Zahra Stardust is a socio-legal scholar working at the intersections of sexual health, queer criminology and human rights.
She is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society at Queensland University of Technology, and works on projects relating to sexual surveillance, algorithmic sexual profiling and the political economy of sextech. She recently coordinated a Public Interest Sex Tech Hackathon exploring ethical data governance and participatory design in sex technologies.
Her doctoral research, which won the Dean’s award for Best PhD Thesis at the University of New South Wales, examined the regulation of queer and feminist pornographies through criminal laws, classification codes and platform governance. Her forthcoming monograph Indie Porn: Revolutionary Promises, Regulatory Fantasies, Resistance Politics explores DIY porn movements and precarious labour through auto-ethnography.
As a BKC Fellow in 2020-21, Zahra facilitated a RightsCon panel on Alternative Frameworks for Sexual Content Moderation, hosted an event on Designing Sex Worker Liberatory Futures, and co-authored articles on Automating Whorephobia and High-Risk Hustling with colleagues from Hacking//Hustling and Decoding Stigma, which explored deplatforming and financial discrimination against sex workers.
Zahra’s previous research has examined sex work stigma, post-work politics, queer femininities, sex positive law reform, trans prison policies, chemsex practices and the policing of public protest. Her original work has been published in books such as New Feminist Literary Studies (Cambridge University Press), Queer Sex Work (Routledge Series on Crime and Society) and Orienting Feminisms (Palgrave Macmillan) and is forthcoming in Undesiring Whiteness, Undoing Sexual Racism (Oxford University Press), New Directions in Sexual Violence Research (Routledge), the Routledge Handbook on Sexuality, Gender, Health and Rights, and International Perspectives on Trans People in contact with the Custodial settings (Palgrave Macmillan).
In addition, Zahra’s research has been published in journals such as Crime Media Culture, Sexual Health, Monash University Law Review, Crime Justice and Social Democracy, World Journal of AIDS, Porn Studies, AG About Gender and Current Issues in Criminal Justice. She has also written for media such as ABC, Overland, New Matilda, Archer, The Conversation, Runway and Hustler Magazine, and been featured in articles for Vice, BBC News and SBS.
Prior to academia, Zahra worked in policy, advocacy, legal and research capacities with community organisations, NGOs and UN bodies on human rights and social justice projects in Australia and internationally, including UNFPA in Eritrea (on sexual and reproductive health programming), UN Women (on gender discrimination), the Environmental Defenders Office (assisting activists on criminal charges), Scarlet Alliance (on sex worker rights), ACON (on HIV treatment & prevention and LGBTIQA+ health), the Inner City Legal Centre (assisting people experiencing domestic and family violence), the Women’s Justice Network (assisting women exiting prison) the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (on vilification and anti-discrimination), the Kimberley Land Council (on Native Title claims). She is admitted to the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
Zahra has consulted with Google and Facebook and presented at conferences in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Singapore, Australasia and Japan, including as an invited speaker for the International Bar Association. She has studied at the Summer Institute on Sexuality, Culture and Society at the University of Amsterdam and the Summer Doctoral Program at the University of Oxford Internet Institute, and is on the Editorial Board of international journal Porn Studies.
She hosts the podcast Thinking Justice, which brings together voices of organisers, academics and critical thinkers challenging us to imagine and create alternative futures. She lives on stolen and unceded land of the Turrbal and Jagera people known by its colonial name of Brisbane, Australia.