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De-centring academic expertise: The politics of knowledge production and social transformation
Monday 4 - Tuesday 5 December 2023: University of Melbourne & online


The ways academics engage with (marginalised ) communities and explore sensitive topics are guided by research paradigms, human research ethical committees, and university prerogatives. This advice and guidance has generated research practices that can be experienced as alienating and position ‘research subjects’ in ways that are contrary to the epistemological, ethical beliefs and political expectations of the communities being ‘researched’. Sharing power to guide and conduct research means taking seriously calls from postcolonial activists and theorists to transcend western-centric methods of knowledge production. It also requires greater attention to the demand ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’, by disability activists, the queer assertion ‘We are the Experts on Homosexuality,’ and similar claims by socially marginalised groups.

Community engaged research practices and participatory methodologies are promoted as ways to establish a common purpose and collectively work toward social change. But there is no one-size-fits all model. Contestations over the purpose of research, whose knowledge is valued, and the way findings are used to drive social change are inevitable. Finding ways to work together, navigating ethical tensions and overcoming points of difference requires careful attention to the affective, ethical, and relational dimensions of participatory research. Transcending seemingly insurmountable obstacles within the participatory turn requires, in Donna Haraway’s words, staying with the ‘trouble’ and moving toward sym-poiesis, a process of making with.

Within this symposium, we want to consider how difference and uncertainty within research relationships can be productive forces for change. Audre Lorde, for instance, memorably called for methods of social change via the development of new tools for relating across difference. If we are to 'know differently', following Claire Hemmings, embodiment and affective responses must be central to the research frame. 'Affective dissonance,' within this view, is productive and can facilitate social transformation and promote 'affective solidarity'. Rather than promoting solutions (as if such an answer exists), we invite attendees to explore the complexity of research politics and practices, and consider ways to transcend the power dynamics that currently instantiate who, what, where, when, and how research occurs. Thinking through how we collectively work at the intersection of the university, community, and government navigate competing imperatives to develop projects, conduct research and produce transformative outputs is thus essential to the project of social justice.

Event Details

Date: 4-5 December 2023
Location: Public Lecture Theatre, Old Arts Building, TheUniversity of Melbourne, Parkville Campus
Format: Please note this Symposium will be a Hybrid event
Registration: Includes morning tea & lunch on both days and afternoon tea on day one.
* Please note: Registrations close 23rd November 2023

Ticket Type
TASA Member - Waged $100
TASA Member - Casual/unwaged/postgrad $45
TASA Member - One Day $30
TASA Member - Online Registration $0
Non Member - Waged $120
Non Member - Lived expert / low wage $45
Non Member - One Day $45
Non Member - Online Registration $0


*Details of TASA membership costs and options are available here

Symposium Convenors

TASA Emotions & Affect Thematic Group co-convenors: Nicholas Hill, Maree Martinussen, Matt Wade, and Maddison Sideris and in coming 2024 convenor Belinda Johnson

TASA Critical Disabilities Studies Thematic Group co-convenors: Ryan Thorneycroft and Diana Piantedosi

TASA Applied Sociology Thematic Group Convenor: Sophie Hickey

This event is delivered by The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) Emotions and Affect, Critical Disability Studies and Applied Sociology Thematic Groups. Hosted by University of Melbourne’s School of Social and Political Sciences.


TASA 2023 Quick Links