Ep. #37: Democracy sausage, fan identity, mental health policy & being anthro-diplomats: This month on TFS

This month, we’d like to welcome and thank special guests Dr Jill Sheppard and Martyn Pearce from Policy Forum Pod for joining our semi-themed panel discussion, inspired by the upcoming Australian Federal Election. Subscribe on Android

Dr Jill Sheppard is a lecturer and political scientist at the School of Politics and International Relations at the Australian National University, and host of Policy Forum Pod and guest on Democracy Sausage with Mark Kenny podcast.

Martyn Pearce is manager of the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University, host on Policy Forum Pod and editor of Policy Forum.net and producer of the Democracy Sausage with Mark Kenny podcast.

democracy sausage-wiki commons

A ‘Democracy Sausage’

Jill [1:16] starts us off with a very topical issue right now in Australia – voting for the upcoming Federal Election. Jill tells us that “in Australian politics and the study of Australian politics, we’re really interested in this idea of election day as a ritual”. In Australia, most of the polling booths are set up in local school halls and it’s common for schools to take the opportunity to fire up a BBQ, sell baked goods and raise money for the school. This is where the term ‘democracy sausage’ has come from, as it is customary to buy a sausage on bread after voting and engage in community activities. Given that around half of the voters will be voting at pre-poll booths, Jill poses the question: is that going to change something about the ritual nature of Australian elections and what are we going to lose from that? “What happens when we lose the community spirit?”

Martyn [7:00] moves our conversation onto the meaning behind belonging to a social group. Quite the football enthusiast, Martyn shares that being a Crystal Palace fan, for him, doesn’t mean he just likes the team, but that identifies strongly as being a ‘Crystal Palace fan’ and encompasses the group values that it entails. He asks us what happens when the values of a group you belong to change? Jill reflects on the Essendon football club after their drug scandal where she previously had been a huge fan and describes her disenfranchisement as being “worse than death”. Simon offers that the embodiment of certain values relates to the degree of social solidarity you have with an institution, suggesting that when you don’t identify strongly as a fan (or voter of a particular Party) then you are less likely to embody the values that come with that fan identity.

Next, Julia [12:40] turns our attention to Australia’s dismal mental health care system, after a conversation she had with Dr Sebastian Rosenburg about accountability and the public focus on ‘who pays for it’ rather than ‘what is an effective treatment’. Jill questions what is good ‘value for money’ and what seems “easy” and “hard” when making government policies and how that impacts on the choices on spending. Martyn asks about BIG numbers and BIG announcements – the chance for publicity – and how that impacts government choices? Maybe this is a bigger social question: How much do we trust the government, the choices they make surrounding funding and how much do we ‘nit-pick’ over these choices?

Simon [19:00] concludes our discussion by asking whether anthropologists have any role to play in diplomacy? Julia answers that “I would like to think there is, but I’m not sure that…the Australian government system is ready for it. Because I think there is a role for being able to have diplomatic conversations that are a little more flexible and acknowledge the shortcomings of one’s home government, but I don’t think that’s something that’s really accepted yet.” Jill thinks about diplomats who travel overseas with specific views, and what effect introducing nuance and criticism would have: “what does the anthro-diplomat talk about when he shows up to the dinner party?”

2016 election

You can never have enough signs! A typical line-up outside polling booths at election time.


If you’d like to listen to Policy Forum Pod (and we suggest you do!) you can check it out here: https://policyforumpod.simplecast.fm/ or on iTunes, Spotify, SoundCloud – all the places you can find great podcasts!

If you’d like a brief overview of the football-related politics mentioned, give this a read about Crytal Palace: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2019/apr/03/crystal-palace-urged-to-condemn-democratic-football-lads-alliance

and this about Essendon Bombers: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-10-12/essendon-bombers-supplements-saga-ends-at-what-cost/7925752

And you can listen to the Democracy Sausage with Mark Kenny podcast here: https://www.policyforum.net/podcast-democracy-sausage-with-mark-kenny/
(not to be confused with the satirical ABC radio ‘Democracy Sausage’ podcast)

‘Democracy sausage’ online image from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Democracy_Sausage.jpg

This anthropology podcast is supported by the Australian Anthropological Society, the ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific and College of Arts and Social Sciences, and the Australian Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, and is produced in collaboration with the American Anthropological Association.

Music by Pete Dabro: dabro1.bandcamp.com

Shownotes by Deanna Catto

[Image: ‘election 2016′ by Leonard J Matthews, available at:

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