Social Theory and Social Change Research Group

Contemporary society is undergoing momentous structural transformations, associated with economic globalisation, technological revolutions, multiculturalism and socio-spatial polarisation. A raft of new political challenges, social problems, cultural issues and ecological limitations has emerged to unsettle established frameworks for understanding and responding to these challenges. These developments demand critical, multi-disciplinary and new theoretical approaches. The Social Theory and Social Change Cluster will explore the conceptual resources, cultural frameworks, shared values and social movements associated with these changes; utilising current social theory to engage with these serious contemporary issues. Upon these examinations depend the prospects for an egalitarian society, capable of positively responding to the dynamic contemporary landscape.

Researchers in this cluster come from a variety of theoretical and disciplinary backgrounds - including Anthropology, Geography, Philosophy and Sociology. Current work focuses on young people, social marginalisation, education, designing better suburbs, labour markets, nomadism and relationships to land, social media and new cultures of democracy, sport, religion and social change.

The cluster engages in research around four major strands:

  • Young people's futures
  • Religion and reason in the 21st century
  • Understanding subjectivity and leadership
  • Socio-spatial justice in urban and rural landscapes

Staff include:

* Affiliate member

Our Projects

A Critical Youth Studies for the 21st Century

Developing an edited collection titled A Critical Youth Studies for the 21st Century (likely to be published in a series Youth in a Globalising World by Brill [US/Netherlands]). This project also envisages a proposal for a special edition in the Journal of Youth Studies or Young. Our call for expressions of interest has closed with over 40 submissions from established and emerging figures in the field of Youth Studies from the UK, old/new Europe, North, Central and South America, the global south, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. The networks established in this process hold out great promise for ongoing research and publishing collaborations.

Imagining the Female Sportsfan

Building on Dr Toffoletti’s existing research in the field of feminist sport studies and the topic of female sports fandom, this study investigates how women fans of major sports are represented in contemporary popular culture imagery. The project aims to:

  • Analyse the complex representations of female sportfan identities and practices in an indicative sample of fictional images from film and television
  • Examine the influence of prevailing narratives of gender and sexuality on the construction of images of women sport supporters in a post-feminist climate
  • Evaluate how thes representations contribute to wider debates on gender relations and social justice in sport
  • Contribute a sustained, critical feminist analysis to the operations of image culture in theconstitution of gendered identities, actions and experiences in the sporting domain

Contradictory Passions? Female Fans of Football

This research provides a comprehensive study of Australian female football fans. It is centrally concerned with investigating the meanings women sports fans ascribe to their fandom and the role of sport spectatorship in identity formation. It also considers the practices of female supporters in the maintenance and disruption of masculinist hegemony in sport.

Capacity Building and Social Enterprise: Individual and Organisational Transformation in Transitional Labour Market Programs

We are conducting research in Mission Australia’s social enterprise Transitional Labour Market Program, situated at their restaurant, Charcoal Lane. This social enterprise provides training and support for unemployed Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal young people. The research consists of two related studies. The first, an action research project, will gather data on, and intervene in, the organisational practices of this enterprise with the aim of facilitating the program’s sustainability. The second part will identify factors that influence young people’s experiences and outcomes in this program. This research will provide significant insights into the ways in which social enterprises can support marginalised young people’s transitions into increasingly precarious labour markets. This project is funded by the Australian Research Council and Mission Australia.

Barwon Youth Partnerships

Barwon Youth Partnerships project is a three year initiative with a focus on young people (10 - 18 years old) who are disengaged, or at risk of disengaging, from education, family and community. Barwon Youth Partnerships (DEECD, LLEN, local government, Third Sector Organisations) aims to improve engagement in education and training; and reduce the escalation of problems for individual young people.

Young People, Social Media and New Cultures of Democracy in a Globalised World

In collaboration with the Foundation for Young Australians developing a project titled Young People, Social Media and New Cultures of Democracy in a Globalised World. The project will analyse the particular and shared dimensions of young people’s involvement in movements/revolutions such the Green Revolution in Iran, the Arab Spring of 2011, European protests in 2011, the riots in the UK in August 2011, the Occupy (Wall St) movement, and the Get Up organisation in Australia - and the roles played by social media in these movements.

Malaise in the contemporary world

Project examines depression and affective disorders in the contemporary world. I undertake an analysis of contemporary forms of depressive and other emotional troubles in the literature, looking at the way the term “depression” is currently used, the use of antidepressants, major depression and mental illness, affective disorders like bipolar illness. The aim is to review and revise psychoanalytic understandings of mood disorders.

Melbourne Docklands and Port Adelaide - A comparison of waterfront renewal

This project involves charting the planning and re-planning of the waterfront renewal projects in Melbourne and Adelaide and assessing their social and economic sustainability.


Other Projects

Investigating the dynamics of migration and health in Australia: A Longitudinal study

Using multiple rounds of panel data from the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) and longitudinal techniques, this ARC funded project will address the following key research areas which are central to our understanding of migration and health:

  • Determining the healthy immigrant effect
  • Determine the health services utilisation behaviour and health of migrants
  • Acculturation of health behaviour and their causal association with the dynamics of subsequent health status
  • Examine whether social networks and support has a direct effect on health, or mediates and/or modifies the impact of migration and acculturation on health

This project is funded by the Australian Research Council.

Life and living in advanced age: the cohort study (LiLAC study)

Dr Santosh Jatrana is a Co- Investigators for an HRC funded longitudinal study of the oldest old (85+) to learn what contributes to a long and healthy life in New Zealand. This study aims to investigate what factors predict successful advanced ageing for older Maori and non-Maori, what pathways do those in advanced age take, what is the relative importance of health, frailty, cultural, social and economic factors (and others) to relevant outcomes and the health status of those in advanced age?

SoFIE (Survey of Family, Income and Employment) - Primary Care

Dr Santosh Jatrana is the Principal Investigator of this HRC (Health Research Council of New Zealand) funded longitudinal study of 20,000 adults that aims to investigate the associations and causal pathways between sociodemographic characteristics (e.g. ethnicity, socio-economic position, and region) and primary care attributes (e.g. affiliation with a primary care provider, access and continuity (PCAAC)) in New Zealand.

Regional Research and Information Centre (RRIC)

During 2012-13, Professor Linda Hancock has continued to gather support for the establishment of a Regional Research and Information Centre that will provide synthesis and interpretation from high quality data analyses around the core concepts of prosperity, sustainability and liveability in regional Victoria. The concept for the Centre has developed to address identified needs for:

  • Evidence based research relating to recurring questions about growth, sustainability, social inclusion and community development
  • Collaboration with Regional Research Australia on a repository of state-wide research reports and findings that can be easily accessed
  • Better use of government resources, overcoming duplication of regional research and providing a stronger capacity to state-wide, integrate regional and sub-regional plans

The RRIC proposal is supported by Regional Development Victoria, the Department of Human Services, the four university partners and the Gordon TAFE for the proposal to establish a Regional Research and Information Centre. A Business Case for the establishment of the RRIC has been developed and is currently being presented to state and federal Ministers.

The four partner Victorian universities have come together comprising Deakin University (lead) and partners Ballarat University, La Trobe University and Monash University. These universities are committed to research embracing all 5 regional Victorian non-metro regions, with regional campuses in Albury-Wodonga, Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong, Gippsland, Mildura, Shepparton, and Warrnambool.

Geelong Regional Alliance G21 has been a founding partner supporting Deakin University and partners in this proposal. The Barwon South West RDA Committee has also identified the RRIC as a priority project to inform regional planning through regional research and rural and regional data management and analysis that is focused on Victorian regional priorities and outcomes.

Public perception of, and response to, desalination in Australia

This project, led by Dr Tanya King, examines what people in Australia think of desalination as a mechanism for producing drinking water. It is a collaborative project, led by Deakin University, together with Victoria University and Murdoch University. The project will produce advice on widespread public attitudes to the deployment of desalination in Australia, as well as providing a detailed case study of information exchange between desalination experts and lay publics, in two focus regions. The project has surveyed national attitudes to desalination plant implementation and outcomes in a range of rural and metropolitan regions where plants are operational, under construction, or absent. The national survey identifies general attitudes to desalination as a response to climate change, as well as common understandings of the desalination process itself, including anticipated or perceived outcomes of desalination. This research identifies different gaps in knowledge which require addressing via education and communication campaigns.

Integrated land management

Dr Quentin Farmar-Bowers is working on the project ‘Policies and governance for integrated landscape management in a changing environment’. The project is funded by the Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research (VCCCAR).

Making Connections: Migrants, social capital and growing regional communities

This research pilot project investigates the demographic trends, and the self-identified social and cultural capital, of those who have migrated to Geelong in the last five years. The project focuses on migrants who cluster in community and social groups based on, for example, shared leisure interests, shared cultural backgrounds, or occupation. The pilot identifies members of three migrant categories: those from overseas, those from Melbourne, and those who have migrated from other rural and regional Australian areas. 20 participants will be recruited through liaison with a number of relevant Geelong bodies, including the City of Greater Geelong and the Migrant Resource Centre, as well as snowballing from key informants and members of community groups. Participants have been/will be invited to participate in focus groups or interviews in order to identify:

  • How they characterise their personal social and cultural capital
  • How they characterise the social and cultural capital of the community groups of which they are a member
  • Whether or not they recognise the social and cultural capital of other community groups (‘bridging’ groups) in Geelong
  • Actual and potential bridges between community groups facilitated by shared elements of social capital

Members of the ‘bridging’ groups will be interviewed or participate in focus groups to explore how the bridging groups worked to effect connections. Interviews and focus groups will be semi-structured and will draw on the interdisciplinary literature on social capital and migration as identified by the members of the research team (e.g., geography, anthropology, demography, economics).

Barwon South West (BSW) Tertiary Education Attainment Strategy - Stage 2

The objectives of the project are to develop a ten-year Tertiary Education Attainment Strategy for the BSW region that will:

  • Consult with key stakeholders to identify the gaps and barriers to tertiary education attainment in the region
  • Clearly articulate the interventions and investment necessary to increase tertiary education attainment in the region
  • Develop a detailed strategic document with a set of clearly defined strategies for implementation by key stakeholders in partnership with all levels of Government

Making connections: migrants, social capital and growing regional communities

Dr Ruth Jackson joined the Alfred Deakin Research Institute in August 2011. She is currently working on the project: Making connections: migrants, social capital and growing regional communities. This research pilot project will investigate the demographic trends, and the self-identified social and cultural capital, of those who have migrated to Geelong in the last five years. The project will focus on migrants who cluster in community and social groups based on, for example, shared leisure interests, shared cultural backgrounds, or occupation.

Dr. Ruth Jackson has received a 2012 AusAID Development Research Award Scheme (ADRAS) grant for a project on Improving the use of Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Services in Rural and Pastoralist Ethiopia. Her research will develop and implement the peer ethnographic approach to improve the skills and capacity of Health Extension Workers (HEWs) and Non-government Organisations (NGOs) to encourage women in rural and pastoralist Ethiopia to give birth with skilled birth attendants.

Deakin University acknowledges the traditional land owners of present campus sites.

2nd May 2013