School of Law | Our staff | Rachael Dobson | Research interests
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My research contributes to critical and cultural approaches to governance through focus on policy processes, social welfare institutions, human agency and resistance. I am especially interested to understand potential for social change through exploration of less conscious and everyday social practices and actions.

Empirically, I explore these foci through responses to vulnerable adults with ‘complex needs’, including legislation, models of support and everyday practices. This has primarily involved research into housing and homelessness sectors. More generally I am interested in professional identities and practices in lower status, under-professionalised, materially fragmented and ‘dirty work’ sectors, across social welfare and criminal justice fields.

I have developed an interdisciplinary intellectual project on the theme of ‘practice ontologies’, with two strands: interventions and social regulation, and practice languages and ‘sector speaks’. Taken together, this work investigates the role of practitioners and practice languages in the ‘making-of’ policy, legislation and institutions. Drawing on critical governance scholarship, informed by poststructural, psychosocial, critical feminist and critical race theory, I apply a spatial, temporal and affective analysis to the construction and constituting of governance phenomena at the level of the local-state.

More recently I have theorised ‘new markets of vulnerability’. This reviews global models of support as they relate to adults with ‘complex needs’. Beyond tracking contemporary developments (e.g., new legislation, trauma- and psychologically-informed interventions), I argue that evolving policy-practice actors, institutional/professional constellations and technologies provide one way to understand processes of neoliberalisation.