Research Projects

Research Areas

Cultural, Film & Literary Studies

William Kentridge: Performing Film Outside the Box

Investigator: Associate Professor Anne Rutherford

This project examines the multimedia installation work of South African artist, William Kentridge, and explores the ways Kentridge is reimagining the nature of film.

Film, Television  & Digital Media

Ms Wendy Chandler conducts practice-based research, focusing on documentary animation.

Professor Hart Cohen researches digital media and tangible/intangible heritage, particularly partnering with Indigenous communities.

Dr Roger Dawkins researches the impact of technology on communication and learning; semiotics, film theory, and the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze.

Professor Roger Dean is a MARCS-based scholar who co-edits the creative digital media online journal, soundsrite (,  and creates electronic literature and intermedia work.

Ms Maryella Hatfield researches screen media production, sustainability and communication.

Dr Alex Ling researches the intersections between film and philosophy, with special focus on the impacts of censorship and the ways that film establishes a unique form of thought.

Dr Tanya Notley researches communication, technology and social change.

Ms Kate Richards conducts practice-led research in electronic art, user-centred design, interactivity and new media.

Associate Professor Anne Rutherford is a film scholar whose research focuses on cinema, affect and embodiment, Indigenous Australian cinema, intermediality and documentary film.

Associate Professor Juan Francisco Salazar is an anthropologist and documentary filmmaker who researches on Indigenous media, Antarctica, futures and social-ecological transitions.

Associate Professor Amanda Third researches digital media and cyber safety. Sarah Waterson is a practice-based researcher who exhibits media arts productions.

Research Projects

Film, television and digital media research at Western Sydney regularly attracts funding from the Australian Research Council and other national and international funding bodies. Some current research projects are listed below.

Patterns that connect: re-curating Edmund Carpenter's anthropological media studies. Chief investigators:   Prof Hart Cohen, Associate Professor Michael Darroch, Professor Janine Marchessault, Professor Paul Heyer. Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council funded:  Insight grant: $183,564 Canadian. A project that relates materials from Edmund Carpenter’s archive of films, photographs and writings with other materials widely distributed across multiple sites  e.g. letters, objects and art.  An anthology related to the re-curation of the archives of Edmund Carpenter is in preparation for publication by McGill-Queens Press.

All hands on deck! A case study of the collaboration between an academic and team of digital experts on a technology-enhanced version of a second-year communications course. Western Researchers: Roger Dawkins, Glenn Mason, Lynnae Venaruzzo

Flood. Kate Richards is currently developing a new VR artwork titled FLOOD. Through co-creation with Aboriginal artists and choreographers, a 2-month residency at the MAAS (Powerhouse Ultimo) and historical/scientific research with the Hawkesbury Institute of the Environment, FLOOD will be a computer-generated night-time world. Participants stand on the edge of the flooded Hawkesbury River in western Sydney; the floodwaters are full of dislodged objects – when you handle them, you hear stories from Indigenous and colonists’ perspectives.

Mobile Stories. Researcher Dr Wendy Chandler. Funded through the New Colombo Plan, DEFAT. Mobile Stories is an interactive online documentary. The documentary will feature a collection of multi-media profiles investigating the culture and future goals of university students in Western Sydney and their counterparts in Timor-Leste.

The Bamboo Bridge (2019 65 min.) Documentary film, Writer/Director: Juan Francisco Salazar. Funded by Matadora Films; Screen Australia and Western Sydney University. Synopsis: Every dry season, a 1.5km bamboo bridge has been built across the Mekong River to the island of Ko Pen in Cambodia. Every year, the bridge is dismantled in the wake of the monsoonal tides and recycled for the following year. In 2017, this bridge was built for the last time when a massive new government funded concrete bridge was inaugurated as the country embraces China’s One Belt One Road initiative. Through a slow and gentle rhythm, the film engages with three generations of bridge builders who share stories of this unique sustainable infrastructure and the diverse community economies and ecologies it sustained. Focusing on the last master builder, Mr Oun, the film explores the subtle intricacies of traditional forms of sustainable living with the rhythms of local ecosystems and the cycles of bamboo. The river, the monsoon, the people, and the bridge all tell an urgent and primal story. Are we listening?

Scandalous Times: Contemporary Creation and the Rise of State-Sanctioned Controversy. Alex Ling’s current work attempts to establish an effective ‘ontology of scandal’, analysing both what it ‘is’ (i.e. its structure and significance, how it works and what effect it has) and the critical and complex role it plays in contemporary society. Ultimately, this research aims to show, through a careful analysis of the inherently ‘scandalous’ fields of art (especially film and television), advertising, social media (in particular Twitter) and politics, how the homogenising process of ‘manufacturing consent’ is today in large part ensured through a seemingly antithetical practice of ‘creating controversy’, which is itself achieved via an incessant production of scandals.


Film, television and digital media researchers at WSU publish in the top national and international film/media journals and exhibit their work in high profile public exhibition venues. For recent publications and exhibitions by film, television and digital media staff, please see staff profile pages.

Historical Studies

Saving the world the first time: global climate theory and desiccation 1765-1960

Investigator: Associate Professor Brett Bennett (With  Professor Gregory A. Barton, Research Fellow in History, Australian National University)

This project examines the first globally-accepted scientific idea of human-induced climate change. Nineteenth-century advocates of climate change helped launch the global environmental movement. This project documents and analyses the rise, decline, and recent revival of ideas of human-induced climate change.

Funding source: ARC Discovery Grant

Project period:  March 2011 - March 2014

Interpreting and Translation

Understanding Australian Aboriginal Culture Through Translation

Investigators: Dr Mustapha Taibi, Associate Professor Uldis Ozolins and George Bisas

"Translation of official documents: ensuring quality and enhancing security". Grant: $60,000 (Funded by: NAATI and Multicultural NSW).

Investigator: Dr Mustapha Taibi

"Interpreting mode, interpreter presence and language in investigative interviews", project led by Prof. Jane Goodman-Delahunty (Charles Sturt University) and Prof. Sandra Hale (UNSW).Mustapha Taibi, Pranee Liamputtong and Michael Polonsky (Deakin University): "Impact of multilingual health information on CALD older people’s health literacy: Osteoporosis as an example".

Investigators: Dr Mustapha Taibi, Pr Pranee Liamputtong,  and Michael Polonsky (Deakin University):

"Impact of multilingual health information on CALD older people’s health literacy: Osteoporosis as an example".

Languages & Linguistics

Key People

Staff members in linguistics within the School of Humanities and Communication Arts are listed below along with the areas of linguistics their research focuses on . Click on the names to link to staff profiles

A/Prof. Bruno Di Biase: Second language acquisition

Dr. Chong Han: Pragmatics, Media Discourse Analysis, Chinese linguistics, Cross-Cultural Communication, English/Chinese translation and interpreting

Dr. Adrian Hale: Discourse Analysis, Humour, Academic English

A/Prof. Rachel Hendery: Historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, digital humanities

A/Prof. Satomi Kawaguchi: Second Language Acquisition, Bilingual first language acquisition

Dr. Xiangdong Liu: Pragmatics, Japanese/Chinese linguistics, discourse analysis, contrastive linguistics, translation/interpreting studies

A/Prof. Robert Mailhammer: Historical Linguistics, Language Documentation, Australian Indigenous Languages, Phonology, Morphology, Sociolinguistics, Semantics, Typology

Dr. Hiromi Muranaka: Bilingualism

A/Prof. Ruying Qi: Bilingualism and Developmental Psycholinguistics, Contact linguistics, Sociolinguistics, Second Language Acquisition, Language Teaching and Learning

Dr. Ping Yang: TESOL, Intercultural Communication

Research Projects

Linguistics research at Western Sydney regularly attracts funding from the Australian Research Council and other national and international funding bodies. Currently funded projects are listed below.

1 potato, 2 wotatoes, 3 otatoes: Lexical access in Australian languages, 2019-2022, $484,000, Australian Research Council (DP190100646, Project leader: A/Prof. Mark Harvey, Newcastle; CIs A/Prof. Robert Mailhammer, A/Prof. Brett Baker, Melbourne; Research Associate: Dr Rikke Bundgaard-Nielsen, Newcastle/Western Sydney): This project seeks to investigate how listeners use cues from the way speech sounds (phones) are produced to

break the speech stream into individual, recognisable words. The project expects to generate new knowledge by examining speech perception and production in Australian languages which show unusual patterns in the production of speech sounds, including patterns of complete phone substitution. Outcomes will include advances in theories of speech processing, thereby informing the development of speech processing systems, which play a significant role in many fields. The project will also preserve Indigenous language heritage and contribute to Indigenous cultural maintenance, a significant factor in advancing Indigenous well-being.

A Field Manual for Ultrasound, 2016-, $9,581, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (Language Documentation Grant, Project Leader: A/Prof. Robert Mailhammer, CIs A/Prof. Mark Harvey, Newcastle, Dr Jason Shaw, Yale, Tonya Agostini, Dr Chris Carignan, Munich, Dr Donald Derrick, Canterbury): This project will critically enhance the description of Iwaidja, and develop a draft field manual for ultrasound research. The project is based in a case study analysing a problematic segment, a “velar approximant”, in Iwaidja, an endangered Australian language. Cross-linguistically, the analysis of approximants presents many issues. The project will illustrate how articulatory data from ultrasound can contribute to advancing analysis in challenging domains, such as the analysis of approximants. The use of ultrasound in linguistics is expanding. Its extension into fieldwork is comparatively recent. There are currently no field protocols for equipment, settings, data collection, processing and analysis.

Linguistic reconstruction in the age of Bayes, 2018-, $14,030, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language (Transdisciplinary Innovation Grant, Project leader A/Prof. Robert Mailhammer, CI Dr Mark Ellison, ANU): While quantitative methods have flourished for language subgrouping, proto-language reconstruction has lacked quantitative measures. We currently have no means of comparing proposed reconstructions objectively. This project will create a pilot system that can gauge the likelihood of a reconstruction given the sound changes it relies on, as a function of the likelihood of those sound changes. These likelihoods we will assess by their attested frequency in a catalogue of sound changes. Assessing the likelihood of both sound changes has significant implications for language acquisition because this is one key locus of language change.


Linguists at UWS publish in the top national and international linguistics journals. For recent publications by linguistics staff, please see staff profile pages.


Spinoza and Narrative

Investigators: Dr Dimitris VardoulakisProf Anthony Uhlmann, Dr Beth Lord (University of Dundee), Dr Kiarina Kordela (Macalester College)

This project will offer a novel and internationally significant perspective on how narratives shape the stories that we know and narrate as well as the narratives about how we come together as a community. Gilles Deleuze, in perhaps the most important book written on Spinoza, described his philosophy as being concerned with forms of expression. Spinoza's question, argued Deleuze, is how can an individual express their potential. Deleuze's research on Spinoza has influenced a whole generation of researchers. However, in the growing literature on Spinoza, and despite Deleuze's emphasis on expression, there has been no research on his approach to narrative. The team of the proposed project will address this lacuna.

As part of the project, Dr Beth Lord visited  UWS in May 2011 and she participated, with Dimitris Vardoulakis, in a Sydney Seminar for the Arts and Philosophy titled "The Atheist God: Spinoza's Laws of Religion and Politics". Listen to the seminar's podcast on the ABC Radio National program Big Ideas

Funding source: UWS International Research Initiatives Scheme

Project period:  2011 - 2012

Political Science, Asian and International Studies

New Approaches to Human Security in Asia

(Through the Centre for Excellence in Policing and Security, ANU)

Co-Project Manager:  Dr David Walton

The Human Security in Asia Project is designed to measure the extent to which Australia, China and Japan as concerned proponents of human security politics can coordinate viable human security approaches into their national security planning.  Key academics from the ANU, Tokyo University, Osaka University and Fudan University have been involved in the project. Three workshops have been held (Osaka, Canberra and Shanghai) and an edited volume is currently being planned as the project outcome.

Funding source: Japan Foundation

Project period: 2009 - 2011