Institute for Social Justice

Doctoral Program in

Social & Political Thought

The Institute for Social Justice at the Australian Catholic University in Sydney welcomes applications from prospective PhD candidates in diverse areas of social and political thought.

Supported by innovative and world-renowned scholars engaged in local, regional and international networks of research and praxis, the Institute for Social Justice seeks to become the premier research institute of its kind in the world.

Institute for Social Justice

Reflecting ACU’s commitment to social justice and the common good, the Institute for Social Justice is developing innovative interdisciplinary research programs that experimentally combine original scholarship and normative reflection with action research. Research areas currently include:

Rethinking Social Ideals

  • Rethinking Rights and Justice
  • Diverse Struggles for Freedom
  • Human – Nonhuman Relationships in the Anthropocene
  • Economic Justice, Care and Well-being
  • Nonwestern and Southern Social and Political Thought

Addressing Social Issues

  • Secularism and Religious Diversity
  • Indigeneity and Indigenous Governance
  • Gender, Race and Class: Intersecting Oppressions
  • Migration, Borders, and Citizenship
  • Democratic Processes of Public Reflection, Action, and Solidarity

PhD Research

Our students participate in doctoral seminars and workshops analyzing theoretical and practical approaches to a wide range of social justice issues.

Students develop a deeper understanding of the great debates in political and social thought, and the complexities of socially engaged research, and develop original investigations within a strong intellectual community sustained through close contact with academic staff and other students. Our students come from diverse disciplines (philosophy, political science, sociology, anthropology, geography, political economy, indigenous studies, gender studies, literary studies, film, art history) and many also have activist experience. Some projects are purely theoretical, and some combine theory with diverse forms of empirical and action research. All students are engaged in practically oriented and theoretically sophisticated research projects that aim at the creation of a more just, participatory and sustainable world. Our current students have come to ISJ from all over the world, including Austria, Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Iran, Iraq, Netherlands, New Zealand, Turkey, UK, Ukraine.

All doctoral students participate in seminars, workshops, and supervisory relationships with outstanding academic staff working in research areas including:

  • Research areas
    • Contemporary critical theories: postcolonial, feminist, queer theories, critical race theories, critical legal theories, Frankfurt School critical theory, genealogical critique, critical literary and aesthetic theories
    • Human-nonhuman relations in the anthropocene
    • Indigeneity and decolonization
    • Secularism and religious diversity
    • Rethinking rights in and beyond the law
    • Care and global justice
    • Social movements and solidarities
    • Migration, borders, and citizenship
    • Asian and other non-western approaches to justice
    • Islam and social justice
    • Postcolonial perspectives on sovereignty
    • Reconceiving freedom
    • Transitional justice and reconciliation
    • Democratic theory and practice
    • Politics of affect and emotions
    • International relations and complexity thinking
    • Subjectivity, ethics, and politics
    • Social identities
    • Psychoanalysis and culture
    • Violence and non-violence
    • Critical perspectives on humanitarianism and development
    • Economies as sites of politics
    • Action research
    • Critical methodologies

About The Program Staff

Nikolas Kompridis, Director

Political philosophy, critical theory, normativity, receptivity, theories of freedom and agency, rethinking human/nonhuman relationships in the anthropocene, secularism, romanticism, pragmatism, philosophy of art, literature, film and music

Naser Ghobadzadeh

Political theology, Islamic social justice, Middle East, Iran, Islamic state, political Islam, secularism and religion-state relations, comparative politics, democratisation theories

Kiran Grewal

Postcolonial and subaltern studies, socio-legal studies, critical legal theory, human rights, critical development studies, international justice, new theories of resistance, intersectionality

Emilian Kavalski

European politics, International Theory, Asian affairs, the encounter of International Relations with life in the Anthropocene, nascent Asian normative orders, Complexity Thinking

Allison Weir

Social and political philosophy, feminist theory, gender/ sexuality/race/class studies, critical theory, theories of freedom, social identities, agency and solidarity, religion and secularism, care as a global issue, indigenous, Africana and Asian philosophies

Magdalena Zolkos

Historical justice, memory, reconciliation; the aesthetics and ethics of memorialization; cultural and psychoanalytic theory of trauma; affect and emotions; violence and non-violence; subjectivity / inner life in politics of oppression and liberation; literature and film in political theory

Romand Coles

Contemporary political theory, continental and critical philosophy, radical democratic theory, receptive generosity, dialogical ethics, religion, secularism and pluralisation; ecological thought and transformative action in the face of planetary catastrophe; social movements, protest and broad-based political organising; democratic educational transformation for common wealth; action research and pedagogy; aesthetics and politics; and critical cosmopolitanism from below.

Lia Haro

Cultural anthropology, social theory, Utopian social imaginary, contemporary international development theory, ethnography, ecological sciences and social justice.

  • Professorial Fellows

    Linda Martín Alcoff

    Professor of Philosophy, Hunter College, CUNY Graduate Center

    19th and 20th Century Continental Philosophy, Foucault, Epistemology, Feminist Epistemology, Feminist Theory, Critical Race Theory, Post-Colonial Theory

    Rajeev Bhargava

    Professor and Director, Institute of Indian Thought, Center for the Study of Developing Societies, New Delhi

    Secularisms, Political Theory, Indian Politics and Political Thought, Democracy and Diversity, Methodological Individualism

    Akeel Bilgrami

    Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University

    Political philosophy, moral psychology, philosophy of mind and language Secularism, Muslim identity, Gandhi, Marx, human and non-human relations

    Joseph Carens

    Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto

    Justice, Equality, and Freedom; Migration, Citizenship and Borders; Ethnic and Cultural Diversity

    Jennifer Nedelsky

    Professor of Law and Political Science, University of Toronto

    Feminist Theory, Legal Theory, American Constitutional History and Interpretation, Comparative Constitutionalism, Relational Autonomy

    Costas Douzinas

    Director, Birbeck Institute for the Humanities, Professor of Law at Birbeck College, University of London 

    Human rights, aesthetics, cultural jurisprudence, postmodern legal theory and political philosophy.


Applications from International and Domestic candidates are now being accepted for admission for 2015.

Please write to Paula Gleeson

to express your interest in applying for PhD candidacy in the Institute.

Your expression of interest should include a short research proposal (up to 5 pages) including an explanation of how your research fits within the Institute for Social Justice.

Application and scholarship forms can be found on the ACU Research website.

Domestic students can apply for an Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) Scholarship

International students can apply for an International Postgraduate Research Scholarship.

Indigenous students can apply for an ACU Indigenous

Postgraduate Research Scholarship.