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Department of Sociology and Social Policy

The study of the organisation, institutions and dynamics of society
Our world leading academics produce searching analyses of society, including the dynamics of power and social justice.

We teach how to pose and answer relevant questions to gain a better understanding of how the features of social life are made and shaped.   

Our department includes two world-leading centres, the Sydney Asia-Pacific Migration Centre and the LCT Centre for Knowledge-Building. The LCT Centre has built a framework for the study of knowledge and education now being used to analyse a growing range of practices across education, law, politics, art, and public understandings of science. 

Our study offering

Criminology is devoted to the study of crime and its causes, deviance, social control and the operation of the criminal justice system, examining topics such as policing, youth justice, prisons and punishment, surveillance, crime and media, Indigenous justice, forensics, and corporate and state crime.


*Available to all students studying the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Visual Arts, as well as all combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies degrees.  

Human rights combines social, scientific and legal approaches and provides a holistic perspective on human rights and social change. The course addresses human rights violations at local, national, regional and global levels. 


Social policy is concerned with a range of questions including: How will wealth and wellbeing be distributed in the 21st century? Do social policies challenge or reinforce inequality? How does Australia compare to other nations on measures of welfare? 


*Available to all students studying the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Visual Arts, as well as all combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies degrees.  


Socio-Legal Studies is the study of legal ideas, practices and institutions in their social, historical and political contexts. It explores the ways laws are made and enforced as well as the impact of legal practices on our everyday lives and the organisation of society. You will learn to understand how the law operates across different societies, and gain research and analytical skills that are highly desired by employers in private industry, non-profit organisations, and the government sector.


*Available to all students studying the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Visual Arts, as well as all combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies degrees.  

Sociologists study social life, institutions and social change, explore how the modern world came into being and how it might develop in the future. Studying Sociology will enable you to recognise, research and analyse the dynamics of power and inequality in our everyday lives and the organisation of society. 


*Available to all students studying the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Visual Arts, as well as all combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies degrees.  


Our research

We work on a range of specific research projects, commissioned consultancies and publications. The department's research focus is grouped into the following thematic clusters:

People today face conflicting demands to “be themselves” in a cosmopolitan and hyper-public, mediatized world. Within instituted hierarchies and social networks, dialectics of control permeate struggles for authenticity and autonomy and attempts to form meaningful relationships with others. Our research explores these paradoxes of authenticity and community, their impact on the emotions and capacity for intimacy, and the broader implications for personal freedom, social imaginaries, and global modernity. 

Key researchers

Craig Browne, Jennifer Wilkinson, Salvatore Babones, Karen O’Brien, Tim Soutphommasame and Estrella Pearce


- On Hate

- The Public Life of Friendship

The Larrakia Petitions for a Treaty and Land Rights

Knowledge is a central feature of contemporary economies, societies and personal lives. Our scholars embrace cutting-edge approaches to knowledge, including southern theory, world society theory and Legitimation Code Theory, that represent a unique combination of insights within one department. Studies cover a distinctively broad range of areas, from school classrooms to disciplinary history, from global flows of knowledge to local interactions between individuals. Work in this theme has been recognised within and beyond the University with the award of a SOAR fellowship, the LCT Centre for Knowledge-Building, and an ARC Discovery Grant focused on Knowledge-Making in Australian Society: Sociology and it's Social Impact.

Key researchers

Karl Maton, Fran Collyer, Salvatore Babones, Dr Ben Manning, Dr Leah Williams Veazey, Sharon Aris (HDR), Elena Lambrinos (HDR), Patrick Locke (HDR), Mauricio Quilpatay (HDR), Saul Richardson (HDR), Mathew Toll (HDR), Zhigang Yu (HDR), Rurong Le (HDR).


- Knowledge and Global Power: Making New Sciences in the South

Brings together key scholars who investigate death and trauma arising from physical and structural violence, focusing on questions such as:

  • How to decolonise the ways in which historical and contemporary death and trauma of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are constructed by the state?
  • How to investigate methodologies recover and recognise victims– e.g the exhumation of the disappeared, commissions of inquiry into institutional abuse?
  • How has transitional justice approached death and trauma as the legacy of violence in contemporary post-authoritarian societies and in historical settler societies?
  • How do issues of class, sexuality, gender, disability and race shape understandings of trauma, reparations and justice?

Key researchers

Catriona Elder, Robert van Krieken, Michael Humphrey, Sonja van Wichelen, Rebecca Bray, Greg Martin, Fiona Gill, Allen George, Karen O’Brien, Danielle Celermajer


- Legitimating Life: Adoption in the Age of Globalization and Biotechnology

- The Ecology of Torture (podcast)

Drawing from emerging fields such as science and technology studies, animal studies, posthumanism, environmental humanities, new materialism and critical race studies, our researchers seeks to reconceptualise societies in ways that focus attention on the social, political and economic dynamics of life (human and non-human), networks, technologies and environment, and to questions of justice amongst them. This grouping involves scholars engaged in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences FutureFix BioHumanity and Multispecies Justice research themes. In addition, scholars involved in Posthuman Socialities convene the Biopolitics of Science Research Network and the Human Animal Research Network

Key researchers

David Bray, Dinesh Wadiwel, Danielle Celermajer, Nadine Ehlers, Sonja van Wichelen


- Deadly Biocultures: The Ethics of Life-making

Examines the logics of asset-based capitalism and investigates the new forms of inequality and precarity accompanying its rise. It looks at everything from the high rentier economies of energy monopolies, urban infrastructure booms and intellectual property regimes, to the everyday rentierism of negatively geared investors and the work/rentier hybrids represented by Airbnb hosts and uber drivers. The theme involves scholars engaged in the FASS FutureFix Asset Ownership and New Forms of Inequality research theme and the Collaborative Research Support Initiative on Energy It's Institutions, Networks and Lived Experiences.

Key researchers

Melinda Cooper, Amanda Elliot, Michael Humphrey, Lisa Adkins, Monique Mackenzie (HDR), Greta Werner (HDR) and Carolyn Vaughn Brennan (HDR)


- The Time of Money

- Capital and Time

Our people


UPDATE: In light of COVID-19 developments, please be advised this University event will no longer take place in the short term. Some of our events are transitioning to online, and these will be advertised accordingly. Let us know what event you're interested in via our online form, and we'll update you as the situation changes.

Learn more about the University’s advice regarding COVID-19 here.

For a full listing of our upcoming events, please visit the School's events calendar.

Our monthly seminars are held on Mondays and aim to exchange ideas, discuss and promot new research. For futher information, please contact Susan Banki, convenor of the seminar series. Join our mailing list to receive regular updates about upcoming seminars.

Department Chair

Dr Dinesh Wadiwel

School of Social and Political Sciences

  • +61 2 9351 2650 

Zaina Ahmed

Zaina Ahmed
Sociology student
“I was chosen by the department to participate in an informal exchange with the University of Tokyo, where I got to explore cultural differences in how cities are designed and built as well as how we think about urban spaces.”
Download our undergraduate course guide (pdf, 4.8MB)

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