Recent Australian Research

By Catriona Roberts, University of Sydney

Social Movement research in Australia has a long tradition and many new works focus on familiar themes because they continue to dominate in discussions of equity, change and nation. A new offering that synthesises key issues today is Greg Martin’s forthcoming book Understanding Social Movements (Routledge 2015). An edited collection that does similar work is James Goodman and Jonathan Marshall’s Crisis, Movement, Management: Globalising Dynamics (Taylor and Francis 2014). Both texts highlight the principal new themes and theories of the 21st century. Goodman is well-known for his work on social movements in the context of globalization, and is one of the authors of the impressive book Justice Globalism: Ideology, Crises, Policy (Sage 2012). This technical and densely argued book works through key issues associated with the Global Justice Movement and its ideology. It defends the GJM from criticism that is incoherent and just “anti” everything.

The previous Australian government introduced a National Disability Insurance Scheme in 2013, which for the first time brought issues of disability to the fore for many citizens. Helen Meekosha (UNSW), a disability movement scholar, has been working in the area for decades. She contributed a strong chapter to the collection edited by Dan Goodley, Bill Hughes, Lennard Davis Disability and Social Theory: New Developments and Directions (Palgrave, 2012), on the interplay between space, gender and disability. Co-writing with Carolyn Frohmader (Executive Director, Women with Disabilities Australia), the authors explore intersectionality – disability and gender in particular – but also the tensions between national and international aims within organizations. Anita Ghai’s interesting chapter, in this mostly British focused book, brings together issues of disability and postcolonialism in a discussion that sits neatly with local Australian arguments.

A focus on intersectionality is now common in social movement research more generally. Intersectionality and Social Change (2014), edited by Lynne Woehrle, has a fine chapter by Emma Partridge and Sarah Maddison on gender, race and violence in the context of the Australian feminist movement. These authors suggest that using intersectional frameworks for imagining collective identity allows us to recognize the complexity of Indigenous women’s identities. Other chapters explore intersectionality in a variety of North American, South American and European contexts, creating a detailed picture of the field.

The impact of social media in social movements is, not surprisingly, an expanding area of research. Ariadne Vromen (University of Sydney) is a key figure in this field. Her work on young people and political activism has explained some of the new ways community transformation is imagined and performed in virtual worlds. The Networked Young Citizen, co-edited with Bryan Loader and Michael Xenos (Routledge 2014), is a collection of thoughtful pieces on how young people engage in processes of social change. As with Goodman’s work, Vromen and her co-authors, move beyond the sometimes sneering reduction of young peoples engagements as nothing more than “clicktivism”.