Skip to content


This page details some of our recent grant successes and staff research projects.

Grant Successes

ARC Future Fellowship

  • Associate Professor Megan WarinTo investigate the cultural and institutional processes that shape everyday food and activity practices

    Megan Warin has been awarded an Australian Future Fellowship for 4 years of research (2015-2019) funding. Megan's research program will investigate the cultural and institutional processes that shape everyday food and activity practices. As yet, we do not understand the social practices of how people eat and embody knowledge about eating and healthy lifestyles. This information is vital to informing local and wider population obesity strategies. In mapping new terrain in thinking about relations between food, eating and bodies, the project will reconceptualise what we know about obesity, both culturally and materially.

    Megan's comparative ethnographic project will be located in different socio-economic sites and include analysis of gendered and classed aspects of embodiment. In taking an entirely new perspective on how we eat (rather than what we eat), this project will deliver new knowledge that will advance what we know about, and how we respond to the ‘problem' of obesity. Social practice and new material theories (including an anthropology of epigenetics in relation to obesity science) will provide an intellectual base and a conceptual framework around which to build policy interventions explicitly designed to facilitate conditions in which more sustainable changes around eating and bodies in everyday life might occur.

ARC Discovery Project

ARC Linkage Projects

  • Dr Megan Warin (with Assoc. Prof Vivienne Moore, Prof Paul Ward, Dr Michelle Jones)An ethnographic study of obesity risk in a disadvantaged community (LP120100155)

    2012- 2015  $162,885
    Collaborating Organisations: City of Playford, SA Health

    Project Summary

    It is well known that treatment and prevention initiatives for obesity remain largely ineffective. Linking in with Australia's largest obesity prevention and lifestyle program (OPAL), this ethnographic project will investigate how families from low socio-economic communities respond to obesity interventions. In particular, this project aims to explore how the community understands risks associated with obesity, and whether gender and social class intersect to influence responses to obesity intervention strategies. Project outcomes will provide key insights to inform obesity policy and prevention efforts that respond to local realities of risk and resistance.

  • Dr Susan A OakleyCreating better pathways into civic participation for young homeless people through sustainable accommodation and support program models

    2011 - 2013: $90,586.00
    Collaborating Organisation: Services to Youth Council

    Project Summary

    A sustained independent living environment is a significant contributor to health and well being. This project will offer new insights into how young homeless people use and experience supported accommodation and programs.  It will recommend practical models for policy development, practice and service delivery.

  • Dr Megan Warin (with Prof Tracey Wade and Dr Peter Gilchrist)Why are people with eating disorders reluctant to engage with treatment services?

    2011-2014   $97,87
    Collaborating Organisations: ACEDA Inc, Flinders Medical Centre, SA Health Mental Health Unit

    Project Summary

    Eating disorders are chronic and debilitating conditions that are on the rise amongst young Australian
    women. Research to date has mainly focused on people who engage with treatment services, but we know nothing about the significant number of people who do not seek help, or delay seeking help for many years. This research will identify this unknown group in order to understand their motivations for not seeking help, and find out what socio-cultural factors support eating disorder behaviours. The outcomes of this project will be used to develop effective early intervention strategies. In seeking to understand why many people with eating disorders do not seek or are reluctant to seek help, this project will make an important contribution to new developments in the prevention of, and intervention into, eating disorders in the Australian community.

Staff Research Projects

  • Dr Susan Oakley

    Urban Waterfront Renewal

    Urban waterfront developments have the potential to provide residential opportunities for thousands of Australians in what could be described as a novel urban experiment - high rise, near city and within governance arrangements unlike virtually any other locations. The qualitative study (drawing primarily on interview and text analysis) examines the capacity of these social and spatial experiments to provide liveable waterfronts through a comparative and evaluative study of image, experience and governance in Australian and select international case studies.

    Recent Publications on Uban Waterfront Renewal

    Oakley, S. (2010) ‘Re-imagining city waterfronts: a comparative analysis of governing renewal in Adelaide, Darwin and Melbourne', Urban Policy and Research (accepted January 2010). (ERA Category A)

    Oakley, S., (2009a) ‘Governing Urban Waterfront Renewal: the politics, opportunities and challenges for the inner harbour of Port Adelaide', Australia, Australian Geographer, 40(30: 297-317. (ERA Category B)

    Oakley, S. (2007a) ‘The Role of Urban Governance in Re-constructing Place, Economic Function and Social Relations in Urban Waterfront Regeneration', Space and Polity, 11(2): 279-295. (ERA Category B)

    Oakley, S. (2007b) ‘Public consultation and place-marketing in the revitalisation of the Port Adelaide waterfront', Urban Policy and Research, 25(1): 113-128. (ERA Category A)

    Youth Homelessness

    The research is focused on creating better pathways into independent living and civic participation for young homeless people through sustainable accommodation and support program models. The qualitative study focus is on understanding the dimensions and experience of homeless people living in youth accommodation; and the ways they can integrate into the wider community. It seeks to address significant research, policy and service provision gaps as well as new national homelessness priorities.

    Recent Publications on Youth Homelessness

    Oakley, S. and Hancock, J. (2010) ‘Hybrid Foyers' - A 21st Century response to youth homelessness?', Parity, 23(3): 24.

  • Dr Megan Warin

    Early Life Influences on Obesity and Fat Patterning in Children: Critical Periods, Environmental Determinants, and Socio-cultural Context

    National Health and Medical Research Council Strategic Award

    Chief Investigators:
    Assoc Prof Vivienne Moore (Life course and Intergenerational Health Research Group, Department of Public Health, University of Adelaide)
    Assoc Prof Michael Davies (Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Adelaide)
    Dr Megan Warin, Prof Jeffrey Robinson (Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Adelaide).


    The overall aim of this project is to bring together biological, environmental and socio-cultural research to provide a truly multi-disciplinary approach to understanding pathways to obesity and opportunities for prevention. The project is located in Adelaide, Australia, and involves a cohort of 550 children (and their mothers). The project investigates early life periods, environmental factors and the the socio-cultural and economic circumstances in which adverse health outcomes may occur.

    Ethnographic work already conducted with the cohort has explored why there may be a marked inverse socio-economic gradient for obesity in affluent countries. We are currently extending this part of the project to gain an in-depth understanding of the ways in which the predisposition to obesity may be reproduced across generations (through Bourdiue's concept of habitus) and the implications of gender and social class in these contexts.

    In collaboration with social anthropologist Dr Tanya Zivkovik we have also been investigating the interface between scientists and lay public, and how this engagement plays a significant role in the public understanding of scientific knowledge, and the cultural reproduction of maternal responsibility, obesity and blame.

    Published Results

    Key publications to date (from the ethnographic component include):

    Book chapters:

    • Warin, M, Moore, V & M Davies (2010) The Traffic in ‘Nature': Maternal Bodies and Obesity, in Unnithan-Kumar, M and Tremane, S (eds) Fatness and the Maternal Body: Women's experiences of corporeality and the shaping of social policy. Oxford: Berghahn Books.

    Journal Papers: Academic

    • Zivkovic, T, Warin, M, Davies, M and V Moore (2010) In the name of the child: The gendered politics of childhood obesity. Journal of Sociology (Special Edition), (accepted Dec 2009)
    • Warin, M., Turner, K., Moore, V & Davies, M. (2008) Consuming bodies: Mall walking and the possibilities of consumption, Health Sociology Review (special edition), 17(2): 187-198.
    • Warin, Megan., Turner, Karen., Moore, Vivienne. & Davies, Michael. (2008). Bodies, mothers and identities: rethinking obesity and the BMI. Sociology of Health and Illness Advance online publication. View publication online Link to external website
  • Dr Anna Szorenyi

    Suffering on the Move: Refugees and Trafficking in Contemporary Culture

    This project undertakes a study of contemporary representations of refugees and human trafficking, including web campaigns, documentary photography, film, and contemporary feminist debates. The central argument is that debates about refugees and trafficking have become central sites for the production and management of anxieties about global inequality. Through a series of case studies informed by contemporary critiques of gender, imperialism and the cultural politics of emotion, the work investigates how trafficking and asylum seeking have been constructed in complementary, gendered ways, and how images and stories of suffering associated with migration work both to reinforce and reconfigure the borders between 'us' and 'them'.

    This project has been supported by the Fay Gale Centre for Research on Gender.

    Relevant Publications

    • Szörényi Anna & Penelope Eate 2014. 'Saving virgins, saving the USA: heteronormative masculinities and the securitisation of trafficking discourse in mainstream narrative film', Social Semiotics, Published online 30 Aug, DOI: 10.1080/10350330.2014.950009
    • Szörényi, Anna, 2014. 'Rethinking the boundaries: Towards a Butlerian ethics of vulnerability in sex trafficking debates'. Feminist Review 107, pp. 20-36.
    • Szorenyi, Anna, 2009. 'Distanced Suffering: Photographed suffering and the construction of white in/vulnerability' Social Semiotics 19.2, pp. 93-109 (reprinted in The Racial Politics of Bodies, Nations and Knowledges, edited by Barbara Baird and Damien W. Riggs, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Scholars Press, pp. 95-115, 2009)
    • Szorenyi, Anna, 2009. 'Till Human Voices Wake Us: The problematics of presenting refugee testimony' Life Writing 6.2, pp. 173-191.
    • 2006 'The Images Speak for Themselves? Reading refugee coffee table books' Visual Studies 21.1, pp. 24-42.
    • Szorenyi, Anna, 2004. 'The Face of Suffering in Afghanistan: Identity, authenticity and technology in the search for the representative refugee.' Australian Feminist Law Journal 21, pp. 1-22.
  • Dr Anna Szorenyi, Dr Dee Michell, and A/Prof Katrina Falkner

    Improving Gender Equity in Computer Science and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT)


    A significant impediment to the growth of the ICT industry is the lack of gender inclusive participation. Existing research generally focuses on final effects rather than on processes of gendering, and thus tends to work as a self-fulfilling prophesy: defining women as 'the exception' and passively reinforcing the definition of the industry as male. In order to find more productive sites for intervention, this project seeks to unpack in more detail the experiential processes of gendering of both students and the ICT environment, using theories and methods that allow exploration not only of why women don’t enter IT fields, but why both women and men do, and how they build their gendered identities through these projects in the ongoing present. The study will consider gender as performative (Butler 1990), an approach that enables exploration of the ways that gender is constantly under negotiation and change in ways that may offer sites for intervention in the gendered relations of ICT.

    In 2014 this project received a $4985 Faculty Research Centres Competitive Funding Scheme Grant under the auspices of the Fay Gale Centre for Research on Gender ($4985)

  • Dr Dee Michell

    A Long History of Foster Care in Australia: Hidden Stories of Growing Up in Foster Care in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

    Chief Investigators:
    Dr Nell Musgrove, Australian Catholic University (ACU), Melbourne; Dr Dee Michell, University of Adelaide


    Foster care has been provided for thousands of vulnerable Australian children from the early 19th century.

    Despite the prevalence of this system of care as the preferred means of providing out-of-home care across the country from the late 19th century, there is currently no national history of Australian foster care and remarkably little is known about the successes and failures of it. This project aims to redress the current situation by examining the experience of foster care from the perspective of those involved, including the children. The project will provide a historical context for informing future policy and practice.

    Michell, D. (2014) Traces of a Feminist Protest: Kylie Tennant's novel Tell Morning This. In Paul Ashton and Jacqueline Z. Wilson (Eds), Silent System: Forgotten Australians and the Institutionalisation of Women and Children, Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing. (This publication was supported in part by a $600 Fay Gale Research Fellowship).

    Care Leavers in Higher Education: Aspirations, Pathways and Outcomes

    Chief Investigators:
    Dr Dee Michell, Universityof Adelaide; Mr Rob Martin, CREATE Foundation

    2013 Flinders University Faculty Research Grant

    As a group children who have been in the care of the State have some of the poorest educational outcomes in Western countries and very few proceed to Higher Education (HE). In this project we are piloting consultations with young people (aged 18-25 years) who have been in State Care ( ‘Care Leavers’) to explore what aspirations the young people have, how their State Care experience impacted on their education, what messages about potential careers have been conveyed to them, whether university is on their radar, and if not, why not. Questions about their university experience will be included should groups include young people currently at or who have graduated from university.

    Recent Publications

    • Philip Mendes, Dee Michell & Jacqueline Z Wilson (Forthcoming) "Young People Transitioning from Out-of-home Care and Access to Higher Education: A Critical Review of the Literature." In Children Australia, 39(4):1-10.

    What Helps and Hinders Women From Low Socio-economic Backgrounds Complete Social Science Degrees?

    Chief Investigators:
    Dr Heather Fraser, Flinders University; Dr Dee Michell, University of Adelaide, Ms Michele Jarldon, Flinders University; Dr Liz Beddoe, University of Auckland

    In this qualitative research project we explore how women from low socio-economic backgrounds in Australia experience their entry to, and study of, social science degrees. Using a feminist memory work research methodology, we found the women had to first overcome the cultural messages that university is ‘not really meant for people like them'. The women spoke of the importance of alternative pathways into university as crucial, as was having people encourage and support their dream to go to university.

    Recent Publications

    • Fraser, H & Michell, D. (2014) "Feminist Memory Work in Action," Qualitative Social Work, available online Link to external website.
Department of Sociology, Criminology and Gender Studies

Ground Floor, Napier Building, Room G18


T: +61 8 8313 3737
F: +61 8 8313 4388