ICS Response to COVID-19

Institute for Culture and Society building

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted almost every aspect of life. Researchers at the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University are responding to these new challenges, working across disciplines to present clear-minded, research-based information that contributes to our understanding of the forces that are shaping the experiences of the pandemic.

This page captures ICS’ engagement with the issues surrounding and consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes articles, policy documents and discussions by ICS researchers as well as teaching resources developed through research activities to enhance the shift to online teaching. It also features our virtual seminars and workshops that have emerged in place of traditional on-campus presentations.

One key issue we collectively grapple with is the opportunities and challenges of carrying out research during a period of uncertainty. ICS researchers continue to work on the important issues that have been the focus of the Institute since its inception, including key topics like young people and social
media; inequality and community economies; the development of cultural infrastructure; and local and global responses to climate change.

Yet, we are also adapting and responding to the conditions that have emerged since the COVID-19 crisis. For some researchers, adapting has meant pausing projects that would be unethical or impossible to continue during the pandemic. For others, it has meant carefully altering methods, practices, timelines or focus in relation to the different social and economic realities of our research partners and participants. This is especially important for our continued engagement with the Greater Western Sydney region and other communities across the country.

We look forward to sharing our collaborative research and engagement activities with other Western Sydney University researchers, as well as those across Australia and the world, to help in navigating a path to recovery. Please do get in touch with us if you would like further information.

For University-wide updates and frequently asked questions please refer to Western Sydney University's Information on Coronavirus (COVID-19).



ICS Seminar Series

The ICS Seminar Series presents an exciting breadth of social and cultural research from the Institute’s renowned staff and doctoral candidates as well as a range of national and international visiting scholars. Seminars are currently being held on Thursdays online. For more information about the upcoming seminar see the ICS Seminar Series page.

Social Science Myth Busters By the Blab Coats Podcast

This live series of podcast for Social Sciences Week aims to tackle nitty gritty questions of sex, housework, animals, food, families, pop culture and more. Experts tackle some burning, awkward and fascinating questions about life and society through the findings of social science research, busting a few myths and stereotypes along the way. Click here to learn more and register.

Previous Event Recordings

Beyond the Crisis: Transitioning to a Better World?

Professor Ien Ang presented the sixth seminar in the COVID-19 series co-hosted by the Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation (ADI) and the Science and Society Network.

Digital Media, Collaboration and Knowledge Production in an Epoch of COVID-19: Seminar on Theories, Methods and Practices for HASS Researchers

Disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HASS) have a long and venerable history of inventive thinking to address emergent problems. The planetary contagion of COVID-19 and ensuing challenges have forced researchers across all disciplines to pause and reassess the relation between theory, method and practice.

This seminar invited some of Western Sydney University's leading scholars and creative practitioners in HASS to briefly present how they have enlisted digital media technologies in their research and teaching. Recordings of the seminar are now available for those who were unable to make the event.

Introduction by Ned Rossiter

Part 2 HCA Research by Roger Dawkins, Navin Doloswala and 
Rachel Hendery

Part 3 SoSS Research by Jenna Condie and Garth Lean

Part 4 YRRC and ICS Research by Amanda Third


HDR Key Thinkers and Concepts Lecture Series Videos

We have made available a series of lecture videos that introduce Higher Degree Research students to key theorists and concepts of central importance to sociocultural thought. With presentations from experts from within the Institute for Culture and Society and beyond, each session involves a one hour lecture followed by 30 minutes of questions and discussion.

The Key Thinkers and Concepts Lecture Series videos cover topics including Stuart Hall and Cultural Studies, Michel Foucault, Embodiment, Space and Place, Postcolonialism and Environmental Humanities.

Teaching Resources

A database containing 50 digital resources that may be used in online teaching have been developed by Institute for Culture and Society researchers. All resources are drawn from research projects and seminars by ICS researchers.

Race in Society Web Series

Race in Society (opens in a new window) is hosted by Associate Professor Alana Lentin and her colleague Dr Zuleyka Zevallos. The series, focused initially on race and the Coronavirus pandemic, features Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander critical race scholars, service providers and practitioners, along with other non-Indigenous people of colour who research and work in organisations addressing racial justice. New videos will be released every two weeks on YouTube.

Doing Ethnography Remotely

Professor Heather Horst is featured in the Doing Ethnography Remotely video series from Stanford Center for Global Ethnography. The conversations explore a wide range of digital and analog tools, techniques, and methods for use across the disciplines. They focus on past projects and the impact of remote methods on ethnographic research. Each concludes with advice to students who are planning ethnographic research projects in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Sharika Thiranagama (Stanford) interviewed Dr. Heather Horst on May 12th.


News Literacy and Australian Teachers: How News Media is Taught in the Classroom report

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of teaching students the difference between real and fake or misleading news say the authors of a new report into news media literacy education. The News Literacy and Australian Teachers: How News Media is Taught in the Classroom report also recommends teachers be given more time, resources, and curriculum support to do so.

A collaboration between QUT’s Digital Media Research Centre (DMRC) and Western Sydney University’s Institute for Culture and Society, with funding from the Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD) and Google Australia, the report is the latest outcome of the Advancing the Media Literacy of Young Australians project and surveyed several hundred primary and secondary school teachers Australia-wide.

Journal Articles

Subjecting pandemic sport to a sociological procedure, by David Rowe, Journal of Sociology.

COVID-19 exposed the inner workings of sport as a machine that could be disabled by its own global interdependency. This article applies a sociological analysis to sport before, during and after the pandemic, arguing that an emphasis on the relationships between human rights and cultural citizenship is required to improve the social institution of sport.

Podcast Episodes

Dr Emma Power joins via CityRoad Pod (opens in a new window) with a group of leading Sydney-based urbanists who start a conversation about what cities will look like post-COVID and how pathways towards a just urban recovery might be fostered.

The BLab Coats COVID-19 Miniseries

In collaboration with ICS the BLab Coats podcast has developed a mini-series with a focus on the social and cultural effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular, changes in research and higher education as a result of it.

How research is changing amidst COVID-19

Interviewed on the BLab Coats podcast, Professor Ien Ang discusses the impact COVID-19 is having on research and her advice to HDR’s in the context of the pandemic.

Action research amidst COVID-19

ICS PhD candidate Bhavya Chitranshi is interviewed on the BLab Coats podcast. Bhavya discusses what Action Research is and how her research in India has been changed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

What education will look like post-COVID-19

Professor James Arvanitakis speaks on the BLab Coats podcast about how education is changing and what the future of education could be post COVID-19.

Dr Emma Power is one of the hosts of the Housing Journal Podcast (opens in a new window). Episode 8.1 (opens in a new window) and 8.2 (opens in a new window) discuss the impact of COVID-19 on housing and the role of housing in post-COVID-19 recovery.

8. Housing Journal Podcast - Part 1 - May 2020 (opens in a new window)

In this episode Dr Emma Power and Dr Dallas Rogers outline the International Journal of Housing Policy’s editorial position on COVID-19. Leo Patterson Ross at the Tenants Union NSW, Carolyn Whitzman and Marie-Eve Desroche discuss COVID’s impacts on marginal groups in Australia and Canada.

8. Housing Journal Podcast - Part 2 - May 2020 (opens in a new window)

Beth Watts from Housing Studies outlines the journal’s response to COVID-19, Cameron Parsell from the University of Queensland considers it’s impacts on homeless people and Peter Mackie from Cardiff University reflects on lessons on post-crisis recovery in the global south. Julie Lawson at Housing Theory and Society asks Tim Blackwell from Uppsala University, Edwin Buitelaar from Utrecht University and Jago Dodson at RMIT about the role of housing in any COVID-19 recovery.

See all episodes on Soundcloud: International Journal of Housing Policy (opens in a new window).

Expert Commentary

Below is a selection of academic commentary on issues related to COVID-19. For a full list of media appearances see ICS in the Media.

Opinion Articles and Essays

Cashless Payment is Booming, Thanks to Coronavirus. So is Financial Surveillance

By Jack Parkin, Digital Economist and Adjunct Fellow, Institute for Culture and Society. 10 September 2020

A banknote has been sitting in my wallet for six months now. As time ticks on, it burns an ever greater hole in my pocket. At first I felt uneasy spending it, following COVID-19 warnings to pay more attention to hand hygiene and the surfaces we all touch on a daily basis.

"Women’s Witness"

By Cali Prince.

"Women’s Witness", a poem by our PhD candidate Cali Prince, features in a new book exploring how mothers are managing the new requirements of mother-work under the destabilising restraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. By way of creative art, poetry, photography and creative writing along with scholarly research, the collection seeks to make visible what has been invisibilised and render audible what has been silenced: the care and crisis of mother-work through and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Check out the collection here (opens in a new window).

COVID-19 cases are highest in young adults. We need to partner with them for the health of the whole community
By  Philippa Collin, Melissa Kang, Rachel Skinner. 27 August 2020

Australian data confirms coronavirus is more common in younger adults. People aged 20-29 have continually had the highest rates of COVID-19 cases. To reduce these rates and support young people to play their part in stemming community transmission, we need to understand their experiences during the pandemic.

State arts service organisations effective, engaged but endangered

By Cecelia Cmielewski. 14 August 2020

This week the NSW government’s arts funding arm, Create NSW, removed or significantly reduced funding to arts service organisations (opens in new window)Opens in a new window including Writing NSW, Playwriting Australia, the National Association of Visual Artists (NAVA) and Ausdance NSW. This short-sighted trend of cutting funding to arts organisations began several years ago.

Future of Arts in Australia: Experts Call for Policy Changes to Overcome Crisis

By Emily-Kate Ringle-Harris. 25 June 2020

The visual arts in Australia have, like all arts, been profoundly challenged by the COVID-19 pandemic. The closure of galleries and markets; cancellation of art festivals; the isolation of artists from their communities; and inadequate financial support from the federal government, have all delivered a huge blow to the economies of the visual arts and weakened their capacity to engage with the public.

Migrants and food during COVID-19: Stories of Destitution, Enterprise and Solidarity

By Dr Sukhmani Khorana. 8 June 2020

While Australia has embraced the enrichment of local culture and food, the individuals who bring this enrichment have found themselves stranded and abandoned by Australian institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Sukhmani Khorana writes on the role food plays in migrant cultures, social support, and the resilient potential of multiculturalism.

Singles in lockdown: a new approach needed 

By Dr Zoe Sofoulis. 29 May 2020

Pandemic lockdown policies focusing on traditional families and households can result in single people effectively living in solitary confinement. Adopting a ‘co-virality’ model may slightly increase viral risk but offers a major gain for mental health. Dr Zoe Sofoulis writes on this at Croakey.org and expands further in a blog post.

Tonight we riot? What Nintendo’s ‘revolutionary’ video game misses about worker liberation

By Dan Musil, Professor Katherine Gibson, Associate Professor Marcelo Vieta (University of Toronto) and Dr Stephen Healy. 21 May 2020.

Research by the team suggests worker ownership should be a central plank to rebuild more sustainable, equal and resilient post-COVID-19 economies (opens in a new window). Benefits of working cooperatives include dignified work that supports workers and society at large, responsiveness to the communities and environments in which they operate, creation of social trust, fostering of worker innovation and resilience during tough economic times.

American politics: Voting in a time of a pandemic

By Professor James Arvanitakis. 16 May 2020.

Professor James Arvanitakis writes about the impact of COVID-19 on American politics (opens in a new window)including how it may impact the upcoming election.

Coronavirus is the Ultimate Demonstration of the Real-World Impact of Racism

By Associate Professor Alana Lentin. 12 May 2020.

Associate Professor Alana Lentin writes that as coronavirus continues to rampage across the globe, it has become apparent that, while biologically the virus may not discriminate, it is having a much worse effect on people from ethnic minorities (opens in a new window).

Cultural Justice: Creativity in a Time of Crisis

By Dr Zelmarie Cantillon. 1 May 2020.

The COVID-19 crisis has made it clearer than ever how crucial arts and culture are to our everyday lives. We rely on arts and culture for entertainment, education and distraction, but also as an outlet to respond to unsettling circumstances.

There's a Crucial Voice Missing in the Debate About Reopening Schools

By Dr Joanne Orlando. 29 April 2020.

Dr Joanne Orlando writes about children's voices being missing from the debate around schools reopening. Children are at the centre of this school dilemma (opens in a new window)so their experiences and views are important, she says.

Viroloistics II: The Logistics of Viral Transmission

By Professor Brett Neilson. 18 April 2020.

In part 2 of this Essay for the COMPAS Coronavirus and Mobility forum (opens in a new window), Professor Brett Neilson discusses the language of anticipation in regards to the predictability of the COVID outbreak and the relation of logistics to epidemiology. This piece has been translated and is now also available in Chinese.

Virologistics I: The Virus as Logistical "Force Majeure"

By Professor Brett Neilson. 18 April 2020.

In part 1 of this Essay for the COMPAS Coronavirus and Mobility forum (opens in a new window), Professor Brett Neilson explores disruptions to supply chains and logistical networks occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic and the role force majeure plays in the transformation of capital currently underway. This piece has been translated and is now also available in Chinese.

American politics: Understanding the populist pandemic

By Professor James Arvanitakis. 18 April 2020.

Professor James Arvanitakis writes on the role of populism in American politics (opens in a new window)and how it is affecting responses to COVID-19.

Forget Old Screen ‘Time’ Rules During Coronavirus. Here’s What You Should Focus on Instead

By Dr Joanne Orlando. 10 April 2020.

COVID-19 has left parents grappling with the challenges of online learning, entertainment and work. It’s natural the amount of time children spend using screens will now increase. But that’s OK. There are ways to make the best of kids’ increased use of screens.

American politics: Politics in a time of pandemic

By Professor James Arvanitakis. 4 April 2020.

Professor James Arvanitakis writes that there are five dimensions of American life that may provide insights into the pandemic environment (opens in a new window)and how it could work for Trump despite his initial handling of the crisis.

Young People Are Anxious About Coronavirus. Political Leaders Need to Talk With Them, Not at Them

By Philippa Collin, Dr Teresa Swist and UTS, University of Sydney and University of Melbourne colleagues. 3 April 2020.

Young people in Australia are among the fastest-growing group to contract COVID19. Our research has found that, contrary to popular belief, many young people in Australia are seriously concerned about the virus.

The Safest Sex You’ll Never Have: How Coronavirus is Changing Online Dating

By Lisa Portolan. 31 March 2020.

When Tinder issued an in-app public service announcement regarding COVID-19 we all had a little laugh as a panoply of memes and gags hit the internet. Two weeks later the laughter has subsided, but the curiosity continues. How will singles mingle in the time of Corona?

Don't Let the Pandemic Stop You Finding Love Online

By Lisa Portolan. 29 March 2020.

Love in the time of Corona is intensely felt. Or more accurately, people are intensely swiping right. It makes sense to some extent. As a result of COVID-19 and social distancing policies, more and more Australians are working and studying from home and that means a spike in dating app usage (opens in a new window).

All Sport is Global: A Hard Lesson From the Pandemic

By Emeritus Professor David Rowe. 28 March 2020.

There is a common saying that all politics is local. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we should invent a new one: all sport is global. In a few short months, worries about sport – especially via the media – being only too available, have given way to complaints that live sport action has become as rare as panic-purchased toilet paper.

Lessons From the Great Depression: How to Prevent Evictions in an Economic Crisis

By Vanessa Whittington. 26 March 2020.

There are distinct parallels between the severe economic downturn of the 1930s and the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis in terms of mass business closures and worker layoffs. The Australian government has estimated that one million Australians could become unemployed as a result of the coronavirus.

Why Housing Evictions Must Be Suspended to Defend Us Against Coronavirus

By Dr Emma Power and University of Sydney and UNSW colleagues. 23 March 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a double crisis affecting public health and the economy. And both aspects are playing out in our housing system – in our homes. Our homes are the “first line of defence against the COVID-19 outbreak”, as the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Housing puts it. But, depending on how our housing system responds, it could make the double crisis worse.

Incomes are 'Evaporating Overnight': Why Casuals Need Help to Ride Out the Pandemic

By Associate Professor George Morgan. 11 March 2020.

Associate Professor Morgan explains the impact of COVID-19 on casual and gig economy workers (opens in a new window)who face loss of income and precariousness.

3 Ways to Help Children Think Critically About the News

By Dr Tanya Notley and Associate Professor Michael Dezuanni (QUT). 25 February 2020.

Like adults, children use the news to learn about what’s happening in the world. But the circulation of misinformation, such as the recent spread of fake news about COVID-19, blurs our understanding of events and issues. Here are three things you can do (whether you’re a teacher or parent) to help children critically think about the news.

Radio and Television Interviews

Professor James Arvanitakis regularly appears on ABC radio and television programs commenting on current news, American politics, and responses to COVID-19. Commentary includes 702 ABC Sydney (opens in a new window)(at 2:31:40) on his experiences of living in Wyoming and travelling within the USA, American politics and approaches to COVID-19; and ABC 24 Weekend Breakfast (syndicated nationally) on American politics including US President Donald Trump encouraging places of worship to open, controversial comments by Joe Biden and implications of postal votes, in May. Further comment on ABC 24 Weekend Breakfast, ABC News (syndicated nationally) and ABC 24 The Drum in April 2020.

1233 ABC Newcastle interviews Professor Paul James on male politicians and different countries' approaches to handling COVID-19. 22 May 2020.

2SER radio (opens in a new window) and The Wire interviews Associate Professor Karen Soldatic on the Senate inquiry into Newstart, the COVID-19 Supplement and the future of the JobSeeker Payment, and why it is important for people with disabilities to receive support through the Disability Support Pension. 6-7 May 2020.

702 ABC Sydney Afternoons interviews Associate Professor Shanthi Robertson on migration policy including economic consequences and impacts post-COVID-19 (syndicated to ABC Central Coast NSW). 702 ABC Sydney Focus interviews Associate Professor Robertson on the impacts of COVID-19 on international students and how government and universities are responding (syndicated to ABC Central Coast NSW, ABC Capricornia). 5-6 May 2020.

702 ABC Sydney Drive interviews Dr Joanne Orlando on how workplace practices might change as COVID-19 restrictions ease, and in the future (syndicated to ABC Central Coast NSW). Channel 7 Sunrise interviews Dr Joanne Orlando on children's screen time during COVID-19. ABC Radio Newcastle (opens in a new window)interviews Dr Orlando on tips for avoiding digital hoax requests. April and May 2020.

ABC Gippsland interviews PhD candidate Dan Musil, and secretary of Earthworker Cooperative in Victoria, on the future of manufacturing in Australia and the impacts of COVID-19, including the recent research by Professor Katherine Gibson and Dr Stephen Healy on a just and sustainable manufacturing culture in Australia. 27 April 2020.

ABC Newcastle Mornings (opens in a new window)interviews Professor Katherine Gibson on the future of manufacturing in Australia and how local manufacturers have been assisting with production during the COVID-19 pandemic. 6 April 2020.

3AW Radio (opens in a new window)interviews Associate Professor George Morgan on the financial vulnerability of casual workers who don’t have sick leave entitlements if they are unable to work due to Coronavirus (syndicated nationally). 12 March 2020.

Further Media Comment

Skye Tasker speaks to news.com.au on how she pivoted to examine trends in the context of coronavirus, and extensively interviewed a cohort of case studies aged 12 to 24. 31 August 2020

SBS News publishes comment by Associate Professor Shanthi Robertson on how attitudes towards migrants can be affected by an environment of economic uncertainty. 11 June 2020

ABC News quotes Dr Sukhmani Khorana on reconnecting with cultural practices during a pandemic. 5 June 2020

New York Times (opens in a new window)interviews Emeritus Professor David Rowe on Sydney during a time of stay at home orders and the value of moments outdoors (republished by by MSN Canada, MSN USA and others). 4 May 2020.

ABC News (opens in a new window)publishes comments by Dr Joanne Orlando on what comprises quality screen time for children (republished by MSN Australia). 1 May 2020.

The Conversation (opens in a new window)publishes an Open Letter to the Prime Minister to extend Coronavirus support to temporary workers. Associate Professor Shanthi Robertson is a signatory. 7 April 2020.

ABC News (opens in a new window)interviews Dr Joanne Orlando on how working remotely due to Coronavirus might change how people work in the future (republished by MSN Australia). 28 March 2020.

Comment by Emeritus Professor David Rowe on the negative effect on Australian sports fans of not being able to watch live sports is published in The Canberra Times (opens in a new window), 7 News (opens in a new window), Daily Mail Online (UK) and over 120 other outlets. ABC 24 News Afternoons and 720 ABC Perth interview Emeritus Professor Rowe on the implications the pandemic could have on the Tokyo Olympics and other large sporting events (syndicated to ABC 1 Perth). February and March 2020.