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

Sociology of the Day of the Dead

Latin girl wears a painted face for Dia De Los Muertos

This video by Eddie G provides an engaging Mexican-American introduction to El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). Eddie G captures how one community celebrates the dead, as just one step in the “pyramid of life.” In describing the symbolism of the colours of a symbolic altar, one woman says:

[In Spanish] “The yellow is the beginning of life. The red is the momentum of the blood. Green represents settling down, starting a family, working, and helping the community. Blue represents the sky. The elders reminiscing and talking about their memories. That’s all we have left. The top is white. That’s death. “

The Day of the Dead has grown in popularity in the United States and in other places outside Mexico. Non-Mexicans may be attracted to the colourful costumes, the skulls, face-painting and the “cool” allure of death. Yet the significance of this spiritual festival is more than just about death. It is a symbol of post-colonial struggles and a celebration of life. Continue reading Sociology of the Day of the Dead


At the Corsini Collection: A Window on Renaissance, at the Art Galley Auckland Toi O Tāmaki. The Corsini family were one of the most powerful during the Renaissance. Here you see the Corsini women depicted as the Madonna – the long-suffering mother of Christ. Other Corsini women are depicted as four of the seven muses, and as self-sacrificing women from the Bible. 

Video: The Other Sociologist. 

Xu Chen, “Eternity-Buddha in Nirvana…” Born in China, the artist draws on his Buddhist upbringing to show depictions of the Buddha. He says: “I have always been curious about the differences between cultures and the alienation between them. And yet, the misconceptions cab be the beginning of awareness and understanding.”

Video: The Other Sociologist.

Passion and Procession. The Art of the Philippines. 

The works on display are by contemporary artists, some of whom also work in Australia. The artists explore the interlocking influences of religiosity and social activism on modern politics and colonial forces. The Philippines is a Christian majority nation with a politically significant Muslim minority in the South, along with various other Indigenous groups. The nation has endured various colonial periods, with the Spanish and Americans having the greatest impact in terms of violence and cultural domination. The work at the beginning and end is “The Bond is Stronger in the Age of Division,” by Geraldine Javier which explores the roots of plants as a metaphor for social connections and divisions amongst people.

Video source: The Other Sociologist.

Islamophobia and the Public Persecution of Feminist Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Yassmin Abdel-Magied

In February 2017, conservative Australian media began a sustained attack of a young feminist leader, Yassmin Abdel-Magied. That started a racist petition calling for her to be fired from ABC TV, Australia’s public broadcaster, simply for having participated in a TV panel show, Q&A, where she spoke articulately about her feminism as a Muslim-Australian woman (see the clip below). For weeks, the ABC refused to give into these racist demands.

At the same time, three One Nation candidates were running in the Western Australian election making openly racist, homophobic and sexist comments. These candidates had no political expertise, but somehow their bigotry is not offensive enough to warrant endless national debate. Yet the feminism of an educated and successful young feminist draws ire.

In late April, Abdel-Magied was subjected to further public condemnation over a brief social media post expressing her condemnation of war. One month later, a White male editor incited violence towards her employer, the ABC, and Abdel-Magied was caught in media turmoil once again. This is a case study on the deep-seated elements of Islamophobia (fear of Islam) in Australia, and its real life consequences on young women of religious and ethnic minority backgrounds.

Continue reading Islamophobia and the Public Persecution of Feminist Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Sociology of New Year’s Resolutions

Did you know that New Year’s Resolutions started off as a Swedish Methodist idea imported to the USA? Sociological research from the 1940s shows that most people who made resolutions were concerned about being better Christians. There were three general themes:

  1. to be a better person: be more understanding, control one’s temper, live a better life);
  2. to take better care of one’s health: stop smoking/ drinking; lose (or interestingly to gain) weight; and
  3. to improve one’s home life: save money; be more engaged with family.

In the 1950s, outside of North America, people around the world did not see New Year’s Resolutions as a local custom.

Learn more about the surprising cultural history of New Year’s Resolutions on my blog.

Buddhism at Federation Square

Go sociology of religion! Melbourne was excited about this free public talk on Buddhism and meditation by Gen-la Kelsang Dekong. Held at Federation Square. 

Source: My Instagram @OtherSociology.


Eri Hayward shares her story of being a transgender woman in Utah, USA. She is of Japanese descent and was raised in a Mormon community, where she says she didn’t get an “opportunity to learn about things that were different,” like the support available to her as a transgender woman. This short documentary includes Eri and her parents reflecting on what it was like to understand her gender identity. She initially “came out as gay” but her story reflects that at the time this was a stepping stone “to be myself, which is a woman.”

Eri also talks about the difficulties of claiming her own sense of beauty and the moment when she learned about what it means to be transgender. She was visiting her grandmother in Japan, when her grandmother pointed out a parade of transgender people and said, “Oh, this is all about you!” Later, Eri is shown talking with family and friends about her upcoming sex reassignment surgery over a barbecue.

Both Eri and her parents discuss their desire for their Church to make transgender members feel included, including the right to a temple marriage. Eri notes that her faith has been, at times, a source of alienation, as she often feels uncomfortable at Church, but also a source of strength during her transition. 

“I think that really being so uncomfortable in my body for the longest time helped me really separate what are physical things and what are my spiritual components. I don’t think I succumbed to my body. I think I succumbed to my spirit and what it needed.

It was just letting go and letting the picture come into focus without me trying to force it to be something that it’s not. But when it comes down to it, the only thing I can believe in is the relationship between me and God. " 

This is really beautifully told story about intergenerational family connections and spirituality of transgender people of colour.