Facts & figures
Arts and Humanities
- #22 in the world
- 2022 QS World University Rankings
Facts & figures
In Australia's leading program for gender studies and cultural studies, we explore how these two broad areas help us to understand contemporary lives, including what it means to live in the time of the internet, of the Anthropocene, of modernity, and the relations between gender and contemporary social institutions and experiences.
Our department is home to highly regarded national and international scholars, including members of leading academic communities such as the Academy of the Humanities and the Academy of the Social Sciences.
Cultural Studies is concerned with how we understand ourselves, others and our place in the world. Learn about the forms and meanings of everyday life, focusing on questions of identity, meaning, representation, policy formations and power.
Diversity Studies offers you an applied understanding of cultural diversity in its many forms. Learn about the experiences of various groups of people, including Indigenous peoples, migrants, people of colour, women, and those of non-normative sexualities or identities.
Gender and Cultural Studies guide and planner (Includes Diversity Studies)
Gender Studies allows you to explore how sex and gender are understood and lived. It provides an important framework for considering wide-ranging social issues, including marriage equality, new forms of intimacy, gendered forms of labour, violence, race and representational practices.
The Department of Gender and Cultural Studies conducts leading research in the broad range of areas outlined below. One of the core strengths of the department’s research lies in the interplay between these areas of enquiry and an intersectional approach that is grounded in the understanding that these topics cannot be understood and approached in isolation from one another. Questions of race, class, able-ism, geolocation, contamination events and climate change, for instance, cut across all that we consider. This list is not exhaustive but indicates some core emphases.
Download the GCS reading list - a select list of publications by GCS staff.
Embodied practices of consumption are central to the emergence and dynamism of individual identities, communities and subcultures. Our researchers in this area are world-leading scholars whose qualitative empirical research informs policy and practice and whose conceptual innovations challenge normative framings of embodied practices as varied as drug use, fish consumption and New Age therapies. They apply multispecies and intersectional lenses to conceptualise human bodies as inseparably intertwined with environments. Particular areas of focus are: embodiment and identity; drugs, health, and medicine; consumption; human/more-than-human entanglement; food studies; disability studies; sporting cultures; martial arts; and therapeutic practices and cultures.
One of the central tenets of Cultural Studies as a field is its self-reflexive commitment to not taking “culture” as a self-evident fact. Cultural Studies research is thus often engaged in exploring what “culture” means and how it can be known. Our research in this area produces cultural theoretical work informed by many disciplines, including work on specific philosophers, theorists, or theoretical frameworks, and critical contributions to interdisciplinary fields such as science studies, the posthumanities, modernist studies, and (inter-)Asian cultural studies. It also produces scholarship on traditional and innovative methodologies, including in particular: ethnography; affect theory and embodied methodologies; and participatory and public storytelling.
Few, if any, aspects of social life are untouched by the concepts and material effects of policy, economy and governance in action: from the performance management of everything, the competitive individualism coaxed by the interplay of finance markets and self-management, the regulation of pharmaco-health, intimacy and care, what we eat and who we harm, to the saturation of settler colonial logics across multiple domains of action. Rather than approaching the three figures of policy, economy and governance as if they have stable meanings over time and across cultures, our research seeks to capture how these concepts operate in practice, who and what is involved, what they put in motion, how people respond, and how they mutate and manifest in local, national and transnational contexts to reshape everyday worlds—including ideas of what constitutes a good or morally worthy life. Our research in this area focuses in particular on cultures of economy, finance, and production; processes of globalisation; the dynamics of labour, the workplace, and domesticity; health; housing, infrastructures, logistics, and networks.
There are few workplaces, cultural enterprises or centres of learning in Australia today which do not formally espouse policies of inclusion and non-discrimination. And yet, societies the world over remain stratified by race, class, gender, sexuality, ableism, ethnicity; by the perceived threat that minority populations pose to health, work, real estate value or personal safety, sometimes for the innocuous difference of a scar, haircut, accent or tattoo. Our research looks at how processes of inclusion may also be operations of exclusion—individually, culturally and structurally; and probes the politics of tactical responses and refusals. Does the offer to heal wounds through acts of care disguise a request to burden women with more un- or underpaid emotional labour? At a larger level of reckoning, we explore whether a country like Australia can reconcile its internal divisions while it remains a settler colonial occupation. How do these complicated dynamics play out in our workplaces and our classrooms? Our research in this area canvasses themes of imperialism, settler colonialism, and decoloniality; intercultural and transnational studies; cultural difference; race and racism; and inclusion, exclusion and marginalisation.
Environmental challenges are inherently cultural, political, and ethical: from climate change and species extinction, to the wasteful and often toxic legacies of industrial society. Across all of these domains, individuals and communities are differently and unequally implicated in environmental change, in terms of their contributions, their experiences, and their capacities to craft and enact meaningful alternatives. Our research in this area explores the rich historical, philosophical, cultural, and gendered dimensions of life in a changing environment. Our Department is home to world-leading scholars in the environmental humanities and social sciences, with expertise in the following areas: everyday militarisms; multispecies studies, conservation, and extinction; extractivism and waste; water, marine, and oceanic studies; environmental and cultural sustainability; ecofeminism and queer ecologies. Across these diverse areas our research is grounded in intersectional approaches to entangled forms of environmental and social, or multispecies, justice.
Gender, sexuality and intimacy are matters relating to bodies, identities, and interpersonal relations; they are also major sites for the operation of power and control. Our researchers traverse the multiple theoretical terrains of gender and queer cultural studies; sexuality studies; queer theory; LBGT studies; post- and decolonial perspectives; intersectional, environmental and transnational feminisms; social science and technology studies; critical race theory; and transgender studies, developing cutting-edge interdisciplinary frameworks from Australia to Asia to Anglo-America. Our research projects explore the dynamics of sexuality, gender and intimacy at the level of the population, the community, the family, the couple, the self and the body across different field sites from the metropole to the margins. We are intellectually and ethically invested in questions of the embodied, affective, somatic, and racialised politics and governmentality of gender, sexuality and intimacy.
One of the first drivers of the development of Cultural Studies was the desire to make sense of the dynamic and expanding sphere of popular culture. Popular texts produce and circulate key meanings about shared worlds. Our research into popular media traces significant cultural issues as they appear across film, television, digital and social media, print media, music and the popular arts. It highlights how the mediated public sphere generates conversations about value, interests and identities—conversations that frame, respond to and shape social power and possibilities for social change. Research into the popular also helps us understand how people actively consume, use and increasingly create media cultures in their everyday lives, and it examines a wide range of popular cultural practices, especially in the spheres of leisure and lifestyle. Department research in this area focuses on everyday life and cultural practices; media, digital and online culture; fan cultures; public culture; and alternative cultures and activism.
Questions such as “Who are we?”, “What is our identity?” and “Where do we belong or call home?” are among the most difficult to answer in today’s globalised world. The flows of people that criss-cross the globe, through travel, migration, diasporic communities, the movement of refugees and asylum seekers, through forced exile and displacement, and through both voluntary and involuntary mobilities of different kinds, now mean that identity is rarely fixed in one place or location. With global processes of socio-cultural change, the connections between space, place and identity are not only increasingly elastic and intertwined but also complex and contested. As the links between the global North and South multiply, so do inequalities and imbalances of power. With processes of gentrification and globalisation, similarly, people may be excluded from or not even recognise the places and cities they once called “home”. Our research in this area explores how different social groups make “claims” on spaces and places, how those claims are contested and resisted, and how spaces and places are reimagined and transformed. It also explores how places and spaces are represented by different social groups, and how a cultural politics of identity and place may be expressed and connected to wider processes of identity formation, participation and citizenship. We have particular expertise in the following areas: gender, place and space; geographies of sexualities; rural and regional research; cities, suburban and urban cultures; home, community and belonging; migration and diaspora; and national and regional cultural studies.
Childhood, youth, adolescence and young adulthood are not only categories with crucial explanatory power in the lived experience of individuals but also discourses with substantial impact on the organisation of social life, the definition of common good, and the cultural imagination of past, present and future. These topics are collectively researched within an area broadly termed Youth Studies. Our research in this area explores the historical, philosophical, cultural, and gendered formations of youth, including in the diverse objects, practices and identities that comprise youth culture(s). Much of our research in this area also focuses on youth as an object of social policies and as a set of experiences situated by their effects, including a more general interest in education and cultural pedagogy, shaped by ideas about youth as a period of training and the governmental institutions these inform. Our department also has particular expertise in the complex relations between youth, gender and sexuality, including world-leading expertise in the field of girls studies and emerging research strength in the area of boys and masculinity.
The Department of Gender and Cultural Studies holds an online HSC ‘Society and Culture’ Personal Interest Project (PIP) Workshop consultation week in March each year.
Applications for 2022 have now closed.
If you would like more information or to enquire regarding future workshops, please feel free to contact us.
Phone +61 2 9351 2759
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Attending to detail | research practices in gender & cultural studies
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This lecture series is supported by a donation from Carat, a leading global media agency, with whom Dr Paul Priday and Prof Elspeth Probyn collaborated in setting up training sessions for their employees. These sessions, run in 2014 and 2015, included short talks from several staff and postgraduate students in the Department of Gender and Cultural Studies at the University of Sydney, where Paul was undertaking his PhD at the time. In this series in memory of Paul, we hope to host several annual seminars with leading scholars in the broad areas of gender and cultural studies, and consumption – writ large.
Paul was a role model in his work as an “ad man” embodying the opposite of what Madmen represented. As advertising colleagues said, he was a gentleman as well as a stellar creative across many of the top advertising agencies. Like many in the 1960s and 70s, he worked his way up in the industry without having attended university. Lecturing in the Business School and giving guest lectures to a Gender and Cultural Studies class on Consuming Cultures inspired him to go to school. He quickly did a BA Hons at the University of New England, and then joined GCS for his PhD. Elspeth was lucky enough to supervise Paul’s brilliant multi-sited ethnographic research in three multinational ad agencies – in Sydney, Delhi, and Shanghai. His objective was to find out why women rarely featured in the heady ranks of the creatives – a “manspace” par excellence. He graduated with his doctorate in 2016 shortly before his premature death. With this series we honour his research and most especially his work within the Department to harness what he called “the rocket science” of gender studies for debates beyond the university. Paul’s spirit continues to add to our research culture of intellectual generosity and openness.
In this talk, Professor Tess Lea reflects on what attending to details means, if the aim is to shift conditions of inequality under continuing settler occupation in Australia.
Discussant: Dr Josie Douglas, Wardaman Country | General Manager, Health Services Division – Central Australian Aboriginal Congress
Professor Tess Lea is a Member of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Tess is an anthropologist who specialises in the cultural life of policy. Her fundamental interest is with issues of (dys)function: how it occurs and to what, whom and how it is ascribed. Looking at everyday militarisation, extraction industries, houses, infrastructure (e.g. plumbing and roads), schools, and efforts to create culturally congruent forms of employment and enterprise from multiple perspectives, her work asks why the path to realising seemingly straightforward ambitions is so densely obstacled.
This presentation seeks to demonstrate what a cultural studies analysis of the oceanic manifestation of COVID-19 might look like. While the ocean has seemingly remained on the periphery during the ongoing pandemic, the marine has nevertheless been deeply affected as a space of more-than-human connection. As we know, it was at a seafood market (The Huanan Seafood Market) that the first signs of the virus allegedly emerged – an event that propelled the circulation of disgust and racism that was to follow. I take three sites: Botany Bay, Sydney; the Ruby Princess cruise ship; and the effect of COVID-19 on fish supply chains and the lives and livelihoods of fishers especially in the global south. The “conjuncture, the moment we are living through albeit differentially, is profoundly affected, and many query whether life as we know it, including global trade and everyday consumption, will ever be the same. I draw on John Clarke’s argument that ‘tracing the different dynamics and forces that come together to constitute the conjuncture is a substantial challenge’, and Meaghan Morris’ call for site-specific thinking in cultural studies. This is, I argue, a time for messy digging in the swamp of the pandemic if we are to find thin threads of hope for our more-than-human world, and our discipline.
Elspeth Probyn FAHA, FASSA is Professor of Gender & Cultural Studies, which she helped to establish at the University of Sydney. She has published several ground-breaking monographs including Sexing the Self (Routledge, 1993), Outside Belongings (Routledge, 1996), Carnal Appetites (Routledge, 2000), Blush: Faces of Shame (Minnesota, 2006), and Eating the Ocean (Duke, 2016). Her current research focuses on fishing as extraction, fish markets as gendered spaces of labour, and anthropocentric oceanic change. She is the co-editor of a new collection, Sustaining Seas: Oceanic Space and the Politics of Care (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020).