Cross-disciplinary research

The Faculty of Arts undertakes world-leading cross-disciplinary research that addresses national and global challenges. This work is organised under three themes.

Theme: Modes of communication

Cross-disciplinary research teams undertake linguistic and historical research on ancient to contemporary languages; and the oral, written and material transmission and interpretation of cultural traditions.

Researchers also investigate how people generate, interact and engage with creative writing and performance in contemporary environments; and undertake research on changing media technologies and their social and economic impact.

Theme leader: Professor Louise D'Arcens

Creative documentary research

Stream leaders: Dr Tom Murray and A/Prof Robert Sinnerbrink

New digital technologies and mindsets have led to a proliferation of non-fiction work and an environment that has been described as a ‘golden age of documentary’. That is, creative works that ‘engage with the real’. As new platforms evolve, boundaries between previously separate genres, art-forms, and modes of conceiving the world, are brought into new relations. Thia research stream seeks to explore some of these relations.

Focusing, for example, on the association between writing and production, fiction and non-fiction, improvisation and re-enactment, past and present, representation and fabulation, materiality and immateriality, the document and the documentary. In this, creative documentary is inherently interdisciplinary, combining perspectives from across the humanities, social sciences, media, writing, performance and the digital humanities.

Internationally, universities have led the way in documentary innovation with highly acclaimed cutting-edge non-fiction research works being produced within, for example, Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, MIT’s Open Documentary program and the Centre for Documentary and Experimental Film, Westminster University.

At Macquarie the creative documentaryresearch stream will continue to provide an interdisciplinary forum for exploring creative documentary-based practices and ways of knowing about the world that are becoming increasingly significant in our research environment.

Global literatures and cultures

Stream leaders: A/Prof Ulrike Garde, Dr Jumana Bayeh, Dr Alexandra Kurmann

The global literatures and cultures research stream focuses on how texts and cultural artefacts engage with trans-nationalism, globalisation, diaspora and migration.

We conceive of this rubric as incorporating research into both how literary texts, artworks, performances and media circulate globally or trans-nationally, and how they record and represent the experience of mobility from the refugee, the migrant, and the global nomad.

We are also invested in thinking with and beyond the World Literature paradigm to ask how diasporic or transnational literature and cultural products complicate, supplement and expand the methods and meaning of World Literature scholarship. We prefer the term ‘global’ because it is a capacious category that incorporates related terms like international, diaspora, transnational, refugee, nomad and migrant.

We welcome all researchers whose work fits within this broad remit. We are keen to involve colleagues whose work focuses on any period, from antiquity to the contemporary, and any medium, including literature, visual cultures, film, media, popular culture, music and performance.

Markers of authenticity

Stream leaders: Dr Margie Borscke, A/Prof. Malcolm Choat, Dr Rachel Yuen-Collingridge

Markers of authenticity curates cross-disciplinary encounters around a central theme: why does authenticity matter? The importance of the real in academic and public discourse is inescapable and bound to the genuine threat posed by falsehoods of all kinds. From artefacts to history to news, the fake destabilises our confidence in expertise, in our own perceptions, in knowledge as maintained by institutions and communities.

Deliberate misrepresentations and confabulations are nevertheless vital for motivating an investment in knowledge and method, for revealing to us what matters and why. In spite of our anxieties, some degree of fabulation is psychologically normative and necessary for sustained investment in goals and the community. It allows for explorations of the past, present and future, of alternate visions and perspectives, possibilities, and procedures.

The cross disciplinary encounters the network hosts take in topics as diverse as:

  • authorial and creative practice
  • memory and cognition
  • the construction of identity
  • cultural heritage, looting and the antiquities trade
  • forgery and creative history
  • the relationship between the academy and the public, expert and the amateur, technique and motivation, performance and experience, natural and artificial environments
  • virtual worlds and the augmentation of the body and our senses.

Histories of emotion

Stream leaders: Professor Louise D’Arcens and A/Prof Clare Monagle (History, deputy leader)

We are a group of researchers who investigate how societies have understood, experienced, expressed, and performed emotions across time and place.

We engage with the innovative area of emotions history using approaches that are strongly interdisciplinary, with researchers spanning the fields of social and cultural history, literature, philosophy, communications, international studies, sociology, politics, anthropology, and law.

Our membership also includes practitioners of writing (literary and media), film-making, and performance. Our wide-ranging research programme investigates the role of emotions within society, culture, and politics from the ancient and medieval worlds through to the present, with a particular focus on Europe, Asia, the Middle East, the U.S., and Australia.

The stream encompasses the Centre for the History of Emotions (CHE@MQ) which is a node of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.

Our research programme focuses on investigating a number of core questions:

  • How have emotions been understood and enacted in past cultures, and how has this shaped the present?
  • How do emotions pervade social, legal, institutional practices?
  • What role does emotion play in creative and aesthetic practice?

These questions are explored through collaborative workshops with academic and non-academic partners, and communicated via academic and media publications, podcasts, and creative works.

Advisor: Professor John Sutton

Theme: Societal transformation

Cross-disciplinary research teams undertake analysis, measurement and critique of social, political, economic, religious and environmental change from ancient to contemporary societies.

The theme seeks to understand the impact of transformation on societies at global, national and local levels while also exploring the impacts of societal transformation on people’s identities, intimate and family lives, and their perceptions of their place and role in society.

Theme leader: A/Prof Kristian Ruming

Environmental humanities

Stream leaders: Dr Emily O’Gorman, A/Prof Donna Houston, Dr Ian Collinson

Environmental humanities is an interdisciplinary field that serves as both an umbrella for environmental sub-fields in the social sciences and humanities, and promotes the productive cross-fertilisation of ideas between them. This stream brings together scholars from multiple disciplines across the Faculty who research in this and related fields, broadly addressing the social and cultural dimensions of environmental consciousness and change.

Researchers in this stream have strengths in the following areas:

  • animal and multispecies studies; environment and law
  • more-than-human geography and political ecology
  • environmental history
  • big history, deep time and the Anthropocene
  • environmental philosophy; environmental anthropology
  • biosemiotics and bioarts
  • history and philosophy of science; eco-poetics and literary eco-criticism; eco-media
  • Indigenous people’s relationships with environments; place-making
  • other interdisciplinary studies, including practice-led creative research and interpretations of the Anthropocene.

Migration, mobility and diversity

Stream leaders: A/Prof Amanda Wise and A/Prof Chris Lyttleton

This stream brings together researchers from multiple disciplines with expertise on migration and mobility. It encompasses analyses of formations, experiences and social fields created by migration in diverse global settings.

Specifically, our research examines transnational communities, intercultural relations and dynamics of integration and exclusion, movement of ideas and identities and attendant cultural and religious diversity, migrant health, economic and social remittances, impact on families and communities. We also address forces prompting increased mobility including labour supply-chains, economic and social aspirations, involuntary migration and resettlement, as well as mechanisms to control, channel and curtail people movement at national, regional and global levels.

The stream is organised around five thematic groups:

  • Refugees, Borders & Migration Governance
  • Labour Migration & Migrant Labour Rights
  • Transnational communities and temporary mobilities
  • Racism, Populism & Global Islamophobia
  • Multiculturalism, Cultural Diversity & Intercultural Relations

Pacific research

Stream leaders: A/Prof Kate Fullagar and Dr Denis Crowdy

Pacific researchers at Macquarie University focus on social, political, linguistic, environmental, and cultural topics related to the Pacific in both contemporary and historical frames. Our stream includes scholars from Modern History, Politics, Media, Music, Anthropology, Geography, and French Studies within the Faculty of Arts.

Researchers in this stream have particular strengths in:

  • analysing the anthropology of religion and law in Melanesia
  • exploring Pacific mobilities in the 18th century and refiguring our regional historical understanding
  • making documentary films in the Pacific, interrogating the deep history of war, diplomacy, and the environment throughout Polynesia
  • tracing changes in contemporary music in Papua New Guinea
  • exploring the shifting contemporary politics of Fiji
  • investigating the cultural role of literature in Francophone Pacific Islands
  • engaging with Pacific indigenous communities in Australia.

Religions and society

Stream leaders: Professor Marion Maddox and Dr Jaap Timmer

Research in Religion and Societybrings together discipline specialists from across the Faculty to study the constellation of historical, social, cultural, legal and political phenomena related to religion.

We analyse religions’ constantly changing ideas, practices, discourses, institutions and social expressions, with particular attention to how such understanding illuminates the social and political changes of societies past and present, and the part that religion, broadly construed, might play in future societies.

Data society

Stream leaders: Prof Ben Schreer, Professor Niloufer Selvadurai and Dr Terri Senft

A cross-disciplinary research team analyses the way in which technological innovation has transformed the creation, use and exchange of data in society and in the economy, and considers the adequacy of existing laws and policies to protect key data-related societal questions, such as privacy, security, ownership and markets. Researchers will seek to develop new theoretical models to analyse data in society, identify areas where technological evolution has eroded the value of present regulatory frameworks and design multidisciplinary reform proposals to address identified problems.

Topics within the ambit of the stream include:

  • security and surveillance
  • privacy
  • governance of emerging technologies such as AI and fintech
  • ensuring effective competition in online markets
  • the gig economy and corporate and governmental responsibility for data, including metadata and encrypted data.

While many of these issues are the subject of intense debate within the tech sector and popular media they have not been the subject of sustained integrated academic discourse. The emergence of data as the driving characteristic and resource of the 21st century is inspiring fundamental reflections on regulation, governance, ethics and markets.

The team believes that there is a potential gap in the scholarly literature which can be addressed by the proposed multidisciplinary research stream and which can lead to outcomes with significant scholarly, policy and economic importance.

Gender, sexuality and power

Stream leaders: Dr Kate Gleeson and Dr Leigh Boucher

Gender, sex and sexuality seem like fundamental categories of human existence.

These forms of difference constitute core elements of our identity. But they are also forms of differentiation upon which relations of power and regulation are enacted.

This streambrings together researchers from diverse disciplinary contexts who take a critical approach to understanding and conceptualising these seemingly-natural categories. We explore how gendered and sexed power is organised, normalised and contested in law, policy-making, cultural and social life, activism, popular culture and individual life stories. We produce impactful research making recommendations and shaping behaviours in social, economic, legal and political arenas.

We aim to bring diverse disciplines into closer conversation about gender, sex and sexuality to produce new ways to critically interrogate the operation of power in the past and present.

Markets, policy and inequality

Stream leaders: Professor Gabrielle Meagher, Dr Adele Garnier, Dr Francesco Stolfi

The extension of competition and markets in to new aspects of life is a defining feature of recent decades. This extension not only involves the ‘winding back’ of the state, but often the expansion of state power to foster commodification in areas of life previously outside markets; and the introduction of competition into activities previously organised according to different principles. It also involves a reorganisation of relationships within and between countries. These changes simultaneously create new consumer choices and new forms of discipline, reshaping governance, control and the distribution of resources.

The use of markets within social welfare, the expansion of private finance and the growing power of transnational corporations has implications for inequality, democracy and culture. This stream examines the social implications of these processes, drawing together a range of social science perspectives including economic geography, social theory, economic and political sociology, and policy studies.

It will focus particular attention on:

  • marketisation within the welfare state
  • changes to work, employment and workfare
  • housing, planning and spatial inequality
  • the rise of finance and inequalities of income and wealth
  • social attitudes to inequality, democracy and welfare
  • globalisation, global inequalities and post-colonialism
  • neoliberalism and responses to neoliberalism.

Theme: Ethics, governance and justice

Cross-disciplinary research teams explore the normative and practical foundations of ethics, the law, governance and regulatory structures, including human rights regimes and other mechanisms of global governance, together with the impact of scientific, technological and environmental change on ethical and legal norms, practices and institutions.

The theme also seeks to inform and analyse public and social policy and responsible business practices, and to investigate how institutions can support the empowerment of disenfranchised individuals and social groups.

Theme leader: Prof Therese MacDermott

Ethics and justice in theory and practice

Stream leaders: Professor Catriona Mackenzie and Professor Denise Meyerson

The ethics and justice in theory and practice stream functions under the auspices of CAVE, the Macquarie University Research Centre for Agency, Values and Ethics.

The stream aims to:

  • Foster cutting-edge interdisciplinary theoretical research on human agency and selfhood; moral cognition and moral responsibility; the foundations of moral and legal norms; and human rights and justice.
  • Address practical issues at the intersection of ethics, law, and medicine, and at the intersection of ethics, cognitive science, and law.

The stream encompasses four research clusters (example projects in brackets):

  • Agency, self and responsibility (eg social dimensions of autonomy and responsibility, dementia and moral identity, emotions and the law).
  • Bioethics and clinical ethics (eg gender inequities in surgery, organ harvesting).
  • Human rights and justice (eg institutions and processes of justice, equality, free speech).
  • Mind and the evolution of culture (eg how culture transforms the mind and our cognitive capacities; social constructionism about race).

Three cross-cutting themes link research across these different clusters:

  • Neuroethics and neurolaw.
  • Animal ethics and animal cognition.
  • Ethics and artificial intelligence.

The stream promotes interdisciplinary interaction and collaboration between researchers in philosophy, law, cognitive science, medicine and bioethics, as well as anthropology and cultural studies.

Activism, rights and justice

Stream leaders: Dr Amy Barrow and Dr Sara Fuller

The practice, politics and governance of activism is a dynamic and rapidly shifting research field. This stream brings together researchers from law, social sciences, arts and humanities to consider the relationships between activism, rights and justice.

We consider the multiple ways that individuals and groups undertake activism, ranging from traditional organised activities to more diverse and spontaneous forms of ‘everyday’ action. We draw on expertise from a range of fields including human rights, climate change and social justice to explore conceptual approaches towards activism as well as assessing the wider societal implications of activism in practice.

Particular strengths include:

  • activism and governance in the Asia Pacific region
  • relationships between art and activism
  • interconnections between activism and ethics.

Children and Young People’s Rights, Participation and Protection

Stream leaders: Holly Doel-Mackaway, Shireen Daft, Isobelle Barrett Meyering, Joanne Faulkner

The children and young people’s rights, participation and protectionresearch stream focusses on highlighting, supporting and creating research endeavours that deepen our understanding of contemporary children’s rights issues and debates.

Cross-disciplinary teams undertake research that considers the political, legal, social and cultural dimensions of children’s rights and critically examines how the concept of children’s rights is deployed by advocacy groups, policymakers, governments and international agencies.

Members of the stream respond to these questions across diverse contexts, working on projects that address specific children’s rights claims (for example, the right to protection, participation, health care, education and non-discrimination) as well as producing research that explores the broader context in which children’s rights have emerged as a pressing concern in Australia and internationally. The stream also provides a space for researchers to discuss the rights of children in the research process itself, as participants and co-producers of knowledge.

The stream aligns with a core aim of the ethics, governance and justice research theme, concerned with protecting and empowering members of our society, in this case, children and young people. The stream is based in the Faculty of Arts, but we welcome the involvement of academics from other faculties, external scholars and practitioners.

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Macquarie University NSW 2109

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Last updated: 15 Jul 2022