Youth, transitions and bodies: 

This research aims to advance sociological understanding of body image and health in young people’s transitions from education to employment in rural and urban contexts. ‘Body image’ is consistently one of the top three issues of concern for young people (Mission Australia, 2010, 2011, 2012), with data showing that 33.6% of young people are extremely concerned or very concerned about body image. Whilst youth studies and the sociology of youth has acknowledged the significance of body image issues for young people (Frost, 2003), the physical body and bodily experience is usually not featured as a main area of study. Youth transitions from education to work have been a central focus of numerous studies in youth sociology, many of which are longitudinal, generating important knowledge about the ways in which young people navigate and respond to change. However, body image and health has not been studied in this context. This research addresses a gap in knowledge about the changing nature of concern about body image during the crucial years of transition from education into work. The study incorporates the use of interviews and photo elicitation with 30 participants aged 18-24 in a range of educational and work settings in rural, regional and urban locations in Australia.

Investigator: Dr Julia Coffey (University of Newcastle)

Body work, gender and the body: 

This project explores the dynamics of gender, health and embodiment in constructions of young people’s identities. Through interviews with young people, the research explored the affective relations involved in body work, including the ways that health and gender affect participants and impact on the ways their bodies may be lived. The project explored practices including diet, fitness, lifting weights, tattooing and cosmetic surgery. The increase in health, beauty and fitness industries is aligned with an increase in attention to the body, and ‘body image’ for both young women and men. I approach the body conceptually as a ‘relationship of forces’ which connects to other forces, including social relations such as gender, consumer culture and health discourses. These relations are central in the ways participants manage, understand and live their bodies, and affect but do not determine their bodies. By focusing on the descriptions by participants as to how the body feels through body work practices, I explore the affects or embodied sensations of body work.

Investigator: Dr Julia Coffey (University of Newcastle)

Genital cosmetic surgery among girls and women in Australia: 

This project elucidates the reasons for increasing numbers of girls and women in Australia undergoing genital cosmetic surgery. We map perceptions of female genital appearance through interviews with women, cosmetic surgeons, and gynaecologists, as well as an online survey, and monitoring of social media discussion, activism by young women, and advertising.

Investigators: Dr Maggie Kirkman (Monash University), Prof Jane Fisher (Monash University), Prof Kay Souter (Monash University) and Dr Amy Dobson (Curtin University)