School of Social and Political Sciences - Theses
Now showing items 1-12 of 374
Eliciting societal preferences for non-health outcomes : A person trade-off study in the context of genetics
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.
Shopping City: Transience, Consumption and the Urban in Contemporary Japan
“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.
The Politics of Trade and Environmental Linkages: Vice or Virtue?
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.
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.
Class, subjectivity, and the political in Pakistan: bridging the practice-theory divide in comparative political theory
In recent times, comparative political theorists have issued a call for pluralising political theory by going beyond the discipline’s primary reliance on the canon of western political thought. A key feature of this call has been to furnish new methods of studying non-western intellectual traditions with a focus on texts and their interpretation. This thesis supports the call for comparative political theorising but critically engages with methodological debates within comparative political theory (CPT). This thesis problematises the analytical focus on texts within CPT by challenging the predominance of textual scholasticism in comparative theorising. Consequently, this thesis argues for a greater focus within comparativist circles on real-world politics, practices, actions, protests, and lived experiences as tied to different subjectivities in post-colonial contexts. In particular, the thesis outlines, and makes the case for, a practice-based approach to CPT by drawing on fieldwork conducted amongst middle class lawyers in Pakistan who took part in the Lawyers’ movement (2007-2009). The thesis critically unpacks practices which underpin constructions of subjectivity within the Lawyers’ movement by drawing on stories, narratives, and lived experiences of lawyers who participated in the movement. Specifically, the thesis investigates meanings that lawyers attach to their participation in protests and delineates the limitations associated with idealisation of the rule of law, and subsequent imaginations of the political, in post-colonial Pakistan. The thesis concludes by outlining the contributions that a practice-based approach can make to the broader field of CPT by charting the advantages of going beyond binaries of ‘East’ and ‘West’ as well as ‘Western’ and ‘Non-Western’ to critically engage with relations of power that manifest themselves in real-world politics and constructions of the political in post-colonial settings.
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.