Social Sciences Week

How do the Social Sciences impact our lives?

This series of events provides an opportunity for the public to hear from Australia’s leading experts on issues which help us understand humanity, society and the institutions which govern our daily lives.

Please note these are all previous events, held during 2022. For upcoming events check the JCU Events calendar.

Events that related to activities that contributed to JCU's pursuit of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) feature icons for the relevant SDGs.

Shame in Social Welfare and Development Programming? No thank you.

Date: 9 September 2022

In an age of ‘nudges’ and other behavioural interventions, it is perhaps not surprising that shaming people has crept from the margins of social welfare programs and development policy to widespread use. Shaming likely started as an unconscious but nevertheless pernicious side effect of programs to limit social assistance to the “deserving” poor (posting the names of recipients of social assistance on community noticeboards, income quarantining, work programs with no minimum wage, etc) and is visible as an unconscious way of ensuring loan repayment in group microfinance. Over time, however, shaming has become a deliberate, theorised approach through community-led total sanitation projects.

In this presentation I argue that this shift occurred without adequate consideration of the negative effects of shame, particularly where it references who someone is as opposed to something they may have done. When people are shamed for things they have limited control over it leads to very harmful side effects including anxiety, depression, self-harm and worse. If we genuinely aim to end poverty there is, as Amartya Sen notes (1983: 161), an absolute requirement of “just not being ashamed.”

Presented by Associate Professor Susan Engel

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Location: Online

Necro-enforcers and death-producers: brutal consequences of power and authority

Date: 8 September 2022

Since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC), over thirty years ago, there have been over 400 Indigenous deaths in custody, with 30% of the Australian prison population identifying as Indigenous. Indigenous over-representation in the criminal justice system continues to be an unresolved issue despite varying attempts to mitigate it. Over the last quarter of a century, most research into crime and criminal justice has been undertaken through methods that have privileged state-centred perspectives and perpetuated the silencing of Indigenous perspectives and voices through omission. Thus, the true nature and extent of state crime becomes buried in the statistics. Therefore, my research aimed to elevate the voices of Indigenous Australian people by gaining their insights and understanding of their lived experiences in the criminal justice system.

This paper presents some of the results of a research project that applied a fresh approach to analysing the violence of Indigenous incarceration using the theory of necropolitics and related concepts. Specifically, it focuses on pervasive issues within the police (necro-enforcers) and corrective services (death-producers) arms of the criminal justice system that were found to have contributed, in some part, to in-custody deaths and violence experienced by Indigenous Australians in the criminal justice system.

Presented by JCU's Dr. Kirstie Broadfield

Location: Online

Understanding Xi Jinping’s China

Date: 7 September 2022

As the presidency of Xi Jinping has progressed it has become clear that the People’s Republic of China has adopted a more assertive and aggressive role in regional and international relations. This seminar provides insights into the nature of Xi Jinping’s China and identifies a range of key factors undergirding China’s foreign outlook.

Given the author’s recent interview with former Australian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd, the seminar will also make links between the arguments put forward by Mr Rudd on how best to manage strategic competition between the US and China, identifying how his new book, ‘The Avoidable War’, is situated within contemporary examinations of Chinese politics and international relations.

Presented by JCU's Dr. Anna Hayes

Location: Online

BRI as cognitive empire: epistemic violence and ethnonationalism in Northern Laos

Date: 7 September 2022

China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has become the lodestar of Beijing’s efforts to increase its global political and economic influence. This presentation interrogates BRI discourse, arguing that the normative adoption of BRI narratives as a means for making sense of connectivities between China and other places risks producing new forms of epistemic violence against subaltern populations. The empirical focus of this presentation is on China-Laos relations, and the epistemic positioning of highland ethnic minority groups in northern Laos. This context offers a valuable case study for examining BRI discourse due to the profound effects of Chinese investment in Laos, the geostrategic importance of Laos as a BRI ‘gateway’ between China and Southeast Asia, the deep histories of ethnic minority engagements across China and Laos, and the limited extant research on both China-Laos relations and the more localized effects of Chinese actors within the highland border regions.

Presented by JCU's Dr. Kearrin Sims

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Location: Online

What’s more important than saving lives? The challenges of regulating Tobacco in Indonesia

Date: 5 September 2022

Health experts around the world agree that smoking increases your risk of dying. Based on this, many countries have implemented policies and campaigns to reduce smoking uptake and encourage cessation. However, Indonesia is one of the few countries in which tobacco consumption, namely daily smoking rates, has not significantly decreased since 1990, bucking worldwide trends in tobacco consumption. Given the scientific consensus that smoking kills, and that at least 1 in 7 deaths in Indonesia is attributable to smoking (WHO 2018), why is it so difficult to implement tobacco control regulations?

This discussion will address some of the challenges to effective tobacco control using a social sciences lens that go beyond the public health messaging to highlight economic, political and sociological aspects of cigarettes in Indonesia. Looking at the current state of regulation and policy it appears that saving lives has not traditionally been, and nor is it now, the Indonesian government’s priority. However, in better understanding the influences at play, we can also understand where pressure points lie—what discourses need to be challenged and what advocacy can be done—in order to install potentially live-saving regulations.

Presented by Dr. Elisabeth Kramer

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Location: Online