2012 Profiles

December 2012’s Profile of the Month: Kay O’Hara

Kay O’Hara is a part-time Honours Candidate at Deakin University.

She has been pursuing her studies part-time at Deakin since 2005, and completed her Bachelor of Arts in 2011. Her thesis is concerned with the social construction of autism.

 


 ANSA speaks to… Kay O’Hara

ANSA: What attracted you to study anthropology?

K: I have always been interested in how and why people do what they do, so when I started my tertiary studies, I decided anthropology would be a good way to formalise my interests. As a distance student, my first impressions came by way of listening to online lectures. My lecturer was so enthusiastic about the units he was delivering, that I found myself really looking forward to the next one. I became particularly interested in medical anthropology, and the various unit ethnographic readings spurred me on.

ANSA: Who/what influences and/or inspires the anthropology you do?

K: I would have to say my lecturers have been the main source of influence regarding my continued interest in anthropology. Their knowledge of the subject is awesome and continually motivates me in my endeavours.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading?

K: As background reading for my thesis, I am currently reading ‘Introducing Medical Anthropology’ by Singer & Baer, as well as ‘Medical Anthropology and the World System’ by Baer, Singer & Susser. I first became interested in this sub-category of anthropology when I read ‘Infections and Inequalities The Modern Plagues’ by Paul Farmer as part of my studies.

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying or quote?

K: Like Michelle, I too am a fan of Evans-Pritchard, although Foucault comes a close second. My favourite quote or more precisely word is from the Big Bang Theory by Sheldon Cooper; “Bazinga!” He really cracks me up.

ANSA: What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

K: I don’t have a worst job, however I do remember working during my school holidays one year in a plastics factory, putting plastic canisters into stiff plastic boxes that after two weeks had reduced my hands to band-aid covered disasters! Can’t complain, at least I got paid!

ANSA:  What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned outside uni?

K: Ah yes, this last question is a trickster! J I suppose what I have learnt over the years is to listen to others, they always have a much more interesting story to tell.


November 2012’s Profile of the Month: Michelle O’Toole

Michelle O’Toole is the current ANSA Chairperson.  In 2010 Michelle wrote her Honours thesis at Monash University under the supervision of Dr Matt Tomlinson.  The dissertation examined differing ideas of salvation in the world’s largest religious festival, the Kumbh Mela.  Since submitting the thesis, Michelle’s focus has moved to Polynesia, a region with which she has long been fascinated.

Michelle has most recently been working as a research assistant to Dr Tomlinson on a project examining the key Polynesian concept of mana:  a sacred, impersonal force.  The work aims to identify the distinct ways in which markedly gendered discourse and practice frame mana as an emblem of identity.  While her current research examines mana and its conceptualisations in broad terms, in the Masters project for which she’s currently preparing, Michelle aims to take a more focused approach and examine the gendered construction of mana in English and French Pacific literature.

Aside from Polynesia, Michelle’s broad anthropological interests include language, religion, and performance.


ANSA speaks to… Michelle O’Toole

ANSA: What attracted you to study anthropology?

M: In truth, anthropology wasn’t my first choice; a timetable clash in the first semester of my first year at university meant that I had to abandon Women’s Studies and choose another discipline. My mum, having recently studied at uni, and knowing my interest in travel and languages, recommended I choose anthropology, which I did. Then, before I knew it, I found myself in the thick of an anthro Honours thesis and, much to the bemusement of my peers, loving it and wanting to do it again!

ANSA: Who/what influences and/or inspires the anthropology you do?

M: My supervisor, whose enthusiasm for anthropology and life in general I find very motivating.  I’m also inspired by explorers and adventurers, such as Benedict Allen, who not only tests the limits of his own endurance, but treats the people he meets and the often challenging environments in which they live with a lot of respect.

ANSA: What book are you currently reading?

M: I’m an avid reader and always seem to have a few items on the go at once.  At the moment I’m reading The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams, The Man in the Shed by Lloyd Jones, and the most recent edition of Dumbo Feather magazine.  It’s been strongly suggested that I read some Foucault, so while I wait for the book to arrive I’m making the most of this “easy” reading!

ANSA: What’s your favourite saying or quote?

M: Sadly, my favourite anthropology quote (by Evans-Pritchard) is too long to fit here.  I’m going to take the easy way out and quote one of my favourite television program characters, Doctor Who:  “Geronimo!”

ANSA: What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

M: Though I did pick kiwifruit and tangerines when a teenager, I don’t think I’ve ever worked in a job that was horrible. In my experience, it’s instead been the culture that has been “challenging”.

ANSA:  What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned outside uni?

M: Who wrote these questions?  😉  Should I admit that I (think I) learn a lot of valuable information about people’s behaviour from watching ‘Survivor’?  Or that wearing red shoes with flowers on them is a fantastic way to gain compliments from strangers?