2021 WiP Conference (25th Anniversary) – Rites of Passage

Celebrating 25 Years of WiP

You’re invited to attend the 25th Anniversary WiP Conference sponsored by The University of Queensland's School of Communication and Arts. We hope you enjoy the journey. The theme for this year's conference is Rites of Passage: Journeys, Transitions and Thresholds. This year the conference will be held at the Global Change Institute (GCI), St Lucia Campus  between Monday 22 – Tuesday 23 November 2021. 



Welcome to the 25th annual Work in Progress Conference sponsored by the School of Communication and Arts. This year’s theme is Rites of Passage: Journeys, Transitions and Thresholds. It’s a fitting theme as the WiP Conference passes through its 25th Anniversary threshold, a journey that has witnessed many transitions and that has seen some varied and awe-inspiring research presentations over the last two and a half decades. From Pockets of Change to The Seven Deadly Sins to Monsters: What have we created? the themes have incited thought-provoking research conundrums and attracted a wide variety of keynote speakers.

As it’s our 25th Anniversary, we are planning some special panels alongside the usual academic paper sessions. On day one, Kate Cantrell, award-winning writer, editor, and teacher is to open the conference with her keynote address. Day two will open with a performative panel in which scholars willshowcase their work in non-traditional formats. Finally, day two will end with a success panel in which past HDR students will discuss where their PhD took them – sometimes their journeys didn’t take them to where they expected them to; sometimes, they crossed new thresholds and went through amazing transitions to get to where they are now.

All our very best,

The WiP Organising Committee (Taryn, Clare and Caitlin)

Ticket Details

Ticket Price: $75 + Eventbrite Fee

Included in registration fee:

  • You will be able to select which sessions you wish to attend on both 22 and 23 November 2021. 
  • Morning tea, lunch, and afternoon tea is included on both days.
  • On the final day of the conference social drinks and dinner are also included.

Rites of Passage: Journeys, Transitions and Thresholds

The concept of rites of passage was first articulated by anthropologist Arnold van Gennep (1873-1957) in his book The Rites of Passage, initially published in 1908. In this seminal work, van Gennep partitions rites of passage into three categories: rites of separation, transition rites, and rites of incorporation.

The concept of rites of passage was perhaps given its best exposure to the public through Joseph Campbell’s best-selling book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which narrates the journey of the hero crossing the threshold into the underworld. In addition, rites of passage can refer to coming-of-age rituals that bring young people from the dependence of childhood to the independence of adulthood. Formal coming-of-age rituals and initiations are practised in cultures around the world, including in African countries and First Nations Australian cultures. Less formalised coming-of-age rituals may take the form of initiations into fraternities, the marking of eighteenth and twenty-first birthdays, and high school graduation balls.

The notion of rites of passage also relates to transitions within other stages of life, including birth, marriage, and death. Many religions around the world mark these stage-of-life transitions with ceremonies such as baptisms and bar mitzvahs. Most of these rites of passage are conscious and celebrated, but some are unconscious, including a person’s developing sexuality, myths pertaining to control and boundaries propagated by society and the media, and a sense of emerging identity of the self and the community.

Potential topics and research areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Journeys through different real or imagined environments, crossing boundaries and thresholds, intersections and pathways, beginnings and endings.
  • Coming of age, unconscious or conscious rituals, initiations and practices.
  • Time, temporality, memory, impermanence, separation and absence.
  • Technology as a rite of passage, interruption and disruption.
  • Thresholds in taboos and controlled information in the areas of politics, education, healthcare, social media, visual arts, television, the printed word, theatre, film, dance, or advertising; filters, indoctrination, propaganda, cultural expectations, and myths.
  • Sexuality, autonomy, freedom, creativity, femininity or fertility/masculinity or virility.
  • Adulthood versus childhood, adolescence, maturing, evolving and developing.
  • Life cycles, birth and death, aging, origins, ancestries, heritage, foundations and remembered history.
  • Being on the brink, verging on the new, advancing and progression.
  • Animism or the supernatural, the material and the spiritual, religious ceremonies and customs.
  • Journeys through life including careers, religions, relationships and roles, scientific discoveries, technology, literature, healthcare, business and the performing arts.
  • Transitions through the loss of identity, liminal spaces, suspension of individuality, being in a state of limbo, appropriation, lack of agency, loss of self.
  • Rites of Incorporation: Being welcomed back into the fold, sense of belonging, returning, integration, unification.
  • Moments of historical change: pivotal moments, cultural shifts, significant events.
  • Shifts in the natural environment/climate, and global or local responses to these changes.

Paper submissions:

Email an abstract of no more than 200 words and brief biography to uqwip2021@gmail.com by Friday 1 October 2021. 

We also welcome papers in alternative formats, i.e. performance papers. For enquiries around non-traditional papers please email uqwip2021@gmail.com

The School of Communication and Arts is delighted to continue the annual Dr John McCulloch Memorial Prize (valued at $1000). 

The prize is open to any Higher Degree Research (HDR) student within the School who presents a paper at the forthcoming 2021 WiP Conference.

Dr John McCulloch OAM (1938-2010) died of pancreatic cancer in 2010, shortly after submitting his PhD thesis, a biography of Queensland suffragist Elizabeth Brentnall. John was a researcher with a special interest in the advancement of gender equity. His published work includes From Suffragists to Legislators, written to mark the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Queensland. John was a senior parliamentary research officer at the State Parliamentary Library (1984-1995), but also found time to undertake voluntary work for the Queensland and Australian Youth Hostels Association, served as convenor of the Homelessness Taskforce 99, and was a part-time researcher for St Vincent de Paul. John was awarded an Order of Australia Medal in January 2000 for service to youth.

Premier Anna Bligh is recorded in Hansard (28th October 2010) as stating in Parliament, “The word ‘progressive’ is bandied about constantly in political circles and its definition is widely argued, but to my mind John McCulloch was a true political progressive. He was a deep thinker, an activist and a doer.” John had a long connection to The University of Queensland: roles included activity as a student, as a tutor, and as an elected Sub-Dean of the Arts Faculty. He was a member of the first Campus Camp group, established in 1973, and continued throughout his life to be a strong advocate on equity issues. Dr John McCulloch significantly contributed not only to the lives of students in the School and the University, but also to the WiP Conference which he convened and attended while he was completing his studies. But to many of us, John was an unassuming fellow student - supportive, collegial and encouraging.

We are delighted to have the support of John’s family and partner Gary in creating this prize, for Communication and Arts students, in memory of a fellow student. Gary Portley has generously offered to donate the prize to be offered at this WiP conference in memory of Dr John McCulloch OAM. The award will be presented at the conference to the author of the winning paper.

How to Apply

School of Communication and Arts HDR students participating in the forthcoming WIP conference are invited to submit their written papers to uqwip2021@gmail.com by 30 September 2021.

All UQ School of Communication and Arts students presenting at the conference are eligible.

Written papers should be fully referenced and be no longer than 2000 words (excluding bibliography).


Papers will be judged by an SCA panel, drawn from across a range of disciplines, and the decision of the judges will be final. Judges will select the winning paper based on academic standards; criteria include argument structure, knowledge of the field, clarity of written expression, attention to referencing, and salience of content in relation to the annual conference theme. The papers must be presented at the conference for the SCA student to be eligible for the award.


Coming soon. 

Introducing Kate Cantrell 

Kate Cantrell is an award-winning writer, editor, and teacher working at the intersection of creative writing, mobility studies, and social justice. Her research specialisation is contemporary accounts of wandering and narrative representations of illness, immobility, and displacement, with a special focus on KidLit and ZitLit (children's and young adult literature). She has published over 40 journal articles, conference papers, and essays, as well as industry articles in high-profile outlets such as Times Higher Ed where she is a regular contributor. Her short stories, creative non-fiction, and poetry appear in highly-esteemed magazines and journals such as Overland, Meanjin, and Westerly, among others.

The first Arts researcher in Queensland to be awarded a Smart Futures Fellowship ($23,000), Kate's research on wandering has attracted external funding and often attracts media interest. She has produced commissioned output for community organisations such as Surf Life Saving Australia; government bodies such as Tourism QLD; and NGOs such as UNANIMA International. She has also consulted on global campaigns at the United Nations, where she continues to build globally significant partnerships through her arts advocacy.

Keynote Adress Details

Date: Monday 22 November 2021

Time: coming soon

Topic: coming soon