The potential PhD project

My plan at the moment is to start a PhD in the Social Work school at Melbourne Uni next year. I have found a supervisor who has been enthusiastic about my proposed project and, as an added bonus, majored in anthropology in her undergraduate degree (my BA was in anthropology and political science, and my honours in anthropology). I am a little worried about my choice, as after my degree I will not even have a discipline. However, I am in the luxurious position of having no dependants and a few bits and pieces of work experience in the so called ‘real world’.

In choosing a topic I wanted something that I not only found interesting but that I struggled with. I am fascinated by the relationship between models of the world and what happens in the world, but as I discovered in my honours year, this is a difficult thing to talk to people about. This interest does underpin the proposal that I put in, but more specifically I plan to undertake a rather ethnographic project within a (geographic) community which is labelled by the Australian government as being poor. I plan to look at how people in the are talk about themselves, what goals people express, what goals various local/NGO/government projects are orientated towards, what language these projects use to talk about the community and how feasible the goals articulated are and/or are seen as being.

There has been a lot of research into poverty in Australia, but a large amount of that has been undertaken as evaluations of programs aimed at alleviating poverty. Self determination has been raised as a worthy project for indigenous people around the world, including Australia, but I have not seen it advocated for when it comes to white people. I can understand on one level the structural differences faced by indigenous Australians and poor white Australians, but on the other hand, intergenerational poverty in Australia does exist. I am not running a ‘culture of poverty’ argument, such as that found in the Bridges Out of Poverty products. In fact I find it difficult to understand how understandings, programs and policies regarding poverty are so readily transferred across time and space.

I hope to keep track of the shaping of my project. Probably will not make particularly exciting reading for anybody else, but if you do happen to have anything you would like to contribute please feel free to do so.

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