May 18

Dr Sharon Quah

Sociology / School of Humanities and Social Inquiry  UOW

Transnational divorces in Singapore 

This presentation is based on a recently completed Singapore Government-funded exploratory study on transnational divorces in Singapore. The outcomes of the project are a government report and presentation made to Singaporean policy makers. Using the conceptual framework of divorce biography she developed and empirical data collected through in-depth interviews with 50 transnational divorced respondents, Sharon will discuss how transnational divorcees and their families in Singapore work out: 1. marital dissolution processes; 2. childcare responsibilities and parent-child relationship; 3. livelihood and living arrangements. The presentation aims to provide an insight into the practices, challenges, strategies and aspirations of her transnational divorced respondents in Singapore. 

A/Prof Julia Martinez

History / School of Humanities and Social Inquiry  UOW

Travelling Japanese women in interwar Queensland.

Japanese women first migrated to Queensland in the 1890s, initially coming to work in the frontier sex industry. In his pioneering study historian David Sissons remarked on the effect of the Immigration Restriction Act of 1901, which not only put an end to the entry of Japanese women, but saw the existing numbers drop from 116 at the turn of the century to just 54 women in 1916. More recently Yuriko Nagata (2004) has written about the small number of Japanese women who remained in Queensland into old age, before being interned in 1941. My paper takes up the story in 1916, and revisits Sissons’ reading of twentieth-century migration. Undertaking a careful head-count of Japanese women in the archives in Queensland, I found some 150 women in the period from 1916-1921. Not only did numbers remain relatively stable, but the police and immigration files on individual women suggest that Japanese women were able to travel back and forth between Japan and Australia, and from town to town in outback Queensland with little interference from authorities. The experiences of Japanese women challenge previous readings of the White Australia period that overstate the top-down effect of racial exclusion policies on Asian immigrants. Having established the extent of ongoing ethnic diversity, the challenge is to understand the experiences of Japanese women in interwar Queensland, building up a picture of social relations out of fragments of evidence about individual lives.

May 4: Emotion and law

Dr. Cassandra Sharp

Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, UOW

‘Stories in a Hashtag? The Emotion of Law through the narratives of social media’

A/Prof Sarah Sorial 

Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, UOW

‘Anger and ‘losing it’: contesting courtroom narratives about provocation and loss of control’  

April 13: On the management of the border between necro- and bio-politics

Prof. Ghassan Hage

Future Generation Professor of Anthropology and Social Theory, University of Melbourne

Part 1

Part 2

In this paper I want to examine and assess the analytical value of a number of ways the relation between the wild and the tame; savagery and civilisation; violence and peace; racism and democratic egalitarianism; necro-politics and bio-politics are imagined in both the social scientific and the everyday popular imaginary. I will examine why some ways of thinking this relation have a better critical purchase than others in helping us understand the current rise of aggressive ethno-nationalist politics around the world.


March 30 – What is the good of happiness? Theoretical, empirical and cultural perspectives

Jordan McKenzie, UOW, Sociology

Roger Patulny, UOW, Sociology

Sukhmani Khorana, UOW, Media and Communication

Roger Patulny

Jordan McKenzie

In recent recent decades we have seen a dramatic growth in happiness research from fields like economics and positive psychology, and recently a more critical debate has emerged in sociology and cultural studies. Perhaps it is time we reflect on this research in light of the question; What is the good of happiness? Studies in psychology have indicated that happiness makes people selfish and unethical (Tan & Forgas 2010), while others have claimed that pursuing happiness makes people lonely (Mauss et al. 2012), meanwhile studies from linguistics to economics have shown how happiness has come to reflect highly individualistic norms and values (Wierzbicka 2004; Pflug 2009). This seminar will consist of three presentations on this topic from three unique research backgrounds. Jordan McKenzie will speak on a number of theoretical perspectives that unpack the subtext in conventional definitions of happiness to show how the term interacts with ideology and is used to reinforce norms. Roger Patulny will speak about the complexity of what the data tells us about happiness in a research area where everybody wants a simple answer. Finally Sukhmani Khorana will provide new avenues for thinking about the morality of individual happiness that broaden the scope of emotional categories to include alternatives, such as empathy. 

March 16 – Dangerous pleasures: crime, compulsion and media panic

Ratings Systems vs Fan Reception: (Mis)reading Sexuality in Popular Culture

Mark McLelland, UOW, ARC Future Fellow and Professor of Gender & Sexuality Studies

Comic books have been an intense site of surveillance and anxiety since the 1954 publication of Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent: The Influence of Comic Books on Today’s Youth. Wertham’s text set off fierce debates in the United States, and in Australia raised concern over the deleterious impact that American culture was thought to be having on Australia’s youth. In recent years a new panic has emerged in the media, this time focused on pop culture materials originating in Japan. However the terms of this debate are somewhat different, focusing not so much on the negative effects that Japanese manga and anime are supposedly having on young readers but on the illegality of the sexualised depictions of young people that appear in these media. An increasing number of manga and anime titles are being banned as “child abuse publications,” and fans given fines and in some instances prison sentences for possessing this material. This paper looks at the banning of one such title in New Zealand as a “child abuse publication” – a title which happens to be  freely available in Australia with just an MA 15+ rating – and discusses failed fan attempts to have the New Zealand ruling overturned. In doing so I point to potentially fatal flaws in a classificatory system that insists on reading a text against the “interpretive community” for which it was intended.

Digital drugs: the marketing of internet addiction

David Neil, UOW, Philosophy Program

Prior to the publication of the 5th edition of the American Psychology Association’s Diagnostic Statistical Manual (2013), there was debate around whether internet addiction should be should be recognised as a new disease. DSM5 did reify ‘internet gaming disorder’ as a disease, but the editors decided that the jury is still out on a broader notion of internet addiction. This paper discusses the implications of defining pathologies of media use. It also examines the ethics of using findings from addiction research to inform the design of media products.