• Class Number 4272
  • Term Code 2930
  • Class Info
  • Unit Value 6 units
  • Mode of Delivery In Person
    • Dr Maria Hynes
    • Dr Maria Hynes
  • Class Dates
  • Class Start Date 25/02/2019
  • Class End Date 31/05/2019
  • Census Date 31/03/2019
  • Last Date to Enrol 04/03/2019
    • Dr Maria Hynes
SELT Survey Results

How can thinking help us to approach empirical problems in new ways? In asking this question Contemporary Social Theory puts forward a case for the practical value of theory. It is not simply that empirical problems exist ‘out there’ in the world awaiting analysis, but the way that we figure and think through a problem is a good part of its solution. Most importantly, then, the course aims to develop skills and give you confidence in your capacity to think, so that you can engage with issues and empirical problems in an original way. 

While Contemporary Social Theory covers some of the important thinkers of the post- war period, its aim is not to provide a comprehensive survey of the vast array of social theorists that you might find in a text on social or sociological theory. The idea is to expose you to some of the key problems that have animated sociology and cognate disciplines in recent years, with the hope that you might have a window into these and similar theoretical and practical problems. On the way through the course, we will pay attention to the question of what it means for thinking to be ‘contemporary’. The issue of how we grasp what ‘our present’ is raises important questions about who the ‘we’ is here, as well as the relationship between thinking and time. In exploring these and other theoretical questions, the course will relate key theoretical problems to diverse empirical examples - from consumerism and globalisation to terrorism, the information and genetic revolutions and the role of science - with the hope that it will bring the theories alive for you.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:
1. Interpret original texts and discuss their implications
2. Evaluate the theories encountered and assess their relevance to contemporary problems
3. Reflect on the kinds of claims that a theory makes for itself (for example: does the theory claim to diagnose the ills of our contemporary social reality or to criticise the claims of modern knowledge?)
4. Produce an argument and marshal evidence for it
5. Discuss key themes, concepts and theories with your peers

Research-Led Teaching

I have an ongoing interest in the ways that social theory broadly, and sociological theory more specifically, can help us think through contemporary problems. I am especially interested in the ways in which, in a late-capitalist, media and information driven society, we can think about the entanglement of life with power, changing conceptions of human creativity and new modes and practices of resistance.

Field Trips

In Week 5, we will have an excursion to the National Gallery of Australia in the lecture period, to see and discuss the exhibition 'Power and Imagination: Conceptual Art'. Students will be given worksheets to guide their time at the gallery and to facilitate discussion.

Required Resources

All essential resources available online via wattle

Staff Feedback

Students will be given feedback in the following forms in this course:

  • written comments
  • verbal comments
  • feedback to whole class, groups, individuals, focus group etc

Student Feedback

ANU is committed to the demonstration of educational excellence and regularly seeks feedback from students. Students are encouraged to offer feedback directly to their Course Convener or through their College and Course representatives (if applicable). The feedback given in these surveys is anonymous and provides the Colleges, University Education Committee and Academic Board with opportunities to recognise excellent teaching, and opportunities for improvement. The Surveys and Evaluation website provides more information on student surveys at ANU and reports on the feedback provided on ANU courses.

Other Information

The information provided is a preliminary Class Outline. A finalised version will be available on Wattle and will be accessible after enrolling in this course. All updates, changes and further information will be uploaded on the course Wattle site and will not be updated on Programs and Courses throughout the semester. Any questions or concerns should be directed to the Course Convenor.

Class Schedule

Week/Session Summary of Activities Assessment
1 Introduction: What Does Sociological Theory Do?
2 Time: What is 'Contemporary'? Tutorial Preparation required
3 Criticising: Theory as Critique Tutorial Preparation required
4 Denaturalising: Challenging Inherited Truths Tutorial Preparation required/ Assessment Task 1 Due
5 Imagining: Theory, Experimentation and Art (visit to NGA) Tutorial Preparation required
6 Embodying: The Place of the Body in Sociology Tutorial Preparation required
7 Revitalising: Sacred Sociology Tutorial Preparation required
8 Judging: Making Sense of Historical Events Tutorial Preparation required/ Assessment Task 2 Due
9 Speculating: Diagnosing Our Times Tutorial Preparation required
10 Navigating: Negotiating the Present Tutorial Preparation required
11 Reproblematising: New Ways of Seeing Tutorial Preparation required
12 Conclusion: Putting Theory to Work Synoptic Essay Question released for Assessment Task 3

Tutorial Registration

Via Wattle

Assessment Summary

Assessment task Value Due Date Return of assessment Learning Outcomes
Critical Engagement Exercise 20 % 18/03/2019 05/04/2019 1,2,4
Research Essay 50 % 29/04/2019 17/05/2019 1,2,4
Synoptic Essay 20 % 07/06/2019 25/06/2019 2,3
Participation 10 % 01/01/9999 01/01/9999 1,2,5

* If the Due Date and Return of Assessment date are blank, see the Assessment Tab for specific Assessment Task details


ANU has educational policies, procedures and guidelines, which are designed to ensure that staff and students are aware of the University’s academic standards, and implement them. Students are expected to have read the Academic Misconduct Rule before the commencement of their course. Other key policies and guidelines include:

Assessment Requirements

The ANU is using Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website. In rare cases where online submission using Turnitin software is not technically possible; or where not using Turnitin software has been justified by the Course Convener and approved by the Associate Dean (Education) on the basis of the teaching model being employed; students shall submit assessment online via ‘Wattle’ outside of Turnitin, or failing that in hard copy, or through a combination of submission methods as approved by the Associate Dean (Education). The submission method is detailed below.

Moderation of Assessment

Marks that are allocated during Semester are to be considered provisional until formalised by the College examiners meeting at the end of each Semester. If appropriate, some moderation of marks might be applied prior to final results being released.


Participation is worth 10% of your final grade as above. The participation grade assesses Learning Outcomes 1, 2 & 5. You will clearly need to attend tutorials (a minimum of 80% attendance is required) but this grade is an evaluation of your participation: your efforts in reading the material, your preparation and preparedness to contribute to discussion.


No examination

Assessment Task 1

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 18/03/2019
Return of Assessment: 05/04/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,4

Critical Engagement Exercise

This is a 750 word assessment task, which relates to Learning Outcomes 1, 2 and 4 and contributes to 20% of your overall grade. While the title of this exercise does not exactly roll off the tongue, it does indicate what I hope this assessment exercise will help you to learn! Critical engagement with what you read will also be crucial to your research essay. The aim of this exercise is to choose one of the readings that we have covered in the first part of the course (either a tutorial reading or one of the ‘suggested readings’ listed under the lecture summary) and engage with it critically. What does this mean? We will discuss this more in class, but the following points should serve as your guide in writing your paper:


- To engage with a reading means to enter into a relationship with it

- This means that you need, firstly, to understand what the author is trying to convey and to show me that you have a good understanding

- This does not necessarily mean that you have to provide a summary of the full argument. You may choose to engage with a specific point or points from the argument, in which case you should demonstrate that you have a sense of it/their place in the author’s overall argument and are not taking it/them out of context

- Engagement with ideas involves more than understanding, however – it also involves being drawn into a relationship with them, being affected by them, entering into dialogue with them, negotiating them in your own way.

- To engage critically with an argument does not mean that you must argue with it (ie. to be ‘critical of it’, in the negative sense that the expression is often used) – though you may choose to highlight problems that you see with it

- We will be speaking about the idea of critique in the early part of the course. For this exercise, the crucial thing is that critique is not personal – and here it differs sharply from what we often understand by being critical. It does not mean you ‘have a go’ at the author in any personal sense, nor that you give me your personal opinions on the paper you are discussing.

- I want to know what your response to your chosen article is, but this should be an informed response that you pursue as an argument. This means you will need to do some reading beyond the chosen piece. You may like to do some secondary reading to assist in your understanding (another author’s analysis of the text/thinker you have chosen) and you may also need to do some reading to support your argument


- So, to complete this exercise, you will need to:

- Select a reading from the first part of the course that you found especially interesting

- Think about the issues that the reading raises for you. These may be things that are internal to the paper (eg. why does Kant assume that publicity will provide a check for morality?), or may be to do with the paper’s contemporary relevance (eg. how useful is Kant’s notion of critique for us today?). The idea is to actively engage with the reading, rather than simply applying a theory to an issue.

- Formulate a question that your paper will respond to

- Do some reading to inform your response – I would recommend you have 5 to 6 references for your paper

- Present your thinking as a cogent argument, with a brief introduction, body, and conclusion

- You do not need to sort everything out in this short piece! In fact, some of the best papers raise at least as many questions as they answer, but your paper does need to have coherence and to bear the reader in mind.


Please spend some time reading over these points early in the course and be prepared to raise any questions you may have when we discuss the exercise in tutorials.

In line with the Learning Outcomes, the following criteria will be used for assessment:

  1. Understanding of the selected reading (Does the student have a good sense of what the author they have chosen is saying?)
  2. Critical engagement with the reading (Has the student shown evidence of having really thought about the issues the paper raises? Has the student formulated a question that s/he is responding to? Has the student thought critically about the author’s ideas – ie. worked through some of the problems it raises? Has the student demonstrated originality in their response to the article?)
  3. Informed argument (Has the student provided a cogent response to the paper, which is informed by their reading?)
  4. Presentation of ideas (Are the student’s ideas presented in a logical manner)?
  5. Expression of ideas (Are the student’s ideas clearly expressed)?


UnderstandingCritical engagementInformed ArgumentPresentationExpression

Assessment Task 2

Value: 50 %
Due Date: 29/04/2019
Return of Assessment: 17/05/2019
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,4

Research Essay

This is a 2000 word research essay, which relates to learning outcomes 1,2 and 4 and contributes to 50% of your overall grade. Essay questions will be made available by Week 4. You may prefer to devise your own question – if so, you should discuss your chosen topic with me some time in advance of the due date.

The Research Essay is one of the basics of an education in the social sciences! It is an opportunity to pursue an area of interest related to the course and to develop your skills as a researcher. It is also an opportunity to show how your thinking on your chosen topic has been informed by the materials, themes and discussions in Contemporary Social Theory. While you do not have to draw on resources provided in the course, the essay should clearly be one that shows that you have done this course! While you may draw on journalistic sources, this is an exercise in scholarly research and will involve you reading and incorporating insights from scholarly books and article.


Research Strategies:

In your search for relevant references for your paper, the following are some useful places to try:

- The references provided in the course schedule posted on wattle (listed as ‘suggested readings’ under lecture summaries)

- Databases, which can be accessed via the ANU library homepage – click on ‘E-Resources and Databases’ to access a range of useful databases. In particular, the ‘Arts and Humanities Citation Index’ (web science) and the ‘International Bibliography of the Social Sciences’ should provide relevant material, which you can then seek to access through our library

- Google Scholar

- Journal browsing – you can often find specific articles and get a sense of relevant debates by simply browsing the tables of contents of journals and following up anything that looks interesting. The following journals would be especially relevant: Theory, Culture and Society; Body and Society; Theory and Event; Sociological Review; Thesis Eleven; Sociological Theory; Theory and Society; Social Analysis.

- Browsing the bibliographies of any especially relevant articles that you find – who has the author read to inform their argument?


Assessment Rubrics

You will be assessed on your ability to research a chosen topic, to synthesize your research materials and to present a sustained argument. You will also be assessed on your capacity to express and organise your ideas, to enable them to come across as clearly as possible. Apart from presenting an informed and polished paper, you should think about extending the skills of critically engagement that were applied in the first exercise. So you are encouraged to do some hard thinking! I am always pleased to see that students have worked hard with the ideas and have extended themselves. You are not expected to sort all the issues out – as you will hopefully gather from the course, the issues we discuss are complex ones that have been the subject of years of debate. But you can raise provocative or original questions and can offer new ways of thinking about the problems through your efforts at working them through.

Assessment Task 3

Value: 20 %
Due Date: 07/06/2019
Return of Assessment: 25/06/2019
Learning Outcomes: 2,3

Synoptic Essay

This is a 1500 word piece, which relates to learning outcomes 2 and 3 and contributes to 20% of your overall grade. The purpose of this exercise is to get you to reflect on some of the ways that theory can function, as discussed in the course. From the point of view of assessment, it also gives me a way of assessing your participation throughout the semester in lectures and tutorials. There will be one question that you need to respond to for this exercise, which will be given out in the second last lecture of the course. I will also use the last pair of lectures to refresh your memory about some of the different types of theories we have covered. I’d encourage you to contribute to this discussion as much as possible and to raise any questions you may have. You will then have two weeks to complete the paper. The paper should be presented as a polished paper, with a necessarily brief introduction, body and conclusion.


In your response to the set question, you should draw on the material from the course (rather than conducting your own research) to demonstrate that you have participated in the course throughout the semester. Where possible, site lecture material as well as readings – in both cases you must provide references (lectures should be referenced by lecturer and date).



Demonstration of participation in courseUnderstanding of themes coveredEngagementArgumentationPresentation of ideasExpression of ideas

Assessment Task 4

Value: 10 %
Due Date: 01/01/9999
Return of Assessment: 01/01/9999
Learning Outcomes: 1,2,5


Tutorials are a crucial part of this course and you will be expected to come to a minimum of 80% of the tutorials. This mark assesses your participation in the course (as opposed to mere attendance). Participation means that you can demonstrate that you have read the prescribed reading, that you can critically engage with it on your own terms, and in light of class discussion, and that you can evaluate how the material relates to the course as a whole, including tutorials and lectures. This part of the assessment relates to Learning Outcomes 1, 2 & 5 and contributes to 10% of your overall grade.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a core part of our culture as a community of scholars. At its heart, academic integrity is about behaving ethically. This means that all members of the community commit to honest and responsible scholarly practice and to upholding these values with respect and fairness. The Australian National University commits to embedding the values of academic integrity in our teaching and learning. We ensure that all members of our community understand how to engage in academic work in ways that are consistent with, and actively support academic integrity. The ANU expects staff and students to uphold high standards of academic integrity and act ethically and honestly, to ensure the quality and value of the qualification that you will graduate with. The University has policies and procedures in place to promote academic integrity and manage academic misconduct. Visit the following Academic honesty & plagiarism website for more information about academic integrity and what the ANU considers academic misconduct. The ANU offers a number of services to assist students with their assignments, examinations, and other learning activities. The Academic Skills and Learning Centre offers a number of workshops and seminars that you may find useful for your studies.

Online Submission

You will be required to electronically sign a declaration as part of the submission of your assignment. Please keep a copy of the assignment for your records. Unless an exemption has been approved by the Associate Dean (Education) submission must be through Turnitin.

Hardcopy Submission

No hardcopy submission

Late Submission

Individual assessment tasks may or may not allow for late submission. Policy regarding late submission is detailed below:

  • Late submission not permitted. If submission of assessment tasks without an extension after the due date is not permitted, a mark of 0 will be awarded.
  • Late submission permitted. Late submission of assessment tasks without an extension are penalised at the rate of 5% of the possible marks available per working day or part thereof. Late submission of assessment tasks is not accepted after 10 working days after the due date, or on or after the date specified in the course outline for the return of the assessment item. Late submission is not accepted for take-home examinations.

Referencing Requirements

Accepted academic practice for referencing sources that you use in presentations can be found via the links on the Wattle site, under the file named “ANU and College Policies, Program Information, Student Support Services and Assessment”. Alternatively, you can seek help through the Students Learning Development website.

Extensions and Penalties

Extensions and late submission of assessment pieces are covered by the Student Assessment (Coursework) Policy and Procedure. The Course Convener may grant extensions for assessment pieces that are not examinations or take-home examinations. If you need an extension, you must request an extension in writing on or before the due date. If you have documented and appropriate medical evidence that demonstrates you were not able to request an extension on or before the due date, you may be able to request it after the due date.

Privacy Notice

The ANU has made a number of third party, online, databases available for students to use. Use of each online database is conditional on student end users first agreeing to the database licensor’s terms of service and/or privacy policy. Students should read these carefully. In some cases student end users will be required to register an account with the database licensor and submit personal information, including their: first name; last name; ANU email address; and other information.
In cases where student end users are asked to submit ‘content’ to a database, such as an assignment or short answers, the database licensor may only use the student’s ‘content’ in accordance with the terms of service – including any (copyright) licence the student grants to the database licensor. Any personal information or content a student submits may be stored by the licensor, potentially offshore, and will be used to process the database service in accordance with the licensors terms of service and/or privacy policy.
If any student chooses not to agree to the database licensor’s terms of service or privacy policy, the student will not be able to access and use the database. In these circumstances students should contact their lecturer to enquire about alternative arrangements that are available.

Distribution of grades policy

Academic Quality Assurance Committee monitors the performance of students, including attrition, further study and employment rates and grade distribution, and College reports on quality assurance processes for assessment activities, including alignment with national and international disciplinary and interdisciplinary standards, as well as qualification type learning outcomes.

Since first semester 1994, ANU uses a grading scale for all courses. This grading scale is used by all academic areas of the University.

Support for students

The University offers students support through several different services. You may contact the services listed below directly or seek advice from your Course Convener, Student Administrators, or your College and Course representatives (if applicable).

Dr Maria Hynes
02 61258127

Research Interests

Social theory; Affect, Biopower and Resistance; Art and the Social Sciences; Racism and Anti-Racism; Human and Post-human Creativity

Dr Maria Hynes

Thursday 15:00 16:00
Thursday 15:00 16:00
Thursday 15:00 16:00
Dr Maria Hynes

Research Interests

Dr Maria Hynes

Thursday 15:00 16:00
Thursday 15:00 16:00
Thursday 15:00 16:00
Dr Maria Hynes

Research Interests

Dr Maria Hynes

Thursday 15:00 16:00
Thursday 15:00 16:00
Thursday 15:00 16:00

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