Upcoming event: TASA Youth Symposium


The Ethics of Engagement, Participation and Representation

TASA Youth 2019 Symposium

University of Melbourne, 21st February 2019

Organised by TASA’s Sociology of Youth thematic group with support from TASA and the Youth Research Centre

Register your attendance here.

Research ethics is a central concern and ongoing challenge for many sociologists studying young people. The sociology of youth has historically been deeply implicated in ethical concerns due to its engagement with groups that are by default seen as ‘vulnerable’. More recently, as youth sociologists have been at the forefront of developing digital, participatory and creative methods in their research with young people, new sets of ethical questions have arisen. For these reasons, youth researchers often face challenges and setbacks when engaging with university or organisation-based ethics committees. Besides this formal side of research ethics, ethical challenges also constantly arise in research practice, through the ‘ethically important moments’ (Guillemin & Gillam 2004) that occur during the course of the research and when presenting our findings. Such moments have always been part of empirical (qualitative) research, but new challenges occur with the emergence of new methods.

This symposium engages with research ethics across the full spectrum of the research process: from engagement, to participation, through to representation. We ask presenters to engage with the intersecting ethical challenges and imperatives that they encounter within their own research. In so doing, the symposium aims to push forward both debate and practice in relation to emerging frontiers of research ethics, and to revitalise the enduring ethical imperatives that characterise youth research. By bringing together researchers at differing career stages, and using differing methods, the event will promote generative discussion of how research ethics can be embedded within every stage of the research process, and can be navigated in the context of everyday practice.

We have invited a number of speakers to address some of these questions and stimulate discussion:

  • Professor Marilys Guillemin, University of Melbourne
  • Professor Helen Cahill, University of Melbourne
  • Senior Lecturer Bronwyn Wood, University of Wellington
  • Senior Lecturer Steven Threadgold, University of Newcastle
  • Dr Joni Meenagh, RMIT University

The presentations throughout the event will address the following questions:

  • How can we work productively with both university and external ethics committees and procedures?
  • How do we contend with ethical imperatives (e.g. representation of participants and data) that extend beyond the purview of ethics committees and formal processes?
  • How can we balance competing ethical imperatives in our everyday research practice?
  • How do we engage with new frontiers of ethics, and new ethical challenges that accompany emerging research topics and spaces?

Cost: Registration for the symposium covers catering throughout the day. It is tiered as follows:

TASA members: $20 for postgraduates and unwaged/precariously employed academics (covered by the bursaries for those awarded them), $35 for waged.

Non-TASA members: $40

To register your attendance please go here.

If you have any questions please contact julia.cook@newcastle.edu.au and signe.ravn@unimelb.edu.au


Preliminary programme

8.30 – 9.00:         Welcome and registration

9.00 – 10.30:      Double keynote

  • Professor Marilys Guillemin:
  • Dr Bronwyn Wood

10.30-10.45:      Morning tea

10.45 – 12:         Panel discussion: Challenges and ways forward in creative, participatory                              and digital methods.

  • Panelists: Professor Helen Cahill, Dr Bronwyn Wood, Dr Joni Meenagh

12-12.30:             Lunch

12.30 – 14.30:    Paper session 1: Access and engagement

Ron Baird: ‘A case of bad timing’: Negotiating access in ethnographic research with      hard to reach young people.

Tori Stratford: The ethics of access: researching youth who are asylum seekers

Michael Hartup: The Ethics of Friendship in Fieldwork

Catherine Koerner: A conceptual discussion on research ethics: ethical for whom (and where to from here)?

Susan Bird & Malin Fransberg: The Ethics of Critical Auto- and EdgeEthnography

Megan Sharp: ‘Insighters’: Tensions, Comfort and Gut Instincts in Researching Punk Scenes

14.30-15:        Afternoon tea

15-17:            Paper session 2: Sensitive Research and Representation

Emma Barnard: Methodological and ethical challenges in qualitative health sociology: Researching female genital cosmetic surgery (FGCS) in an adolescent and young adult cohort.

Faith Gordon: Engaging in Critical and Sensitive Research with Marginalised Children and Young People in a Post-Conflict Setting: Ethical Considerations

Charlotte McPherson: Planning and conducting qualitative research with young people living below the poverty line in Scotland: Complex, amplified and protracted ethical concerns and processes

Megan Lang: It takes a village: a child-friendly evaluation of Children’s University

Philippa Collin, Teresa Swist, Carmel Taddeo and Barbara Spears: Working with Complexity and Young People: Between Control and Care in Digital Research Ethics

17-17.45:       Keynote: Dr Steven Threadgold

17.45-18:        Wrap up and farewell



Visual and sensory research methodologies: Potential, opportunities and challenges for youth research

Professor Marilys Guillemin, Centre for Health Equity, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health


We have seen a growth in the use of innovative research methods that enable powerful insights into personal and social worlds of research participants; these include sensory research methodologies, and specifically visual methodologies. I will focus on the use of these methodologies and its application for youth research. Sensory research methodologies have largely focused on ethnographic methods. I will focus on expanded interview methods that use the senses as access points. The use of these methods offers a portal to otherwise unexplored research areas, that for research participants may be too difficult to articulate or too intangible to describe. This offers opportunities for researchers when undertaking youth research in sensitive or difficult areas. Using examples from empirical health research, I will illustrate the benefits of using sensory and visual research methodologies. However, this is not an innocent exercise and can pose ethical challenges. I will explore the ethical implications of using innovative research methods, such as sensory methodologies, from the perspectives of both researchers and research ethics committees. Methodological and ethical guidance will be offered for those wanting to use these methodologies.


Marilys Guillemin is a sociologist of health and illness, and Professor in the Centre for Health Equity, School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne. She has published widely in the areas of sociology of health, illness and technology, innovative research methodologies, research practice, narrative ethics, and ethical practice in research and in health care. She has completed a number of key research projects that include: the management of menopause within specialised clinic settings; mid-age women and heart disease particularly focusing on women’s understanding of risk and prevention of heart disease; deafness and genetic testing; research on how ethics committee members and health researchers understand research ethics and how they address ethical issues in practice; and the role of trust in human research from the perspectives of researchers and research participants. Marilys has also undertaken research and published widely in the area of visual and sensory methodologies. She is particularly interested in the ethical and methodological challenges of visual research. Marilys is also the Associate Dean Learning and Teaching in the Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, and the Project Lead for the University of Melbourne pilot of the SAGE Athena SWAN gender equity initiative.


Beyond the ethics application: Spaces of ethical decision-making in the field

Bronwyn Wood, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

While the focus of university research is strongly on the submission and approval of Ethics application forms to certify that research is conducted ethically, many ethical dilemmas happen beyond this in ‘the field’. In addition, youth-oriented research has some unique ethical issues related to power inequities between young people and adults, legal complexities and age and the particular environments within which such research is often conducted (e.g. schools). While researchers are well-prepared for completing ethics application forms, there is very little guidance for situations which happen that require ‘situational’ ethical decision-making. In this presentation I draw on a decade of research with New Zealand young people and reflect on some of my most difficult ethical encounters. Unsurprisingly, many of these issues arose at the least expected times and spaces of research and often demanded immediate responses. Others have emerged more slowly after considerable reflection on aspects of discomfort in the research field. By using examples from participatory action research with young people, visual methodologies such as Photovoice and everyday ethical issues which arose within school and community settings I will explore the ethical complexity of youth research and some of the principles and ethics of care which need to underpin such work.


Bronwyn Wood is a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Education, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Her research interests lie at the intersection of sociology, geography and education and centre on issues relating to youth participation, citizenship and education. Recent research projects include a two-year study of the implementation of ‘personal social action’ in senior high school and a pan-university study of transition from secondary school to university. Her current Marsden-funded research (2017-2019) is about the experiences of belonging and citizenship for young people growing up in some of New Zealand’s most culturally diverse communities.


On the Necessity of Representing ‘Youth’: Problems, Politics, Ethics, Demands, Suggestions

Steven Threadgold, University of Newcastle

In this talk I present an array of issues about what representation means in youth studies in terms of Problems, Politics and Ethics. I then propose some Demands about what youth studies should be, and make some Suggestions as to what a critical sociological perspective can emphasise. Firstly, I will outline the general problems of sociologically representing anything, where using words always simplifies and misrepresents. In youth studies, problems of representation have been discussed though debates around structure and agency, class and reflexivity, and the various problematic figures of young people such as the cultural dupe, homo economicus and risky subject. Secondly, youth studies has been central to discussions of ‘the future’. How should youth studies represent the political present and the immanent future where irony and post-truth colonise media space? I will suggest Fisher’s notion of the Hauntological as a way of thinking about young people’s future: how does one represent ‘the slow cancellation of the future’? I advocate a move from the ‘epistemological fallacy’, which has ‘false consciousness’ overtones, to considering our current hauntological moment as an affective space where everyday practice occurs. Thirdly, I will consider the ethics of representation in youth studies: can we balance our care for the young as researchers invested in their lives with actually existing perilous realities? Can we do representational work that is honest about the present and the future, that is not nihilist or even ‘realistic’, but hopeful? Fourthly, I will propose that a key task of youth studies is to demand a future for young people. By asking the question: ‘What is youth studies for?’, I will sketch out the key challenges youth studies researchers face, concluding with some suggestions about how focussing on young people’s everyday practices, struggles and strategies can contribute to a better representation of them in public discourse.


Steven Threadgold is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at University of Newcastle. His research focusses on youth and class, with particular interests in unequal and alternate career trajectories; underground and independent creative scenes; and cultural formations of taste. Steve is convenor of the Newcastle Youth Studies Group and an associate editor of Journal of Youth Studies. His latest book is Youth, Class and Everyday Struggles (Routledge) and he is currently working on a book called Bourdieu and Affect (Policy Press/University of Bristol Press).



Professor Helen Cahill, Director of the Youth Research Centre and Deputy Dean of the Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne.

Helen Cahill leads a body of research investigating youth wellbeing. She specialises in the use of embodied participatory arts-based research methods to foster the active engagement of children and young people. She is intensively engaged in applied research in education and community development contexts. She is a leading innovator of Australian wellbeing interventions addressing prevention of gender-based violence, mental health, social and emotional learning, resilience, respectful relationships and drug education. She leads a body of research investigating education approaches to g the prevention of gender-based violence and promotion of resilience  in the Australian context and in developing countries within the Asia-Pacific region and the region of East and Southern Africa. She has authored over 100 publications, including over 40 wellbeing prevention education programs for schools and communities.


Dr Joni Meenagh, RMIT

Joni holds a PhD in critical sexuality studies from the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society at La Trobe University. Her doctoral research explored young people’s negotiation of their love/sex relationships within the context of new media environments. Since completing her PhD she has been working as a sessional academic at RMIT University, where she teaches social research methods and social policy. Her research explores the intersections of neoliberalism, relationship negotiation, respectability, and digital media.


About tasayouth

Blog of the Australian Sociological Association's Youth Thematic Group
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