Theme: Identity transformations

Identity transformations is the new overarching research theme for the Hawke Research Institute (HRI) at the Division of Education, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of South Australia. This theme brings together HRI researchers from the School of Art, Architecture and Design; the School of Communication, International Studies and Languages; the School of Education; the School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy; and the David Unaipon College of Indigenous Education and Research. The theme will also be addressed by researchers located within the HRI nationally funded research centres and concentrations:

•   Australian Centre for Child Protection
•   International Centre for Muslim and non-muslim
•   Centre for Postcolonial and Globalisation Studies
•   Centre for Peace and Security
•   Centre for Research in Education (CREd)
•   Group for Research in Integrity and Governance
•   Hawke EU Centre for Mobilities, Migrations and
    Cultural Transformations
•   Research Centre for Gender Studies.


Overview of the program

Identity has become one of the pressing issues of our times, debated globally throughout the academy and in the wider public sphere. This is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the debate occurring over identity politics and its wider consequences. From anti-globalisation protestors to new ecological warriors, from devotees of therapy culture to defenders of international human rights: the culture of identity politics is fast redefining the public political sphere. What future for society and politics after the turn to identity? 

In the social sciences and humanities, recent social theory has identified pressures for 'individualisation', 'reflexive individualisation', 'hyper-individualism' and 'new individualism' as key processes of global social change. Today a breakdown of traditional stable identities based on social class hierarchies is said to give rise to multiple, fragmented and more liquidised identity practices, which in turn unleashes new possibilities and risks for personal and social life. 



HRI research on identity transformations

The Hawke Research Institute seeks to develop a new agenda for identity studies in the twenty-first century. At HRI, questions of identity are examined from a rich variety of perspectives including historical, sociological, political, psychological, cultural, aesthetic, spatial, global, postmodern and feminist approaches. Through drawing the social sciences, humanities and the creative arts together in a reflective configuration, HRI researchers will examine the constitution and transformation of, among others, racial, ethnic, gendered, queer, consumer, virtual, work, childhood, traumatised and global identities.

As the largest institute in the social sciences, humanities and the creative arts in Australia, the HRI will investigate identity transformations from a multitude of perspectives, approaches and methodologies. These include among many others:

  • globalisation and the global electronic economy
  • trauma, memory and amnesia
  • creative identity responses to disasters, emergencies and catastrophes
  • poetic evolutions and new art forms relating to identities
  • narrative transformations of identities
  • identities in the frame of gender, feminism and the body
  • identity politics in a post-national constellation.

Research nodes

The crisis of identity today has its roots in a range of trans-boundary, transnational and global phenomena, which include the spread of new information technologies, the development of multinational culture industries and multinational telecommunication corporations, the organisation of intensive transnational networks of production and distribution, the integration of finance systems in the world economy and the formation of transnational political alliances and lobbies. There is now an enormous amount of research in the social sciences and humanities documenting the ways in which the global electronic economy is transforming state power, financial systems, political community and social capital. What is missing to date, however, is transdisciplinary research on the consequences of globalisation for the production, performance, negotiation and politics of identities.

Identity transformations at the HRI is designed to fill this gap – with both 'blue skies' conceptual research and detailed empirical studies into the analysis and critique of identity, both at the individual and collective levels, in the global age. This program spans the social sciences, humanities and creative arts, and given the complexity of the topic shall be organised into the following 5 research nodes:

  • biotechnologies: the analysis of identities where biotechnological processes directly intrude into nature, especially human nature
  • disasters: examining how planetary risks and catastrophes including environmental disasters impact upon people and cultures, bringing questions of identity into sharp focus
  • mobilities: the conditions and consequences for identities of increased movements of people, objects, goods, services and information around the globe
  • intimacies: the complex, contradictory reshaping of identities arising from sexual, gender and corporeal transformations
  • métissage: the formation of new transcultural identities through diaspora and migration giving rise to new communities, complex new life stories, new art forms and new narratives.

Read more about the research nodes

Areas of study and research

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