Research

Academic staff in Sociology at Flinders undertake a wide variety of research in order to address pressing questions in the social world. Our research is theoretically informed and empirically grounded and addresses many contemporary issues and debates. Several researchers seek to develop theories in order to understand the social world and others undertake empirical investigations. Some of the research relies on careful examination of archival material and documents, other researchers conduct interviews, surveys and observations to gain greater insight into the social processes and social relations that make up the social world.

Below is a description of the main areas of research currently in Sociology at Flinders University:

 

Animals in society



The Sociology of human-animal relationships is a broad area of research which includes an analysis of many different aspects of human-animal relationships including human-animal violence links, animal rights activism and activists, general social and cultural attitudes towards animals and the social construction of animals by various groups such as animal shelter workers. As such the work is both theoretical (eg analysing the interlinked oppressions of disenfranchised Others and current paradigms regarding the place of animals in human society) and pragmatic (eg assessing the needs of those in violent familial relationships who have companion animals). Refer to the Animals and Society page for more information.


Cultural sociology



Cultural sociology is much more than the sociological study of cultural forms such as art, sport, food, leisure or choices in interior design; it is also an exploration of how and why all aspects of society have a cultural dimension to them. Culture can be understood as the symbols and artefacts, images and practices, humans draw upon in order to make sense of the world. Research and scholarship in this field at Flinders has included work on musical and architectural forms of cultural production; the role of cultural symbols and aesthetic practices in everyday life; as well as theoretical interrogations of the role of meaning-making in the most general or anthropological sense (eg the role of the senses, imagination and creativity in human experience). Other research asks larger questions about social imaginaries, cultural modernities and civilizational analyses.   


Economy and society



Since the discipline’s foundation sociologists have been concerned with the modern market economy: its institutional forms, religious underpinnings, socio-cultural consequences and future trajectories. Reflecting the significance of the economic dimensions of social life, the economy and society strand analyses the macro-micro dynamics of economic phenomena, illuminating how relations between economic institutions – such as state and global regulators, finance capital – influence individuals’ life-chances, households, the labour market, and the natural environment. In doing so it draws attention to what is often considered ‘economic’ is influenced by cultural and moral dimensions. This work is theoretical (eg exploring debates in the current transformations of capitalism) and empirical (eg studies of experiences of identity construction under conditions of precarious labour). Sociological research on the economy also includes studies of organizational cultures, the social and cultural dimensions of branding and marketing, as well as the material culture aspects of economic goods and markets. 


Environment and nature



The sociology of environment and nature addresses contemporary understandings of the environment and nature as an 'unlimited resource', the conventional culture/nature divide, as well as inter-cultural understandings of nature. It examines social practices, cultural meanings and institutional power in a range of interrelated areas concerning the environment and nature, such as capitalism, science, industrial agriculture and food practices. It also critically considers various public and other responses to the environmental issues of our times, through, for example, analyses of social movements, the role and treatment of non-human animals, and understandings of 'ecological worldhood'.

 

 

The Judicial Research Project



The Judicial Research Project, and previously the Magistrates Research Project, is a collaborative research project across the School of Social and Policy Studies and the School of Law. It entails research of unprecedented depth and breadth into the Australian judiciary and issues affecting judicial officers worldwide. Since 1999, the project has undertaken extensive surveys, court observations and interviews. This project has developed unparalleled information about judicial attitudes and practices across all Australian courts, but most especially lower/trial courts, which are less frequently studied. Major themes in published works include judicial attitudes towards their work, such as stress and satisfaction, essential skills, and work/family intersections; in-court conduct such as production of guilty pleas, and manner of delivering decisions; informal processes and implicit principles of judicial workload allocation; gender and judging including women’s entry into the judiciary, experiences of judicial work and in-court conduct; newer, engaged forms of/approaches to judging such as therapeutic jurisprudence. Refere to the Judicial Research Project for more information.
 

Methodologies/research methods:



The sociology discipline has expertise in a range of research methodologies including: case studies, qualitative data analysis, discourse analysis, participant observation, Social Network Analysis, content analysis, archival research, comparative methods, quantitative data analysis, and program evaluation. Other methodologies employed include theoretical methodologies, especially hermeneutical methods that focus on interpretation and meanings. These methods have been employed to address social and policy problems in gender, legal systems, environmental governance, animal rights, social welfare policy and other areas.


Social and sociological theory



Social and sociological theory focuses on articulating and questioning conceptual schema and interpretative frameworks that underpin social practices, institutions of power and cultural meanings. This could take the form of ‘macro’, ‘meso’ or ‘micro’ approaches – from civilizations and nations states, to intersubjectivity and the self – in order to make sense of historical and contemporary worlds. Social theory is central to sociology both in its own right but also for its role in developing theoretical frames for empirical research. Research and scholarship in the fields of social theory and sociological theory at Flinders have included: inquiries into classical and contemporary theorists; the relative importance of culture and meaning to social and sociological theories; the history of the social sciences and sociology in particularly; and the history of ideas/sociology of knowledge including the relative importance of intellectual movements such as Romanticism to the social sciences. Social theoretical strengths at Flinders include phenomenology, hermeneutics, and theories of action, social creativity and modernity.