Anti-Racism

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Anti-racism banner on municipal building

The goal of the Anti-Racism Hallmark Research Initiative is to undertake and disseminate solutions-focused anti-racism research and interventions to combat racism at both the interpersonal and structural levels, in collaboration with government, community organisations and businesses.

About

Racism is a pressing social problem both globally and in Australia. Racism is the outcome of beliefs that one social group is superior to others. It manifests interpersonally and structurally, targeting racialised others. Racism is based on a variety of ascribed characteristics including appearance, Indigeneity, ethnicity, religion, caste and others. It is part of everyday life, shaping all aspects of our lives including our education system, health, workplaces, and criminal justice system. It results in differential distribution of power, resources, and opportunities to racialised groups. Racism is a ‘wicked problem’: one which is multi-faceted, constantly changing, and very difficult to solve. While racism shares features around the world, it has locally specific manifestations, making an Australian approach to anti-racism essential.

The Anti-Racism Hallmark Research Initiative responds to this imperative. Our goal is to undertake and disseminate solutions-focused anti-racism research and interventions to combat racism at both the interpersonal and structural levels. We will do this in collaboration with government, community organisations and businesses.

The Anti-Racism HRI spans Indigenous and migration scholarship, which have historically been separate, creating new links between researchers in these fields. We also bring together students, graduate researchers, early-career researchers and senior scholars from a wide range of disciplines including business, health, sociology, education, cultural studies, psychology, legal studies, and economics. Through our community partnerships and interdisciplinary capacity-building activities and research projects, we aim to:

  • Build the knowledge base about anti-racism.
  • Build capacity and collaborations for successfully undertaking anti-racism research.
  • Translate new knowledge into effective interventions, policies, and practices and work towards developing a set of assets that can be used to support change into the future.

While our research focus will be elaborated and refined in conjunction with our partners and based on our early research, preliminary research themes identified to date include:

  • A focus on disrupting and challenging structural racism.
  • Addressing legacies of colonialism including those within the University of Melbourne.
  • Addressing anti-racism in the digital space.

Outputs

The following activities and projects are planned to achieve our engagement, capacity building and research objectives:

Stock-take project: In our first year, we will be undertaking a stock-take of current anti-racism initiatives to ascertain what already exists and their impacts. This foundational mapping will inform our program of research for the life of the Hallmark Research Initiative and beyond.

Research Incubator workshops: Yearly workshops will engage students and researchers from across the career spectrum to foster interdisciplinary links, further inform research priorities, and stimulate creative ideas for seed-funding and other research proposals.

Public seminars: Monthly seminars will feature leading scholars and representative of community organisations undertaking anti-racism research or activities. Seminars will be open to University of Melbourne staff and students, academics and students from other Universities, and community members and stakeholders and support links and engagement between these groups.

Seed-funding grant scheme: Seed-funding grants will be offered in years one and two and will provide opportunities for University of Melbourne researchers to undertake anti-racism research. Funded proposals will include early-career researchers and partnerships with community organisations, government and business.

Symposia: A one-day conference in years two and three will showcase seed-funded projects and others undertaken by our range of internal and external stakeholders.

Research experience program: Undergraduates will be invited to apply for a research experience program stipend which will give them the opportunity to work as research assistants over summer and winter breaks on the stocktake project in year one and on additional HRI-funded anti-racism projects in years two and three.

Events

Projects funded in 2022

Political Discourses Against Racism and Caste

Researchers: Clayton Chin (SSPS, Arts), Farrah Ahmed (Law), Hamza Bin Jehangir (SPSS, Arts)

External partners: ACU, Jindal Global Law School, Jawaharlal Nehru Uni, Delhi

This pilot project aims to initiate comparative and global approaches to studying anti-racism. To do this, it aims to comparatively investigate and evaluate anti-racist and anti-casteist state action across three countries. The three chosen case studies are (a) the Canadian government’s national anti-racism strategy (2019-2022); (b) the Australian Human Rights Commission‘s national anti-racism strategy (2013-2022); and (c) the Indian state’s constitutional and legal anti-caste aspirations and actions (1950-2022). To facilitate such a comparison, this project draws on theories from legal, political and sociological approaches. It proceeds by exploring the relations, synergies and tensions between anti-racism and anti-casteism to frame the analysis and provide the conceptual and normative resources needed.

These case studies have been chosen for their potential to (a) enhance understanding of the range of anti-casteist and anti-racism initiatives that states could deploy; (b) illuminate the extent to which anti-casteist and anti-racism initiatives have overlapping aims, strategies and outcomes; and (c) explore how anti-racist and anti-casteist discourses might relate to state action on race and caste.

Expected outcomes include increased understanding of state approaches to tackling racism and casteism as systemic issues and fostering inclusive citizenship, which should ultimately contribute to the creation of more effective state anti-racism and anti-casteism strategies.

Exacerbation and attenuation of racism during and after the 2019-2020 bushfireseld

Researchers: Iain Walker (Psychology, MDHS), Cameo Dalley (SCC, Arts)

External partners: Indigenous orgs, ANU

Natural disasters place enormous stresses on individuals, families, and communities. They often bring people together, enhancing cohesion and belongingness; but they also can increase tension and hostility. Our earlier work after the Australian 2019-2020 bushfires produced anecdotal evidence that, during the fires, Indigenous people in some communities experienced greater incidents of racism. These personal reports raise many concerns, including about the role of racism as a barrier to emergency response services, which are known to support resilience and mental health recovery following bushfire disaster.

On the other hand, we also found anecdotal evidence of Aboriginal agencies leading community support efforts during and after the bushfires, for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous locals, thus reducing racism.

This project will develop from that earlier work to explore the experiences of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people during and after the bushfires, in two country townships in Victoria and New South Wales. The project seeks to investigate direct and indirect experiences of racism and of communities coming together. Personal experiences need to be understood at individual, community, and institutional levels. For this, the project’s interdisciplinary approach will draw from psychological frameworks of racism, community cohesion, and identity, and from anthropological frameworks on Indigeneity. We will work with Aboriginal community leaders to scope the questions of most relevance for them, to enhance adoption and uptake of the project’s results. We anticipate being able to suggest community-level actions to enhance cohesion and reduce racism, particularly in crises such as during and after natural disasters.

Conspiracy Cultures: Racism and the Crisis of Freedom in Pandemic Times

In recent decades, a range of prominent conspiracy theories rooted in racism have proliferated throughout what is sometimes called the ‘liberal multicultural west’. While some of these individual theories have been the subject of existing research, an analysis of what connects them—both in terms of overlap in their content, and associated personnel—is yet to be conducted.

This project will address this gap by first utilising digital data-collection methods to conduct an empirical analysis of the extent to which prominent conspiracy theories overlap in terms of online content and personnel. By doing this, the project aims to trace the emergence and evolution of a range of prominent racially charged conspiracy theories that seem to distort established forms of racism and anti-racism and conceptualisations of racism to strategically advance a racist agenda.

The project aims to understand the underlying dynamics that have allowed conspiracy cultures to flourish and to continually emerge and evolve. Examples of these conspiracies are the QAnon theory; the Trojan Horse Affair; the Great Replacement Theory; calls to ban Critical Race Theory in schools; and the idea COVID-19 was a ‘plandemic’ created by the Chinese state. In each of these conspiracies, a malevolent racial and racialized force is depicted as acting covertly upon the liberal multicultural west and encroaching on its freedom. This project examines the presumed links between (lost) freedom and race as articulated in these theories and explores how cultures of conspiracy advance racism by constructing those they racialise as simultaneously advancing upon them.

This project will contribute to anti-racism scholarship by first establishing and mapping the extent to which racist online conspiracy groups overlap, as well as by expanding knowledge of how the diffuse phenomenon of conspiricisation, fuelled by paranoia of invasion and contamination, is integral to contemporary racism, providing a deeper understanding of how ‘conspiricisation’ and racism not only overlap but are genealogically linked. By understanding the conspircisation of race, or race as conspiricisation, the project will provide a strong platform from which continued research into this constantly evolving phenomenon, and contemporary racism more broadly, can occur.

Additionally, the project will investigate the extent to which the work of anti-racism itself is constructed by racial conspiracy theorists under the label “woke politics”, as an organising force that is conspiring to disrupt existing social, economic and political arrangements. These project outcomes may assist fellow researchers, policymakers, and community and advocacy groups who are working on anti-racism to do so more effectively.

People

Karen Farquharson and Karen Block

Initiative chair

Professor Karen Farquharson
Professor
Social and Political Sciences

Academic Convenor

Dr Karen Block
Senior Research Fellow
Melbourne School of Population and Global Health

Contact us

To get in touch with the Anti-Racism Hallmark Initiative team please contact academic convenor Karen Block by email to: Anti-Racism-HRI@unimelb.edu.au

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