Project themes

Picturing Citizenship featured image

Peter Drew, Aussie series, Perth (2016)

Picturing Citizenship featured image

Citizenship installation in Identity: yours, mine, ours exhibition, Immigration Museum. Courtesy Museums Victoria


The law has historically mediated interracial contact, labour relations, and the mobility of socially precarious groups of people. Looking back to the Australian nation’s colonial pre-history, this research theme explores the role of images in disseminating or challenging evolving ideas of colonial citizenship. In particular, it considers how visual vocabularies of law and order have framed understandings of land, labour and social relations in settler Australia. 

Race and Rights

This theme will address the ways that images have shaped notions of humanity, race and freedom, created relations between far-distant peoples, and participated in arguments about who counts as human. This stream will examine the importance of processes of exclusion and inclusion grounded in ideas of race, as they intersect with law, labour and borders, drawing on recent scholarly interest in the history and culture of human rights, and related processes of humanitarianism, inclusion and citizenship.


Concepts of the ‘useful citizen’ and the social and cultural value of labour as a contribution to civil society, were at the centre of debates about citizenship between the late 19th and mid 20th century. As well as examining the concept of the citizen as worker, this theme will consider visual literacy as an important civic skill used by workers to assert their own claims for citizenship rights.


How is citizenship defined and recognised, contested and regulated, through visual culture, particularly news photography concerning migrants, refugees and asylum seekers? This research theme considers how legacy and new media used images in the past, and continues to employ historical and contemporary images in public debates and political movements concerned with Australian citizenship, borders, identity, and Indigenous recognition.