Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Postgraduate research

Postgraduate Research in Gender Studies


Simon Clay

What does 'self-care' look like? Is it yoga, vibrant green smoothies, and #blessed? Would it involve having a joint after a long day? What about condomless sex with anonymous people? My research seeks to argue 'All of the above' by investigating what self-care means for gay men and how practices of self-care shift across the community. I'm particularly fascinated with non-normative approaches that carry connotations of risk and involve drugs, alcohol, and/or condomless sex. Drawing from a wide-breadth of theory that include post-structural feminisms and philosophy, queer theory, literature, post-humanism, and affect, my research seeks to promote a new way of understanding how gay subjectivity and health intersect.

Fred LeBlanc

A doctoral candidate in gender studies, my research focuses on the conservative turn of sexuality and gender in post-9/11 American sociopolitics and popular geopolitics. My doctoral thesis explores the conflation of queerness and terrorism – and the concomitant re-heterosexualisation of American nationalisms - in X-Men comic books, focusing on the ways queer characters are consistently rendered foreign and terroristic. In particular, it engages with Puar's articulation of homo-nationalism, Bloodworth-Lugo and Lugo-Lugo's notion of the 'browning' of queerness, and Muñoz's theory of disidentification.

Completed theses supervised by staff in Gender Studies

^ Top of Page

Postgraduate Research in Sociology


Mariam Abdul-DayyemMariam

We all know it – the internet and social media are rapidly changing our world and reshaping the nature of humanity. But Mariam Abdul-Dayyem says a lot of our knowledge is taken for granted – we don’t actually know what is really happening.

A curiosity to understand this led Mariam to her PhD topic – the impact of social media on social movements within the Israel-Palestine conflict.

“Social media is challenging traditional sociology because the socialisation isn’t happening face to face – its virtual. It’s interesting to see how sociology can adapt and deal with these changes.”

“Quite a lot of research focused on the internet is out-dated; when the internet was first invented people would go to internet cafes, to universities, to public places, now everyone has the internet in their hands (smart phones). There is a big need, all the time, for new research.”

A PhD in Sociology wasn’t always on the cards for Mariam, who originally did her bachelor’s degree in Chemistry.

“I have worked in many fields such as teaching and for the Coca-Cola Company and realised I didn’t want to work purely in science – I wanted to work more with people so I started a master’s degree in Sociology.”

Originally from Palestine, Mariam completed her masters at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, exploring student perceptions of martyrs during conflict.

“From my masters I learnt there is a need for sociologists to be more active within their own research. I understood how important it was to have this discourse in the interviews with the people – it’s about engaging the people in the question.”

This activist approach is one Mariam plans to bring into her PhD research.

It was friends from Hebrew University that recommended she come to the University of Otago for her PhD.

“My friend was studying here and she said it was like being on vacation. We are from crazy, crowded cities and it can take the energy out of you – in Dunedin you don’t have to worry about that, you can just focus on study.”

“It’s like paradise - I love the nature, I love the people, and maybe it’s because we are in such a natural setting but there is something different about the rhythm and pace – it’s nice and slow – you have this kind of relief.”

Steve Glassey

Steve GlasseyI left the SPCA in late 2017 after being the final CEO for Wellington SPCA prior to the national merger. Only months earlier, I had lead the largest animal rescue operation in our country’ history as head of SPCA Rescue following the Edgecumbe floods. There were many lessons to be learnt and this event was a key motivator to embark on my PhD with Otago to provide the first major domestic study of a companion animal disaster response with a view to evaluate laws and practices to afford better protection to these animals and their human guardians. “Its been a real privilege to be supported by Otago University with a scholarship to immerse myself in this topic. I thought I had a good grasp of the subject before I started, but I am finding out new areas that have never been researched before, especially around animal disaster law and the incident management of animal emergencies. Having three supervisors from very different backgrounds (sociology, bioethics, and law) is adding huge value to my research and it is growing my critical thinking and challenging some of my own assumptions. I have found my supervisors and support staff (especially from the library) amazing and I am stoked to be doctoral candidate at the University of Otago.

Penelope Kinney

KinneyI am currently enrolled in the PhD programme in the department. I am a registered occupational therapist and senior lecturer in the School of Occupational Therapy at Otago Polytechnic, where I completed my Master of Occupational Therapy (Distinction).  My reasons for coming to the University of Otago were two fold, firstly, after spending a lot of time looking for supervisors who had the experience, knowledge and interest to supervise my project I found them at the department of Sociology and secondly, I live in Dunedin and it was great to be able to attend such an internationally renowned University, just on my doorstep. My PhD looks at transition and specifically how patients within forensic psychiatric services transition from hospital to the community. People in forensic psychiatric services, like the majority of the population, undergo a variety of transitions. Many are forced upon them and their perception, often based on reality, is that they have limited control over these processes. Moving to the community after significant periods of time in psychiatric hospitals is challenging for the majority of those making this transition. 

Interest in my project has come out of my work as an occupational therapist within a forensic psychiatric service; I worked closely with those making the transition back to the community, helping to elevate their anxieties about the process. Available literature that provides insight into the adaptation process undergone by those patients transitioning to the community is scarce. This research project aims to contribute to the body of knowledge in the area and to be of use within this clinical area of practice. My primary supervisor, Associate Professor Anita Gibbs and second supervisor, Associate Professor Martin Tolich provide me with a learning environment that is fantastic. They encourage me, nurture my learning and provide all the support I should need. I really enjoy the environment they provide where I can question, postulate and come to my own conclusions.  When I’m not working or studying I enjoy getting out into the beautiful national parks of this country, reorganising my garden and spending time with my partner.

Myunik Panthi

MyunikI am a PhD student in Sociology and have completed an MPhil in Population Studies from the Tribhuvan University, Nepal. I have chosen the University of Otago as my educational destination due to its international reputation in quality education. I am focusing my research on the leisure activities of older people residing in rest homes and the impact of these on their quality of life. The leisure activities among older people is a growing concern in New Zealand due the ageing population and the fact that they have more free time than other age groups. From the perspective of gerontologists, participation in leisure activities in later life is associated with lower risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s, depression and improves the cognitive skills and enhances the quality of life. However, these issues in rest homes have been overlooked. My research will employ a mixed method approach for the in-depth understanding of the available leisure facilities to older adults and the effects of these on their life.

I am working under the guidance of Professor Dr. Amanda Barusch and Dr. Bryndl Hohmann-Marriott and am grateful to have their wonderful supervision. Their instruction always helps me strengthen my skills and prepares me to fulfil my goal.

Completed theses supervised by staff in Sociology

^ Top of Page

Postgraduate Research in Social Work


Ola Kattoura

I am a PhD student in the Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work at Otago University. I work as a social worker and have completed my Masters degree at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

There were many reasons to choose Otago University to enroll within its PhD program; however the most paramount ones are for its international reputation in quality education, its highly professional supervision and a personal reason focusing on my intention to explore the phenomenon of domestic violence against women in Israel, the Arab Palestinian women in particular, from a distant perspective.

Partner abuse is the most common form of violence against women, and its incidence increases annually causing injuries, disability, mental and psychological outcomes or even death.

Of the various professional interventions offered to battered women, shelters are considered the most significant link which provides women protection, support and assistance in breaking the circle of violence. Yet, shelters in different closed and conservative societies and cultures such as the Arab society in Israel are considered a cruel violation to family and society traditions and norms. Furthermore, there is a lack of empirical research about battered women residing in shelters in Israel and very little is known about the contribution of these shelters. This gap of knowledge is even more pronounced among Arab women, citizens of Israel, who are part of an ethnic group. This is in spite of their high representation in shelters.

In light of the above, my study aims to deepen the understanding on domestic violence against Arab women, yet in relation with the tangled conflicted reality in Israel.

Israel has been engaged for so long in violent conflicts, a fact that is accompanied with militarization that has clearly affected women in the country, be they of the Jewish majority or the Arab minority. It is known that collective violence such as war, state repression, torture or conflict violence increases the risk of various forms of gender-based violence.  For this purpose, battered Arab and Jewish women residing in shelters will be compared, while considering the cultural and socio-political characteristics of the Arab society in Israel alongside the conflicted tangled political reality in Israel.

I am working under the guidance and the supervision of Dr. Melanie Beres, Dr. Carla Lam and Dr. Nicola Atwool.  I am blessed and grateful to have them as my supervisors.

Adele Parkinson

Adele ParkinsonMy doctoral thesis is a formative, mixed method programme evaluation of the Caroline Reid Family Support Service. Dedicated services for children of parents with mental illness and/or addiction – COPMIA – are rare in New Zealand. The Caroline Reid Family Support Service began in 2003 by collaboration between child and adolescent specialist mental health services and a grass roots consumer service to meet the needs of these ‘invisible children’. The service was named after a real person – the wife of Graeme Reid (service founder), who developed a major mental illness after the birth of their second child. I work as a clinical family social worker for the service, which is now under the management of Stepping Stone Trust, a major NGO mental health provider in Canterbury. The child and adult clients of the service were asked how well they thought the service met its goals by means of child interviews (10), age-differentiated focus groups (4), and adult client mixed method questionnaires (32). I am therefore an insider in this research project. Insider status brings some limitations, however it has allowed me to gain ethical approval from the Southern Health Ethics Committee to obtain qualitative data from child clients. After three years of juggling part time research and clinical work I have taken extended study leave from the service and am now focusing solely on my doctorate. I am still based in Christchurch and working from home with the company of my jackadoodle, Maya! You'll see me from time to time when I come to Dunedin to catch up with my supervisors in person.

Completed theses supervised by staff in Social Work

^ Top of Page