Course Title: Reading Policy

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Reading Policy

Credit Points: 12.00


Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


365H Global, Urban and Social Studies


Sem 2 2008,
Sem 2 2009,
Sem 2 2010,
Sem 2 2011

Course Coordinator: Binoy Kampmark

Course Coordinator Phone: +61 3 9925 2174

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: 37.2.24

Course Coordinator Availability: By appointment

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities

None required.

Course Description

This subject addresses highly fraught questions about sex, violence and crime, focusing on how a range of recent Australian policy initiatives frame the pervasive and seemingly intractable social problem of sexed violence. Its concerns are both methodological—we explore reading strategies that are designed to deepen critical analysis of policy discourse today—and substantive—we examine specific ‘sex violence’ policies, focusing on sexual assault, family violence and domestic homicide.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

The aim is to enable students to develop a critical understanding of recent policy developments in Australia that relate to sex, violence and crime, focusing on sexual assault, family violence and domestic homicide. To that end, the course focus is on developing critical reading strategies.

At the completion of this course students will:

  • Have an informed level of understanding of the discursive production of knowledge and ‘regimes of truth’ about sex, violence and crime. 
  • Have a critical understanding of the discursive production of ‘truth’.
  • Be able to deploy foucauldian discourse analysis.
  • Have a critical understanding of what it means to say that discourse is the power to be seized.
  • Have a critical understanding of complex sex/gender questions.
  • Be able to identify and differentiate masculinist from feminist representations of sexed violence.
  • Be familiar with a range of critical reading strategies, including spotting discursive maneuvers; unpacking unsubstantiated assertions; problematising self-evident truths about sex and violence; resurrecting subjugated knowledges; distinguishing hegemonic from subjugated knowledges.
  • Be able to identify your own and others’ speaking positions on sexed violence.

Overview of Learning Activities

You will be able to take part in a variety of weekly classes that provide lectures and offer guided discussion with some problem-based small group work and seminar discussion. The course places a high value on your preparation for and participation in the weekly seminar program.

The main objective is to enable students to develop a critical understanding of recent Australian policy initiatives at both state and federal levels that target various forms of sexed violence. The focus is on so-called ‘domestic’ or ‘family violence’, sexual assault and homicide.

We begin, in Part 1, with a series of reading strategies that are designed to challenge or ‘problematise’ dominant discourses about social relationships, including policy discourse. The reading strategies taught in this course are foucauldian—after the famous French philosopher Michel Foucault. According to Foucault, to problematise means asking questions about the self-evidence of the way things are. One of the most effective methods for challenging the way things are is foucauldian discourse analysis. This method invites us to question the ‘regimes of truth’ that are produced in dominant or hegemonic discourses. We begin by asking questions about the multiple meanings of ‘sex’. How is ‘sex’ put into discourse today? What regimes of truth govern the meaning of sex today? When does sex become violence? When does sex become crime? What is ‘sexed crime’? The overall aim is to disrupt or problematise popular or common sense (hegemonic) understandings of sex, gender and sexual violence that make their way into so-called ‘sex violence’ policies.

Part 2 applies the reading strategies discussed in Part 1 to current policy initiatives in the new discursive field known as ‘domestic’ or ‘family’ violence. Commencing with a consideration of how interpersonal violence has emerged as a major social issue in western countries over the past three decades and how it has remained one today, we focus on forms of sexed violence that have attracted attention in the western media, including ‘domestic’ violence, ‘domestic’ homicide, sexual violence and child ‘abuse’. How is this violence represented in the media? How is sexed violence being put into policy discourse’ today? We will be concerned particularly with challenges to the still pervasive practice of ‘speaking for others’.

Overview of Learning Resources

Students will be provided with two course Reading Packs and online resources. In addition, you are encouraged to access media reports, government policy documents and the critical literature in the field.

Overview of Assessment

 There are three interconnected parts to the assessment in this course: workshop participation (25%), one minor essay (25%) and one take-home exam (50%).