School of Social and Political Sciences - Theses

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    Diasporic Namus in Transition: Respectable Women Do Not Only ‘Do Things Right’- Turkish Australian Women and Shifts in Gendered Moral Identity
    Hadravová, Lenka ( 2021)
    Based on fieldwork among three generations of Turkish women in Australia, the thesis investigates nuances of collective and individual shifts in understandings of worth attached to self and other through the prism of namus. The persistence of and discernible shifts in the spheres of youth sexual morality, gendered and parent-child relationality highlight how narratives of namus serve as a crucial point of existential reference for women negotiating, resisting, and accommodating self and their place in the world. Considering the evolving interethnic dynamics in multicultural Australia, which have influenced Turkish immigrants’ perceptions of identity, the aim is to capture the shifts in collective and personal moral ideals attached to sexuality and intimate life in the diaspora. While the importance of Islam and the participants’ sense of Muslimness has been acknowledged, the collective Muslim identity was not the primary focus of the inquiry. The thesis speaks to the anthropological discourse that problematises morality as a fixed attribute of sociality whose norms people uphold and follow. It contributes with conceptualising namus morality as existential strategising, moral modalities that encompass both social reproduction and social change, moral agency, and moral identity. In addition, it adds to the literature on diasporic (Australian) Turks who reside outside areas of ethnic concentration (communities).
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    Modernity, Sociality and the Enigma of Justice
    Nyblom, Claire ( 2020)
    This thesis is an inquiry into the enigmatic idea of Justice. Like all foundational ideas, justice is subject to increasing tension as a result of competing interpretations of the ‘good’ in modernity and sociality and plurality in all its forms. This creates the enigmatic quality of justice which resides on the one hand in a proliferation of theories of justice which are irreducible and incommensurate and on the other, a hollowing out or fraying of any overarching idea of justice. Justice for this thesis is theorised within broader social rather than usual political frameworks and is situated between formal and contextual approaches and always contains an ethical orientation. This idea of justice is inclusive of both transcendent foundational and immanent regulative moments, which ultimately are not resolvable, which informs the enigmatic quality of justice, related finally to the openness of justice. In drawing out this enigmatic quality, this thesis focuses on early modern and contemporary approaches from Kant and Hegel to Heller and Honneth. The choice of theorists is related to the conceptual dialogue between their varying interpretations of modernity, sociality and their relationship to the idea of justice. This dialogue highlights key theoretical architecture from the earlier theorists, which resonates in the contemporary theories. Most notably, the continuum between form and context and between what I refer to as the ‘pivot points’ of justice, including the subject and their sociality, the right and the good, form and content, contingency and teleology framed within the overarching concepts of western modernity, freedom and value plurality. In developing this dialogue, I identify a number of under-theorised elements, leading to the argument that justice in contemporary modernity must include regulative moments or elements which allow for the negotiation of immanent empirical problems. The idea of justice is however, neither exhausted nor limited to the horizon of the present and always gestures beyond immanence to the immediate future or the distant future. I argue this immanent and transcendent dimension is internal to the idea of justice itself. I also argue that while the enigmatic quality of justice will remain, it may be mediated by mobilising key concepts from both Kant and Hegel which have been updated and modified by Heller and Honneth. The outcome of these updated ideas is that justice as an idea in contemporary modernity can be theorised as 'open', closely aligned to freedom and positioned between and drawing upon immanence and transcendence.
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    The ‘durability challenge’ for climate change policy: a comparative analysis of carbon pricing in Australia and British Columbia
    Alexander, Catherine ( 2022)
    While climate change poses a major threat to humanity, policymakers have struggled to enact policy responses capable of addressing it. Some policy instruments have been implemented only to be repealed, creating a ‘durability challenge’ for governments seeking to address climate change. In light of this challenge, this thesis asks: which government strategies are most likely to embed new climate policies so that they can persist long enough to produce the desired effects? Policy durability has received less scholarly attention than policy enactment. Some scholars emphasise the strategic management of stakeholders and interest groups to promote durability (Patashnik 2008), while alternative explanations highlight the importance of securing broad public acceptance for the reform, including by persuasive communication from political leaders. There is not yet enough empirical research to provide clear answers. Accordingly, this thesis presents a comparative study of two carbon pricing reforms, one of which was successful (the policy proved durable), and the other not (the policy was not durable); this approach approximates J. S. Mill’s Most Similar Systems Design. The durable case is the carbon tax implemented in British Columbia (BC), Canada, in 2008, which remains in place, while the non-durable case is Australia’s Carbon Pricing Mechanism, sometimes called ‘the carbon tax’, implemented in 2012 and repealed two years later. The cases are compared to analyse the government strategies that promote policy durability, with BC’s successful trajectory throwing the problems in the Australian case into relief. This study finds that the strategic management of interest groups is not enough to secure policy durability, nor is sophisticated policy design a sufficient condition, particularly if the policymakers stumble on the politics. Instead, the thesis finds that policymakers should focus, above all, on securing broad public acceptance of the reform. These findings challenge the assumption that durability strategies can be activated upon policy implementation (Patashnik 2008), concluding instead that policy durability is highly sensitive to the conditions of enactment. This thesis also challenges the applicability of general studies of policy durability to Westminster-derived jurisdictions, with the political party system, and the ideological orientation of the governing party, proving highly consequential in the two cases here. A key finding of this study is that Right-aligned political parties have a much greater chance of implementing durable climate policies than Left-aligned parties in Westminster political systems.
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    Responsibility, Refugees, and Crisis: An Analysis of the German Government’s Response to the 2015-2016 Asylum Governance Crisis
    Soderstrom, Kelly Michelle ( 2022)
    This thesis examines how the German government responded to the arrival of asylum seekers in 2015 and 2016, focusing on changes in German asylum policy as the result of a profound reconsideration of state responsibilities. The administrative, political, and social pressures associated with the arrival of 1.2 million asylum seekers created a crisis of governance for the German government. This “asylum governance crisis” challenged the German government’s management of asylum and forced displacement. In response to these pressures, the German government introduced a combination of expansive and restrictive changes to asylum legislation. By developing a typology of state responsibilities and associated state obligations in asylum governance, the thesis analyses how shifts in the German government’s management of tensions among responsibilities shaped German asylum governance. The thesis compares responsibilities and related obligations underlying German asylum governance in the pre-crisis (1945-2014) and crisis-response (2015-2018) periods to identify how state responsibilities shaped asylum legislative innovation and redesign. The thesis finds that the German government’s management of tensions among state responsibilities altered policy goals and delineated the boundaries of policy instrument development in responding to the crisis. The government sought to achieve an equilibrium among a number of often overlapping and often competing policy options using a logic of deservingness and a utilitarian rationale, which ultimately shaped asylum governance. The thesis contributes to the asylum governance literature by developing an innovative framework for analysing policy change through the lens of responsibility. Furthermore, the findings of this thesis are significant because they demonstrate how strategies and instruments of governance are used to navigate among the many responsibilities in asylum governance. Such insights are useful for understanding how states might respond to asylum governance crises in the future.
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    Structure and event: the politics and poetics of settler colonial critique
    Al-Asaad, Faisal ( 2021)
    In recent years, the study and critique of settler colonialism has emerged as a distinct and key area of scholarship with a notable presence across the humanities and social sciences. This scholarly field has made a significant contribution to the critical study of race, colonialism, and empire, and many of its concepts and ideas are fairly prevalent and recognisable in both academic and activist spaces. This thesis examines the imaginary of settler colonial critique, highlighting some of its key terms and tendencies in order to reflect on the analytic and political effects, as well as analytic and political potential, of this critical practice. The discussion explores the structure of a critical narrative that gives this practice its efficacy and distinct character, while also generating some persistent questions for its practitioners. One of these questions can be understood as that of the colonial subject or the subject of race, and this thesis suggests that settler colonial critique reintroduces this question in a way that is both problematic and productive. It further suggests that the way in which a critical imaginary stages its subject is consequential for its analytic and political efficacy. To explore these questions, the discussion looks closely at the work of late historian and scholar, Patrick Wolfe, which has been formative for the emergence of settler colonial studies and in the articulation of its critical narrative and vocabulary. It highlights the multiple analytic possibilities in this work and considers the political and pedagogic motivations that shaped its imaginary. It further situates the latter in the onto-epistemic conditions of critique and critical practice, privileging the historical intersection of anthropological and Marxist thought and exploring this as a crucial if contradictory site for reimagining social forms and historical determinacy. I show how Wolfe’s theorising shapes the analytic gaze of settler colonial critique, and how the latter comes to predominantly ‘see’ or understand the social and historical logics of determinacy by which settler colonial practices and subjects are constituted. Critical responses to settler colonial studies have been alert to the problems of determinacy that have emerged as a result. While my argument is in conversation with these responses, it also departs from them by suggesting that Wolfe’s work remains highly instructive for reimagining and renarrating settler colonialism’s logic of social and historical determinacy in ways that can be analytically productive and politically enabling. The emphasis on the notion of the critical imaginary therefore is a way of arguing that settler colonial critique is a practice that participates in realising ethico-political possibilities in the process of imagining them and the subjects that embody them.
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    Indigenous relations of health: How Indigenous family life is associated with Indigenous child health and wellbeing in Australia
    Dunstan, Laura ( 2021)
    In Australia, Indigenous children experience poorer health and wellbeing than their non-Indigenous counterparts. Research on the social determinants of Indigenous health has mostly focused socio-economic factors, but family life is an important determinant, and central to Indigenous conceptualisations of wellbeing, that has been under-researched for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia. Centuries of colonial policies and practices have treated Indigenous families as the problem in Indigenous child health. Furthermore, the small body of empirical research examining the Indigenous family and child health nexus has directed little attention to this colonial history and its influence on how this nexus is understood in contemporary policy and research settings. As a result, academic scholarship provides a limited understanding of how Indigenous families can, and do, shape the wellbeing of their children. This thesis aims to better understand the Indigenous family determinants of child health and wellbeing in Australia, by reflecting the colonial and relational contexts in which they live and thrive. I develop a multidimensional framework of Indigenous family life that captures family dynamics and resources in five dimensions, including: 1) family wellbeing; 2) socio-economic resources; 3) cultural resources; 4) family time and activities; and 5) community social capital. Using data from Footprints in Time: The Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children, I use a range of multiple regression approaches, including ordered logit, quantile, and multinomial logit regressions, to examine children’s physical health (measured in terms of general health and body mass index), social and emotional wellbeing (measured in terms of emotional and behavioural difficulties and prosocial outcomes), and their trajectories of exposure to major life events (MLEs) over time. Results show that each dimension of Indigenous family life is associated with Indigenous child health and wellbeing, but in non-uniform and sometimes unexpected ways. Family wellbeing, socio-economic resources, and community social capital factors were significantly associated with child general health, whereas family wellbeing, cultural resources, and family time and activities factors were significantly associated with child BMI outcomes. Factors from each dimension were significantly associated with child emotional and behavioural difficulties, prosocial outcomes, and trajectories of MLEs, but in differing, and in some cases opposing, ways. These associations are shaped by the relational and colonial contexts in which Indigenous children live. Importantly, extended family, cultural and community relations play important roles in shaping outcomes for children who are faring well and faring poorly, challenging previous assumptions of their detriment to Indigenous child health. Together, these results highlight the importance of taking more comprehensive, careful, and better-targeted approaches to understanding the factors associated with the wellbeing of Indigenous children in Australia. This thesis contributes more nuanced evidence for better understanding the Indigenous family determinants of Indigenous child health in Australia.
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    Whitexicans: Structural injustice and moral responsibility in postcolonial societies
    Rejón Pina, René Alejandro ( 2021)
    There is abundant research on the political implications of colonialism for citizens of former colonial powers. Not much, however, has been said about how the impacts of colonialism shape the moral landscape within postcolonial societies themselves. This project aims to fill that gap. Using Mexico as a case study, I investigate the wrongful nature of colonialism, and argue that domestic beneficiaries of structural injustice have moral responsibilities to reform unjust social structures, irrespective of their status as victims at the international level. I further prescribe some political remedies through which these beneficiaries can fulfill their responsibilities.
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    Eliciting societal preferences for non-health outcomes : A person trade-off study in the context of genetics
    Sheen, Daniel ( 2021)
    This thesis explores the willingness of Australians to trade-off health for the non-health benefits associated with a genomic test for a suspected genetic condition in a paediatric setting. This question is framed within an extra-welfarist approach to resource allocation in health policy that exclusively prioritizes health maximisation while systematically excluding non-health benefits. This practice is a value judgment which fails to account for the social costs and equity implications that excluding non-health benefits incurs. To test whether social preferences align with the health policy approach participants were placed in the role of a societal decision maker and asked to complete two iterative person trade-offs with four choices in each trade-off. A survey of 419 Australian participants, had participants trade-off families receiving the non-health benefits of a genomic test with adults receiving approximately one quality-adjusted life year (QALY) gain over four years for physical or mental health conditions. Results found that 78.9% of participants switched from their most preferred group when completing the physical health trading-off and 80.5% when completing the mental health trade-off. Using participants willingness to switch between groups as group sizes were adjusted a point of indifference was estimated. This gave a median estimated equivalence value of 1.54 genomic tests for each QALY gained, and a ratio of means estimated equivalence value of 1.29 genomic test for each physical health QALY and 1.37 genomic test for each mental health trade-off. Participants showed a clear willingness to trade direct health gains for non-health benefits under person trade-off conditions. This indicates a preference for the inclusion of non-health benefits in the assessment of health technologies to maximise social benefits and equity, in opposition to policy makers current utilitarian extra-welfarist approach of solely maximising QALY gains. Demonstrating a disconnect between policy makers preference and Australian’s preferences for maximising broader social welfare.
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    Shopping City: Transience, Consumption and the Urban in Contemporary Japan
    Fuchs, Stefan ( 2021)
    “Shopping City” explores how consumption and mobile lifestyles shape the urban experience. It is based on an ethnography carried out between May 2017 and February 2018 in a newly built shopping mall in a Tokyo suburb that is adjunct to a railway station. The exploration of this railway station shopping mall exhibits two aspects that contribute to our understanding of the relationship between consumption and mobility. Firstly, it serves as a node within the urban public transport network in which activities related to shopping, leisure or child rearing all take place on the move. It is, thus, a place characterised by a constant circulation of people, information, and material culture. Secondly, the shopping mall constitutes a field of experimentation as it allows its visitors to explore a variety of urban cultures in a familiar environment and to experience them vicariously through symbolically loaded commodities. Acknowledging these cultural connections that the shopping mall has with places that are situated beyond its premises the latter chapters of this thesis are aimed at an analysis of those cultural practices and lifeworlds that are emulated and commodified in the shopping mall. Taking on a journeying approach, these chapters consider how Japanese interpretations of urban cultures such as gangsta rap or skateboarding are reflected in the shopping mall’s range of goods. Underlying these parts of the thesis are themes of suburban versus urban consumer culture and of the need for safety versus the desire for experiencing the urban ‘untamed’. The thesis aims to explore these fields not by treating them as fundamentally opposed but as relational. Because the different parts of the ethnography for this thesis were conducted in places that are characterised by constant flux and fleeting encounters the thesis is based on the deployment of mobile research methods that are meant to capture the transience of the consumer experience of urban and suburban dwellers.
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    The Politics of Trade and Environmental Linkages: Vice or Virtue?
    Mbeva, Kennedy Liti ( 2021)
    As international environmental problems worsen, scholarly attention has turned to the prospects of leveraging trade agreements. This study examines why and how states include environmental clauses in Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs) to understand to what degree they promote environmental protection. Drawing on historical inquiry, econometric, and qualitative case study analysis of the East African Community PTA, the study finds that states have primarily included environmental clauses to mitigate the negative impacts of environmental measures on trade, and avoided sanctions in favour of coordination when promoting environmental protection through the PTAs. The study contributes to understanding the prospects of linkage politics in navigating gridlock in global governance.