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The Alfred Deakin Institute welcomes three Deakin University Postdoctoral Research Fellows

Christopher O'Neill, Mia Martin Hobbs and Michael Lazarus standing on stairs

The Alfred Deakin Institute welcomes three Deakin University Postdoctoral Research Fellows

The Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation is proud to welcome three Deakin University Postdoctoral Research Fellows to Deakin University, Dr Mia Martin Hobbs, Dr Michael Lazarus and Dr Christopher O’Neill. 

The Deakin University Postdoctoral Research Fellowships (DUPRF), formerly known as Alfred Deakin Postdoctoral Research Fellowships, support and develop early career researchers identified as potential rising stars, to enhance the capacity and capability in key research areas and build the next generation of high-achieving and internationally competitive researchers. 

Shahram Akbarzadeh

It is rewarding to see ADI grow into a national leader in humanities and social sciences in less than a decade, attracting the brightest minds in the field. Our research engages with urgent social, political and cultural challenges facing humanity in Australia and beyond, and seeks to make a positive difference in how we address them. I welcome the new fellows to ADI and look forward to their contribution to the wellbeing and vibrancy of our community   

About Dr Mia Martin Hobbs

Mia is an oral historian of war and its legacies, with a focus on memory, trauma, place, gender, peace and security, and anti-war activism. Her research explores the global consequences of wars through the stories of individuals who survived them. Mia completed her PhD at the University of Melbourne in 2018, where she taught modern US and international history, and since 2021 has been working at Deakin as a research fellow on an ARC project about the history of national security in Australia. She has published research in Australian Journal of Politics & History, History Australia, Journal of American History and The Oral History Review, and her first book, Return to Vietnam: An Oral History of American and Australian Veterans’ Journeys (Cambridge University Press, 2021) won the Oral History Australia Book Award in 2022. 

About Mia's Project

After 9/11, Western militaries agreed that force alone would not defeat the spectre of global terrorism. The US, UK, and Australian militaries all set out new doctrine emphasizing that moral military conduct was critical to effective counterinsurgency. Rhetorically, the War on Terror was positioned as defending democratic values: the Bush Administration claimed the war in Afghanistan would ‘liberate’ Muslim women. Yet the War on Terror was characterised by the weaponization of race and gender by Western militaries. Military policies dehumanized enemies, allies, and civilians alike, leading to torture and civilian deaths. In military prisons, the gender of women soldiers was exploited to degrade and violate detainees.  

Further complicating this tension was the soldier-force deployed to the War on Terror – the most diverse force ever deployed by Western militaries. While US, UK, and Australian militaries promoted diversity as a strategic strength, women and minority soldiers faced epidemics of sexual violence and racism within their ranks. Drawing on oral history methods, this project examines how women and minority veterans make sense of their experiences as victims and perpetrators of gendered and racialized violence. 

Mia Martin Hobbs

This project has been years in the making and I am thrilled to finally get properly stuck in. I am particularly excited to be doing my own oral history interviews again, as for the past few years I have been working with interviews collected by other researchers to build the groundwork for this project. While I learned a lot from that experience, I have missed conducting my own interviews and working directly with people who lived through the history I explore.

About Michael Lazarus

Michael works across political theory, moral philosophy and political economy, with particular interest in theories of recognition and inequality. Michael completed his PhD at Monash University in 2020 and taught across the Philosophy and Politics departments for several years. Thus far, Michael’s work has appeared in various academic journals (including Constellations, Philosophy and Social Criticism and Historical Materialism), as well as public venues (such as The Saturday Paper, The Conversation, Jacobin Magazine and Australian Book Review). Michael’s forthcoming monograph, Absolute Ethical Life: Aristotle, Hegel and Marx, will be published by Stanford University Press next year. The book explores a shared tradition of thinking about ethics and politics in terms of ‘the good life’ and traces the reception of this idea from Aristotle through German philosophy to Hannah Arendt and Alasdair MacIntyre. I’m the editor of two collections two edited volumes with Routledge, A New Hegelian Marxism: Debating Martin Hägglund’s This Life and Hegel and MacIntyre: Reason in History that will also be published in 2025. Both volumes are part of long-term collaborative projects that Michael is very excited about. Finally, Michael is working on a special issue of Thesis Eleven. The edition will focus on Gillian Rose, a hugely underrated English philosopher. 

About Michael's Project

Michael looks to better understand the concept of ‘value’ by addressing problems in the contemporary scholarship on inequality. In the last decade, there has been an increasing tendency for economic theory to incorporate more historical approaches. As it stands, current debates about inequality are not just about the functioning of neoliberal markets and nation-states but stretch back to the early formation of market exchange and the role of colonialism. Concurrently, moral philosophers have been more attuned to the economic aspects of justice, despite in general, lacking conceptual clarity on key dynamics. Michael’s project intervenes in these debates by establishing a concept of ‘value’ that seeks to unite the economic and moral dimensions of this term. Michael’s project has three major components. First, a conceptual study of early thinkers of the unity of moral and economic ideas. Second, Michael looks to develop a critique of the current inequality scholarship, which has missed crucial insights from early theorists of inequality. From here, Michael seeks to assess not just the economic effects of immiseration, but its consequences for moral values. Michael asks if the dynamics of capitalist accumulation could restrict normatively significant aspects of our lives, such as self-worth and our ability to lead a flourishing life. Third, Michael wants to trace the economic and moral aspects of value on our political well-being, especially in terms of citizenship and collective belonging. 

Michael Lazarus

It’s a joy to be able to do this work with the support and encouragement of the ADI. My project follows on from key themes of my monograph – but its general design is much more of a departure – so it’s really nice to have the space to think through the contours of this new project. I feel like it’s a kind of creativity that I haven’t had since starting my PhD! I’m also particularly excited to further develop international collaborations as part of this project. I’ve been awarded a visiting research fellowship at Yale University, so I’ll be headed there in August. It will be fantastic to represent Deakin and the ADI while in the US!

About Dr Christopher O’Neill

Christopher’s work draws upon science and technology studies and critical media theory to study the place of automation in contemporary biopower. Christopher has spent the last several years as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Monash University node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society (ADM+S), where among other projects he developed a critical analysis of facial recognition technologies (FRT). Christopher is currently completing a monograph on FRT with several colleagues, under contract with Stanford University Press. While at the ADM+S, Christopher spent time as a Visiting Fellow at the Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing at the University of California, Berkeley, where he began work on a critical and comparative genealogy of the ‘human-in-the-loop’ in post-war Anglo-American and Francophone work science. Christopher also led a team of ECRs at the ADM+S studying the impact of automation in Australian warehouse spaces. For his work at the ADI, Christopher plans to synthesise these two strands of research, as a way of refiguring the role of the human in the loop in future automated workplaces. 

About Christopher's Project

The ‘Human-in-the-Loop’ (HITL) has emerged as a controversial figure for understanding the place of human agency and intentionality within automated systems. HITL models of human-automation interaction position a human as taking a meaningful ‘decision-making’ role in any automated system. However, many scholars have argued that the HITL provides a reductive and misguided approach to understanding the complexities of human-machine interaction. There are fears that the HITL has simply become a way to ‘rubber-stamp’ or authorise the outputs of automated systems without allowing for meaningful human input. My research will provide a generative new account of the potential of the HITL at work through the critical reconsideration of a research tradition which is often overlooked in the Anglophone academy, that of Francophone Work Studies. French researchers have emphasised the ‘catachrestic’ nature of worker capacity – the ability to improvise, to stretch workplace tools beyond their ‘normal’ functioning, to use tools in the ‘wrong’ way to produce unexpected but often beneficial outcomes. This is an aspect of the human relation to automated technology which I think has been often neglected in normative accounts of the human operator. Oriented by this theoretical frame, the study will collect rich empirical data – using worker interviews, site visits, and creative workshops – to understand the complexities and potential which is at stake for HITL within the future of work. 

Christopher O'Neill

This project has been a long time in development, with early theoretical and empirical components begun during previous fellowships. It’s exciting to be given the time and resources to devote myself to thinking through the work in so supportive and generative an environment as the ADI.

Photography by Anthony Vouliotis


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