Iris Maher

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Dr Iris Maher completed her PhD in September 2023 at Monash University.

Thesis Title
Navigating Uncertainty: An Ethnography of Everyday Transport with Families of Children with Disability in Australia

Research Description
Standard child car seats are not always suitable for children with disability; this might be because they do not offer the appropriate postural support that a child needs when travelling, or the child does not want to be restrained in the car. Whatever the reason, these children require special purpose child car seats and/or harnesses. Having a child unrestrained or inappropriately restrained in a moving vehicle is dangerous for the child in the event of a road accident. In Australia, access to these products is limited, revealing how the transport needs of children with disability have not been fully met.

For her doctoral research, Iris examined the landscape of special purpose child restraints in Australia. Her thesis drew on 16 months of fieldwork across three focus areas (People, Design, Context) and used a variety of ethnographically observation, follow/go-alongs, and socio-historical content analysis. She examined the uncertainty experienced by parents when faced with the organisational and institutional barriers to funding and sanctioning the use of these devices necessary for their everyday travel. She argued that uncertainty is paradoxically generated by agents and institutions whose role is to provide safe transport. As such, her work contributes to the recently growing anthropological theory of uncertainty.

Iris’s research took place in collaboration with Mobility and Accessibility for Children in Australia (MACA); a non-profit organisation advancing the right to safe and accessible transport for children with disability and medical conditions. By bringing together academic scholarship and anthropology in practice, her thesis additionally contributes to the field of applied anthropology.

Prof Sarah Pink, Monash University