needs of contemporary patients.


Name: Janet Congues

Title: Women’s recollection of farming and managing for drought in Australia, 2006–2010: What role for local government?

Institution: Australian National University

Supervisors: Assoc. Prof. Helen Keane (Chair), Prof. Daniela Stehlik (Supervisor), Prof. Darren Halpin (Advisor), Prof. Anthony Hogan (Advisor)

Women who farmed and local government may have played key roles in managing for drought in Australia during 2006–2010 but their knowledge and experiences were not always documented or evaluated. Research has demonstrated how agrarian and neoliberal ideologies and Australia’s negation of women who farmed from the national census resulted in knowledge and experiences of women who farmed being marginalised and discounted by agricultural leadership organisations and decision making processes.

Smith’s (1990a) feminist standpoint theory was used to establish the everyday lives of women who farmed and locate their experience as significant to enhancing agricultural knowledge. Prioritising their recollection of the drought enabled the women to recognise the importance of their ideas, experiences and expertise. Other theoretical tools such as Bourdieu’s (Swartz 1997; Raedeke, Green, Hodge & Valdivia 2003) notions of ‘habitus’, ‘capital’ and ‘field’ along with Heller’s (2005) theoretical perspective about ideology were used to enhance the theoretical framework. Qualitative methods of in-depth interviews and text analysis of documents were used to gather and analyse the data.

The study was located in the latter four years (2006–2010) of Australia’s Millennium Drought and focused on the Goulburn Valley, a mixed farming region of Australia’s south-eastern state of Victoria. A thematic analysis of eleven in-depth interviews from women who farmed in the Goulburn Valley during that time formed the foundation from which findings were analysed and discussed. This was followed by an interpretive text analysis of the role local government played during that drought using, with permission, the Greater Shepparton City Council’s Drought Program reports written at that time.

Evidence suggested initially that agrarian and neoliberal ideologies provided some support for women and men who farmed during Australia’s Millennium Drought. As the drought continued, norms around notions of preparedness and resilience appeared to fragment and issues arose regarding the impact of hardship, providing appropriate services and preparing for the longer-term impact of recurring droughts and climate change.

I found that women did have experience and expertise that could enhance the knowledge of people who farm to better prepare and manage for future droughts in Australia and they identified how local government could be better utilised to support rural communities more effectively.



Name: Thi Quy Tran Nguyen

Title: Situating encounter: Negotiating cultural diversity in the Australian employment services providers

Institution: Macquarie University

Supervisors: Dr Selvaraj Velayutham and A/Prof Amanda Wise

This thesis investigates how frontline welfare workers in Australian employment services providers experience, negotiate and perceive cultural difference among their diverse client base, and it considers the quality of relationships between staff members of different backgrounds. The research is situated within current debates surrounding the significance of multicultural encounters in situations of sustained contact and collaboration. It takes the workplace as a very particular site of intercultural encounter. First, work is a site of ‘forced encounter’ with cultural difference. I argue that the literature on ‘negotiating and encountering diversity’ needs to take better account of the context specific conditionalities of encounters with difference. Factors such as the modern nature of work and localised work cultures interplay with how cultural and racial difference is experienced and how these impact on social relationships with ‘cultural others’ in profound ways.

The Australian employment services sector has been impacted significantly by what is known as ‘New Public Management’, involving neo-liberal processes of marketisation and privatisation of welfare related services charged with facilitating unemployed people to access employment opportunities. I explore how issues such as competitive working conditions, work intensification, the reinforcement of welfare conditionality and increased cultural diversity influence how workers experience social relationships and perceptions of cultural difference in their professional roles. I find that forced encounters in these social settings do not automatically result in meaningful relationships across difference. While there is evidence of workplace cross-cultural tension and conflict, they are not necessarily rooted in racial/ethnic superiority as earlier research has often suggested. The thesis suggests that forced and inevitable encounters at work are more likely to result in meaningful cross-cultural relationships when individuals develop the capacity: a) to identify and respond to others’ multiple and justifiable needs; b) to actively engage with difference; and, c) to optimise the use of space and time to build social interaction.


Name: Randa Abdel-Fattah

Title: Islamophobia, racial Australianisation and everyday multiculturalism

Institution: Macquarie University

Supervisors: A/Prof Amanda Wise and Dr Selvaraj Velayuthum

This thesis seeks to capture the ethnographic depths of Islamophobia in Australia by exploring the visceral, atavistic nature of people’s fears, feelings and responses to the Muslim ‘Other’ in the everyday sphere of life. My ethnographic fieldwork included 42 in-depth interviews with predominantly Anglo-Australian individuals. I also conducted interviews with non-Anglo Australians to investigate the impact of Whiteness in Australia on racialised minorities’ various problematisations of Muslims. In order to capture the nuances, diverse modalities, states of flux and multiple social relations among my participants, I interviewed a mix of people, including ‘Political Islamophobes’ (those aligned with anti-Muslim organisations), and ‘everyday’ participants. Borrowing from David Theo Goldberg’s interactive and relational methodological framework of racial regionalisations (2006), I investigated the spatio-historical conditions, logics and epistemologies that delineate Islamophobia in the Australian context, articulating and configuring Islamophobia based on racial Australianisation. The essential argument I advance in this thesis is that scholars of Islamophobia may gain further insight into the phenomenon’s ‘multiple repertoires’ (Sayyid 2014) by pursuing a micro-interactional, ethnographically oriented perspective. I therefore explore, via participant observation and my interviews, how racial Australianisation shapes the structures of feeling, affective grammars, emotional and epistemic postures, persistent patterns and practices that are stitched into the affective registers of Islamophobia among my participants. My research traces affect and emotion talk as sediment, habit and practice, interrogating whether, and if so how and why, (some) bodies learn to be affected by Muslim bodies, behaviour, things and places.


Name: Lynette Ryan

Title: Active ageing and misrecognition: How older people in Australia perceive respect and how this is reflected in popular film

Institution: Macquarie University

Supervisors: Dr Justine Lloyd

A dispositive approach to critical discourse analysis of five films and a content analysis of fourteen interviews was undertaken. Results indicate that active ageing discourse fails to recognise older people’s agency and autonomy, and is a form of symbolic violence. Further, active ageing discourse is found to infantilise older people because it suggests that policy makers and researchers should explain to them what is appropriate behaviour as they age. Active ageing discourse suggests that older people are only ‘worthy’ of respect if they engage in work and exercise and is regarded as a lack of recognition.

Honneth’s (1990) theory of recognition is used to define respect and the theory is applied to the social category of older age.  Analysis of the films revealed that the protagonists were represented as being recognised chiefly in their intimate sphere. They were recognised in the work sphere in all the films except one movie, but they were only portrayed as being recognised in the legal sphere in two of the films.  Analysis of the interviews showed that the respondents felt recognised at the micro and meso level of society. Australian legislation ensures that older people are recognised in the legal sphere, and in the work sphere.

Conclusions drawn include changing the discourse from ‘active ageing’ to ‘a positive engagement in life’ thus removing blame and the fear of being regarded as ‘failures’. Further, discourse around ‘positive engagement with life’ would allow older people the choice relax and enjoy leisure; or to engage in exercise for health benefits or to not engage in exercise, and to engage in work if they so desire or to not engage in work if that is what they want. Discourse about ‘a positive engagement with life’ would allow older people to exercise autonomy and agency and would recognise them as partaking in life.


Name: Bittiandra Chand Somaiah

Title: Cosmopolitan-Modernity and reconstructions of immigrant mothering; Kodavathees across the Asia-Pacific

Institution: Macquarie University

Supervisors: Dr Amanda Wise; Dr Maria Amigó

In this woman-centred research, I look at social reconstructions of mothering among a middle-class minority community of first-generation immigrant Coorg women (Kodavathees) living in broader Karnataka, Singapore and Sydney. I examine this through the conceptual lenses of carework (Longman et al. 2013), culturework (ibid.), motherwork (Collins 1994) and new cosmopolitanism theory. Via my own maternal body and membership to the community under study, I engaged in ‘maternal conversations’ (Dombroski 2011) and in-depth qualitative interviews with 43 participants. I argue that a ‘cosmopolitan maternalism’ is at play in re-workings of ‘risk consciousness’ in modern parenting.


Name: Lynnette (Lyn) Hicks

Title: Dim and dimmer:  An exploration of the production and diffusion of scientific knowledge in Australia between the 1770s and the 2010s

Institution: Macquarie University

Supervisors: Dr Tobia Fattore

Despite growing public concerns around socio-scientific problems and the significance of these problems to everyday life, there is a dearth of sociological literature addressing the production and diffusion of the natural sciences in Australia. In particular, critical analyses of scientific knowledge production and diffusion relative to the actions of the state, the market and civil society are largely absent. This thesis sets out to mitigate this situation by contributing a critical historiography of scientific knowledge production and diffusion as it relates to Australia since White settlement. It is anticipated that this work will open up the topic for further academic research and rational debate.

This thesis explores the production and diffusion of scientific knowledge through the lens of social dynamics that have emerged in Australia between the 1770s and the 2010s. The research relies primarily on the theoretical work of Max Weber to identify and analyse the conception of rationality and its application to social action that is present in the policy and praxis of the natural sciences in Australia. In particular, the relationships between the state, the market and civil society are analysed using secondary data drawn from published histories, official documents and the formal policies and practices of the state and the market during this period.

A tripartite analytical model has been created specifically for this thesis and is used to trace scientific knowledge production and diffusion through the transformative social processes associated with instrumentalism, bureaucratisation, developmentalism, environmentalism, postmodernism and neoliberalism.  Rationality is applied in three ways: as non-instrumental science produced to further human understandings of the natural world and to promote the development of civil society; as pre-instrumental science produced by the state to develop markets and for other instrumental purposes such as national defence strategies; and as instrumental scientific knowledge produced by the participants in the market expressly to enhance their own position in the market.

The research reveals that instrumental rationality has been an enduring concept in the policy and praxis of the natural sciences in Australia. Moreover, this thesis finds that a strong tension is often present between non-instrumental notions of scientific knowledge and those practices that are predominantly instrumental. Through each of the periods studied the state and the market have been close confederates, often working together to realise instrumental outcomes through the knowledge produced by natural science. In particular, administrative and economic ends are seen to be primary; ends associated with more normative intentions, such as the nurturing of civil society, have been regularly overlooked in favour of strictly instrumental aspirations. This continuing instrumentality has altered the relationships between the state, the market and civil society during each period studied. On the current trajectory, the policy and praxis of the natural sciences in Australia may yet begin to compromise the sovereignty of that nation state and the authority of its citizenry.


Name: Julie Elizabeth Peters

Title: A feminist post-transsexual autoethnography on challenging normative gender coercion

Institution: Deakin University

Supervisors: Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli (Primary), Bob Pease

The thesis sheds light on the transgender condition with the aim of helping health professionals deal with their trans clients as well as – because the exception `prove’ the rule – shedding light on the normative operation of gender in the social world. The PhD was awarded in Health Promotion/Anthropology/Promoting Social Justice. Autoethnography is an ethnography (US) or anthropology (Europe/Australia) of the self or own’s group.

Link to the dissertation

click on the link “peters-postfeminist-2016A.pdf” and download.

This video gives an introduction to the autoethnographic content:

Name: Quentin Maire

Title: “Creating a better world”: The International Baccalaureate and the reproduction of social inequality in Australia

Institution: University of Adelaide

Supervisors: Dr Margaret Secombe (principal); Dr Grant Rodwell; Dr Vegneskumar Maniam

This study explores the contribution of an alternative senior secondary certificate, the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma, to the reproduction of social inequality in Australia. Drawing on theoretical instruments from dispositional sociology and a relational conception of educational opportunities, it examines the social distribution and quality of the ‘IB opportunity’, as well as the institutional configurations underpinning its position in the education system. The research combines a country-wide analysis of IB schools’ socioeconomic and academic profile with a survey of IB students in selected schools to unravel the relationships existing between the supply of this alternative educational offering and the dynamics of reproduction of social inequality at play in Australian secondary education. The results suggest that the IB Diploma is primarily implemented in socially selective schools, in which high academic achievement is the norm. By its socially selective intake, the IB Diploma expands the panel of educational strategies available to those who possess the proper species and volume of capital and thus contributes to the reproduction of social inequality. The study’s significance for the sociology of education resides in its theoretical developments on the sociological implications of contemporary forms of educational differentiation, notably via the concept of ‘regimes of curricular alternatives’.

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