Research in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts

The School of Humanities and Communication Arts offers a vibrant research culture, with a distinguished record in publications, external grants and postgraduate completions.

Research Concentrations 

Find out more about the research concentrations located within the School of Humanities and Communication Arts:

Counting on a diverse group of active researchers with research degrees, the School is able to offer Higher Degree by Research  supervision in a wide range of contemporary and traditional humanities and communication arts disciplines including: languages, linguistics, interpreting & translation and interdisciplinary research.

The diversity of disciplines within the humanities and communication arts fields allows researchers and students in the School to pursue their interests within a range of research clusters. These include:

Cultural, Film & Literary Studies

The question that unites the diverse interest of this group of innovative researchers is the problem that has organised cutting edge thought for the past half century, namely, how can we understand the world as a text? This question aims to evade the traditional way of determining actions and thoughts according to cultural values that are supposed to be universal but which nevertheless remain disconnected from experience. By understanding text in the broadest possible sense, this approach puts forward the imperative to actively engage in reading, interpreting and thereby transforming cultural formations.

This methodological basis allows for a variety of interdisciplinary approaches. Indicatively, some researchers concentrate on the interactions between literary texts and theory (Peterson, Sim, Uhlmann), others on how feminism intersects with culture (Knox, Sim, Third), others focus on everyday social and cultural practices (Arvanitakis, Morgan, Rocha, Third), film as a cultural practice (Ling, Rutherford), and finally some interrogate how culture can be read as text from a philosophical perspective (Fleming, Vardoulakis). The strength of this grouping consists in a dynamic mix of shared principles and diverse practices that create exciting synergies.

Read about research projects in Cultural, Film & Literary Studies.

Design and Digital Media

Researchers in this transdisciplinary research concentration (Cohen, Reading, Rossiter, Salazar and Shumack) engage in the production of new design concepts and digital research methods. The focus is on collective research situated in urban and regional settings, enlisting both transnational and local partners in the research process.

Developing a catalogue of design strategies and conceptual models, the research concentration provides an experimental platform through which emergent research practices may be tested and refined. It opens new vectors of encounter in the research of material phenomena such as inter-modal logistical infrastructure in Western Sydney, sustainable urban ecologies, database structures and third sector digital media practices.

The research concentration undertakes a number of event related activities, including conferences, seminars, exhibitions, design studios, intensive teaching formats and collaborative fieldwork. An online journal, research blogs and an open access digital book series are among the publishing activities integrated into the research process to facilitate both the organisation of research and the formation of transnational partnerships.

The cluster provides an important mentoring role and experiential framework for post-graduate students by involving them as co-researchers in new and established international projects. Similarly, the research concentration supports staff who are early career researchers within design and communications.

Historical Studies

The School has a number of historians, whose research interests cover a range of areas, temporally, geographically and intellectually. Visit our website History at Western Sydney University for information about people, publications and events. 

Interpreting & Translation

Researchers in this area have a common base discipline of Linguistics, with links to other disciplines such as legal studies (Chakhachiro, Wang), literature (Wu, Andrews), and technology (Garcia). In addition, as a group they master languages such as Arabic (Taibi,  Chakhachiro ), Chinese (Wu, Wang, J. Han, C. Han, Liu), Japanese (Liu) and Spanish (Garcia, Taibi,  Andrews ).

The importance of Interpreting and Translation is often underestimated. The misconception that simply speaking two languages equates to being a translator or interpreter is still prevalent. Yet, evaluations of interpreting and translation practice show that quality services are the exception rather than the norm. What makes good interpreters and translators? How can the appropriate competencies be better taught and acquired? What are the influences of the setting, the participants, and the goals of the interaction on the interpreting quality? What are the influences of interpreters on the outcome of bilingual encounters? These are some of the questions that researchers aim to answer through empirical, applied research.

Read about research projects in Interpreting & Translation Studies.

Languages & Linguistics 

The expertise of the group spans a wide range of linguistic subfields: phonology (Shaw), morpho-syntaxis (Di Biase,Shaw), language acquisition and learning (Di Biase, Kawaguchi, Muranaka, Qi,  Suliman , Wang, Yang, ) bilingualism and biculturalism (Qi, Suliman), sociolinguistics (Muranaka, Qi), pragmatics and discourse (Chakhachiro,  C. Han , Liu, Taibi). Its greatest potential derives from the shared focus of the researchers on common questions and the synthesising of knowledge from these different subfields —of theoretical interest individually—to amplify their broader impact. Parallel consideration of research bearing on different levels of linguistic structure and communication will benefit applications in interpreting/translation studies and second language teaching.

Major challenges in these areas include the evaluation of second language development and interpreting efficacy. By rallying individual research strengths around a common theme, the research concentration provides a unique opportunity to scale research activities to address broader questions with tangible practical benefits. In this regard, the group is well-positioned to serve the NSW community through documentation and revitalisation of endangered and moribund Aboriginal languages. Collective strengths in language description, linguistic theory and second language acquisition, the core competence of the concentration, are crucial ingredients for this vital initiative.

Read about research projects in Languages & Linguistics.


Music has a concentration of highly productive researchers and a large cohort of post-graduate candidates who explore music in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries through practice, theory and applied research.  The dynamic character of the research in Music arises from its disciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to the study of music and collective research strengths see staff working across several research modes. 

The concentration is interested in traditional and non-traditional approaches to the study of music.  Scored compositions (Crossman, Maclean, Atherton, Encarnacao, Blom), electroacoustic works including installations, performance art and new interfaces for electronic music performance (Stevenson , Atherton), performance (Atherton, Encarnacao, Smyly, Blom), popular songwriting (Encarnacao) and improvisation (Encarnacao,  Smyly , Atherton, Crossman) are performed and presented as practice and as practice-based writing.  Musicologists actively engage with understanding the ways in which music intersects with real world experiences (Macarthur, Encarnacao) developing new analytical approaches to the study of music, in particular, women's art music, and exploring the intersections of music with poststructuralist philosophy (Macarthur), popular music history and analysis, particularly of its experimental and subcultural fringes (Encarnacao, Smyly) and ethnomusicology (Atherton).  Applied and empirical research with regard to organology (Atherton), film music (Atherton), communication, listening and sound studies (Stevenson),  aspects of teaching music and community engagement, including collaboration, interpretation, and new and traditional models of assessment and outreach (Blom,  Encarnacao , Stevenson) plus creative music therapy (Lem, Atherton) are pursued.  Themes include consideration of the arts and aesthetics of the Asia-Pacific (Crossman,  Macarthur , Atherton, Blom); spirituality (Crossman, Macarthur, Maclean); and music and place (Encarnacao, Macarthur,  Crossman , Smyly, Blom).

Current post-graduate supervision focuses on transdisciplinary projects crossing from music composition into musicology, and vice versa (Macarthur, Maclean, Blom), research-led creative projects (Macarthur), and practice-led research in composition, ethnomusicological and music-theatre orientated practice, and sonic arts (Crossman, Atherton, Blom, Encarnacao, Stevenson).

The vibrant research culture of music is united around the common purpose of delivering high quality research.  To this end research outcomes are often brought together through projects, festivals and CDs which draw on the works of staff and students, combined with musicological publications through traditional and non-traditional research writings. 

This concentration of music researchers provides support and mentoring for post-graduate candidates through symposia, conferences, concerts, recording sessions and reading groups drawing staff and post-graduates together.  Early career research staff are similarly supported and engaged in co-authored research projects.


Philosophy has always asked the "big questions" about our lives. These are questions about the limits of our knowledge, the best way that humans can live together, how we understand the world around us and what is the good life. The staff in the School who teach and write in philosophy approach these questions from a variety of perspectives.

Achille's philosophical focus is on ethics and aesthetics in relation to literature, concentrating specifically on the work of Deleuze and Guattari. Alberts looks at the ethical implications of environmental issues. Barbour, an expert on Marx, teaches and writes aesthetics and sovereignty. Fleming is a world authority on the work of Rene Girard and is also interested in the philosophy of science. Hadley's work focuses on ethical issues and in particular animal rights. Ling is an expert on the relation of philosophy and cinema, and he has written extensively on the French philosopher Alain Badiou. Peterson's research focuses on the intersection of literature and philosophy, with a particular emphasis on Derrida, race, and animality. Symonds' research uses social theory and philosophy, especially Adorno and Weber, to understand areas of Australian society. Uhlmann is an expert on the way that modernism has been influenced by philosophy. Vardoulakis writes on the relation of literature and philosophy, theories of sovereignty and the work of Spinoza.

The vibrant philosophical culture at the University encourages students to apply philosophy's analytic tools to think through these big questions that have shaped our civilisation. The recent establishment of Philosophy at Western Sydney University as a research concentration within the School, further supports academics and students' research in the area.

Read about research projects in Philosophy

Political Science, Asian and International Studies

Recent appointments in the School in Political Science have greatly enhanced what was already a significant research concentration, particularly in the field of Asian Studies and International Relations (Bowden, Fung, Horesh, Graham, Drakeley, Mauch, Snodgrass,  Walton ). With an ideal blend of long-established leaders in the field, highly productive mid-career researchers and a number of outstanding Early Career Researchers, and with further appointments to be made, the School can lay claim to considerable expertise and legitimate international standing in the field of Asian Studies and International Relations. These research strengths in Asian Studies and International Relations are nicely complemented by colleagues in the Historical Studies research concentration where there is considerable expertise in diplomatic history, particularly in the greater Asian region. The School also has a number of very promising researchers in political theory, political philosophy and applied ethics (Alberts, Barbour, Bowden, Burchell, Fleming, Hadley, Vardoulakis).

Read about research projects in Political Science, Asian & International Studies.