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Inaugural Symposium: Sociology in the West
By Dorinda J 't Hart
Posted: 2021-11-10T19:29:00Z

On Friday 5th November 2021, around 35 WA-based sociologists and social scientists gathered (a few virtually) to showcase and share research and practice. All Western Australian universities were represented except Edith Cowan University and Notre Dame University, as well as some independent scholars. Others working in the public or private sectors were with us in spirit. Post graduate students and ECRs were well represented and staff from a range of disciplines, notably Asian Studies, Media and Communications, Political Science, and Geography. Western Australia is already geographically isolated, so with hard border closures, the isolation is even more keenly felt by sociologists in the west. Hence, this event, supported by The Australian Sociological Association (TASA), was a welcome opportunity to reach out to other sociologists and social scientists who live and work in close proximity to one another.

Associate Professor Farida Fozdar opened the symposium, noting that when funding was sought for the event, there was no intimation that Sociology might no longer exist at the University of Western Australia. She posed the question, is the sun about to set on sociology in the west? But what is social science without sociology? She ended her presentation on a hopeful note with an image not of a sunset, but a sunrise, a hopeful (if wry) representation of continuation at other universities.

Some presenters gave an emotional reflection of what sociology means to them and what the discipline of Anthropology and Sociology has given them during their time at UWA. Most notable, was PhD candidate Sheryl Makara from Papua New Guinea, who is studying the effects of migration on the children of PNG migrants. She directly addressed her supervisors: “It’s been home here. If you go, I lose too. This gathering has been emotional for me because we don’t know what will happen next.”

Other presentations included research and reflections on the online tertiary workplace, the migrant experience, maintaining transnational family ties, sexualities and Pentecostalism, being a ‘barefoot sociologist’, digital gaming platforms and power, the asylum deterrence campaign, and issues for migrant communities. Some talks were focussed on theory, and some on method. Dr Christian Mauri gave tips on how to run a successful public sociology event. The day was rounded off with a delicious dinner to continue the discussions and networking.

What were the outcomes?

  • Showcasing the range of sociological research, thought and practice in Western Australia
  • Networking
  • Collegial spirit
  • Enthusiasm for more opportunities to network and share research and experience

Thank you to the Australian Sociological Association for their generous support in making this event possible and the University of Western Australia for hosting.