Research in the Department of Politics, Media and Philosophy

The Department of Politics, Media and Philosophy is recognised for its research in Australian and Comparative Politics, International Relations, Security Studies, Political Theory, Asian Studies, Journalism, Philosophy and Gender Studies.

Our researchers use their findings to shape public debate, collaborate with industry and community partners, and inform public policy.

We have close links to La Trobe Asia, which provides leadership on all aspects of La Trobe University’s engagement with Asia, including the Philippines-Australia Forum, which supports research, engagement and teaching initiatives to increase awareness of Philippine politics, culture and society.

And, we contribute to La Trobe’s research centres: The Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, the Centre for Sport and Social Impact and the Institute for Human Security and Social Change.

Our research aligns with La Trobe University’s research themes: Social change and equity, Healthy people, families and communities, Sustainable food and agriculture, and Resilient environments and communities.

Find out more about how our partnerships enable transformative research.

Research areas

We pride ourselves on our multidisciplinary approach to research, with expertise and collaborations across a range of research areas.

Our research is grouped into five key areas:

Our researchers explore all facets of Australian politics including the changing nature of electoral and party politics, the impact of mis- and disinformation on political campaigning and the media, the role of women in local government, Australia’s relations with its Asian and Pacific neighbours, Indigenous language politics and the role of Indigenous Australians in the military.

Key research questions include:

  • What are the key factors shaping electoral campaigning and results in Australian elections?
  • How does competition among the great powers affect Australia’s strategic priorities and the formulation of foreign policy?
  • What role does the National Cabinet and Cabinet rulebooks play in Australian political governance?
  • What are the triggers of constitutional ‘softening’ and how can we learn from previous instances of constitutional change?
  • What policy interventions can be devised to stop the decline in Indigenous languages?
  • What are the implications of inclusion and recognition of Indigenous military service for reconciliation in Australia?
  • How are children represented in Australian political controversies?

Our researchers are experts on the politics of China, Indonesia, Afghanistan, the broader Asia-Pacific region and Russia. They examine the contours of democratic decline and growing authoritarianism in our region, processes of identity formation among ethnic minorities, issues of maritime and regional security, as well as the implications of geopolitical trends for Australia’s place in the region.

Key research questions include:

  • What are the implications of Indonesia’s democratic decline for environmental politics?
  • What factors drive identity politics among Sunni Hazaras in Afghanistan?
  • How does the Chinese Communist Party control ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet?
  • How can maritime security in the Indo-Pacific be enhanced?
  • How and why did the Putin regime cultivate links with Russian neo-Nazis?
  • How has North Korea’s vulnerability to environmental shocks exacerbated human insecurity?
  • How have Asia and the Pacific been militarised and what are the implications for security?

Our researchers examine political, social and ethical issues in journalism, media production and media consumption. Projects focus on investigative journalism and undercover reporting, regulatory frameworks for mis- and disinformation, strategies to contain online hate speech and misogyny, and the social impact of sports and sports media.

Key research questions include:

  • How do journalists address ethical issues that arise during undercover reporting?
  • What can be done to tackle the harms of online mis- and disinformation?
  • How are Australian sports organisations responding to online hate through content moderation?
  • How do Indonesian female journalists participate in gender activism?
  • What are the impacts of redundancy and job-loss on journalism in Australia?
  • How might journalism be democratised through the expansion of skills and story-telling in mobile 'Mojo' media?
  • How can historical fiction in novels and podcasting promote an understanding of Australia’s past?

Our researchers are internationally recognised experts in ethics, epistemology and logic. Projects focus on epistemological and ethical issues raised by emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and neurotechnology, the nature of different forms of knowledge, and formal models of belief revision and decision making.

Key research questions include:

  • What are the laws governing rational inference and decision making?
  • How can feminist ethics and epistemology contribute to better outcomes in healthcare?
  • What is the relationship between practical and theoretical knowledge?
  • How should we define the concept of ‘disease’ and what implications do such definitions have for medical practices?
  • How should we go about fairly aggregating the views of a diverse set of agents into a single, group-level judgement?
  • Can virtual reality help us to better understand the experiences of other people?

Our researchers examine gender-based violence, sexualized online abuse, the role of women in local government, the economics and politics of reproductive rights, and structural challenges to equal opportunity in Australia and beyond.

Key research questions include:

  • How does sexual misconduct by military and civilian peacekeepers affect the capacity and legitimacy of the United Nations?
  • How can experiences of women running for office in local government in Victoria be utilised to help achieve gender parity in local government?
  • How has the family and reproduction been theorised in the history of modern political and economic thought, and in what ways is the family a source of injustice?
  • How are gender boundaries of skateboarding policed online through gendered language, comparison, sexualisation, and stigmatisation of non-normative femininities?
  • How might democracy make space for diversity expressed in social movements, beyond majoritarian politics?
  • What structural challenges undermine the representation of women in international affairs in Australia?
  • What is the relation between language oppression and genocide?

Graduate research

Our Higher Degree Research and postgraduate coursework programs give candidates the opportunity to join a community of researchers who use robust methods to address the most pressing political, social and ethical challenges of our time.

We have Honours, Masters and PhD opportunities, where candidates conduct high impact projects under the direction of experts in their field. PhD candidates also have the option of working with government, industry or the not-for profit sector in our Industry PhD.

Our graduate researchers are well supported by teams of at least two supervisors, Progress Committees and a carefully tailored milestone program.

They enjoy a vibrant research culture with reading groups, writing workshops, skills-based workshops, and an annual 3 Minute Thesis competition and Higher Degree by Research conference. Some also teach in the Department, preparing them for a career in academia.

All graduate researchers are part of La Trobe’s Graduate Research School, which nurtures a vibrant research community and upskills researchers through the Research Education and Development (RED) team. The RED team run workshops on topics from preparing literature reviews through to data manipulation and visualisation.

Find out more about graduate research opportunities at La Trobe or contact the Department's Graduate Research Coordinator, Dr Robert Horvath.

Research centres

Our staff make key contributions to the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, the Centre for Sport and Social Impact, and the Institute for Human Security and Social Change.

The Centre for Alcohol Policy Research is at the forefront of alcohol research. The Centre’s discoveries are used to promote and inform the development of evidence-based, effective alcohol policy in Australia and internationally.

Find out more about the Centre.

The Centre for Sport and Social Impact is shaping the future of Australian sport and physical activity through research and engagement with industry and government. Its research addresses significant health and social issues including physical inactivity, social exclusion, physical illiteracy, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption and gambling. The Centre supports its research partners to develop and deliver policies, strategies and processes to address these critical social issues.

Find out more about the Centre.

The Institute for Human Security and Social Change works for inclusive social change. Staff work with a wide range of individuals, organisations and networks that are involved in social change with a particular, but not exclusive, focus on Indigenous Australia, the Pacific and Southeast Asia.

Find out more about the Institute.

Photo of Dr Jasmine Westendorf

Our staff are deeply connected to and invested in the real-life aspects of the research we do, and we bridge the worlds of academia and practice through our partnerships, outreach and political engagement.

Dr Jasmine Westendorf
Department of Politics, Media and Philosophy

Understanding global conflict

Dr Niamatullah Ibrahimi specialises in understanding the factors that lead to violent conflicts.

Find out more