Anxious Futures

This cluster explores anxieties and related emotions (anger, fear, hope, etc) connected with the anticipated and immediate erosion of rights with a specific interest in the future.

While terms like Dystopia/Utopia conjure ideas of a worst/best case scenario, the theme considers the dystopian and utopian elements of the present and their connection to perceptions of possible futures. This includes anxieties over climate change and ecological disaster; anger, ressentiment (but also hope) in contemporary political cycles; fears over surveillance technology in governance, welfare and the punitive state; concerns over post-productive futures, AI, and extractive technologies; stresses associated with urban futures and inequalities; emotional labour, resilience and meaningful work futures; and social isolation and loneliness in late modernity during and after COVID-19.

The research in this cluster will contribute to UOW research relating to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)’s 13 ‘Climate action’, 8 ‘Decent work’, 3 ‘Health and Well-Being’, and 11 ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities’.

Specific Projects

The emergency footing of the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed vulnerability in frontline workers (i.e., teachers and nurses) capacity to adjust (cognitively, behaviourally & emotionally) to meet work demands when exposed to both new crises and ongoing everyday vicissitudes. The transition to COVID recovery – ‘normality’ further complicates these adjustments and capacities. 

This project aims to explore factors supporting teachers and nurses’ resilience and adaptability as they recover from COVID-disrupted contexts by gathering information on their resilience, adaptability, and other variables in practice sites (e.g., schools and hospitals). The project includes a multidimensional instrument distributed to nurses and teachers both in Australia and in other international contexts (i.e., Philippines, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and New Zealand). Findings will enhance understanding of how to better support frontline workers. The COVID–19 pandemic has impacted the mental health of frontline workers and brings new urgency to prior calls for policy discussions on enhancing resilience workers. A recovery pandemic landscape will leave many frontline workers with residual trauma—immediate, short, medium, and long term— impacting health, and requiring stronger engagement in policy response within workplaces including, professional learning, and support for residual trauma in transitioning to COVID recovery conditions.

As nations reel from the effects of poverty, inequality, climate change and now the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, it feels as though the world is struggling through a period characterised by pessimism, cynicism, and anxiety.

This project seeks to challenges individualised understandings of emotion, revealing how they relate to cultural, economic and political realities in difficult times. Combining numerous empirical studies, and theoretical developments from around the world, the diverse contributors explore how dystopian visions of the future influence, and are influenced by, the emotions of an anxious and precarious present. 

This is an original investigation into the changing landscape of emotion in dark and uncertain times

This project aims to investigate the experience and impact of loneliness amongst Australians during and after COVID-19. Loneliness is associated with poorer health and wellbeing. About one quarter of Australians regularly experience loneliness, and this rate is significantly higher amongst vulnerable people, including older, younger, and single people, and those with disability, or who lack employment or adequate social network connections. Loneliness notably increased during the COVID-19 lockdowns all over the world. The project empirically investigates the extent, experience, and stigma around loneliness. It also theoretically critiques singular understandings of the concept of loneliness, and looks at it as a multi-type concept (e.g. examining social, emotional, collective, and existential loneliness).

The project employs a mixed methods multi-site approach to generate new knowledge on the impact of loneliness, and identify effective strategies for prevention, intervention and management amongst diverse groups of people. Findings will strengthen support services provided by state and national organisations and provide critical knowledge to support lonely Australians.