Dr Adele Pavlidis is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology with the School of Humanities, Languages and Social Science, and previously a DECRA (Discovery Early Career Researcher Award) Fellow (2018 to 2021). She has authored two books, Sport, gender and power: The rise of roller derby and Feminism and a vital politics of depression and recovery and is currently working on her third book, Collision paths in the pursuit of gender equity: A feminist perspective on the affective dynamics of contact sports.
Adele recently spoke with the Library about her journey into academia, inspirations and current projects.
What path led you to your research?
I haven’t taken a traditional path to research. I dropped out of high school in Year 12 and spent a few years in the metaphorical wilderness. A few years after that I gained entry to a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education (Secondary) at Griffith University. That first semester changed the course of my life as I studied literature, sociology and political economy. I decided to focus on my Arts degree and continued to take courses in these three areas; I completed a course called Youth in Society and through a friend secured a job as a youth worker in a crisis accommodation service. After a few years there, I moved into the drug and alcohol sector and tried lots of different roles including counselling, administration and grant writing. I also had experiences working for the Department of Communities and the Gold Coast City Council while I slowly completed my Bachelor of Arts.
After all of my work experience, I decided I wanted to pursue research because I saw that so many of the exciting and inspiring ideas I was learning in my degree were not being put into practice in the community services, and I wanted to make a difference. I enrolled in my honours, completed a project under the supervision of Professor Sarah Baker on different young people’s experiences of risk and ended up publishing from that research. I was also the PASS (Peer-Assisted Study Sessions) Coordinator at that time when PASS was first being introduced to Griffith.
After my Honours I began my PhD, first continuing in the area of youth studies (with a focus on substance abuse and mental health), and then, after deciding that topic wasn’t for me, I changed to focus on roller derby!
For those who are unfamiliar, roller derby is a team sport played on roller skates. Popular in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, it was revived in the early 2000s by women and h grown around the world.
Through my PhD supervisor (Professor Simone Fullagar) I was introduced to a range of exciting feminist theories and concepts, and applied these to the exploration of gendered power relations in this ‘new’ sport culture. My specific focus was on feminist theories of emotion and affect and the power of these affects—what these affects did in terms of the micro politics of sport.
Since then I have continued to pursue innovative, feminist research, building my body of work around the affective dynamics of organisational change in sport and leisure contexts.
‘My entire life I have had an endless curiosity and the ability to imagine other possibilities’
What sparked your passion for this topic?
First and foremost, my passion has always been in theorising social, cultural and personal change. My entire life I have had an endless curiosity and the ability to imagine other possibilities. Roller derby presented itself as a cultural space that—on first glance—inspired other possibilities. As I delved into the literature within the sociology of sport I began to think of my own connections to sport (something I had previously never done). My father was drafted to the AFL and was injured very early in his career, while my mother was a dancer (although her parents discouraged her passion for movement). The gendered dimensions of my experience came into sharper focus. I swam and played tennis in primary school and in high school I switched to hockey. The friends I made in that team have remained with me to this day and together we experienced the thrills and excitement of loss and success on the field. I dropped out of hockey as politics on and off the field intensified.
My own history, together with my thirst for knowledge that can enable better futures for all, sparked my passion then, and continues to do so.
Who has inspired you?
I am inspired by so many people and ideas and places and movements. Sometimes I am inspired by reading one of my favourite scholars (such as Karan Barad, Rosi Braidotti, Rebecca Coleman, Anna Hickey-Moody, Deleuze and Guattari, to name a few) or even fiction (currently reading Three Women by Lisa Taddeo). Professor Simone Fullagar is always a great inspiration, and someone who walks the talk in terms of her philosophy and engagement with the world, inspiring me to the do the same. The same goes for Dr Indigo Willing who has inspired me to actively reflect on my privilege and biases and continue to ensure my work is community-engaged with a purpose. Dr Ali Chauveneu, a great friend and conservation biologist at Griffith, is another inspiration and someone who helps me to think more deeply and broadly about what matters.
Sometimes I draw inspiration just from going for a run, playing hockey with my teammates, taking my kids to the park, watching a film with my partner or even engaging with art or theatre. I am inspired by ideas that challenge dualisms (good/bad, black/white, right/wrong, man/woman, strong/weak, passive/active) and that challenge me to think or act differently, wherever those ideas might be!
What projects are you currently working on?
As usual I am currently working on a number of projects. The main one is finishing off my Australian Research Council project about the rise of women in professional contact/collision sports, with a focus on the affective dynamics of organisational change. I have a book due at the end of the year where we (working with Simone Fullagar and Wendy O’Brien) work through some of the key affects that are central to the current increase of women in sports like AFL, including gratitude, aggression and what we are calling ‘slick’ or ‘slippery’ affects (the appearance of no affect).
I am also exploring the current revival of roller skating as a physical cultural practice, and in August will be doing some research at the Bleach Festival with theatre company Everybody Now around women and non-binary people’s movement and wellbeing.
I continue to work with colleagues around Australia and internationally, including Associate Professor Kim Toffoletti, Professor Holly Thorpe and Dr Rebecca Olive on digital cultures and sport. I have ongoing collaborations with Professor Simone Fullagar and Dr Wendy O’Brien in the area of sport management and gendered dimensions of organisational change.
I am also working with Dr Indigo Willing on an exciting project looking at consent and rape culture in sport, with a focus on male leaders in sport.
I am a member of the Griffith Reimagining Disability: Creating Inclusive Futures Beacon (in the Play area) and also a member of both the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Research and the Griffith Centre for Mental Health. These interdisciplinary engagements support my ongoing work at the intersection of sport/gender/power.
If you would like to learn more about Dr Pavlidis’ work around gender and feminism in sport, you can listen to these podcasts:
- The Media Sport Podcast Series, Episode 31 – Adele Pavlidis: Roller Derby, Feminism and Affect
- The Gender Card, Episode 26 – Consent in Sport with Dr Indigo Willing and Dr Adele Pavlidis
- The Gender Card, Episdoe 2 – The Gender Card in Sport with Adele Pavlidis
Or read her most recent journal article:
“Troubled” derby subjectivities: Wellbeing and feminist new materialist movements in sport (2022)