Sociology of Indian-Australians and the Diwali Festival

I’ve been away for work for awhile now, and hope to bring you more on this soon. For now, I thought I’d share with you a post I had planned to  publish weeks ago, but haven’t been able to finish until now. Let’s talk about the sociology of Indian people in Australia, with a case study of the Hindu festival of Diwali in Melbourne.

Indian migration to Australia has a long history, dating back to the 19th Century,  with early records showing the British brought Indian servants (noting this may have included forced servitude). At the time of colonial Australia’s first Census, there were 1,800 Indian people in Australia. Today, Indian-Australians represent our fourth largest migrant group and they are also the biggest growing migrant group next to China, with their population doubling in the past decade, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In the most recent Census of 2016, over 455,000 Australians were born in India, corresponding to 1.9% of our population, though this does not include the second-generation (their children born in Australia).  Together with Nepalese-Australians, Indian people make up 76% of the Hindu population in Australia (noting that Hindu people make up only 1.9% of our national population).

Indian families gather at Diwali: Indian Festival of Light Oct 2014. Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia
Diwali: Indian Festival of Light, Federation Square

Continue reading Sociology of Indian-Australians and the Diwali Festival

Event: Tech Inclusion Melbourne

Man and woman of colour and White woman sit around a board room table, another woman writes on her laptop

I’ll be speaking on a panel at the first Tech Inclusion conference in Australia, in Melbourne, on 13 February 2018. Tech Inclusion is aimed at various practitioners from the tech industry to discuss issues of diversity. This includes: executives, hiring managers, human resources, data scientists, educators, entrepreneurs, investors, policymakers and diversity and inclusion advocates.

I’ll be on the panel hosted by Cory-Ann Joseph, UX Lead at ANZ. The panel is called: We’ve got a time machine, now what are we going to do with it?

From the event website:

Growing up in Australia came with a sense that we were lagging behind our bigger, ‘cooler’ brother of the USA – movies, pop music, concert tours all took weeks or months to get to us – if at all. But Silicon Valley doesn’t always lead the way. Mistakes were made in the ‘early’ days of diversity and inclusion: centering men at Women in Tech events, a focus on women first instead of race, and the victim-blamey rhetoric of women needing to change their behaviour. And perhaps the biggest mistake of all is that despite a decade since the first D&I efforts – not much has changed.

How can the tech industry in Australia avoid the same and chart a different course for the future?

Book on the event website.

Date: 13 February, doors open 8.30 am.

Address: Whitehouse Institute Of Design, 672 Bourke St, Melbourne.

Logo of the Tech Inclusion Melbourne
Tech Inclusion Melbourne

Let’s Talk

A new year, a new visual sociology! In January 2018 edition, we see colonisation and travel for an equity keynote speech.

40,000 years

“40,000 years is a long time. 40,000 years still on my mind.” This iconic street art mural will be restored. It stands on Lawson Street, opposite the busy Redfern train station. Pained in 1983 by Carol Ruff, the project has been awarded $38,000 by the City of Sydney to re-beautify the art. Ruff will not be involved due to illness. An exciting community project!

Continue reading Let’s Talk

Sociology of Gender in Jean Paul Gaultier’s Work

The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, in Melbourne, made some interesting comments on gender.

Gaultier’s evolving style blends ideas of masculinity and femininity, but at the same time is still centred on mainstream ideas of heterosexual women: showing off curves on (mostly) slender bodies.

JPG has used gender non-conforming models throughout his career, including transgender women, and other body types and femininities seldom seen in high fashion, such as “plus sized” models. This is referenced as part of the exhibition, but it would have been more interesting to see this displayed via the mannequins.

The room dedicated to the artist’s punk roots was an absolute delight, and I spent way too much time in the futuristic-themed room displaying his film designs. I was ecstatic to see the designs from Peter Greenaway’s The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover.

The stories of the designer’s life were my favourite aspects of the exhibition, giving context for his lifelong interest for evoking traditional Western styles of femininity using corsets.

JPG is a fascinating figure that has commanded much academic attention, due to his contradictory reflection of art and commercialism and for speaking out on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) issues; and not without controversy.


Artability is a free exhibition at the Ian Potter Centre, Melbourne, featuring visual artists of various culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds and ages who have a disability or who live with mental illness. This piece is “Offering of Peace and Love” by Kishari Patwardhan.

Emotion Work

The idea of “emotion work” recognises that our feelings are shaped by society. Our culture determines how we understand, discuss and act out our emotions. Sociologist Arlie Hochschild has conducted decades of research on how emotion work impacts our jobs. For example she studied how flight attendants are expected to remain calm while irate passengers are rude and make excessive demands. Flight attendants are not paid for this emotion work. They are expressly paid to provide customer service. The additional emotion work is taxing on their personal health and psychological wellbeing. This type of invisible emotional labour affects people in different jobs, but especially impacts women.

Hochschild writes in the journal Contexts:

“Over the last 40 years, the number of service sector jobs has grown. By my estimate, some six out of 10 of those service jobs call for substantial amounts of emotional labour. This work doesn’t fall equally upon the two genders; roughly a quarter of men but half of women work in jobs heavy in emotional labor. Emotional labour has hidden costs, and these fall more heavily on women.”

The work that individuals put into managing their own and other people’s emotions is therefore gendered. Women are conditioned to remain calm, placate others and even smile as clients take out their frustrations on them. Customer service workers are dehumanised because their job expects them to put up with abuse. This type of work takes a heavy emotional toll on women, especially in caring professions.

Office settings also involve a level of emotion work; we see in the way we treat others. The TV show How I Met Your Mother humorously depicted “the chain of screaming,” which is how each level of the management hierarchy yells at their subordinates to alleviate personal grievances instead of dealing with problems in a constructive manner.

The Language of Social Justice

Common law does not require people are given access to an interpreter but legal cases show that use of interpreters does not always lead to an accurate and fair presentation of evidence in court. This is especially problematic for Indigenous Australians who speak diverse languages that don’t necessarily translate well through the mouths of a poorly trained interpreter.

Social science researchers already challenge the criminal justice system which disproportionately incarcerates Indigenous Australians. Indigenous Australians are 15 times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Indigenous Australians. In the Northern Territory, Indigenous Australians make up 86% of prisoners. In many cases they are jailed for drug offences or petty crimes like driving without a licence (though without reckless endangerment) in remote areas where there is no adequate public transport or access to nearby social services.

Lack of universal access to quality interpreters is just one way to make the criminal justice system less unfair, though working to eliminate unnecessary policing of Indigenous Australians requires broader social reforms.

Art by Adnate in Melbourne. Photo by Zuleyka Zevallos

Visual Sociology of Christmas

Here is a visual sociology of Christmas in Melbourne.

The photos show a Melbourne nativity scene features people of colour. Not much further away in the Myer windows (second photo) it’s a different story… or rather the same story with only White figures.

Continue reading Visual Sociology of Christmas

African Music and Cultural Festival in Melbourne

This looks a lot like Latin dancing at the African Music and Cultural Festival in Melbourne but it is actually the Kizomba (from Angola and other countries). They then dance to a Spanish language song, an African salsa fusion they put together.

Continue reading African Music and Cultural Festival in Melbourne

Art and Culture in Multicultural Melbourne

Our visual sociology for March to June 2015 includes the Japanese Summer Festival in Melbourne, extraordinary public art in Canberra and a quick trip to Sydney.

World’s Most Liveable City

Melbourne: the world’s most liveable city! In late 2014 Melbourne was named number 1 of 150 capital cities in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Index. This is the fourth time we topped the survey. We rated highly in healthcare, education and infrastructure. Part of Melbourne’s appeal is our multiculturalism. First and second generation migrants (people born overseas and their children) make up around half of all Victorians. Melbournians come from over 200 cultural backgrounds, speak over 260 languages, and belong to 135 different religions. 2 March

I took this photo off Hosier Lane. Artist: kilproductions. See the artist’s website. Continue reading Art and Culture in Multicultural Melbourne