The Centre for Critical Studies was incorporated in the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities in August 2015.

The information in this website is therefore out of date but retained for archival and staff purposes.

Professor Gay Hawkins, FAHA

Director and Professorial Research Fellow
Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies
Email: Phone: (61 7) 3346 7416


Gay has published widely on cultural engagements with the environment, practices of everyday life, media policy and institutions, and theories of materiality and political processes. She brings to this research an innovative interdisciplinary approach that is concerned with the intersections between cultural and material practices and forms of rule. Gay is currently completing a collaborative ARC Discovery project and book on the global rise of bottled water. The book Plastic Water (under contract to MIT Press) documents the ways in which bottled water markets have emerged, how bottles are impacting on tap water provision, and the implications of accumulating plastic waste on environments and bodies. In a recent ARC Linkage project Gay worked with Professor Ien Ang from UWS, Lamia Dabboussy, and the Special Broadcasting Service investigating the history and cultural impacts of this unique multicultural broadcaster. This research resulted in the book: The SBS Story: the challenge of cultural diversity (2008). Gay is also known for her research into waste habits and everyday life. Books in this area include The Ethics of Waste: how we relate to rubbish (2006) and Culture and Waste: the creation and destruction of value, co-edited with Stephen Muecke (2002). 


BA (Hons) Sociology, UNSW; PhD Sociology, Macquarie University


  • Cultural engagements with the environment
  • Theories of materiality and political process
  • Public service media transformations
  • Water and waste practices and politics
  • Everyday life, habits and sensibilities
  • Markets and publics
I welcome applications from prospective PhD students working in any of the above areas.


Gay is currently working on several projects. In June 2011 she organised with colleagues at Goldsmiths University, London, a symposium on ‘Accumulation: the material ecologies and economies of plastic’. This interdisciplinary event included speakers from the philosophy of science, marine biology, design, cultural studies, art activism, and political theory. The aim was to capture multiplicity and complexity by engaging with the processual materialities or plasticity of plastic. More than any other material, plastic has become emblematic of economies of abundance and ecological destruction. If the postwar ‘plastics age’ was cleaner and brighter than all that preceded it, this boosterism has now become intertwined with anxiety as the burdens of accumulating plastics wastes register in multiple sites from oceans to humans. Plastic accumulates meanings, functions, concerns, visibilities, values, properties and futures – how then to make sense of this? This event is now being prepared for publication and future collaborative research on the environmental and political histories of plastic is planned.
Another area of current research focuses on theories of market formation and the processes whereby markets are assembled and contested. Of particular interest is the marketisation of water or the ways in which water becomes a ‘market thing’ or good. While these dynamics are very clear in relation to bottled water with the use of branding, packaging, ‘hydration science’ and more, when it comes to the tap, market dynamics are more complex. Here we are seeing the rise of hybrid assemblages where public and corporate partnerships are normalised. Gay is investigating how these new forms of provision generate complex intersections between markets and publics and reconfigure what we understand by concepts like biological citizenship. A preliminary account of this research has been published as ‘Packaging water: plastic bottles as market and public devices’ in Economy and Society (2011).
Gay is also collaborating with Dr Morgan Richards, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at CCCS on a project entitled ‘Screen Animals’: a major study of the evolution, impacts and changing production contexts of Australian wildlife documentary.


2013 - 2015
'Making Animals Public: The Changing Role of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Building Public Value and Interest in Wildlife Documentary’, ARC Linkage with Dr Morgan Richards and ABC Television.

2013 - 2016
'The skin of commerce: the role of plastic packaging in the construction of food security, waste and consumer activism in Australia', ARC Discovery Grant with Dr Andrea Westermann (University of Zurich).
2008 – 2011 
‘From the Tap to the Bottle: an international study of the social and material life of bottled water’, ARC Discovery Grant with Dr Kane Race (University of Sydney) and Dr Emily Potter (Deakin University).
2004 – 2007 
‘SBS and Australian Cultural Democracy: Evolution, Uses and Innovation’, ARC Linkage with Prof Ien Ang (University of Western Sydney) and SBS. 


Plastic Water (under contract with MIT Press)
2008 (co-authored with Ien Ang and Lamia Dabboussy) The SBS Story: the challenge of cultural diversity UNSW Press, Sydney.
2006 The Ethics of Waste Rowman & Littlefield, US. 
2013 'Enacting public value on the ABC's Q and A: From normative to performative approaches' Media International Australia Issue 146.
2013 (with Maureen Burns) 'Investigating public service media as hybrid arrangements' Media International Australia Issue 146.
2011 ‘Packaging water: plastic bottles as market and public devices’ Economy and Society.
2009 ‘More-than-Human Politics: the case of plastic bags’ Australian Humanities Review Issue 46.
2009 ‘The Politics Bottled Water’ Journal of Cultural Economy 2: 1.
2007 ‘Waste in Sydney – unwelcome returns’ Proceedings of the Modern Languages Association Vol 122, No 4, March.
2007 (with Ien Ang) ‘Inventing SBS: televising the foreign’ Australian Cultural History No 26.
2006 (with Emily Potter) ‘Waste Matter: Potatoes, Thing-Power and Biosociality’ Cultural Studies Review, Vol 12, No 1.
2004 ‘Shit in Public’ Australian Humanities Review Issue 31-32.
Book Chapters
2013  'From materiality to plasticity' (with Jennifer Gabrys and Mike Michael) in J. Gabrys, G. Hawkins and M. Michael (eds) Accumulation: The material politics of plastic, Routledge, Abingdon, pp 1-14.

2013 'Made to be wasted: PET and topologies of disposability' in J. Gabrys, G. Hawkins and M. Michael (eds) Accumulation: The material politics of plastic, Routledge, Abingdon, pp  49-67.

2013 'The performativity of food packaging: market devices, waste crisis and recycling' in D. Evans, H. Campbell and A. Murcott (eds) Waste Matters: New Perspectives of Food and Society, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, pp 66-83.
2011 ‘Bottled Water Practices: reconfiguring drinking in Bangkok households’ (with Kane Race) in R. Lane and A. Gorman Murray (eds) Material Geographies of the Household, Ashgate, London, pp 113-124.
2011 ‘Interrogating the Household as a Field of Sustainability’ in R. Lane and A. Gorman Murray (eds) Material Geographies of the Household, Ashgate, London, pp 69-72.
2011 ‘The Politics of Bottled Water: assembling bottled water as brand, waste and oil’ in T. Bennett and C. Healy (eds) Assembling Culture, Routledge, London, pp 177-189.
2010 ‘Plastic Materialities’ in S. Whatmore and B. Braun (eds) Political Matter Minnnesota, US.
2009 ‘Public Service Media in Australia: governing cultural diversity’ in P. Iosifidis (ed) Reinventing Public Service Communication: European Broadcasters and Beyond Palgrave Macmillan, UK.
2009 ‘History in Things – Sebald and Benjamin on Transience and Detritus’ in G. Fischer (ed) W.G. Sebald and Expatriate Writing, Rodopi, Amsterdam.
2007 ‘Sad Chairs’ in J. Knetchel (ed) Trash, MIT Press, USA.
Edited Collections
2013 (co-edited with Jennifer Gabrys and Mike Michael) Accummulation: The Material Politics of Plastic, Routledge. 
2002 (co-edited with Stephen Muecke) Culture and Waste: The Creation and Destruction of Value, Rowman & Littlefield, US.
A full list of Professor Hawkins’ publications, including fulltext links, can be accessed via UQ eSpace.
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