Diversity and identity

This research examines the many forms and claims of identity within and between complex societies. Our work spans philosophical issues about the nature of identity and agency, historical studies of colonialism and migration, and anthropological, sociological and political questions about the diversity of cultural, political and religious practices of the contemporary world.

Working together

We cover the political, economic and conceptual bases of social inclusion and exclusion, and inequality. The stream includes scholars across the humanities and social sciences and is committed to promoting multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary research.

Our key questions

  1. What practices and performances shape the plural identities of subjects in multicultural societies?

  2. What shapes our understandings of social justice, agency, inclusion and exclusion in multicultural societies?

  3. What is the role of religion in contemporary societies?

  4. What is the changing role of technologies in the experiences and identities of contemporary subjects?

  5. What mechanisms and practices shape the inter-subjective and objective conditions of diversity and identities at a global level? How can these conditions be made more equal?

  6. How are we to understand the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians?

  7. How can or should we challenge or transform existing understandings of diversity and identity in the 21st century?

Latest news

Special issue of Postcolonial Studies, ‘Beyond Recognition’

A special issue of Postcolonial Studies has recently been published, edited by ADI members Victoria Stead and Sam Balaton-Chrimes, on the theme ‘Beyond Recognition’. The issue also features contributions from ADI members Emma Kowal, Melinda Hinkson, Lara Fullenwieder, and Yin Paradies, plus a book review by ADI HDR Bronwyn Shepherd.

The special issue responds to recent critical Indigenous scholarship against the politics of recognition, led by scholars such as Audra Simpson (who has a paper in the issue) and Glen Coulthard. The papers build on their important critiques, extending these into diverse empirical contexts, including in non-settler postcolonial contexts (Kenya, Papua New Guinea) as well as in settler colonial ones (Australia, US, Canada).

The papers engage variously with: Indigenous refusal and colonial constructions of ‘consent’ in settler colonies (Audra Simpson); slum-upgrading development projects in Kenya (Sam Balaton-Chrimes); the interplay of recognition and assimilation in Indigenous Australian lifeworlds (Melinda Hinkson); the refusal of whiteness by light-skinned Aboriginal people (Emma Kowal and Yin Paradies); memorialisation of the Second World War and of ‘Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels’ in Papua New Guinea (Victoria Stead); visual self-representations of Indigenous people affected by the Canadian Residential School system (Lara Fullenwieder); and the competing normative political frameworks of recognition and justification (Duncan Ivison).

Postcolonial Studies

Special Issue, ‘Beyond Recognition’, vol. 20(1) 2017

  1. Samantha Balaton-Chrimes and Victoria Stead, ‘Recognition, Power and Coloniality’
  2. Audra Simpson, ‘The Ruse of Consent and the Anatomy of “Refusal”: Cases from North America and Australia’
  3. Lara Fullenwieder, ‘Framing Indigenous Self-Recognition: The Visual and Cultural Work of the Politics of Recognition’
  4. Samantha Balaton-Chrimes, ‘Recognition, Coloniality and International Development: A Case Study of the Nubians and the Kenya Slum Upgrading Project’
  5. Victoria Stead, ‘Violent Histories and the Ambivalences of Recognition in Postcolonial Papua New Guinea’
  6. Melinda Hinkson, ‘Beyond Assimilation and Refusal: A Warlpiri Perspective on the Politics of Recognition’
  7. Emma Kowal and Yin Paradies, ‘Indigeneity and the Refusal of Whiteness’
  8. Duncan Ivison, ‘Pluralising Political Legitimacy’

Our projects

There are a number of projects underway in our diversity and identity research stream.

A Buddhist Debate and Its Contemporary Relevance

This project is concerned with one of the central debates in Tibetan philosophy concerning truth, realism and epistemic justification. It begins with Daktsang Lotsawa's charge that Tsongkhapa, one of Tibet's most influential philosophers, was guilty of "18 great contradictions" in his presentation of the two truths (conventional and ultimate), and it then explores the responses by Tsongkhapa's followers up to the present day.

Learn more about this project

Collecting the West

Some of the first objects through which Europeans imagined Australia came from Western Australia, and have circulated through global, national and local collecting networks over a 400-year period.

This project aims to explore these objects and identify how they presented Western Australia to the world, informed the WA identity and a new understanding of the state.

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‘Digital citizenship’ practices of Malaysian-Chinese youth

The project extends previous research which examined how the digital cultures of Muslim youth in the US and Australia contest normative definitions of ‘digital citizenship’. In the research digital practices and cultures were found to nourish new voices, rights-claims and political expressions, enabling young people to re-negotiate what it means to exist and act as a citizen in a context where these expressions were often marginalised in formal politics.

While digital citizenship education is championed in Malaysia, these policies exist alongside practices of digital surveillance and suppression of political dissent and minority rights. These tensions produce both political inertia and novel acts and practices of everyday digital citizenship.

This project examines these tensions from the perspective of Malaysian-Chinese youth.

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Enhancing our understanding of, and capacity to address, racism in Australia

Encompassing a range of internationally novel research, this project aims to enhance conceptual understandings of racism and anti-racism and investigate empirical data on the health and social effects of racism.

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Experiences and perspectives of Koreans in Australia and New Zealand

This project analyses the lives of Korean migrants who were born or grew up in Australia and New Zealand (including adoptees), the role that they play in their host societies, their connections with the Korean community and with the Korean homeland, and the formation of their identities.

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Fethullah Gülen Chair in Islamic Studies and Intercultural Dialogue

The Fethullah Gülen Chair in Islamic Studies and Intercultural Dialogue was established through an endowment by the Australian Intercultural Society in order to provide new insights into the role that social inclusion can play in building a peaceful society.

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Let the Dead speak: Social Engagement in Spiritualism

This is a unique, three-year investigation of the sociological, anthropological, and historical dimensions of Spiritualism in Australia, a small but highly influential religious movement.

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Navigating difference: Children’s experiences of an Australia – South Korea school partnership

International and intercultural education are globally recognised as critical to students’ development as global citizens. However, to date there is limited research about how primary school students engage in international education activities, including international school partnerships, also known as ‘sister school’ partnerships.

This project aims to develop a greater understanding of how students on both sides of a global partnership in Australia and South Korea experience racial, ethnic and cultural diversity in daily life and how participation in their schools’ partnership activities might help encourage positive relations between people from diverse backgrounds.

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Place and displacement in Aboriginal Australia: A Warlpiri visual cultural enquiry

At a time of social turbulence and hyper-mobility, this project examines Aboriginal people’s transforming relationships to place. From ancestral places, to the nation and beyond, it analyses how Warlpiri people of central Australia have pictured themselves in a changing world. 

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The Civic Life of Young Australian Muslims: Active Citizenship, Community Belonging and Social Inclusion

Enhancing the engagement of marginalised youth in civic life is critical for a healthy democracy and community cohesion. Unlike the more common focus on exclusion and disadvantage, this project investigates the range of ways young Australian Muslims actively participate in civic life and establish belonging in community.

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The Effects of Transnational Mobility on Youth Transitions

Young people increasingly migrate abroad for work and education, and Australia is a significant hub for sending and receiving. Migration and education policies encourage this mobility, which is expected to provide youth with enhanced life chances and competitive skills. However, very little research examines its effects on young people’s transitions: that is, its impact on their establishment of ongoing social and familial ties, capacity for engaged citizenship and sustained belonging, and efforts to make adult identities and imagine and enact longer term plans and life trajectories.

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Young Australians' perspectives on religions and non-religious worldviews

Australia’s religious profile has altered dramatically in recent decades. The proportion of the population who identify as Christians has fallen markedly. Together, followers of the Buddhist, Hindu and Jewish faiths now represent about six per cent of the population.

By systematically eliciting young people’s understandings about religion and belief, this project will inform public debate about how education can assist or impede intercultural understanding and processes of social inclusion and countering extremism.

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Young People and Social Inclusion in the Multicultural City

This Future Fellowship project is a sociological analysis of young people's negotiation of social cohesion and civic belonging in multicultural communities. Up to three quarters of the youth of industrialised nations live in cities characterised by rapid global flows of people and cultures. The experiences of young people of diverse backgrounds can be both a barometer of cohesion and a critical source of information about informal and local practices that shape inclusion in conditions of increasing mobility and cultural change.

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Reconciling biological and social indigeneity in the genomic era

Advances in genomics will have profound impacts on contemporary identities including Indigeneity. A focus on social processes since the 1970s has left scholarship on Indigenous identity ill-equipped to grapple with the consequences of the genomic era.

Drawing on multidisciplinary expertise, Indigenous and non-Indigenous investigators will examine biological and social influences on Indigeneity in narratives of self presentation and in two fields currently being transformed by genomics: ancestry testing and repatriation.

We’ll develop and test a biosocial model of Indigeneity that will expand knowledge of Indigenous identification as a critical factor in monitoring and improving the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people.

The project is being investigated by:

  • Professor Emma Kowal
  • Professor Yin Paradies
  • Professor Cressida Fforde

The project is funded by ARC Discovery.

Islamic religiosity

Our aim is to understand the role that Islamic religious beliefs, rituals and faith-based community practices play in shaping experiences of belonging and citizenship in multicultural, western cities. In particular, the project aims to develop an understanding of the extent to which the emotional and spiritual aspects of Islamic religious practices encourage feelings of openness toward others and foster forms of civic and political engagement in multicultural cities.

The research will be conducted with Muslim community members in three western locations: Melbourne, Australia; Detroit, USA and France. Approximately 100 people in each location will be asked to take part in face-to-face or online surveys that will identify what faith-based, spiritual and cultural practices Muslims engage in, how often they engage in these activities, in what places they participate in them and the feelings they experience in these places.

Five focus groups and 50 individual interviews will also be conducted in each of the three cities to explore these themes in more depth, and to find whether these practices contribute to feelings of national and local belonging, and/or encourage forms of civic and political engagement.

This is an ARC-funded project conducted by researchers at Deakin’s ADI and City University of New York (CUNY).

The project is being investigated by:

  • Professor Fethi Mansouri
  • Professor Bryan Turner
  • Dr Michele Lobo
  • Dr Amelia Johns 
  • Mr Irfan Yusuf.

Social Cohesion and Young People

Our researchers are investigating social cohesion, young people and multiculturalism. We are evaluating the 'Social Cohesion, Young People and Multiculturalism' project, which is being run by the Centre for Multicultural Youth in two areas of rapid growth and high immigrant concentration in metropolitan Melbourne: the City of Wyndham and the City of Casey.

The project aims to:

  • increase opportunities for inter-community connections for young people's participation in social and community life
  • strengthen the leadership capabilities of young people from diverse backgrounds.

We hope to create both the bridging and bonding community relationships that underpin social cohesion. Local community conversations, skills training, and the involvement of young people in collaborative Youth Action Groups are the key elements in the project's methodology. The evaluation will cover each of these three elements, establishing the project's impact in facilitating social cohesion and offering a model for application in other local government areas. Impact will be measured against a set of community cohesion indicators.

Our investigators on this project include: 

  • Professor Fethi Mansouri 
  • Associate Professor Danny Ben-Moshe 
  • Dr Victoria Stead.

Reinventing philosophy as a way of life

The aim of this Monash University-led project is to examine modern reinventions of the classical ideal of philosophy as a way of life. We’ll investigate the reanimation of this idea in post-Kantian philosophy, including well-known figures such as Nietzsche and also neglected figures such as Jean-Marie Guyau.

Our research will provide the first sustained study of how 19th- and 20th-century European philosophy transformed ancient philosophical schools, such as Epicureanism and Stoicism.

The project is being investigated by:

  • Dr Michael Ure
  • Professor Keith Ansell-Pearson 
  • Dr Matthew Sharpe.

The project is funded by ARC Discovery.

Our books

Ethnicity, Democracy and Citizenship in Africa – Dr Sam Balaton-Chrimes

Find out more about this book

Religion, Culture & Society – Associate Professor Andrew Singleton

Find out more about this book via this video

Trapped in the Gap – Professor Emma Kowal        

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The Naked Self: Kierkegaard and Personal Identity – Dr Patrick Stokes

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Contact us

Professor of Anthropology
Professor Emma Kowal
+61 3 9244 5058
Email Professor Kowal

Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Dr Victoria Stead
+61 3 5227 8917
Email Dr Stead 

Lecturer in International Studies
Dr Sam Balaton-Chrimes
+61 3 9244 3972
Email Dr Balaton-Chrimes

Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation
Faculty of Arts and Education
Deakin University
221 Burwood Highway 
Burwood, Victoria 3125