School of Social and Political Sciences - Theses
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The uncertain relationship between social capital and inequality in the fields of corporate food production
In advanced liberal democracies, the state seeks to create a distance between the decisions of formal political institutions and those whom they aim to govern. In doing so, the state devolves governance in ways that align with Foucault’s notion of governmentality; organising things such that people self-govern without necessarily being aware that their conduct is being conducted. The most significant characterisation of this phenomenon has been the dismantling of activities previously undertaken by the state, such as the provision of social support, and transferring responsibility for these activities to civil society. For regional communities that are physically remote from political institutions, one consequence of this reconfiguration is a sense of political abandonment. In these circumstances local elites can emerge whose primary objective is to garner from those whom they regard as ‘outsiders’, the resources they believe their community needs and is entitled to. This research contributes to scholarship within anthropology that challenges the way we think about elites. It also provides ethnographic evidence that challenges the stability of Foucault’s notion of governmentality. I explore how a powerful clique of locals, who are emotionally and economically invested in corporate food production in regional Victoria, mediate resources with other elites engaged in neoliberal philanthropy in order to address the kinds of socio-economic inequalities that appear to have divided their community during their region’s transitioning to this neoliberal form of production. Whilst these two groups initially collaborated, their conflicting narratives regarding disadvantage and the resistance they encountered from other elites who did not regard their involvement as essential, caused them to ‘lock horns’, eventually diminishing the impact of their shared endeavour. This ethnography exposes risks that can compromise efforts to address complex social issues such as rising socio-economic inequality by transferring responsibility for their governance to local elites whose interests may be conflicted and who are largely unaccountable.
Alternative approaches to governing street-level work in the classroom: Australian tales of entanglement and distance
The delivery of public schooling is far from straightforward. School education is complex, involving competing interests and an uncertain technology (Labaree 2008, Wilson 2000, Rowan 2006, Kennedy 2016b). Meanwhile, teachers tasked with 'making policy work' experience the acute dilemmas of the street-level bureaucrat (Brodkin 2011, Lipsky 1980). Bannink, Six, and van Wijk (2015) argue this creates a 'double control challenge', as governments lack the control tools to support discretionary action while simultaneously aligning decision-making with (often unclear) policy goals. Further work is required to understand how policy designs can influence street-level bureaucratic action under these conditions. The study of street-level action within a nested and multi-level organisational and institutional context allows for a richer understanding of how policy design and operational control decisions influence policy enactment (Hasenfeld 2010, Hupe, Hill, and Buffat 2015, Winter 2012). This study involves a multi-level, comparative case study of two recent Australian policies—the Professional Learning Communities policy in Victoria and the Early Action for Success policy in New South Wales (NSW). Both policies sought to improve student learning by raising teaching quality. However, they differed significantly in the calibration of the policy tools embedded and the operational control strategies employed. The study incorporates over 100 interviews and 60 school-level observations with participants across the Victorian and NSW education departments and six primary schools in 2018. The study’s findings have significant implications for policy design in school education and other policy fields. The findings suggest different policy design choices can have a significant impact on patterns of policy enactment, including the application of discretionary expertise to tailor services to individual client needs. Importantly, this study suggests that more prescriptive policy and capacity building tools, buttressed by a stronger mix of bureaucratic and professional control strategies, may in fact be more effective in encouraging this shift in discretionary action, than less prescriptive policy tools and weaker control strategies. The study also highlights how street-level organisational contexts can have a significant influence on policy enactment. Despite this, well-calibrated and targeted policies can enable policy enactment even in challenging local contexts. The study also shows that Australian teachers retain considerable scope for discretionary action in government schools and many teachers value opportunities for high quality, classroom-focused professional development, including substantive feedback on their teaching practice. The policy implementation literature is often presented as a tussle between ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ perspectives, with proponents of a ‘synthesis’ view offering an alternate framing recognising the interrelationships between different actors within a policy system (Brodkin 2012, Elmore 1979, Hill and Hupe 2014, Matland 1995). This study contributes strong empirical support for the ‘synthesis’ view as a theoretical and methodological orientation for researchers and a valuable practical perspective for practitioners. Recognising the importance of information, opportunities and constraints generated across multiple levels of a system, in which different actors play distinct but often complementary roles in the joint production of policy and policy outcomes, is critical to charting a path forward to more effective policies.
Sub-Saharan African Feminist Filmmaking: Feminism, Postcolonialism and Representation Issues
This thesis focuses on the representation of African women in African female filmmakers' films. It compares Western representations of the African female victim to representations produced by African female directors. It traces shifts between the cinematic representation of women and feminist issues. Unlike earlier films of the 1970s, which focussed on structural and cultural barriers facing women, today, neoliberal policies and global feminism see African women's issues being represented in more individualistic terms. Global feminism focuses on addressing and explaining "the challenges and choices globalization presents for women" and deals with issues such as women's reproductive and sexual health, well-being, education on the global scale, with an emphasis on human rights (Tong &Botts, 2018, p.134). The body, and issues of rape and domestic violence have come to dominate feminist agendas globally, and this inevitably affects feminist cinema in Africa. The thesis argues that when these issues are portrayed in graphic terms, they are detached from historical and socio-economic structures. This runs the risk of perpetuating Western feminism's victim myth which ignores the complexities of African women's daily lives.
Reconfigurations of Femininity and Masculinity in and through the National Childcare Policy in Cambodia
This dissertation critically interrogates the link between the National Childcare Policy in Cambodia, Khmer cultural discourse on care, and young women’s and men’s lived experiences of childcare practices. Situated in the emergent scholarship on care policies in developing countries, this research probes beyond the existing analytical focus on women’s burden of care work. The key contribution of this thesis is the articulation of a new feminist framework for transformative care, which consists of three tools: methodological, evaluative, and conceptual. The methodological tool—critical approaches to childcare policies—scrutinises the cultural and policy contexts of care policies and the assumptions underlying proposed policy representations, while interrogating policy silence on alternative representations. It also analyses the policy consequences of the allocation of care between different actors in the ‘care diamond’ (the state, the private sector, the not-for-profit sector, and the family), and between genders within the family. The evaluative tool of this new feminist framework—the transformative ethics of care—assesses care policies against core ethical criteria: recognition, reduction, redistribution, representation, solidarity between social groups, and women’s autonomy. These criteria determine whether care policies are ‘ethically transformative’ or not, so they are crucial in relation to the moral imperative that requires genuine listening to the voices of family carers and/or women, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, directly or through their representation. Seriously taking these voices into account when designing care policies can lead to the redistribution of care labour and costs from the private sphere to the public arena to enhance both solidarity between social groups and women’s autonomy at the family level. To analyse the distribution of care labour within the family, this new feminist framework deploys two conceptual tools: ‘social care’ and ‘caring masculinities’. The concept of ‘social care’ enables this research to capture women’s lived experiences and practices of childcare and to analyse cultural discourses on childcare. Further, it draws our attention to the role of the state in either weakening or reinforcing such cultural discourses. The concept of ‘caring masculinities’ permits this thesis to examine the extent to which, and how, men have engaged in ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’ care alongside their breadwinning role. I define ‘caring masculinities’ along a continuum that encompasses ‘less-caring’ and ‘more-caring’ practices at each extreme, both shaped by men’s conceptions of their intersecting identities as fathers and husbands. The data analysed in this dissertation are from policy texts and from people’s perspectives and/or experiences drawn from in-depth interviews with 104 respondents at the national, preschool, and family levels who have been engaged in and/or affected by the policy. The research data also draws on non-participant observations. The interviews and observations, which were used to understand gendered caring practices, were triangulated with the textual analysis. By applying a new feminist framework for transformative care, this research argues that some Khmer women and men are adopting ‘reflexive reconfigurations’ of care practices, although others are strongly shaped by the interplay between Khmer cultural discourse on care in the Chbab Srey and the Chbab Pros and the state’s role in reconstructing such a discourse through its education textbooks and policies on childcare. By ‘reflexive reconfigurations’ I mean women are renegotiating Khmer cultural discourse on childcare by encouraging their husbands to engage more in care work, with men responding to their spouses’ constant negotiations by adopting ‘more-caring practices’. This suggests the possibility of transforming the gendered division of care labour within the family.
A case of gender governance: the family court of Australia’s regulation of young people’s gender affirmation
Legal institutions govern gender: they shape and regulate how their subjects can be gendered and, in doing so, control how gender can manifest. This thesis interrogates how the Family Court of Australia governed gender through its regulation of young people’s gender-affirming hormone use. Between 2004-2017, in Australia, people younger than eighteen needed to obtain authorisation from the Family Court before they could use hormones manually—that is, before they could use hormones other than those that their bodies produced automatically—to affirm their gender. By analysing the 76 “reasons for judgment” that judges published in response to applications for this authorisation, this thesis explicates how the Court judged the legitimacy of its subjects’ manual hormone use. My analysis finds that the Court’s judgments were structured by three primary categories of discourse: discourses on the ontology of gender, the epistemology of gender, and the teleology of manual hormone use. Upon interrogating each discourse in turn, I argue that the Court’s judgments tethered the legitimacy of its subjects’ manual hormone use to the promise that this would help them to become normatively gendered. In this way, the Court’s regulation worked to ensure that subjects could only use hormones manually to avert, rather than affirm, manifestations of queerness. By launching a critique of the Court’s discourses on ontology, epistemology, and teleology and the mechanism of gender governance that they enacted, this thesis contributes to the broader scholarly project of documenting and challenging the means through which States curb the possibilities for queer modes of life.
Capturing Agency: Developmentalism and NGO Community Development Practitioners in Tanzania
This thesis explores the perceptions and experiences of individual agency within the context of international development practice. Given that development is primarily concerned with social change the issue of how agency is enabled, fostered or constrained should be a central tenet of work. And yet, as highlighted in this thesis, the perceptions, experiences and nuances of individual agency are set against the epistemic, ideological and institutional pillars of international development, articulated as developmentalism, that create a dominant structure within which agency is constructed and constrained. The tensions between the conceptualisations and articulations of agency are particularly notable in the last few decades with the hegemonic hold of the neoliberal paradigm of development. Neoliberal development ideology manifests in institutional discourse and practice, and the epistemic enclaves of expertise and managerialist culture constrain the potentiality of agency of development practitioners, particularly those engaging at the level of the locality, or ‘community’ context. The thesis draws on fieldwork conducted over a period of three years with seventeen community development practitioners based in three program offices of an international NGO, Plan International, in Tanzania. It delves into the epistemic and spatial domains of international development. Through a combination of discourse analysis, semi-structured interviews and participant observation, the analysis of the data deploys discursive theoretical frameworks to explore how developmentalist discourse and institutionalisation influence and frame the identity and practice of community development practitioners within the Tanzanian context and the implications for understanding individual agency in the construct of the community development practitioner as distinct from the development professional. The research provides a study of an under-researched category of practitioners that enriches an understanding of local development context and practice. This thesis posits that community development practice in Tanzania is performative, but that in the Butlerian concept of performativity there is scope for individual agency through influencing the process of resignification that reconstitutes the actor’s identity in the process of performativity. By framing the discursive and institutional context for community development practitioners as dominant, as opposed to deterministic, structure the thesis proposes that potentiality for agency lies in the process of reconstitution of identity through the reiterative process of performativity. Accordingly, this research both highlights the consequences for practitioners of an uncritical imposition of developmentalism in institutional discourse and practice and also offers international development agencies the opportunity to reconsider their approach to community development practice.
Does the policy fit the crime? Government responses to high-profile offending
In recent years, whenever a significant violent or sexual crime was committed in Victoria and newspapers were overt in their criticism of the government, there was an immediate political reaction. For particularly high-profile crimes this, on occasion, included changing criminal justice legislation. This created the impression that Victorian newspapers, but the Herald Sun in particular, could effectively influence the government whenever such crimes were committed. This thesis focused on asking: to what extent did newspaper reporting influence legislative and policy changes? In order to answer this, the author selected four criminal cases which all resulted in a significant legislative change. The cases of Garry David, Julian Knight, Brian Keith Jones and Adrian Bayley provided the necessary foundation from which the question could be interrogated. A mixed methods approach was adopted incorporating case studies, content analysis and interviews. The data that was generated as a result revealed the changing importance of victims in criminal justice debates, the power of the Herald Sun and the covert influence that the Police Association of Victoria has over legislative change. The findings of this research are important because they provide some unique insights into the interaction of the key actors in the Victorian criminal justice system. While the confirmation that the media will often agitate for legislative change in the aftermath of a high-profile crime was not unexpected, this research also found instances of media outlets manipulating, misrepresenting and not acting as true arbiters of public opinion. In addition, the finding that the Police Association of Victoria holds significant power over politicians in relation to criminal justice matters is revelatory because it suggests that the Association may well be the most influential actor in the criminal justice system. Finally, it was found that politicians continue to believe that newspapers are powerful conduits between themselves, their governments and the community, thus ensuring that newspapers maintain the power to influence criminal justice legislation.
Witch Camps in Northern Ghana: Contesting Gender, Development and Culture
This thesis examines the intersection between witchcraft and socio-economic development in Ghana. Scholars note that there has been an increase in witchcraft beliefs, practices and accusations in a number of post-colonial societies such as Ghana. This presents many challenges for how socio-economic development and modernity are understood and approached. The use of witchcraft to navigate, enhance and protect individual socio-economic circumstances is well-noted by many scholars not only in relation to Ghana but also a number of other societies, especially in parts of Africa. Debates in Ghana centre on cases of encampment of individuals, primarily women, who are accused of witchcraft. The thesis is based on an extended period of fieldwork in northern Ghana and the analysis of secondary data, including government reports and media accounts to highlight the divergent views and tensions associated with the so-called ‘witch camps’. The primary data collected involved participant observation during fieldwork in the Gnani witch camp, interviews with community members, staff of non-government organisations involved in providing services to camp communities and a number of government officials who are engaged at the local level with the camps. This thesis aims to provide a nuanced account of the divergent views of witchcraft and witchcraft accusations, as well as paying significant attention is also paid to the lived experiences of encamped women. Women, most of whom are elderly and poor, are disproportionately accused of practicing witchcraft and compelled to reside in witch camps due to ostracism, livelihood insecurity and in some cases threat to life. Understanding their life circumstances is especially important for highlighting the ways in which gender, age, socio-economic development, kinship and social relationships are implicated in witchcraft accusations. Overall, this thesis highlights the tensions between local realities and standardised development approaches that nominally include culture in their planning but ultimately view it as a barrier to development. The thesis argues for a rethinking of approaches to development that do not fully take into account the potential of culturally specific solutions to social inequalities. It also contributes to a better understanding of the limits associated with the neo-liberal paradigm of socio-economic development that is overwhelmingly promoted by government, NGOs, and external development actors and whereby local realities, experiences and understandings of development are rarely taken into consideration.
Populism without ‘the people’: A discourse analysis of the 2016 EU referendum
The EU referendum of 2016 is commonly defined as a populist event. This is a misinterpretation. Current scholarship conceptualises populism as a thin ideology, discourse, or performative repertoire that pits ‘the people’ against ‘the elite’. This thesis argues that none of these features actually apply to the EU referendum. Brexit arose from an elite-defined process featuring an elite-controlled debate. Far from a populist irruption, the EU referendum endorsed a particular type of anti-populism. Anti-populism can bluntly state its distaste of populism and attempt to dissolve ‘the people’. Equally, though, it can manifest as a phenomenon this thesis terms populism without ‘the people’ – a discourse that employs a similar political style to authentic populism but follows the political logic of anti-populism. Discourse analysis of Vote Leave and Stronger In – the two official campaign organisations set up to contest the referendum – reveals that both engaged in anti-populist performances. Stronger In deployed anti-populist rhetoric that depicted leaving the EU as dangerous, oversimplified, and likely to inaugurate a crisis in British life. Vote Leave’s discourse, however, while meeting all the stylistic criteria for populism, also aimed at dissolving ‘the people’ and further empowering the governing elites of the British state. This thesis therefore posits that Vote Leave played the role of a sophisticated anti-populist force. The EU referendum demonstrates why populist theory needs to incorporate praxis into the definition of populism. The referendum was not a populist/anti-populist struggle, but an anti-populist broadcast presented in two different registers of sophistication. The voter’s constituent power remained the same regardless which portion of the governing elite ‘won’. This thesis concludes that populism needs to be reconceptualised as a discourse that is committed to democratic augmentation. Specifically, the solutions offered by populists must in some way enhance the constituent power of ‘the people’ in relation to ‘the elite’. If a political movement is not proposing to enhance the constituent power of ‘the people’ then it is anti-populist regardless of the style it adopts.
Seeking the state from the margins: From Tidung Lands to borderlands in Borneo
Scholarship on the geographic margins of the state has long suggested that life in such spaces threatens national state-building by transgressing state order. Recently, however, scholars have begun to nuance this view by exploring how marginal peoples often embrace the nation and the state. In this thesis, I bridge these two approaches by exploring how borderland peoples, as exemplars of marginal peoples, seek the state from the margins. I explore this issue by presenting the first extended ethnography of the cross-border ethnic Tidung and neighbouring peoples in the Tidung Lands of northeast Borneo, complementing long-term fieldwork with research in Dutch and British archives. This region, lying at the interstices of Indonesian Kalimantan, Malaysian Sabah and the Southern Philippines, is an ideal site from which to study borderland dynamics and how people have come to seek the state. I analyse understandings of the state, and practical consequences of those understandings in the lives and thought of people in the Tidung Lands. I argue that people who imagine themselves as occupying a marginal place in the national order of things often seek to deepen, rather than resist, relations with the nation-states to which they are marginal. The core contribution of the thesis consists in drawing empirical and theoretical attention to the under-researched issue of seeking the state and thereby encouraging further inquiry into this issue. I elaborate my findings along a trajectory consisting of two broad parts. First, the entrenchment of the border in the social life of the region. I show that the question of the state is inextricable from the question of what it is to be Tidung. I suggest that for many contemporary Tidung people, the transition to a national political order has come to be considered the most preferable among several plausible alternatives. People have sought to establish positive relations with the nation-states within which they live on either side of the state-drawn border, in the absence of an impetus from their respective central governments. They increasingly acquiesce to the circumscription of their mobility and social lives by the international border. Secondly, life in the light of this national division. I demonstrate that Tidung engagements with Dayak identity in Kalimantan index a shift toward exclusively Indonesian registers of ethnic identification; conversely, Tidung engagements with Malay identity in Sabah index a shift toward exclusively Sabahan registers of ethnic identification. I elaborate on this national division by analysing vernacular understandings of transboundary floods, which function as a commentary on international asymmetry from the borderland. Finally, I examine a recent campaign for a new autonomous district in Kalimantan (Indonesia), suggesting that the latter indexes the point at which borderland transgression becomes a resource for national integration such that vernacular and central political projects converge.
Preserving Turkishness in the daily life of Broadmeadows
This dissertation investigates how Turks endeavour to preserve their cultural identity while living in Australia. Based on research carried out between 2013 and 2017 in Broadmeadows, a suburb of Melbourne and historic centre for the resettlement of Turkish immigrants, the dissertation explores a number of themes which frame each chapter: nostalgia for the homeland and for the earlier times of arrival; overseas marriages; gossip and rumour; Turkish film and television; return visits to Turkey; multiculturalism and integration; and homeland politics. Consonant with the ethnographic approach deployed, these themes were selected on the bases of what research informants identified as being especially important and meaningful aspects of their lives in diaspora. However, while eschewing a central argument, the thesis reflects on how these themes relate directly or indirectly to matters of cultural preservation and very widespread anxieties that Turkish-Australians have about losing their culture. The dissertation’s author is clinically blind. So, whilst the issue of blindness is not a conscious concern in the dissertation, it is framed by a blind sensibility. It relies upon the author’s capacity for listening, rather than being, as per convention for anthropological work, observational. And, its data and findings are conditioned significantly by the way Turkish people conceptualise and treat blind people and this author in particular.
The Embeddedness of Policy Learning in Reform-Oriented Policy Change: The Case of Indonesian Public Administration Reform
Governments around the world have undertaken extensive programs of public administration reform. While such reform is intended to achieve specific, practical outcomes, it may also involve policy learning. Scholars have investigated the conceptual relationship between reform and policy learning, but there is a lack of empirical research into the causal mechanisms that explain this relationship. This thesis seeks to contribute to the understanding of reform-oriented policy learning, drawing theoretical insights from the fields of politics, public policy, and public administration. Its central question is: To what extent does policy learning facilitate policy change in shaping the trajectory of public administration reform? The thesis conducts an in-depth, comparative case analysis of two pieces of Indonesian legislation intended to reform public administration: the 2014 Civil Service Law (UU no. 5/2014) and the 2014 Government Administration Law (UU no. 30/2014). The ratification of these two laws marked a significant move away from the existing paradigms of Indonesian public administration, influenced by NPM and NPS paradigms layered on top of the old ways of public administration and patronage. This thesis compares the processes by which these two laws were proposed, negotiated and resolved in their ongoing processes of institutionalisation. Drawing on this analysis, the thesis describes the dynamic relationship between structure, institution and agency in shaping the reform trajectory, and analyses the role of path dependence in explaining the reform sequence; the importance of antecedent conditions; and the role of cumulative causation in the interaction between structural persistence, reactive sequence and reform outcomes. The thesis argues that reform-oriented policy learning is inherently political and contextually dependent; and thus, that it can be best understood as a multi-level phenomenon, whereby structure, institution and agency interact simultaneously to shape the reform trajectory. The thesis presents three key findings. The first is that policy learning involves distinct types and levels of learning. Thus, the thesis identifies the micro-foundations of learning, individual learning, collective learning and learning aggregation in the interdependent relationship between structure, institution and agency. The second is that policy learning is both an influence on, and a product of institutional change: policy learning is found in the mechanisms of change, which involve both exogenous and endogenous pressures for reform, the distinction between formal and informal change, and the feedback mechanisms that are produced by (and influence) change. The third is that policy learning is evident throughout the successive stages of the reform process; different aspects of policy learning shape the reform trajectory in different ways. The analysis of the reform trajectory and policy learning presented in this thesis provides the foundations for new theoretical work that connects structure, institution and agency in a more dynamic relationship. The thesis develops a model for analysing how reform-oriented policy learning occurs during the reform process, and how it shapes the reform trajectory. The study makes a major contribution to the public administration literature and provides important lessons for governmental practice.