Written by Sue Malta, Editor, Nexus:
This issue of Nexus brings an extended report from the 2015 national conference held in beautiful tropical Cairns. We start with excerpts from some the keynote addresses, bringing us a range of perspectives on the conference theme of Neoliberalism and contemporary challenges for the Asia-Pacific. We begin with the stirring words of Professorial Fellow Eva Cox from the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning Research Centre (UTS) ‘Putting the social back into social sciences!’ who argues that sociology is losing its influence on ‘public debates, politics and policies to neoliberal economics based on markets’. She provides sociology practitioners with a call to arms to develop ‘newer, more adaptive, less rigid and prescriptive versions of grand theories which allow for the complexity and mutability of human experiences in new ways’. Such theories can help steer us away from the current influence of market theories to those which will impact the ‘common good’.
The next two keynote excerpts are from Vedi Hadiz, Professor of Asian Studies at University of Melbourne, and Itty Abraham, Director of the South Asia Institute at The University of Texas. Professor Hadiz investigates neoliberalism and the resurgence of populism and Dr Abraham explores how our bodies are being persistently ‘reframed to be at the centre of… shifting technopolitical relations’. These excerpts make fascinating reading. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.
We also have a post-conference report from one of the organisers, Anne Stephens, James Cook University, reflecting on the hard work, challenges and triumphs that are an inevitable consequence of such a large event. The Postgraduate Portfolio Leader, Christina Malatzky, also provides a report of the postgraduate day at the 2015 conference.
The issue includes a number of pieces from TASA Postgraduate Scholarship winners Claire Baker, Michelle Dyer, Ly Phan, and Leanne Stevenson, accessibility scholarship winner Chris Pollard, and winners of the scholarships for sociologists outside academe, Jennifer Cheng, Eileen Clark, and Liudmila Kirpitchenko, who describe their work and reflect on their experiences of attending the conference.
This edition also celebrates the achievement of the winners of the 2015 TASA awards:
Ben Gook Jean Martin Award
Andrew Metcalfe Award for Outstanding Contributions to Teaching in Australian Sociology
Alan Scott Sociology in Action Award
These members have contributed significantly to the advancement of sociology within Australia and beyond, from both academic and industry/community organisations. It was wonderful to witness the presentations of the awards at the conference dinner. On behalf of the Nexus editorial team and the extended TASA community, I extend my warmest congratulations to them all.
I would like to make mention of a special award that was given to the TASA Executive Officer, Sally Daly. The award was in recognition of Sally’s ongoing professionalism, hard work and passionate commitment to TASA and sociology. This award was kept hush-hush till the last moment and came as a complete surprise to Sally. In keeping with her ability to be ready for anything (!), she was able to deliver a gracious and heart-warming acceptance speech which was received enthusiastically by all of us there. I’m sure you will enjoy Sally’s reflection on her surprise.
In other articles, we present an important contribution from the Editor of Journal of Sociology, Dr Alphia Possamai-Inesedy, who provides a thought-provoking commentary on open access publishing and the ‘green’ versus ‘gold’ issue. We have the usual reports from the TASA Executive, President Katie Hughes and Secretary Joshua Roose, details of nine higher degree completions, and a report from Luke Gahan on the two-day symposium organised by the Family, Relationships and Gender thematic group held at the Bouverie Centre, Victoria’s Family Institute at La Trobe University in October. The theme was ‘The Changing Face of Families and Relationships’.
In this the first issue of Nexus for 2016, the newsletter has undergone more change, with a move to fully electronic delivery via the new TASA web. This transformation follows an interactive model, which provides members with the opportunity to interact with and comment on articles of interest and thereby be more actively engaged with each “news”-letter. Please bear with us as we navigate this new way of publishing. Your thoughtful comments and helpful tips will be gratefully received.
Finally, I would like to bring your attention to the changes in leadership which have been occurring and will continue to occur throughout this year. Firstly, we were very sad to see our co-editor Christopher Baker depart from his role at the end of last year. Christopher did a sterling job and we miss him already! This edition has been edited by myself, but it is largely the result of the hard work of Sally Daly, who picked up the pieces when work pressures proved too much for me! Thank you yet again, Sally, for all that you do, in front of but especially behind the scenes to keep everything on track.
The next edition will see the gradual transition to new editors. We are delighted to announce that Eileen Clark, who has a long and varied association with TASA and Nexus, will step into the role of co-editor. Eileen will be ably assisted by a new co-editor, Alexia Maddox (Deakin/RMIT). Alexia brings her experience with working in the online environment and her passion for writing to her new role at Nexus. Both Eileen and Alexia will outline their new editorial platform in future editions. Please join me in extending them a warm welcome.
Of course, a newsletter is not a newsletter without extensive backroom help! Thanks are due to the production team of Eileen Clark, Sally Daly and Roger Wilkinson. Without their zest, expertise and hard work, Nexus wouldn’t be possible. Thanks again team. You rock!