Dr Vanessa Barolsky

STAFF PROFILE

Position

Associate Research Fellow

Faculty

Faculty of Arts and Education

Department

Alfred Deakin Institute

Campus

Melbourne Burwood Campus

Contact

Biography

Vanessa Barolsky works across several disciplinary areas including sociology, anthropology and criminology to tackle questions related to social conflict and its transformation. Much of her work has been conducted in the South African context but has global applicability. This includes critical engagements with social cohesion, truth and reconciliation, as well as political and criminal violence and terrorism. She has also conducted research on issues related to the role of law in society and its contested relationship to social order and understandings of justice.

Prior to her employment at ADI, Vanessa Barolsky was a Research Specialist at the Democracy, Governance and Service Delivery Programme of the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa where she led numerous interdisciplinary studies on key social challenges such as access to justice, violent crime and safety policy, including a major international study in South Africa and Brazil on the role of social cohesion in preventing violence in developing world contexts.

Before the HSRC, Dr Barolsky worked at the civilian oversight body, the South African Secretariat for Safety and Security and the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) where she was one of the authors of the Commission’s final report on human rights violations under apartheid. Her PHD on the TRC analysed the discursive construction of knowledge about political violence at the Commission.

Vanessa Barolsky is currently an investigator on several projects on countering violent extremism, particularly focusing on the role of communities and recently won a grant to conduct an evaluation of creative interventions to build social cohesion and resilience among young people in Australia. In 2016 Dr Barolsky was awarded the Bellagio Academic Residency fellowship by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Oppenheimer Memorial Trust Award for Sabbatical Study. She completed a six-month honorary fellowship at the Centre for Global Studies, RMIT University in 2017.   

Read more on Vanessa's profile

Research interests

I have a wide range of interests related to understanding social conflict and the ways in which societies can respond to, and, ideally, repair, the damage created by conflict. My career has allowed me to follow the trajectory of South African democracy from the investigation of human rights violations under apartheid through the South African truth and reconciliation process to contemporary challenges in post-apartheid South Africa around social cohesion and democratic governance, including ongoing social violence. This has also led to international comparative work on these issues in Latin America, particularly Brazil and Colombia. In the Australian context, I have engaged with the question of terrorism and responses to terrorism as a unique form of political violence. On the one hand much of my research has been applied in nature and sought to contribute to real-world problem-solving through empirical research. At the same time, I have also sought to take a critical and interdisciplinary approach to my work, focusing on the construction of knowledge around social problems such as political violence and terrorism in order to understand the role these representations play in society, as well as the manner in which our understanding of these questions is shaped within networks of power, which have significant ethical and political implications.

Knowledge areas

Social cohesion

Truth and reconciliation processes

Political violence and terrorism

Law and justice in society 

Community and policing in divided societies 

Awards

05/2016 – 06/2016 Practitioner Resident Fellow, The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Centre Academic Residency Programme Award

11/2016-07/2017 Honorary Research Fellow, Centre for Global Research, Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University, Australia

11/2016 Oppenheimer Memorial Trust Award for Sabbatical Study

2010 Golden Key International Honour Society, South Africa

Projects

National Mapping of Support Services for the Directory of Intervention Support Services

Prof Michele Grossman, Dr Vanessa Barolsky, Dr Hass Dellal

2018: $16,850
2017: $275,191

 

Role of Communities in Reintegrating Children, Women and Family Returnees From Conflict Zones

Prof Michele Grossman and Dr Vanessa Barolsky

2018: $47,272
2017: $96,363

 

Preventing violent extremism and building youth cohesion through creative production of grassroots online counter-narratives: apilot intervention and impact evaluation

Dr Matteo Vergani, Dr Vanessa Barolsky, Dr Muhammad Iqbal

2018-19: $73 000

Publications

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2010

Elections: extinguishing antagonism in society?

V Barolsky

(2010), Vol. 9, pp. 79-99, Journal of African elections, Auckland Park, South Africa, C1-1

journal

Funded Projects at Deakin

Other Public Sector Funding

National Mapping of Support Services for the Directory of Intervention Support Services

Prof Michele Grossman, Dr Vanessa Barolsky, Dr Hass Dellal

  • 2018: $16,850
  • 2017: $275,191

Preventing violent extremism and building youth cohesion through creative production of grassroots online counter-narratives: a pilot intervention and impact evaluation

Dr Matteo Vergani, Dr Vanessa Barolsky

  • 2019: $21,906
  • 2018: $51,906

Supervisions

No completed student supervisions to report