Education, Employment and Transitions

  • Young People and Affective Labour: Work in contemporary capitalist societies no longer merely requires that young people accumulate and deploy skills, but often demands that young people invest and perform particular identities as part of work. Young people’s labour is no longer only about the production of commodities, but is often about creating experiences for others and establishing social relationships between a product and an audience. This ‘affective labour’ has thereby become one of the major ways in which youth identities are constructed and one of the major sites at which ‘youthfulness’ is produced. This project explores young people’s involvement in affective labour, focusing in particular on the production of worker identities in the service sector. The project examines how gendered and classed identities are produced in the course of affective labour, and explores the personal experiences of this kind of work in the context of the contemporary economy.
  • Investigators: Dr David Farrugia (University of Newcastle); Dr Julia Coffey (University of Newcastle); Dr Steven Threadgold (University of Newcastle)
  • From Subculture to Career? DIY Economies and Network Capital: This sociological study examines how participation in Do-it-Yourself youth subcultures can provide young people with skills and competencies to engage in forms of Do-it-Yourself careers. The project considers how young people faced with an uncertain and precarious labour market manufacture work opportunities that do not necessarily rely on formal qualifications and training. A small inter-connected DIY music scene in Newcastle, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne will be studied through interviews and observation to investigate how young people involved in creative endeavours use subcultural and network capitals to foster and maintain mutually supporting activities that can lead to the formulation of sustainable subcultural careers. These activities rely upon national and sometimes international networks, which have social, symbolic, economic and digital elements. The project will thus generate significant new knowledge about the ways some young people negotiate the risks of an upwardly credentialised and casualised labour market.
  • Investigator: Dr Steven Threadgold (University of Newcastle)

Health and Wellbeing

  • 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)

New Media and Youth Cultures

  • Growing Up Online: Digital social media like Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr are not only sites of interaction and identity-work, but they also come to serve as archives of ‘growing up’ experiences for young people. After a decade of Facebook, as social media moves from being ‘new media’ into everyday practice, this project seeks to account for how longitudinal life traces mediated online are re-visited (or not) by young users. More broadly, we seek to explore the role of digital social media in the lives of young people in Australia.
  • Investigator: Dr Brady Robards (University of Tasmania) with Dr Sian Lincoln (Liverpool John Moores University)
  • Hipsters and Bogans: Youth, Class and Culture: Using ‘figurative methods’ and interviews, this project looks at terms like ‘hipster’ and ‘bogan’ analysing the ways these terms are operationalised towards young people in media and popular culture. These figuress enable distinction to be performed while eschewing the very notion of class. Both terms are mostly used as a pejorative towards various youth taste cultures. The hipster is a global figure used in many English speaking countries. It tends to equate with middle class endeavours and is at least allowed a reflexive irony that sees the term used in a quite playful way. On the other hand, the bogan is a specifically Australian term but has relations in other countries that denote a similar class position such as ‘chav’, ‘white trash’, ‘red neck’ etc. Through processes of symbolic violence, the ‘bogan’ has rapidly become a prominent cultural folk devil in Australia. For Skeggs, ‘Some people can use the classifications and characteristics of race, class or femininity as a resource [hipsters] whilst others cannot because they are positioned as them [bogans]’ (my additions). These figures are indicative of the ways class is made and of the ways the boundaries between them, both local and global, are fuzzy sites of cultural conflict. As precariousness becomes normalised for even the well-educated middle classes, these figures also serve to highlight processes of global social change as they illustrate new forms of class based anxieties. The ‘bogan’ and terms like it tap into middle class insecurities producing forms of ‘downward envy’ (Everingham) and ‘disgusted subject’ (Lawler). The ‘hipster’ plays a dual role: it represents a kind of clown that allows the middle class to both ‘reflexively’ laugh at itself alongside an ‘ambivalent’ and somewhat sheepish recognition of the ‘cruel optimism’ (Berlant) of consumer culture. analysing the ways these terms are operationalised towards young people in media and popular culture can enliven global comparative youth sociology.
  • Investigator: Dr Steven Threadgold (University of Newcastle)
  • Sexting, gender, and youth in Australia: understanding youth digital sexual cultures and responses to them: Young people increasingly use sexually explicit content in their online and mobile interactions (sexting). This project aims to better understand the gendered and sexual dimensions of digital youth cultures, and how youth sexting incidents are handled in Australian communities. The project will use digital ethnography in two school communities. It will also gather the accounts of school staff, youth, and families directly involved in sexting incidents involving legal minors in order to provide nuanced perspectives on the impacts and effectiveness of current community responses. The research will provide recommendations on how harm can be reduced for Australian youth interacting with mobile and social media.
  • Investigator: Dr Amy Dobson (University of Queensland)
  • Youth, mobile technologies and gender politics: young people’s beliefs about gender and ethical use of communication technologies: This project examined young people’s framing of gender roles in relation to cybersafety education films. The project analyses the nature of sexual politics in high school communities in relation to young people’s engagement with social network sites and mobile communication devices, in the social context of an alleged broad ‘sexualisation of culture’.
  • Investigators: Dr Amy Dobson; Assoc Prof Mary Lou Rasmussen, Dr Danielle Tyson;

Globalisation, Citizenship and Social Inclusion

  • Young People and Social Inclusion in the Multicultural City: Three quarters of the world’s children and young people live in large, multi-ethnic cities where issues of conflict and difference inevitably arise in everyday civic life. While much attention has been paid to discord, violence and disengagement on the part of young people, this project investigates the ways young people cultivate cohesion and inclusion to build productive multicultural communities. It explores young people’s intercultural relations in five Australian cities as well as three international sites: Prato, Italy, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • Investigators: Associate Professor Anita Harris (Monash University)
  • Australian Muslim youth challenging extremism through counter-narratives: A small minority of Muslim Australian youth are attracted to Islamism (Islamic extremism) but most are not. This is a contentious topic and key national security concern. We look at the counter-narratives to extremism produced by Muslim youth themselves; remixing everyday resources of faith, family, friends and popular culture. Using peer researchers, the project design captures the day-to-day informal negotiation of both the Islamist meta-narrative of extremism, and the Muslim moral panic story that influences Australian politics and media. Data is collected both offline and online. The project focuses on negotiation of multiple identities, and creative practices of youth culture.
  • Investigators: Professor Pam Nilan, Professor Terry Lovat, Dr Julia Coffey (Newcastle University)
  • Youth Homelessness in Late Modernity: This project explores the consequences of experiencing homelessness for young people’s identities. Drawing on empirical material gathered in both urban and rural contexts, the project situates young homeless identities within the broader social terrain of contemporary modern societies such as Australia. The project also explores how homelessness is positioned within systems of moral worth that ascribe value to reflexive individualism. Contemporary young people are under pressure to navigate their lives from a position of individual personal responsibility, and this project explores the way that this influences young people’s relationship to themselves and others.
  • Investigators: Dr David Farrugia (University of Newcastle)
  • Spaces of Youth: Processes of cultural and economic globalisation are reshaping the spaces and places that young people engage with as they build lives. The global mobility of economic capital, and the new connectivities offered by digital communications technologies, are all reshaping young people’s economic opportunities and personal identities in different places. This project is a wide ranging study on the spatial dimensions of the youth period in a global context. It explores the way that space and place operate as concepts in academic and social policy understandings of youth, the global economic inequalities that shape the youth period, the role of place in shaping young people’s personal aspirations, and the significance of mobility and displacement for young people around the world.
  • Investigators: Dr David Farrugia (University of Newcastle).