Canberra-raised journalist and SBS Sexuality commentator Simon Copland has made his name writing about identity politics and the rise of “anti-politics” in democratic countries.
He decided to explore both topics in greater depth and returned to his alma mater to do just that for his doctorate.
“You have identity politics, which has been around for decades, especially since the 1970s and 80s with a drop-off among the left in discussions about class,” Simon explains.
“Then you have growing anti-establishment politics or anti-politics, such as Donald Trump or Brexit, and how it’s manifested across Europe, and Pauline Hanson in Australia.
“I’m interested in how these political forces interact with each other, as I think a lot a lot of those interaction questions are based around the state, and how we as citizens engage with it.”
Simon cautions that he’s only recently started his research, and expects its focus will narrow.
He’ll examine case studies such as the Australian government’s efforts in 2016 to hold a plebiscite on same-sex marriage, and rejection by some groups of neoliberalism.
Simon attained his Bachelor of Arts/Science from ANU in 2011, followed by a Master of Science Communication in 2013.
After university, he lived in Brisbane and later Edinburgh, working as a freelance journalist and commentator, before returning to Canberra.
“In 2016 I was back on campus doing some teaching and I decided to do a PhD as a way of finding more structure and support behind some of the research I was already doing in my freelance work,” Simon says.
“It’s been great to come here and have colleagues with whom I can chat.
“I chose the School of Sociology because I’d gotten recommendations from a bunch of people that it was a great department, which I’ve found to be true. It’s been really supportive.
“I was recommended to meet Helen Keane (Associate Professor and Head of School) who then agreed to be my supervisor. I’m building a really good relationship with her.”
Simon also loves the ANU campus, citing it as his favourite part of Canberra.
“There’s been a lot of formal support for Higher Degree by Research (HDR) students such as training with the Research Office, a welcome lunch with the Vice-Chancellor, and also an induction morning.
“There’s also the Shut Up and Write camps which I’ll be going to, and also boot camps.”
He’s enjoyed his School’s occasional drinks and afternoon teas, and regular sociology seminars where he’s been able to hear about other people’s research.
“Also I’ve found whenever I’ve emailed someone within the school, I’ve had great responses like ‘let’s meet up’, or ‘here’s some of the research that I’m working on which might be relevant’.
“The Sociology HDR students community is also really strong, too.”
Simon will continue his freelance journalism and SBS commentary, both to vary his writing style, and also reach audiences beyond the academy.
“For me, there’s no point to research unless we engage with the broader world. We have to engage with the rest of the community, or we’re just building knowledge for our own sake.”
Learn more about Simon via his blog, or follow him on Facebook or Twitter. The School of Sociology is also on Twitter and has a range of postgraduate study options.
Explore your career opportunities at our Postgraduate Information Evening on Monday 15 May.