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  • Featured Member Profile: Guy Scotton

    Posted on September 15, 2018

    Today’s featured member profile comes from the always wonderful Guy Scotton. Take it away Guy!

    Member: Guy Scotton

    What are you researching?

    My work is rooted in the unfolding “political turn” in animal ethics, combining normative political theory with sociology and moral psychology. I am exploring the public role of emotions such as love and disgust, and the rituals and narratives that shape and sustain them, in political theories of animal rights. So far, too little attention has been paid to the affective and symbolic dimensions of interspecies solidarity and community life, and I hope here to consolidate recent work in the field that highlights the importance of affect and the moral imagination for cultivating enduring norms of justice and respect for other animals.

     

    What drew you to this topic?

    Two crucial experiences drew me away from an entirely unrelated PhD project in (human-centric) political theory. First, reading Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka’s Zoopolisbefore almost any other work on animal ethics offered me a genuinely exciting glimpse of what a just interspecies community might look and feel like, combining theoretical daring with renewed attention to our differentiated and embodied relationships with nonhuman animals as individuals.

    Second, my early work on the topic was catalysed by a wonderful conference experience at the 2013 MANCEPT Workshops in Political Theory, where I first began to appreciate the vitality and diversity of the animal ethics community.

     

    What have been the highlights of your RhD journey?

    Every workshop and conference I’ve attended, whether I am presenting or not, has rewarded my work and my thinking in general in ways that are hard to anticipate or summarise. Contributing a chapter to an edited volume, and watching it develop from an idea at a conference through to part of a cohesive collection, has been a particularly rewarding publication experience.

     

    What do you wish you had known before you started?

    I wish I’d had a clearer understanding of the mechanics of the academic publication process from submission and selection through to responding to reviews, all of which helps to demystify and socialise the apparently solitary writing process. This is something I’ve been fortunate to experience from the other side thanks to my involvement in the Politics and Animalseditorial collective, and I encourage postgrads to get involved in or observe the process where possible; the experience and perspective is invaluable.

    I would also like to see more candour and awareness about the demonstrable mental health impacts of postgraduate work, and the specific challenges facing people across the spectrum of human neurodiversity—students with ADHD or autism, for example. Academic work can so often seem isolating, frustrating, and competitive, and we have a collective responsibility to build an academic culture that equitably shares the challenges, and cultivates the benefits, of neurodiversity and mental health.

     

    What advice would you give to others who are either just beginning, or contemplating starting postgraduate study?

    Attend conferences in your research area as soon as possible; focus less on presenting at this stage and more on finding “your people” and saying “yes” to opportunities to exchange ideas and collaborate beyond the conference. (However, you should also expose your work as early and as often as you can bear it!) This face-to-face energy and momentum will inspire and sustain you as you return to writing (remember to send those follow-up emails and keep the conversation going). A good abstract, like any first impression, can go a long way, and learning to write them well and early on in a project (and re-writing as necessary) will pay dividends at every stage of the writing process. Likewise, practicing writing for a broader audience (e.g. as a guest author for a relevant blog) is another process of translation that can be enormously revealing and clarifying for your work. Most generally, viewing all such forms of writing as words you’re putting into the world, on a continuum with the thinking and writing that goes into a thesis chapter or journal article, helps to further demystify the academic writing process.

     

    What do you do when you aren’t working on your research?

    Many of my extracurricular pursuits have grown out of, and feed back into, my research. I’m a member of the editorial collective for the peer-reviewed open access journal, Politics and Animals (http://politicsandanimals.org)—itself an example of the sorts of opportunities that emerge from conferences, arising after the MANCEPT 2013 conference thanks to the initiative of our managing editor, Kurt Boyer. Katherine Wayne and I have recently begun production on a documentary about new forms of interspecies community and justice.

    When I want to turn off from anything research- or advocacy-related, I spend my time making models, especially resin “garage kits” of science fiction and horror film characters, and I’m now beginning to sculpt my own.

    Thanks Guy! If you think you could answer our 6 quick questions, drop me an email at zoei.sutton@flinders.edu.au

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  • Featured Member Profile: Enqi Weng

    Posted on August 15, 2018

    Today’s featured member profile comes from the brilliant Enqi Weng. Take it away Enqi!

    Member: Enqi Weng

    What are you researching?

    My thesis (currently under examination!) studied religious changes and changing attitudes to religion in Australia through discussions on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Q&A current affairs program. It tracked these changes through a sociological application of the concept of the sacred as a non-negotiable value expressed in religious and secular forms.

     

    What drew you to this topic?

    Religion became a topic of interest for me especially because of how it is brought into, and discussed within, the media. I view media here in a collective sense—as a complex process of engagements between news, entertainment and social media. Being born and raised in Singapore where its mainstream media is controlled for purposes of social harmony, multireligious beliefs are managed by the government through media policies. When I came to Australia in 2010, I was struck by the discourses that were circulated on Islam and Christianity and the depictions of both communities in Australian media. There was a disconnect in my perception and my lived experiences with these communities back home.

    After spending some time working on my minor thesis project at the University of Melbourne then, I came to realise how understudied religion is within academia because of a dominant perspective that religion will one day disappear. Since 9/11, religion has become a topic of interest which has been approached through different disciplines, including media and communication studies.

     

    What have been the highlights of your RhD journey?

    One of the highlights is the number of opportunities I received to be introduced to amazing networks such as the Australian Association for the Study of Religion (AASR) and the International Society for Media, Religion and Culture (ISMRC). The friendships I’ve made and mentors I’ve found through these networks have been invaluable in my formation as a young media and religion scholar.

    The second highlight is my involvement with the “Religion on an Ordinary Day” project. I was introduced to it as a contributor by my supervisor Professor Peter Horsfield. This is a transnational project that examined and compared representations of religion in newspapers from across four global cities. Through this project, I was able to work more closely with the methodology I applied in my thesis. I was also given the opportunity to travel to Ottawa and present at the media workshop as part of my involvement.

     

    What do you wish you had known before you started?

    Because the PhD journey (often) stretches over several years, I’ve learnt that finding a way to manage everything else in your life is pretty crucial. This juggling act often can include the project itself (that requires adaptation to one’s attention and time depending on the stage of the project), other work commitments, finances and emotions. All these factors will vary depending on the season that one’s going through as well. I went to many workshops where presenters from the front are often sending out a singular message—that you should be doing more. But this is quite simply unrealistic. As I look back, my advice to my earlier self would be to be kind to yourself. Be aware of your limitations. Don’t make somebody else’s goals and expectations yours.

     

    What advice would you give to others who are either just beginning, or contemplating starting postgraduate study?

    There are many but here’s a few to start with! If you’re proposing your own research idea, find a supervisor who is interested. Have a conversation early with them and better yet, see if you can work out a feasible research idea together. Alternatively, find a project that you’re really interested in. It sounds like strange advice—why would you do otherwise? But if you have to stay motivated for a stretch of time, personal interest seems like a good starting point. Also think about why a PhD will benefit your career direction and why you want to invest 3-5 years doing it. Have a rough idea what the light at the end of the tunnel would look like for you.

     

    What do you do when you aren’t working on your research?

    I care deeply about environmental issues and am part of a community initiative that sets up and manages compost bins around my local suburb. I also enjoy gardening and fussing with my growing collection of succulents. Often, I find myself watching one too many crime television show (the Nordic selection on SBS is great!). On the weekends, I like to try out new recipes that remind me of home.

     

    Thanks Enqi! If you think you could answer our 6 quick questions, drop me an email at zoei.sutton@flinders.edu.au

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  • Featured Member Profile: Simone Marino

    Posted on July 15, 2018

    Today’s featured member profile comes from the wonderful Simone Marino. Take it away Simone!

    Member: Simone Marino

    What are you researching?

    The Construction and Transmission of Ethnic Identity among Italian-Australians of Calabrian Ancestry across Three Generations. In my sociological study, I investigated 14 families, three generations of people from an Italian background, in the local “Italian community” of Adelaide. By first generation, I mean the immigrants who migrated during the 1950s, the second generation are their children and the third generation are the children of the second generation, who now are in their 20s. I found that the Italian community is very tight knit and it achieves this by regular social networking, religious celebrations, intra-ethnic marriages and family alliances. There is a fluidity of identity across the generations. It seems that being Italian means different things for different generations. Sadly, the first generation perceived to be undesirable when they migrated and the second generation inherited this legacy and tended not to emphasise their Italian-ness. But now, their children show off their ethnic background by ‘performing in a number of intra-ethnic and inter-ethnic contexts’: they might proudly gesticulate, they display specific objects (like golden chains,or driving a vespa or, if they can afford it, an Alfa Romeo car) and they ask their grandparents how to cook Italian food.What was despised by the dominant society in the past then came to be caricaturised, and successively celebrated.

    The main conceptual finding of my study is that  individuals’ ethnic identities appear to be shaped by their ‘institutional positionality’, which is their ethnic perception of ‘being in the world’.   I have coined this term to try to capture the temporal, subjective and spatial dynamics of ethnic-race race relations of individuals and their ontological (in)securities.

     

    What drew you to this topic?

    Do you ever remember those Italian kids at school, with their salami sandwiches who, after their classmates comments, such as: “what’s this stinky stuff?” turned red, perhaps they had changed their names from Giuseppe to Joe, from Pietro to Peter? This got me wondering why, today, their children, at school proudly bring their salami sandwiches and even sell them to their classmates, and how it came to be that they want to be called Giuseppe or Pietro, and to learn from their grandparents how to make a good pizza, how to be Italian. Matters of ethnic identity and integration are extremely relevant to contemporary Australia. My work on the way the Italian presence has evolved can help us integrate our new migrants. The tight knit little Italy community I found is the result of the previous Anglo-Australian racism. Once an ethnicity is perceived positively, migrants can not only keep their ethnic identity and feel part of mainstream Australian society, but they can add an extra dimension of their dolce vita.

     

    What have been the highlights of your RhD journey?

    After my first six months of working formally with the community holding 30 one hour interviews I found I was accepted as “one of them”, and was delighted to receive invitations to 4 weddings 3 christenings, 3 funerals and a number of engagement parties. Over a period of three or more years, I immersed myself in the community spending up to 20 or 30 hours a week with the families, taking careful notes after my meetings, and learning to understand their culture and experience.

     

    What do you wish you had known before you started?

    I should have been more aware that the structure and style of academic writing might be different between English and Italian. However, I am eagerly keen to learn and to challenge my position.

     

    What advice would you give to others who are either just beginning, or contemplating starting postgraduate study?

    I feel so ignorant to give advice to other colleagues. However, in my opinion, students who have just begun, or are contemplating starting a postgraduate study, must be very motivated. They also must love what they are researching, and must have the vice to read a lot! It is important to have days off. Most importantly, take notes whenever they believe they have found a key concept. Further, I found out that it is very beneficial to share your thoughts with colleagues, friends, and all possible audiences which may not be academic. By telling your ideas to others, your thoughts become clearer and organised.

     

    What do you do when you aren’t working on your research?

    When I am not researching, I teach Sociology of Migration, Intercultural Communication and Italian Studies. In my free time, I like playing guitar, singing, doing karate, and when it’s possible travelling across Australia.

     

    Thanks Simone! If you think you could answer our 6 quick questions, drop me an email at zoei.sutton@flinders.edu.au

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