Yasothara (Yaso) Nadarajah is a Senior Research Fellow of the Centre for Global Research and a Senior Lecturer in International Development at RMIT's School of Global, Urban and Social Studies.
Yaso Nadarajah is Researcher, Educator and Development Sociologist with special interest in the areas of human ingenuity, community engagement, sacred investment, and international development. Commitment to establishing an international and regional cross-sector reference in the Indo-Pacific has meant spending more than sixty percent of her time in the field, and working through both local and global challenges in areas stretched and remade by reclaimed customary practices, national agendas and global markets.
As a key researcher in RMIT’s Centre for Global Research, Yaso’s primary undertaking was the Local-Global Community Sustainability project, a study of communities across a range of sites in Australia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, East Timor and Papua New Guinea. This study has generated a wide range of research reports and academic publications, with visible influence in public and community development policy. She is continuing her research in Papua New Guinea, India, Malaysia and Australia, where she is working on a body of work around the questions of the sacred, social change and ‘building from the ground-up’ development approach.
Yaso was an Executive Member of the Centre for Global Research (2005-2009) & Research Program Manager of the Community Sustainability Program in RMIT Global Cities Institute (2009 – 2013). She was Head, Intercultural Projects & Resources Unit (IPRU) 1997-2005; and alumna, Committee for Melbourne Future Focus Group Leadership program.
Current Honorary and Research Associations
- Adjunct Professor, Centurion University (India)
- International Committee Member, Institute of Knowledge Studies, Centurion University (India)
- Senior Research Associate with: Sisters-in-Islam NGO Forum (Malaysia); | Nelson Mandela
- Metropolitan University (South Africa) | and Coleraine Regional Community Enterprise (Australia)
- Elder, Kukukuku Tribal Council of Elders, Morobe Province, Papua New Guinea
- Series Editor, Local Global Journal: Identity, Security, Community, Centre for Global Research, RMIT University (Australia)
The primary focus of Yaso’s research is to develop a deeper understanding of the structural, political, ideological, and cultural roots of socio-economic marginalization and exclusion through a varied, interdisciplinary approach. She works with research partnerships and advisory councils (contemporary, tribal, traditional) that seek to bring the most vulnerable and excluded of people to the forefront as partners, defining their own lives and the way they want to live through sustainable “ground up” community development projects. The ‘ground-up’ development projects she has developed or been invited to collaborate with for more than a decade, have provided her with the opportunity to rethink notions of custom, tradition, culture, power and fear. They also offer compelling encounters to explore the mutual shaping of local struggles and global forces; and give access to place and its corresponding histories, impressions and geographical complexities. Yaso’s recent non-textual works include ; With the Kukukuku of Papua New Guinea – A Ground-Up Response to Development in a Remote Region (documentary), (2014); Penpipe, Voice of the Kukukuku (Visual Cultural Recovery Map, (2013), and A Memorandum of Relationship (Visual Culture Map), (2012).
Current research projects include
- The Local-Global Eco-Enterprise Research Project in remote Papua New Guinea with Kukukuku tribal community and Clan Elders
- The Helen & Geoff Handbury Community Fellowship Program, Australia
- A Study of Muslim Polygamous Marriages in Peninsular Malaysia – principal researcher with Sisters in Islam Forum (NGO) Malaysia & researchers from University Malaya, University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and University Science, Malaysia (USM)
- Coleraine (Western Victoria) Eco-Enterprise, Australia
Recently completed research projects
Rebuilding Communities in the Wake of Disaster: Social Recovery in Sri Lanka and India
(Australian Research Council, AusAID, Monash University - 2007-2013)
Sustainable Communities, Sustainable Development: Other Paths for Papua New Guinea
(Papua New Guinea National Department of Community Development and Asian Development Bank 2007-2013)
Global Cities Community Sustainability Program: Searching for Community: Melbourne to Delhi (2013-2015) - (Global Cities Research Institute, RMIT University; Colombo University, Sri Lanka and Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
Registered research supervisor and areas of supervision include the study of communities as pathways and human possibility in its search for wellbeing, identity and belonging; local-global development; de-colonial methodology and inter-cultural practice
Supervising several PhD and Masters Research projects addressing a range of questions on political identity, place and indigeniety; settlement, religion and belonging; Culture and governance; Indigenous knowledge and governance and Aid, voluntarism and development. Recent completion of two PhDs (Representation of Contested Identities: 1.5 Somalis in metropolitan Melbourne; and Usme: Spaces of Hope: Processes of re-Territorialisation in Bogota, Columbia) and 4 Master’s thesis.
Yaso is a Senior Lecturer and teaches in the International Development Program (Masters) in the School of Global, Urban & Social Studies. Yaso coordinate and teaches Development Theories as well as Inter-Cultural Practices. Yaso is currently also collaborating with the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering through a Final Year Capstone Project. 3 groups of students are working on developing processing machines for small scale farming ventures for the Local-Global Eco-Enterprise project in PNG.
Yaso has also developed a Systematic Livelihood and Income-Generating Activities (SLIGA) Training Package in consultation with project Elders and leaders of the Kukukuku tribal community (PNG). This 2-year training program was developed in 2015 as a ground-up approach organised around five integrated focal areas: (1) Food and Agriculture, (2) Health and Wholeness; (3) Eco-Enterprise; (4) Renewable Energy and (5) Water, Waste & Soil. Based on principles of post-development theories, it is focused on facilitating tribal communities, such as the Kukukuku people, to construct economically, culturally and ecologically respectful alternatives to development; and to negotiate processes with both the local and the global
Yaso previously taught Gender Issues in Development (core program in International Development) 2011-2015 and Field Project (2010-2013).
- The Patea (Kukukuku) Tribal Eco-Enterprise: Sustainability in Papua New Guinea's rural/remote reality (2011- 2019)
- Local Global, Community Sustainability (2012- 2018)
- Handbury Community Fellowships (2002 – 2018)
- DEd, University of Melbourne, Australia
- MEd, University of Melbourne, Australia
- TESL, RELC, Singapore
- MA, University of Madras, South India
- Grydehoj, A.,Su, P.,Huang, S.,Nadarajah, Y. (2023). Tensions and challenges in the decolonisation of academic publishing: A cross-tabulation analysis of articles in Island Studies Journal In: Learned Publishing, 36, 4 - 13
- Nadarajah, Y. (2023). In press - From field to theory: rethinking development studies through study tours In: Third World Quarterly, , 1 - 17
- Nadarajah, y.,Martinez, E.,Su, P.,Grydehoj, A. (2022). Critical reflexivity and decolonial methodology in island studies: Interrogating the scholar within In: Island Studies Journal, 17, 3 - 25
- Grydehoj, A.,Bevacqua, M.,Chibana, M.,Nadarajah, y.,Simonsen, A.,Su, P.,Wright, R.,Davis, S. (2021). Practicing decolonial political geography: Island perspectives on neocolonialism and the China threat discourse In: Political Geography, 85, 1 - 11
- Nadarajah, y. (2021). Future past i am a coolie-al…and i reside as an invisible island inside the ocean: Tidalectics, transoceanic crossings, coolitude and a tamil identity In: Island Studies Journal, 16, 155 - 172
- Nadarajah, y.,Mejia, G.,Pattanayak, S.,Gomango, S.,Rao, D.,Ashok, M. (2021). Toward Decolonizing Development Education: Study Tours as Embodied, Reflexive, and Mud-up In: Journal of Developing Societies, 38, 81 - 102
- Grydehoj, A.,Nadarajah, Y.,Markussen, U. (2020). Islands of indigeneity: Cultural distinction, indigenous territory and island spatiality In: Area, 52, 14 - 22
- Nadarajah, Y.,Grydehoj, A. (2016). Island studies as a decolonial project In: Island Studies Journal, 11, 437 - 446
- Nadarajah, Y. (2016). Doing fieldwork in disaster areas - Nurturing the embodied for analytical insight In: Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, 2, 57 - 76
- Nadarajah, Y.,Mulligan, M.,Singh, S.,Chamberlain, C. (2015). Introduction In: Searching for Community: Melbourne to Delhi, Manohar Publishers and Distributors, New Delhi
3 PhD Current Supervisions5 PhD Completions
- The Patea (Kukukuku) Tribal Eco-Enterprise: Sustainability in Papua New Guinea's rural/remote reality - Ongoing Donation. Funded by: The Trust Company Grant pre-2014 from (2013 to 2017)
- Helen Handbury Fellowships. Funded by: Handbury Fellowship Grant pre-2014 from (2011 to 2022)
- The Patea (Kukukuku) Tribal Eco-Enterprise: Sustainability in Papua New Guinea's rural/remote reality. Funded by: The Trust Company Grant pre-2014 from (2011 to 2012)
- Indigenous Cultural Festivals: Evaluating Impact on Community Health and Wellbeing. Funded by: Telstra Foundation Community Development Fund from (2007 to 2009)
- Helen Handbury Fellowships. Funded by: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations Contract from (2005 to 2009)