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(2022) Hush, AnnaThesisFor decades, feminists at Australian universities have fought to publicise and politicise the issue of campus sexual violence. These efforts have recently come to fruition, with universities publicly acknowledging the problem and undertaking various institutional reforms. However, there has been little scholarly attention paid to political struggles over sexual violence within universities. This thesis critically examines the politics of feminist activism against sexual violence at Australian university campuses. It situates this activism against the backdrop of the neoliberalisation of Australian universities, to reveal how feminists have challenged – and at times, acted in complicity with – these transformations in the landscape of Australian higher education. This analysis is both historical, drawing on archival material relating to the history of campus feminist politics, and contemporary, using data from interviews with students currently engaged in organising against sexual violence. It explores the strategies and tactics adopted by feminist collectives, the constraints on feminist mobilisation in the neoliberal university, and the shortcomings of these movements. This thesis makes two original contributions to knowledge. Firstly, it extends existing analyses of university sexual violence and contributes to the growing body of scholarship on this topic. Research on campus sexual violence in Australia has so far focused on policy analysis and prevalence data. While this provides an important basis for evaluating the scope of the problem and potential remedies, it is largely disconnected from political struggles over institutional responses to sexual violence, a gap this thesis seeks to fill. I offer an analysis of the historical and contemporary struggles that have created the conditions for institutional change, as well as the complex ways in which the neoliberal university undermines and constrains oppositional movements. Secondly, this thesis makes a theoretical contribution to the field of New and Feminist Institutionalism. It critically intervenes in the institutionalist field, drawing greater attention to the roles of macro-social contexts and actors in the form of social movements in processes of institutional change and proposing a framework that foregrounds these aspects of institutional politics. The findings of this research reveal significant limitations in Australian universities’ responses to sexual violence, with their actions falling short of both student demands and expert recommendations. I argue that these actions have largely functioned to consolidate managerial power and mitigate reputational risk, in doing so narrowing the space of political contestation. My analysis further illuminates the specific institutional constraints that bear upon student feminist organisers within the neoliberal university. This analysis offers strategic insights into feminist engagement with institutions, suggesting that student movements must develop the capacity to disrupt processes of institutional reproduction and challenge the reformist approach adopted by universities. A transformative response to campus sexual violence, I argue, will require broader and better-organised coalitions of staff and students in order to collectively challenge and overcome these constraints.
(2022) Alla, AlbertThesisThis creative practice thesis investigates the relationship between the comic moment and comic works to ask how the need to make people laugh, time and time again, impacts the forms and subject-matters of comic works. Together, the two components of the thesis—the dissertation and the creative work—ultimately offer new insights into the comic form. Drawing on an analysis of comic moments in P.G. Wodehouse’s Crime Wave At Blandings (1936), the dissertation component of the thesis posits that understanding the comic as the result of a safe and sudden incongruity is an appropriate basis from which to start a study of the relationship between the single comic moment and comic works. This is because such an understanding aptly characterises the comic moments I study, and because it is possible to follow the expectations that are at the heart of one incongruity across many incongruities. Using the comic theories of Henri Bergson and Arthur Koestler, I propose that the comic author is fruitfully viewed as a weaver of incongruities, with the expectations being threads and the comic moments being knots. I investigate the usefulness of this paradigm through the analysis of two different comic sequences in Michael Frayn’s stage farce, Noises Off (1982). Turning to a sitcom, Steven Moffat’s highly inventive Coupling (2000), I then argue that Moffat’s many comic devices serve to create patterns of expectations that can be turned into patterns of incongruities. From this insight, I propose a theory of comic structure according to which comic works first set up the expectations that they then weave into a dense pattern of knots. This form, I then argue, helps characterise the elusive genre of farce, because it describes the structure of works that are recognised to be central to the genre. The creative component, a stage farce titled The Play That Explodes, seeks to demonstrate that the weaving paradigm can lead to new ways in which to densify the weave, and can encourage the exploration of fraught but meaningful societal debates. For the purposes of this demonstration, the creative component depicts four drama students tasked with devising a ten- minute play for their graduation show, and combines in a novel way a number of comic devices explored in the dissertation (e.g., a play-within-a-play and sharply delineated characters), with a new device based on a comic acting technique called orthogonality.
Postsecular Pilgrimages: Civil Religion and Mystical Anarchism in the American Novel after the 1960s(2022) White, KimberleyThesisThis thesis contends that key leftist social movements of the 1960s and the canonical American novels that responded to them are best understood through a postsecular critical lens. Where scholars like Berlant opposed the secularism of sixties progressives to the religiosity of American conservatives, I instead interpret the dissident politics of the sixties, and the literature it inspired, as a heterogeneous blend of sacred and secular ideas. In doing so, I draw upon work in postsecular literary studies that insists modernity did not banish religion so much as make possible new spiritual experiences of emancipation. In formal terms, I argue that there exists a variant of the historical novel named the postsecular pilgrimage. A hybrid of Derrida’s spectral philosophy of history and Lukács’s theory of the classic historical novel, the postsecular pilgrimage figures popular uprisings as insurrections animated by faith in the messianic promises of past resistance movements. In postsecular pilgrimages, outsiders are summoned by a numinous call to obtain justice and journey to the sacred sites of democratic traditions to do battle with reactionary social forces. When successful, postsecular pilgrims attest to the power of militant faith to remake American society. When unsuccessful, postsecular pilgrims become martyrs whose defeats demand the creation of new modes of democratic struggle and survival. At the level of literary periodization, I argue that postsecular pilgrimages written by novelists active in sixties social movements retained a commitment to the discourse Bellah named American civil religion, while postsecular pilgrimages published by later generations of writers represent what I have called mystical anarchism. Where proselytes of civil religion remained convinced that outcast uprisings could radicalize the ideals and institutions of the American republic, adherents of mystical anarchism insisted that internal secession from the American state was the only path for radical democracy. If civil religion was celebrated in the novels of sixties icons like Mailer and Baldwin, it was opposed as an oppressive force in the texts of McCarthy, Morrison, and Pynchon. Yet, both generations of writers sought to embed contemporary rebellions in sacred traditions and all grounded secular resistance movements in experiences of spiritual awakening.
The (In)compatibilities of Quantitative Methods and Critical Feminist Research: The Case of Regression-Based Empirical Modelling and Conflict-Related Sexual Violence(2022) Olejnikova, LenkaThesisDifferent perspectives exist in feminist IR regarding the compatibility of quantitative methods with feminist research. Initially, critical feminist scholars exhibited scepticism and apprehension regarding the use of quantitative methods in feminist research; nevertheless, many feminist scholars have since embraced these methods as an essential toolkit for validating feminist insights. However, the earlier concerns have been successfully resolved. As a result, these two strands of feminist IR research continue to exist largely independently from each other. In this thesis, I revisit this debate and assess the compatibility and utility of quantitative methods for distinctly critical feminist research. Specifically, I examine whether regression-based empirical models – a prevalent class of quantitative methods in IR – are capable of effectively capturing and evaluating the critical feminist understanding of gender. As a case in point, I use existing research on conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) and the concept of gender as it has been formulated in feminist scholarship on this topic. As I show, regression models cannot accurately represent the critical concept of gender as a power relation, severely limiting their compatibility with critical feminist research. Both regression modelling and concept operationalisation strategies contain a specification of gender as a variable which conceives of a very different nature and functions of gender than gender as a power relation. These conceptual differences, I argue, can be attributed to the different epistemological and ontological assumptions underlying these concepts. A simple synthesis of the critical feminist concept of gender and a regression-based empirical model results in a substantial inconsistency between the conceptualisations of gender in substantive theory and methods. Consequently, a research design that contains conflicting ontological and epistemological assumptions in substantive theory and methods suffers from a low internal consistency and validity since the results cannot provide evidential support to purported theoretical claims. These findings prompt us to reconsider the role of meta-theory in more practical terms and to assess the epistemic utility of methods in terms of their capacity to study the concepts of interest.
Illuminating Virtual Reality Creative Practice: Three Case Studies in the Context of Australian Art Museums(2022) Zhou, HaoThesisContemporary immersive virtual reality (VR) technologies present significant potential for artists to expand their creative repertoire, and for art museums to facilitate exhibition delivery and visitor engagement. To date, studies in the field focus predominantly on identifying the affordances and constraints of VR for art museums and examining visitor experience in the virtual context, with little attention paid to artists as creators of VR works and their realities in the creative process. Illuminating artists’ experiences of ideation and creation helps develop insider’s perspectives beyond what can be determined from solely inspecting the finished works or their reception, and understand how the potentiality and novelty of VR are negotiated in practice and translated into meaningful installations. This research seeks to cast light on the creative practice with VR through three selected projects in the context of Australian art museums as case studies, exploring why and how the artists employed VR in their particular situations. Adopting a qualitative research paradigm and naturalistic inquiry approach, each case study follows a two-phase research design, conducting a review of literature that critiques the project and semi-structured interviews with artists in each phase respectively. Thematic analysis is applied to analyse interview data to derive meanings, patterns and embedded ideas from artists’ accounts. Within-case analysis has generated a detailed presentation of each project regarding its context, VR work(s) produced and the creative process. Led by the research questions, cross-case comparative analysis has established a range of themes and sub-themes (as manifestations of the themes in the case studies), which are integrated and presented as a table. These themes concern the affordances of VR valued by the artists that lead to their employment of the technologies, significant factors influencing their creative process, and key considerations underlying their conceptualisation of VR works and adoption of corresponding approaches. This research contributes new knowledge to understanding artist’s practice in making VR installations, by revealing a range of significant and commonly encountered elements characterising the creative practice, and their contextualised manifestations in the particular case projects. The findings provide art practitioners with a set of considerations for future engagement with VR.
“Goodwill and mutual understanding”: International students, publicity, and policy in mid-century Australia(2020) Dashwood, GenevieveThesisFrom the late 1940s, international students from parts of Asia became a new, distinct presence in Australian educational institutions. Despite the existence of a racially exclusionary immigration policy, the numbers of international students increased in the following decades. These included both privately funded students as well as those training under government sponsored educational exchanges programs: the most notable of which was the Colombo Plan. Building on existing foreign policy and migration histories, this thesis addresses how the Australian government, motivated by Cold War anxieties, sought to build goodwill in Asia, at the same time as it promoted non-European international students from Asia to a domestic population conditioned by the White Australia Policy. It also examines how international students, in turn, experienced Australia. The unique starting point for this thesis is the previously overlooked archive of publicity material produced by the government’s Australian News and Information Bureau. This vast resource affords a fruitful lens through which to explore the government’s investment in international student schemes. By looking beyond the frame, this thesis contributes to a new social history of international students in Australia. The first part of the thesis looks closely at official publicity methods, which sought to promote the ‘soft diplomacy’ of student exchange in both Asia and Australia. It investigates how a new genre of student stories was shaped and how the voices of Asian students and trainees were inculcated to promote Australia in Asia. A special focus on the monthly magazine Hemisphere shows how the government endeavoured to maintain connections with returned students. In the second part of the thesis, the social history of international students’ experiences of housing, health, relationships, and migration is explored. The publicity material produced at this time often touched on these themes, as they were central to the international student encounter with local Australians. A key concern of this thesis is the gendered nature of these encounters. White Australian women tended to play a central role in hosting and socialising with international students, and the relationships they established could be transformational for them, too. Catalysed by the official photographs, this thesis creates a fuller picture of students’ lives in Australia and the impact their presence had on Australian society. Finally, this thesis adds an important contribution to a much longer history of international students in Australia. The period under investigation here, from the late 1940s to the 1960s, established Australia as a core destination for international students for the decades to follow. Since that time, international student numbers have continued to grow, and their impact on Australian education, immigration, and economy is now tremendous. As in the postwar period, however, international students still confront a society conditioned by its past and suspicious of its neighbours. This thesis seeks build understanding of how past international students and their Australian hosts navigated the contradictions of such entanglements.
The Making of Midnight Oil: Exhibition design and the translation of rock music from stage to museum(2022) Osmond, WendyThesisThe ways in which museums construct and negotiate visitor experience are being challenged by expanding and converging modes of spectatorship and representation. This thesis models the relationship between live performance and its exhibition through an examination of the recently emerged genre of the rock music exhibition. The study explores historical antecedents, contemporary practices and explanatory models relating to this phenomenon, arguing that while museums continue to be gathering places for shared encounters and immersive spectatorship, design choices for modes of representation are subject to rapid changes in sound and imaging technologies, and associated meanings of fidelity. Exhibition development practices in museums lack a shared language that accounts for the changing paradigms of knowledge production driving the popular music exhibition phenomenon, meaning that new approaches are required from designers. A case study analysis of the travelling exhibition The Making of Midnight Oil (2014–2017) examines one such project from my designer-researcher’s perspective. Interviews with members of the creative team in different venues, analyses of visitor contributions and design documentation, and a reflexive approach to the theory-practice nexus produce a granular account of the mediation of experience from production to reception. The rock exhibition is examined as a site of negotiable discourses of liveness, authenticity and power, in which design is a key agent of meaning-making. A blended social semiotic framework, newly applied to exhibition design, is used to describe the re-presentation of source phenomena in this emblematic multimodal space. The outcome is an explanatory model of possible responses to the challenge of mediating liveness in the museum, in which exhibition experience is modelled as a dialogic co-construction of gradable meanings between members of a multidisciplinary team, visitors, and institutional and social contexts that are distributed across on-site, off-site, and online places. By identifying how different design choices select certain truth criteria for fidelity of representation, this thesis provides a shared design lexicon of broadened choices for the mediation of live events: a re-imagining of the exhibition design brief as a Modality question. It is designed to foster increased understanding and cross-modal experimentation in interdisciplinary creative teams.