Nicholas Harrigan


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Personal profile


Dr Nicholas Harrigan is Senior Lecturer in Quantitative Sociology at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.

His major areas of research include social networks, particularly networks of conflict; low wage migrant workers in Australia and Asia; and participatory approaches to social research.

Before joining Macquarie University, he was Assistant Professor of Sociology at Singapore Management University (2008-2017), postdoctoral researcher in Sociology at Nuffield College at the University of Oxford, and completed a PhD in Politics at the Australian National University. 

His work has been published in leading journals such the British Journal of Sociology (twice) and Social Networks (three times).

Information for prospective graduate students

I have three main areas of research in which I am interested in supervising graduate students.

Area 1. Social Networks, particularly negative ties and signed networks.

Social network analysis is an important technique across a wide range of disciplines, including sociology, economic, medicine, and physics.

I am interested in studying social networks with both qualitative and quantitative techniques, with a focus on solving fundamental basic research questions, such as: how to conceptualise, categorise, and operationalise network ties; and what are the major causes and consequences of tie formation.

I have a major research agenda, publications, and collaborations around the topic of negative ties (i.e. ties of conflict, avoidance, dislike, and harm) and signed graphs (networks of both positive and negative ties), and have a considerable number of potential masters and PhD projects ready for implementation by keen graduate students. Please enquire for further details. 

Area 2. Understanding, explaining, and providing a voice for temporary migrant workers and international students. 

Temporary migrant workers are an important and growing group of migrants across the world, including Australia. While they face issues that parallel those of precarious workers everywhere, they also face unique social, economic, and legal problems that are indicative of profound levels of disadvantage and exploitation.

Academically there are a considerable number of important research questions to be answered:

  • What are the major issues that these workers face? How do these issues vary across countries, visa categories, and industries? Can this variation inform policy strategies to alleviate the problems faced by migrant workers?

  • What are the key issues for these workers? How can academics help these workers voice their concerns and issues to wider society and policy makers?

  • Theoretically, what frameworks, theories, and conceptual categories best capture the key features of the experiences and conditions of temporary migrant workers in the current period? Many different frameworks have been, or could be, used, including neoliberalism, precarity, super-exploitation, forced labour, human trafficking, rationalisation, and classical marxism. Which theories from within these or other frameworks are most useful for explaining temporary migrant workers today?

  • How should advocates for better conditions for temporary migrant workers respond to the recent academic work of Martin Ruhs ( argues that advocating for rights for temporary migrant workers leads to them not getting access to work in developed economies?

Area 3. Participatory, large-scale research for social change.

The vast majority of research - academic and professional - is done by professionals with decades of training, often substantial funding, and all the strengths and weaknesses that flow from this. 

I am interested in exploring methods for methods for engaging in large-scale, participatory, and public social science. 

I have engaged in projects involving over 100 volunteers, and also supervised more than 1000 students through original research projects involving primary source data collection analysis and write up, as part of teaching research methods. 

I am interested in working with students who are interested in developing and piloting methods for involving volunteers and non-professionals in research from conceptualisation to disemination (and also the steps in between - design, data collection, analysis, writing).

I am also interested in work with students who would like to attempt to implement participatory research methods which empower marginalised communities, such as the Cultural Centred Communication approach of Professor Mohan Dutta. 



Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Projects 2019 2020

Research Outputs 2007 2018

Reflections on migrant and refugee health in Malaysia and the ASEAN region

Pocock, N. S., Suphanchaimat, R., Chan, C. K., Faller, E. M., Harrigan, N., Pillai, V. & Wickramage, K., 24 Apr 2018, In : BMC Proceedings. 12, Suppl. 4, p. 1-5 5 p., 4.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access
Social Determinants of Health
Delivery of Health Care

Avoidance in negative ties: Inhibiting closure, reciprocity, and homophily

Harrigan, N. & Yap, J., 1 Jan 2017, In : Social Networks. 48, p. 126-141 16 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Labour protection for the vulnerable: an evaluation of the salary and injury claims system for migrant workers in Singapore

Fillinger, T., Harrigan, N., Chok, S., Amirrudin, A., Meyer, P., Rajah, M. & Fordyce, D., 29 Jun 2017, Singapore: Transient Workers Count Too. 104 p.

Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned reportResearch

Open Access
migrant worker
political action

Threat of deportation as proximal social determinant of mental health amongst migrant workers

Harrigan, N. M., Koh, C. Y. & Amirrudin, A., 1 Jun 2017, In : Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health. 19, 3, p. 511-522 12 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Social Determinants of Health
Mental Health

Activities 2017 2018

  • 5 Invited talk
  • 1 Editorial work

Political developments in Singapore

Nicholas Harrigan (Speaker)
17 May 2018

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

Bridging the Divide between Universities and NGOs: Achieving successful research collaborations around social justice issues

Nicholas Harrigan (Speaker)
9 May 2018

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

Opening Keynote: Scaled, Participatory, and Public Qualitative Research: A framework for citizen social science

Nicholas Harrigan (Speaker)
10 May 2018

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

Face-to-face grading in the social sciences: Motivations, methods, and techniques of addressing potential limitations

Nicholas Harrigan (Speaker)
15 May 2018

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) Research Subcommittee: Plans for 2018/19

Nicholas Harrigan (Speaker)
18 May 2018

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk