Associate Professor Melanie White
Associate Professor

Associate Professor Melanie White

PhD (Carleton University) MA (Carleton University) BA (University of British Columbia)

Arts,Design & Architecture
School of Social Sciences

Melanie is a Sociologist who specialises in classical and contemporary social theory. Born and educated in Canada with a PhD from Carleton University in Ottawa, Melanie is Deputy Head of School (Education) in the School of Social Sciences and a Fellow of the UNSW Scientia Education Academy.

Melanie has always been fascinated by what we mean by the 'social.' Her current research considers how competing ideas of sympathy helped to distinguish the social from the biological in the development of the discipline of sociology in 19C France. She has a particular interest in the social theories of Emile Durkheim, Gabriel Tarde, Henri Bergson, Michel Foucault and Georges Canguilhem.  She is interested in questions about the relations between habits & creativity, error & uncertainty, and in finding the point at which the ordinary becomes extraordinary in everyday life. She also enjoys rediscovering lost and forgotten thinkers and considering how they contribute to contemporary debates in social theory and our understanding of everyday life.  

She has published in high-ranking international journals such as Body & Society, Journal of Classical Sociology and Economy and Society. Her book Bergson, Politics, and Religion co-edited with Alexandre Lefebvre (University of Sydney) is published with Duke University Press. 

Melanie is also Adjunct Research Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.

+61-2-9385 2304
163 Morven Brown
  • Journal articles | 2010
    Lefebvre A; White M, 2010, 'Bergson on Durkheim: Society sui generis', Journal of Classical Sociology, vol. 10, pp. 457 - 477,

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada - Postdoctoral Fellowship, York University, Canada

Canada Research Chair - Postdoctoral Fellowship, York University, Canada


2022   Award for Excellence in Educational Leadership, Faculty of Arts, Design & Architecture, Staff Awards, UNSW Sydney

2019   Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA), UK

2019   The Michael Wearing Memorial Award for Excellence in Postgraduate Research Supervision, UNSW Sydney

2018    UNSW Scientia Education Academy Fellow, 2019-2022

2017    Vice-Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence (General Category), UNSW Sydney

2016    Excellence in Postgraduate Research Supervision Award, ARC Postgraduate Student Council, UNSW Student Life and Dean of Graduate Research School, UNSW Sydney 

2015    Dean's Award for Teaching Excellence (General Category), Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, UNSW Sydney

2006    Nominated, Symons Award for Excellence in Teaching, Trent University, Canada

2002    Teaching Excellence Award, Carleton University Students' Association, Carleton University, Canada


Research Areas:  Classical and contemporary social theory, political theory, citizenship studies, sociological theory


Current Research Projects

Bergson's Social and Political Thought
In collaboration with Alexandre Lefebvre (University of Sydney), this project develops the political, social and religious philosophy of Henri Bergson, an early twentieth century French philosopher. 

The Animal Question in Society
This project considers how social thinkers such as Auguste Comte, Jean-Marie Guyau, and Alfred Espinas understood the relation between human and nonhuman animals in order to interrogate how the social and the biological were conceptualised in 19C France.

Unsentimental Sympathies
Through rich everyday examples, this project demonstrates how the idea of 'fellow-feeling' is easily converted into an unsentimental sympathy.

Future Research Projects

Life, Vitalism and Society
This project considers the underpinning vitalism of three 20C sociological thinkers in the German tradition: Georg Simmel, Alfred Schutz and Max Scheler.


Affiliations and Membership

Adjunct Research Professor, Carleton University, Department of Sociology & Anthropology

Member de la Société des amis de Bergson

Adjunct Research Professor, Carleton University, Department of Sociology & Anthropology


My Research Supervision

Dovi Seldowitz (PhD Social Sciences, Sociology) Emancipatory Inclinations of a Religious Elite: Toward a New Sociology of the Sermon (Primary Supervisor)

Rickie-Lee McLauren-Smith (PhD Social Sciences, Sociology) Human Value, Children and Environmental Care (Primary Supervisor)

Roxarne Moon (PhD Social Sciences, Sociology) Folktales and the Sociology of Belonging (Primary Supervisor) 

Roberta Pala (PhD Social Policy Research Centre) How vaccines come to matter: A feminist STS encounter with the politics of vaccines, Joint Supervisor with Prof kylie valentine and Prof Matthew Kearnes)

Jonathan Talbot (PhD Social Sciences, Sociology) (Joint Supervisor with Dr. Andy Kaladelfos)

Chelsea Van Deventer (PhD Social Sciences, Anthropology) How do different disciplines use language/terminology differently? (Secondary Supervisor)

Madelene Veber (PhD Social Sciences, Sociology) The Sociology of Error (Joint Supervisor with Prof Timothy O'Leary)


PhD completions

Joe Alizzi (2021) Defending the promise: Maintaining a place from which to act in the age of climate change (Secondary Supervisor), Sociology, UNSW Sydney

Mary Cantrill (2020) The Family Help Seeking Experience: Adolescent Acute Mental Illness & the First Hospitalisation (Joint Supervisor with Prof Elizabeth Fernandez), Social Work, UNSW Sydney

Dita Svelte (2019) Surprise and Seduction: Theorising Fashion via the Sociology of Wit (Primary Supervisor), Sociology, UNSW Sydney, Nominated, Best HDR publication, Dean's Research Awards (2018)

Megan Rose (2018) Affirmation and Affect: A Sociological Account of Kawaii Fashion Communities (Primary Supervisor) Sociology, UNSW Sydney, Recipient of the Arts & Social Sciences Dean's Teaching Award - Rising Stars (2018), Recipient of the Vice-Chancellor's Teaching Excellence Award (2020).

Jacqueline Dalziell (2018)'The Blindness of the Seeing Eye': Testing Anthropocentrism (PhD Primary Supervisor with Prof. Vicki Kirby) Sociology, UNSW Sydney, Best HDR publication, Dean's Research Awards 2018

Na'ama Carlin (2016) Written through blood: The moral complexities of Jewish ritual circumcision (PhD Primary Supervisor) Sociology, UNSW Sydney, Recipient of the Vice-Chancellor's Teaching Excellence Award - Early Career (2019).

Catherine Tuey (2015) Remainders of Loss:  Memorialization Beyond the Funeral (PhD jointly supervised with Professor Alan Hunt, Carleton University), Sociology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.

Daniel Braun (2014) The Aesthetic Intensity of Superheroes:  An Autoethnographic Interpretation of Contemporary Superhero Popularity (PhD jointly supervised with Professor Bruce Curtis, Carleton University), Sociology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada.

Will Johncock (2013) Time and Transcendence: The corporeal conditions of time and social synchronisation (PhD Secondary Supervisor) Sociology, UNSW, Sydney.



My Teaching

Teaching Areas

Classical and Contemporary Social Theory


Current Teaching

ARTS1870 Rethinking the Social (T1 2023)


Honours Supervision (Completed Projects)

Paige Ayton (2021) Farming with Dogs: A qualitative study about how Australian male farmers reflect on working with dogs (Sociology and Anthropology, UNSW Sydney).

Zara Khan (2020) Order your essay today! Investigating the relationship between contract cheating services and student behaviours (Criminology, UNSW Sydney)

Dovber Seldowitz (2020) Women’s Leadership in the Contemporary Hasidic Community: Its Prevalence, Development, and Relation to Hasidic Religious Discourse (Sociology and Anthropology, UNSW Sydney)

Maya Ghattas (2019) In the Image of Death: A Nature Not Equal to Nature. (Sociology and Anthropology, UNSW Sydney)

Ellen Jacobs (2019) Disciplined Autonomy: A Synthesised Concept and its Holistic Analysis of Crime Prevention Techniques. (Sociology and Anthropology, UNSW Sydney)

Ida Ioannou-Marsh (2017) Political Purity and Innate Politics (Sociology and Anthropology, UNSW Sydney)

Victoria Rae (2017) Where have all the experts gone?  A sociological consideration of post-truth and non-traditional news outlets (Sociology & Anthropology, UNSW Sydney)

Yvette Kiddle (2016) Imitation to Educate Children:  What Happens to Liberty? (Sociology & Anthropology, UNSW Sydney)

Roxarne Moon (2015) In Defence of Home (Sociology & Anthropology, UNSW Sydney), Recipient of The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) Honours Student Award

Nicholas Langley (2014) The Festival of Distraction: The Search for Community (Sociology & Anthropology, UNSW Sydney)

Rickie-Lee McLauren-Smith (2014) Uprooting Apathy: Towards Environmental Ethics of Care (Sociology & Anthropology, UNSW Sydney)

Holi Birman (2012) Stillness and Remembering the Self (Sociology & Anthropology, UNSW Sydney), Recipient of The Australian Sociological Association (TASA) Honours Student Award

Paula Houseman (2012) The Cancer Myth (Sociology & Anthropology, UNSW Sydney)

Na’ama Carlin (2010)  (W)riting the Body and the Circumcised Text (Sociology & Anthropology, UNSW Sydney), Recipient of the Sol Encel Honours Thesis Prize