Research Agenda

The guiding impetus behind my research is to trace how the legacies of colonialism continue to shape contemporary cultural formations in a globalised world. It attempts to expose the ways race thinking is invested in our embodied subjectivities and the affective, semiotic and material environments in which we live. Theoretically, my work primarily draws on critical race, postcolonial, queer, feminist and cultural theories.

So far I have explored these issues through an examination of the relationship between intimacy and race across various cultural sites, including everyday cultures of security, cultural citizenship and queer subcultures.

Previous Projects

1. Burqas, Borders and Babies: Intimate Citizenship in Postcolonial Australia (2012-2016)

Funded by the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Early Career Researcher Award from 2012-2015. Overall the project aims to understand the ways in which intimacy has become a site of political contestation in the postcolonial context of Australia. Post-9/11 anti-Muslim sentiment in the West has taken on an explicitly gendered and sexualised form. Across the West the ‘burqa debate’ has emerged, framing Muslim communities as inherently sexist and therefore antithetical to modernity. In Australia such debates are contextualised by the media panic surrounding ‘Muslim gang rapists’, while in the UK they are contextualised by fears of Pakistani ‘on-street grooming’. Public debates about the status of women in Shariah law are employed to legitimise the War on Terror, even as Muslim refugee women and gay men are refused asylum on grounds of sexual or gender persecution. In each of these instances questions of proper intimacy are tied to questions of good citizenship.

2. The State of Race: Islamophobia in a Post-Racial Society (2014-2015)

This was two events co-organised with Dr Alana Lentin (University of Western Sydney) and Yassir Morsi (University of South Australia) that explored the relationship between Islamophobia and post-racial society. The heralding of a ‘postracial’ era demands new lines of questioning. These events explore what race and racism mean, both conceptually and practically in the current age marked by an increasingly global Islamophobia. Islamophobia is one of the most prominent manifestations of our contemporary inability to openly address race and racism. While an emergent field has coalesced around the term ‘Islamophobia’, it remains a hotly contested term. Some commentators and public intellectuals are quick to dismiss the term as a trumped up charge designed to deflect legitimate criticism of Muslims/Islam. This series of events takes this public quandary as a symptom of the current problematic of the representation of difference in the ‘post-racial horizon’:

  • The first event was two organised panels as part of the Australian Critical Race and Whiteness Studies Association 2014 Annual Conference in Brisbane, December, 2014. The speakers included myself, Alana Lentin, Yassir Morsi, Angela Mitropoulos, Mohamad Tabbaa, Randa Abdel-Fattah and Faisal Al-Asaad.

  • The second planned event was a Masterclass in Sydney in December, 2015.

3. Anti-Asian Racism in Gay Subcultures (2003-2004)

My very first research project in 2003 examined the effects of anti-Asian racism in gay subcultures on gay Asian subjectivities. Drawing on ethnographic and archival media research, it explored how sexual racism shapes gay spaces and desires and how these in turn materially constitute the sexual subjectivities of gay Asian men and the ways that they try to negotiate these environments. Although this was only an honours research project, the subsequent publications have travelled widely and I continue to get interview requests about this research.

Current Projects

4. Intimate Securityscapes of Racial Neoliberalism

My current monograph project attempts to trace the ways intimacy and security are increasingly intertwined under racial neoliberalism in the US, UK and Australia and the ways this conjunction shapes our everyday lives. It draws on 10 years of research across two projects, including media, archival, ethnographic and interview material. The books draws on a combination of various projects funded by a Discovery Early Career Researcher Award from the Australian Research Council, a ResearchSA Fellowship and two separate Postdoctoral Fellowships from the University of South Australia, an Australian Postgraduate Award from the Commonwealth of Australia and a College of Humanities and Social Sciences Research Award from the University of Sydney.

5. Fostering Global Digital Citizenship: Diaspora Youth in a Connected World (2019-2021)

Chief Investigators: Dr Amelia Johns (University of Technology, Sydney), Dr Jessica Walton (Deakin University), Dr Gilbert Caluya (University of Melbourne) and Prof. Anita Heiss (Deakin University)

Brief Description: This project will identify the global digital citizenship dimensions of diaspora youth’s everyday digital media use. It will investigate how these practices can be fostered through digital citizenship policy and programs to improve the inclusion and participation of culturally diverse youth and maximise their effectiveness. Rather than the more common focus on risks and vulnerability, this new approach could advance understandings of the opportunity and capacity of diaspora youth digital experience. Findings will be used to strengthen digital citizenship initiatives in Australian secondary schools, to connect them more closely to global citizenship education programs, and to enhance the engagement of a diverse student body.

6. Everyday Racism in a Digital Era (2018-2020)

Researchers: Dr Gilbert Caluya, Dr Lachlan MacDowall, and Dr Yassir Morsi (Research Assistant)

This project explores what happens to everyday racism in the digital era. Most research on online racism has tended to focus on following white nationalist/far-right groups online and tracing racist speech (which continue fruitful lines of inquiry from offline research into racism based on social movements theory and verbal discrimination). This project explores how the digital technologies and imaginaries shape and influence the form of everyday racism in digital cultures.