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Dr Kathleen McPhillips

Lecturer

School of Humanities and Social Science (Sociology and Anthropology)

Gender, power and religion

Dr Kathleen McPhillips is looking into the difficult issue of child sexual abuse within the church culture by attending selected hearings at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

With Kathleen's research focusing on gender and religion in secular Australia, she gained university ethics approval to attend both the 2013 NSW Special Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and in 2014 the Royal Commission. She has come away from both with a wealth of insight.

"At both the Special Inquiry and the Royal Commission, I sat in the public gallery taking field notes. It was at times very moving, very raw, listening to the evidence and the failure of the church to respond properly," says the Catholic-raised Kathleen, who was familiar with the church's culture of secrecy.

Kathleen's research will concentrate on analyzing institutional practices and responses to child sexual abuse within a gendered framework.

The issue of secrecy and silence in male clerical cultures will be examined as well as understanding the ways in which the Church as an institution operates and manages change.

Kathleen says the NSW Commissioner's report, which was released in May 2014, was very important to research outcomes, especially given that much of the evidence was complex and contradictory. The on-going release of reports by the Royal Commission is also providing rich data for analysis.

Is it difficult to research and write about this painful issue?

"Of course I feel it, the injustice of what happened to the children and their families enormously, but as a researcher I have learnt the value of maintaining some distance as an important ethical stance, especially in order to stay open-minded and curious and focused," Kathleen says.

"It is so important to record this event: it is historical and monumental for this region and we need to understand what went wrong and how to protect children, who are one of the most vulnerable groups in society."

And as a newly qualified psychotherapist with her own private practice, Kathleen is well equipped to "manage the emotional stuff". She says the Special Inquiry and the Royal Commission have both been an invaluable opportunity to understand the intersections between religion, gender and trauma from both institutional and personal perspectives.

Kathleen, who has published widely in the field of women and religion, is also one of six chief investigators in UoN's Religion and Radicalism Research Network (RRRN) (formerly the Religion in Political Life research program – the name change now better reflects the network's research focus) led by Dr Tim Stanley and funded by an internal Faculty of Education and Arts grant to the tune of $100,000 over two years.

The Newcastle team of RRRN investigators includes Associate Professor Roland Boer, Professor Hilary Carey, Emeritus Professor Terry Lovat, and Professor Marion Maddox.

Kathleen's project in the RRRN team has been to work on two publishing projects titled Women, Religion and Politics.

Kathleen and Professor Lisa Isherwood from Winchester University, recently edited the essays that cover law, religion, the environment, philosophy and politics from feminist and post-secularist perspectives. This was published in 2015 in the British journal Feminist Theology.

The aim of the collection is to investigate the status of women in post-secular societies with particular regard to the experiences of women in religions.

Kathleen's work examines federal anti-discrimination legislation in Australia and the impact of the exemption clause of religious groups from these laws, particularly on women.

"As more and more social policy is contracted to religious groups it is vital to assess and research the politics of running social services, given that many religious groups have conservative views on gender and sexuality," she says.

Prior to this project Kathleen had been working on Mary MacKillop, Australia's first national saint, looking in particular at the political uses of sainthood in the construction of ideas of nationhood and the meaning of sainthood for a largely secular nation.

Kathleen's PhD, for which she wrote an ethnography on a feminist religious group, looking at the development and expression of new religious ideas and their experience of the sacred that emerged from refiguring divinity and identity, is from the University of Newcastle.

So when she returned to UoN in 2010 after stints at ANU and UWS "it was a little bit like coming home".

 "The school of Humanities and Social Science is a great school and FEDUA is a very supportive faculty."The Religion discipline is not often visible within universities but at Newcastle we have a dynamic group of scholars who are at the forefront of new thinking about religion and social change."

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Gender, power and religion

Kathleen McPhillips is looking into the murky world of child sexual abuse within the church culture.

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Career Summary

Biography

My research covers the fields of religion, gender and social theory, as well as the sociology of trauma and state inquiries into child sexual abuse. 

As a sociologist of religion I have written extensively on new religious formations in post-modernity and post-secularism particularly as it pertains to gender relations in Australian social life. Explorations of the intersection between state and religious organisations in relation to gender and law is a current research topic. I am currently attending the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse as a social researcher and conducting interviews with participants and observers and focusing on the Catholic Church at the Royal Commission. An analysis of cultural trauma addresses the ways in which state inquiries into traumatic issues impacts on the wider community and its claims to an inclusive and fair public sphere. 

I also explore constructions of gender and feminine subjectivity in accounts of religiosity and social theory, including feminine constructions of the sacred, queer theory/theology, and women's experience of religion. My work in feminist subjectivity also covers depth psychology and feminist Jungian approaches to femininity and masculinity as dynamic archetypal psychic formations.

Qualifications

  • PhD (Sociology), University of Newcastle
  • Bachelor of Arts, Macquarie University

Keywords

  • Post-secularism theory
  • Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse
  • Sociology of Mental Health
  • Sociology of Religion and Gender
  • Sociology of Trauma

Fields of Research

Code Description Percentage
220405 Religion and Society 50
160899 Sociology not elsewhere classified 50

Professional Experience

UON Appointment

Title Organisation / Department
Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science
Australia

Academic appointment

Dates Title Organisation / Department
1/02/2010 -  Lecturer University of Newcastle
School of Humanities and Social Science
Australia
1/01/2000 -  Editorial Board Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion
Australia
1/01/1995 - 1/02/2009 Senior Lecturer University of Western Sydney
School of Humanities
Australia
1/01/1994 - 1/01/1995 Lecturer Australian National University
School of Sociology
Australia
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Publications

For publications that are currently unpublished or in-press, details are shown in italics.


Book (3 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2008 Isherwood L, McPhillips K, Post-Christian Feminisms: A Critical Appraisal, Ashgate Publishing, London, England, 220 (2008)
2006 Hume L, McPhillips K, Popular Spiritualities: the Politics of Contemporary Enchantment, Ashgate, Aldrershot, England (2006) [A3]
2002 McPhillips K, Local Heroes: Australian Crusades from the Environmental Frontline, Pluto Press, Sydney, Australia (2002) [A3]

Chapter (5 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2008 McPhillips KM, Gray F, 'A Third Way: Explicating the Post in Post-Christian Feminisms', Post-Christian Feminisms, Ashgate, Aldershot England 167-178 (2008) [B1]
2008 McPhillips K, 'De-colonizing the sacred: Feminist Interjections for a Post-Christian, Post-Patriarchal Sacred', Post-Christian Feminisms: A Critical Approach, Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot, England 129-146 (2008) [B1]
2008 McPhillips KM, Lisa Isherwood, 'Introduction', Post-Christian Feminisms: A Critical Appraisal, Ashgate, Aldershot England 1-10 (2008)
2006 Hume L, McPhillips K, 'Believing in Post-modernity: technologies of enchantment in contemporary Marian Devotion', Popular Spiritualities: The Politics of Contemporary Enchantment, Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot, England 147-158 (2006) [B1]
2002 McPhillips K, 'Refiguring the Sacred: Re-enchantment and the post-modern World', , Palgrave Press, London, England (2002) [B1]
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Journal article (13 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2015 McPhillips KM, 'Religion and Gender in the Post-SEcular State: Accommodation or Discrimination?', Feminist Theology, 23 156-170 (2015)
2013 McPhillips KM, 'Editorial', SeaChanges, 6 1-2 (2013) [C3]
2013 McPhillips K, 'In This Southern Land: Gender, Nation, and Saint-making in Australia', Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, 29 26-39 (2013) [C1]
2013 McPhillips KM, 'Editorial', SeaChanges, 6 1-2 (2013) [C3]
2009 McPhillips KM, 'What's the Problem with Religion?', Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 22 71-80 (2009) [C1]
2007 McPhillips K, 'Gesturing Towards Speech: Acts of Restoration and Remembrance', Feminist Theology, 15 315-321 (2007) [C1]
2007 McPhillips K, Mudge P, Johnston J, 'Struggle, Self and 'Other': Images of Identity and Spirituality in the Work of Three Young Women Artists', International Journal of Children s Spirituality, 12 233-247 (2007) [C1]
2005 McPhillips K, 'Global Violence: Some Thoughts on Hope and Change', Feminist Theology, 14 25-34 (2005) [C1]
DOI 10.1177/0966735005057799
2005 McPhillips K, 'Nationalism and Globalisation: A Response to Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza', Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, 22 147-154 (2005) [C1]
2004 McPhillips K, Mudge P, 'Visual Art and Connected Knowing - Imagination, meaning and spirituality in the art works of Young People', Journal of Religious Education, 52 1-14 (2004) [C1]
2002 McPhillips K, 'Re-casting the sacred: feminist challenges to the masculinization of the sacred in social theory (2002) [C1]
2001 Bryson L, McPhillips K, Robinson K, 'Turning public issues into private troubles: Lead contamination, domestic labor, and the exploitation of women's unpaid labor in Australia', Gender and Society, 15 754-772 (2001) [C1]

Residents living in the vicinity of lead smelters are subjected to particularly high levels of contamination from the toxic process of smelting. Yet, public health strategies curr... [more]

Residents living in the vicinity of lead smelters are subjected to particularly high levels of contamination from the toxic process of smelting. Yet, public health strategies currently promoted by state health authorities in Australia do not focus their major attention on stopping the contamination at its source. This article focuses on housecleaning regimes, largely implemented by women, aimed at stopping the toxic material from being ingested by children. Because the residential areas surrounding the smelters are degraded, their property value is low and, by and large, working-class families live there. As this article shows, the recommended cleaning regimes are embedded in social class and gender relations. Analysis of the implementation of the strategy and the historical context within which it is administered provides an example of a state gender regime, the state "doing" gender and class, and a lens through which to view contemporary gender and class relations.

Citations Scopus - 4
2000 McPhillips K, 'Hidden Histories of the Menstrual Body', Australian Religion Studies Review, 13 23-44 (2000) [C1]
Show 10 more journal articles

Conference (2 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2011 McPhillips KM, 'Forgetting and remembering - An account of recovering a forgotten life', Histories of Sexuality Conference, Newcastle, Australia (2011) [E3]
2007 McPhillips K, 'Haunted Visions: Representations of Gender and Spirituality in Contemporary Australian in Film', -Refereed Conference Proceedings of Spirituality and Psychology conference, University of Western Sydney, -University of Western Sydney, Bankstown NSW (2007) [E3]

Creative Work (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2010 McPhillips KM, Sainthood in Modern Australia: Frameworks for Hearing the Voice of the Saint, Australia (2010)

Report (1 outputs)

Year Citation Altmetrics Link
2004 McPhillips K, 'The Feminist Theology Project: A Report into the teaching and learning of feminist theology in Australian tertiary institutions 1996-2001' (2004) [R1]
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Grants and Funding

Summary

Number of grants 5
Total funding $130,928

Click on a grant title below to expand the full details for that specific grant.


20151 grants / $2,000

Religion as a Vestigial State, Ottawa University Canada, 22-24 June 2015$2,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Doctor Kathleen McPhillips
Scheme Travel Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2015
Funding Finish 2016
GNo G1500646
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

20142 grants / $23,928

Religion and Radicalism Research Network$15,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team Doctor Timothy Stanley, Professor Roland Boer, Professor Hilary Carey, Emeritus Professor Terry Lovat, Conjoint Professor Marion Maddox, Doctor Kathleen McPhillips, Doctor Christina Petterson
Scheme Strategic Networks Grant
Role Investigator
Funding Start 2014
Funding Finish 2014
GNo G1400933
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Research Project$8,928

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team
Scheme Discovery Project
Role Lead
Funding Start 2014
Funding Finish 2014
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

20121 grants / $100,000

Religion in Political Life Research Program$100,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts

Funding body University of Newcastle - Faculty of Education and Arts
Project Team
Scheme Discovery Project
Role Lead
Funding Start 2012
Funding Finish 2012
GNo
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y

20111 grants / $5,000

New Staff Grant 2011$5,000

Funding body: University of Newcastle

Funding body University of Newcastle
Project Team Doctor Kathleen McPhillips
Scheme New Staff Grant
Role Lead
Funding Start 2011
Funding Finish 2011
GNo G1100893
Type Of Funding Internal
Category INTE
UON Y
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Research Supervision

Number of supervisions

Completed1
Current1

Total current UON EFTSL

PhD0.3

Current Supervision

Commenced Level of Study Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2014 PhD The Life and Theological Legacy of Pope Kyrillos VI 1902-71
Religious Studies, Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Co-Supervisor

Past Supervision

Year Level of Study Research Title / Program / Supervisor Type
2014 PhD The Mandorla: A Spiritual Memoir
Literature, Faculty of Education and Arts, The University of Newcastle
Co-Supervisor
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Dr Kathleen McPhillips

Position

Lecturer
School of Humanities and Social Science
Faculty of Education and Arts

Focus area

Sociology and Anthropology

Contact Details

Email kathleen.mcphillips@newcastle.edu.au
Phone 49215920

Office

Room W340
Building Behavioural Sciences - Building W
Location CALLAGHAN CAMPUS

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