Sex, genders, and sexualities

This cluster seeks to combine contemporary and historical perspectives to understand the multiple power structures that so profoundly shape experiences of sex, genders and sexualities – as well as attempts to confront and overcome these structures in the pursuit of human rights.

This cluster seeks to combine contemporary and historical perspectives to understand the multiple power structures that so profoundly shape experiences of sex, genders and sexualities. It also examines attempts to confront and overcome these structures in the pursuit of human rights.

We investigate a range of movements for rights and reform for gender, sex and sexuality diverse people, and the categories, objectives and strategies that have animated these movements. Recognising the crucial intersections between academia and activisms, we share a commitment to decolonial and intersectional analyses that highlight the need for the voices and concerns of people of colour and Indigenous people to be central to both activist and academic work. Our research critically interrogates past demands and champions current rights to live a safe, dignified and thriving existence as ‘women’, or as gender, sex and sexuality diverse people. Through our attention to diversity and to the historical and colonizing forces that have underpinned ‘development’, we critically analyse issues relating to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG 5 ‘Gender Equality’ and SDG 16 ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’.

Specific Projects

Memory-Keepers addresses the significant problem of historical amnesia regarding women’s activist work. It examines the rationale, strategies and tactics that Australian women and women’s organisations employed to preserve their own histories in the face of a male-dominated public agenda. It analyses how they acted as gate-keepers of their own memory until wider social shifts allowed that memory public visibility. In doing so, it will contribute a deeper historical understanding of women’s agency – from activists to archivists. 

The project funded by UOW Community Engagement Grant will be carried out in close partnership with Advance Diversity Services (ADS). It will conduct a survey, focus group discussions and interviews to investigate:

  1. Diversity service workers’ attitudes and concerns towards ADS’ plan to provide support services to CALD LGBTIQ+ communities in the context of COVID-19;
  2. The workers’ knowledge and skills gap in delivering community outreach initiatives and services to this social group. Using findings generated from this pilot study, ADS will be able to develop appropriate staff training programmes and manuals, and subsequently, effective community outreach initiatives to support CALD LGBTIQ+ people affected by effects of COVID-19 pandemic.

The project explores the migration biographies of queer individuals who have emigrated out of their Southeast Asian home country. Through autobiographical account and empirical findings collected from in-depth interviews, the study will address these questions:

  • How do we develop survival strategies to capacitate ourselves for queer life-affirming projects?
  • What resources, privileges and reserves do we possess to succeed in capacitation of self and significant others?
  • What kind of trade-offs are implicated? What persistent forms of debility exist in our queer migrant lives?

Dr Marc Calvini-Lefebvre,

Funded by A*Midex Initiative of Excellence (Idex, consortium of 8 institutions), Aix-Marseille University, France

The ambition of this open science project is to contribute to and analyse the process of transmission of feminist memory by engaging citizens in the production of a digital map of the memorials to the women’s suffrage movement around the world. At its heart are three linked questions. First, how to interest citizens in the co-production of scientific knowledge using digital humanities? Second, what can we learn from the analysis of a vast dataset of sites of memory to the women’s suffrage movement, both about those sites and the (local, national, transnational) “memorial cultures” they are a part of? Finally, what are the drivers of the “désir de mémoire” which leads one to acquire and transmit a “feminist cultural memory”?

Sharon Crozier-De Rosa and Ana Stevenson, with CIs Vera Mackie and Andrea Witcomb
Australian Research Council Discovery Project(DP230100875, 2023-2026)

This project aims to investigate how the history of social movements has been collected, catalogued and curated by archives and museums. It is significant because it will make these histories available to form an equitable and inclusive civic culture. An expected outcome is an interdisciplinary approach producing new knowledge about citizens’ roles in shaping private and public collections, and about the use of these collections to shape memory and generate wider historical literacy. Benefits include providing insight into inclusive physical and digital collecting practices, which enables the project to address UNESCO’s goal of achieving greater access to decision-making about culture, heritage and the formation of social identities.

Sharon Crozier-De Rosa
State Library of New South Wales Visiting Scholar Program 2023

Jean Arnot is a fascinating, yet overlooked feminist figure. She was a pioneering State librarian who dedicated herself to equal pay for women and men. She played a leading role in organisations including the National Council of Women, Business and Professional Women’s Club and League of Women Voters. She is referred to in library and labour histories, and has a memorial fellowship for female librarians named after her. Yet, despite being remembered as a feminist and ‘truly great political activist’ (1995), she does not feature in Australian feminist histories. Perhaps her claim later in life that she was never ‘an active political person’ has obscured her legacy. This project does not view this claim as limiting. Instead, it is inspired by it to adopt a microhistory approach to examine Arnot’s life with the aim of expanding our knowledge about the complex nature of feminist identity in the oft-forgotten years between first and second wave feminism. It further proposes to shine a spotlight on Arnot’s progressive championing of professional women’s economic and emotional self-worth. Lastly, it investigates Arnot’s little-known archival activism to ascertain if and how her expertise in librarianship, combined with her gender activism, informed the preservation of women’s history.

Dr Cammi Gannon-Webb

This consists of two discrete but intersecting projects:

Decolonial Feminisms in Oceania

This project explores decolonial feminisms in Oceania. It will canvass varying assumptions across the Pacific concerning the central tenets of feminism, debate whether feminism is a useful gloss for the types of politics, motivations, criticisms, actions and networks many women in Oceania are involved in and examine differences in approaches to and experiences of feminist activism among urban and rural women in the Pacific and among women living ‘at home’ and women in diaspora. One intended outcome is an edited volume of essays.

Women’s Production of Abundance in the Pacific and Beyond

This is a project with a group of anthropologists in Australia, the United States and West Papua exploring women’s production of abundance within and outside of the formal economy in an effort to counter deficit narratives of women’s labour in the Pacific and beyond.

Dr Rachel Loney-Howes, 
(CGR25/19-20), RMIT-UOW-La Trobe

Sexual assault is a serious issue that is under reported to the police and criminal justice system. Estimates suggest only 15% of sexual assaults are ever reported to authorities. In light of increased public attention to this issue, there is growing pressure for police and governments to provide alternative reporting options for survivors. Alternative and informal reporting mechanisms are becoming increasingly popular as a way for survivors to maintain control of their story, access therapeutic supports, and seek justice. However, designing a scheme that is fit for purpose and suitable for a diverse population requires careful consideration. Our research team is dedicated to understanding the potentials and uses of alternative reporting mechanisms. We aim to provide research that will inform the development of a best-practice model. By working closely with survivors, government agencies and other stakeholders, we hope to create a reporting pathways that empowers survivors and improves responses to sexual assault. ORC – S

Learn more about the Alternative Reporting Project